Saturday, May 30, 2009

No Wonder the Butterflies Love It

These long panicles of deliciously fragrant and gorgeous blooms come from my buddleia, better known as a butterfly bush. It smells so sweet that it's no wonder butterflies flock to it. Mine is a variety called Royal Red, though it's not even close to being red in color. An easy plant to grow and propagate. In the South, this shrub can get almost tree-sized.

Here is a picture of the whole bush. This one was only planted last year. Keep it dead-headed and it will keep putting out new blooms for a much longer period of time.

Satin Violet Althea

I really can't praise this shrub enough. Look at these beautiful blooms covering such a small bush! The color is also my favorite that I've seen on an althea and are highly visible from a long way. Certainly a standout.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Would Joan Like Some Candy?

Joan Senior is my latest daylily to bloom. This almost white daylily is one of my personal favorites. It starts blooming a little later than my other daylilies, but continues to bloom much longer, plus it keeps reblooming. One of my most florific bloomers. Also, the color goes well with most other colors. A very healthy and nice plant. Makes a good companion plant to go in a cottage garden too. In these pictures it is blooming beside some of my Strawberry Candy plants.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues

We're back from our vacation excursion to Arkansas. While we were gone, all my plants decided to go on a growth spurt. These mophead hydrangeas are really looking good today. My baby girl, Ali, really does like my flowers. Hydrangeas are such wonderful plants. They should be one of the main shrubs grown in shady areas. They come in a ton of shapes, colors, sizes, and varieties. You can get one to match almost any color or scheme. They prefer to be well watered and get an occasional dose of aluminum sulphate to acidify the soil. Prune them to desired shape after they finish blooming. They are a necessity for shady portions of a cottage garden. I'd like to plant more varieties of hydrangea someday, but these old-fashioned ones here will always have a place in my yard.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Random Blooms

Since I'll be up in Arkansas for much of this time while I'm home from work, I'm trying to get ahead of the game by posting lots.

First up is the last spring flush bloom on my Abraham Darby rose. The blooms are still wonderful, but the bush is covered in blackspot and has lost many leaves. This happens every year to this rose and I always think about replacing it till it blooms again and renews my admiration for this rose.

Yet another bloom on one of my Chicago Apache daylilies.

And here's a cute little Black-eyed Susan vine (thunbergia alata) bloom. It's planted in a large pot with a Night-blooming jasmine.

More Full Shrub Pictures

Look how my Chicago Apache daylily is blooming away!

Here's a picture of my gardenia bush. I will be gone from home for a few days this week and may not be around to get this bush when it hits full bloom.

Belinda's Dream rose is thriving in the heat and humidity. This is an excellent rose for Louisiana. It has wonderful fragrance and hybrid tea-like blooms. You couldn't ask for a better performer. Not a sign of blackspot.

Some New Bloomers

About five years ago I planted quite a few gladiolas. With no care at all, many of them still come back every year. This particular clump is so full that I'm planning on dividing it this year. These are the first blooms of the year from my glads. Glads are a great summer bulb. Anyone in the US can plant them, though you might have to dig the corms (bulbs) up in the fall if you live where the ground freezes. Give them sun and well drained soil and let them go. I've heard that you can plant them in 2 week intervals for continuous bloom over several months. You may have to stake the flower spikes to keep them from flopping over.

I also have a new daylily today. It's a deep pink with a yellow throat. It's fun to see what colors I will get out of the plants that I got last year.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Full Shrub Pictures

Back to one of my old pet peeves again: Pictures of individual blooms are nice, but sometimes you really want to see a picture of the whole plant so you can see how it grows. Here are some pictures of whole shrubs in my yard. First up is my small althea, Satin Violet. I highly recommend this variety to anybody. The blooms are very brightly colored and the plant is covered with them.

Next, I bring you the old cottage favorite, hydrangea. These were already planted at my house when I moved here, but they were the dull, ugly pink color that I don't like. Every year, I've been putting down aluminum sulfate around the bushes to acidify the soil and now they are this perfect blue that I like so much.

Now comes my first full plant picture of this Angel Trumpet (brugmansia.)

Last, my Mrs. B. R. Cant. This shrub is rather sprawling and airy right now, but this plant will really fill out once it gets some age on it.

A Few Bloom Shots of the Day

This first picture is another bloom from my Earthsong rose. This rose hasn't bloomed in flushes for me this year, but has continually had a bloom or two going. Judging by my experience, this is more of a continuous bloomer than a flusher. Of course the bush is still rather small and it could change behavior as it get larger. I'll say it again for you Northerners, this is definitely a rose for you to plant! It was developed in Iowa and takes cold well.

This next picture is a double shot of my Dominic daylily. For today, this is my favorite daylily. It's unusual color really grabs me.

Last, I submit to you yet another luscious "Cape Jasmine" (gardenia) bloom. I put this as the desktop background on my computer. These are the kinds of blooms you see and smell in your dreams.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Easiest Annual of All?

This is a Sonic Red cosmos. Cosmos have to be one of the easiest of all annuals to grow. Just throw the seeds on the ground and watch them grow. They're drought tolerant, grow in almost any soil, come in all colors, come in all sizes, and are loved by butterflies. Want something tall and airy in your cottage garden? Then plant some pastel Sensation cosmos. Want something short and fiery for a border? Then plant one of the Sonic series cosmos in either orange, red, or yellow. Did I mention that they are quick to flower and laugh at heat? I think they are a fine substitute for marigolds since they are less prone to mildew problems and come in many more colors and sizes. Plus, they don't have the stink that marigolds have. The only problem is that the taller varieties may flop.

The Rose of Sharon

Want a carefree, drought resistant, summer blooming shrub? Why not try an althea, or Rose of Sharon. The cultivar that I have is called Satin Violet. There are a number of "Satin" cultivars. This one must be the most profuse bloomer that I've ever seen. Even when it was a little tyke of only 1' tall, it was so covered in blooms that you could hardly see a leaf. It will be just as prolific this year when it comes into full bloom. Look at all the buds in this picture! This bloom is the first. Where I live, these plants can get the size of a small tree, so give it some room.

Hot Weather Roses

Many roses take a long break once the hot weather hits in Louisiana. Here are some that are going strong even with the onset of real summer weather. Belinda's Dream is just putting on her second flush of the season. The bush is still lush and green without even a hint of blackspot.

Ducher is another bush that is still looking good. The blooms are really small, but the bush is thriving in our hot weather. I'm thinking this is a great rose for our neck of the woods. Seems like most of the china roses like Louisiana. My other ones are in between flushes right now though. My only other rose that's really blooming now is Mrs. B. R. Cant. In contrast to these, my Abraham Darby is already nearly a leafless mess. I'm ashamed to even put pictures of that rose on here right now.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mia and the Mandevilla

I thought this was pretty cute of our family cat relaxing next to my pot of mandevilla.

Have a Lark with Some Daylilies

I love when plants make clusters of flowers. The cottagey look of these larkspurs and daylilies really caught my eye this morning. My larkspurs are about done for the year, but I can't imagine not having them planted in sundry places around the yard. They will always be a staple cool season annual at my place. They mix well with about every other flower.

What Would You Call This Color?

I don't know what this color is, but this Dominic daylily sure looks good. Please ignore the despicable Bermuda grass growing around the plant. It's amazing the variety of colors that daylilies come in.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some Shady Characters

Here are some plants that grow well in shade. First up, is a pot with callas and caladium in it. I think caladiums do much better in the Deep South than hostas do because they take the heat better. I love their bright colors. I don't dig mine up and they tend to come back every year for me.
Next up is my first try with New Guinea impatiens. The bright orange colors really captured my wife's interest. I put them in my shade bed in between some Giant Callas. So far they seem to like the moist, shaded area. I've heard they aren't nearly as easy as the regular impatiens.

What shaded area would be complete without the colorful hydrangea? These are the old fashioned favorite to grow in areas that roses won't thrive. They need to have plenty of moisture and some shelter from the afternoon sun. To me, this is the flowering shrub of choice for the shade.

Have You Met the Mrs?

The Mrs. B. R. Cant rose is putting on her second flush of the year. The blooms aren't very big, but I attribute that to the bush being so small and the weather being so hot. There is a nice silvery sheen behind the pink on these blooms and they have a tea fragrance. One of the very best, easy care roses for the South. Just remember that this shrub can get 8' tall and wide.

Let's Have Some Bright Colors!

All I can say is "Wow!" These beauties commanded my attention this morning when I was on my usual walk around the yard. I just got home yesterday after two weeks of being on the ocean and the flowers were waiting to impress me. These are probably Chicago Apache daylilies and I like them well!

The Heavenly Fragrance of Gardenias

One of the smells I remember so well from childhood is that of gardenias. These beautiful, tropical-looking shrubs with the snow white blossoms love the South. All my people down here call them "Cape Jasmines" instead of the proper name. They will be covered in bloom for most of the month of May with an occasional sporadic bloom later in the summer. When the flowers fade to a dirty yellow, we like to pick them off and put the petals in a bowl or basket in the house as air freshener. When mine are in bloom it makes me want to sit on the porch all day just for the smell. These plants are so beloved that Northerners are constantly trying to grow them in pots with varying degrees of success. If you live anywhere in the Southeast, plop them in the ground, make sure they get plenty of water, spray them to keep the whiteflies off, and let them thrive. Whiteflies are the one true nemesis of gardenias and they will really ruin the looks of your shrub.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Which is Strawberry Candy?

I have several daylily plants that I thought were Stawberry Candy. However, I'm now noticing that a couple of the plants are quite different. Notice the difference in these two photos. The top picture is much darker and the flowers are quite a bit larger. The bottom photo looks more like the pictures I see online of Stawberry Candy daylilies. So is my top one just a variant, or is it some other as yet unidentified daylily?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Super Dorothy

Howdy, Folks. Meet my latest blooming rose, Super Dorothy. This is my only rose besides Westerland that had not bloomed yet this year. She makes clusters of these very ruffled and frilly pink flowers. This is classified as a reblooming rambler rose. I will have to see if it really reblooms. What I have observed in my young plant is that the long branches are very lax without tons of thorns. It should be really easy to train around virtually any type of trellis. It's supposed to get really tall and long, so would make a really nice rose for an arbor. If it has a smell, I can't detect it. One other plus for this rose is that I have yet to detect any disease at all on mine. I'm pretty sure it can be grown with no spray at all. Stay tuned for some impressive pictures of this one in the future. One other note, this looks to me like about the perfect rose for a cottage garden. It just has that cottagey look.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Have Some Delicious Strawberry Candy

Thanks to a fellow blogger (Thanks, NellJean!) I have now identified this daylily as Strawberry Candy. This is one of the most popular daylilies on the market these days, and I can see why. These blooms are BIG, they have wonderful coloration that varies with sun exposure, and they rebloom. Not only that, but this was my first daylily to bloom this year! What more can you ask for? Definitely worthy of its popularity. I've got a few volunteer larkspurs growing next to my daylily bed and they make nice companions. Thanks to my sweet wife for e-mailing me these pictures to post on the blog when I'm working offshore and unable to even see these beauties.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Problem With Tickseed

This picture shows both the greatness and the problem with plains coreopsis, or tickseed. It's covered with brightly colored blooms that bees and butterflies love. It's easy to grow and reseeds itself like crazy. The problem (at least in my rich delta soil) is that the plants get too tall and lanky, then they fall over and look sloppy. My advice to all is to do what I failed to do on this plant: sheer them back to about half size early in the spring. That forces them to stay shorter and bushier. It also pushes back the bloom time a little, but it's worth the wait so you don't get floppage.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mexican Cigar Plant

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted a picture of this plant in a container? At the time, I didn't know where I wanted to plant it in the yard. Well, this is where it wound up. It's such a neat little plant with the orange "cigars" and the lush, green leaves. I had a hardy hibiscus planted in this spot, but it died inexplicably leaving a perfect place for this plant. It gets sun for a little over half the day, then shade in the afternoon. A good spot for the hummingbirds to come for refreshment.

Ham and Eggs

My wife enticed me to plant this a couple of weeks ago. It's a lantana known as Ham and Eggs. It's probably the oldest type of lantana planted in my area. It gets huge - big enough to substitute for a hedge! Makes a rounded shrub that can be 5 feet tall or so and covered with these flowers that both hummingbirds and butterflies love. Lantanas are definitely in my top 5 butterfly nectar plants. My wife told me that the hummers are also swarming the lantanas this year. I recommend shearing back the large lantanas periodically. Shearing them makes them come back bushier and with lots more blooms. They'll come back year after year in zones 8 and up. The blooms last from April until frost and are just non-stop. The leaves have a lemony scent and make some people itch, so be careful. Also, the black seeds are said to be poisonous.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Treasured Tropicals

Last year, I decided that one portion of my yard would be set aside for tropicals. The area is a on the south side of my house and gets plenty of sun. Since I'm such a sucker for fragrant plants, I needed a place for some of the fragrant tropicals that cannot take cold weather. One of the plants I have in this area is my Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata.) This plant makes a lovely bush that puts out little white blooms that are very sweetly fragrant. Look at the picture of mine to see just how nice a plant it is even without the blooms. The leaves are very glossy on a full and compact bush. Mine was burnt severely over the winter by freezes, but it has recovered very nicely and I'm anxiously waiting for its first blooms.

Next up is my Angel trumpet (brugmansia.) This a pink cultivar that has committed the cardinal sin of being without scent! Most brugmansias have a fragrance that somewhat (to me) resembles that of an oriental lily. Brugs come in a nice array of colors like yellow, pink, orange, and white. They are extremely easy to get started - just take a cutting and put it in water till roots start coming out, then put it in dirt. They die to the ground after a frost, but reliably come back in zone 8 and higher. If you look at this picture closely, you can see the first bud forming. With shelter, these plants can get as large as a small tree. They love lots of fertilizer. The flowers are large trumpets that hang downwards - I'll have pictures of mine later in the year. I'm told that putting a light on the ground shining up at the flowers makes for a spectacular show at night, especially if the plant is covered in blooms like they often are. I've noticed that some insects especially love eating the leaves of this plant, but it hardly slows down. Put brugs in full sun and don't let them dry out. If you live up north, you can grow these in large pots. If you get one of these be sure it's one with scent.

Azaleas With a Twist

Azaleas are a Southern staple. The area where I live is wonderful to behold in March when all the Formosa azaleas are in bloom. I love azaleas, but hate that they look like big, green meatballs for most of the year. Enter the Encore azaleas which were developed by a fellow in Louisiana. These babies can have up to 3 flushes of bloom per year if given the right conditions. I've read that Encores need more sunlight than normal azaleas, at least if you want several flushes of bloom. Also, they come in an amazing array of colors. The one I have is called Autumn Twist. It has speckled, streaked blooms in addition to having the occasional solid magenta bloom. This is a bloom pic taken on April 27 when all my regular azaleas were completely finished blooming for the spring. This is my first Encore azalea, but it probably won't be my last. Incidentally, this is my best year ever for azalea blooms and I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that I installed a drip irrigation system that ensured they never suffered from lack of water over the last year. I hear azaleas have a shallow root system and do not tolerate drought well. I also keep mine mulched pretty well.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Black-eyed Susan Vine

This is the first bloom on any of my newly planted Black-eyed Susan (thunbergia alata) vines. Isn't it delicate and attractive? I've planted quite a few seeds of these in various containers around my yard and also in the ground in a couple of places. These seeds have very readily sprouted and nearly all the plants are growing quickly. This plant is in the same family as my skyflower, but it makes a smaller vine that is more suitable for a container. It's a tender perennial that can be grown as an annual in areas that freeze. Plant it in full to partial sun - I'm told it appreciates a little shade in really hot afternoons. It comes in various shades of orange to very light yellow. I recently saw one of these in a nearby nursery that looked fabulous cascading out of a hanging pot. Yet another under-utilized plant in that favorite class of mine - vines. This vine is growing in a large pot that also has a night blooming jasmine in it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Daylilies of the Day

Here are two more daylily blooms for you to enjoy. This first red one (I believe it to be Chicago Apache) is one of my favorites. It has such a velvety-red color. The color washes out some after it's been in the sun for a few hours. I recommend planting deep reds and purples in at least part shade so they retain their best color for longer.

This orange is blooming for the first time for me. I think it came as some extras in an E-bay order that I made last year. Have no clue what variety it is.

While I'm posting daylilies, I'll give some of my thoughts on growing them. For one thing, they are about as easy as anything. Every beginner should plant daylilies. They are easy, cheap, and rewarding. They can take drought, some flooding, and nearly every type of soil. I have them growing in full sun and partial shade and it seems to make no difference. Daylilies mix well with other flowers and are great companion plants, as long as you don't let them take over. Divide and share about every three years. Rather than planting a whole bed of them, sprinkle them throughout your yard and garden with other plants that bloom at different times.