Friday, July 31, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

On one side of my yard I had an unsightly area along the fence that needed to be filled this summer. I proceeded to plant some annuals there for now until I could fill the fence with some perennial vines and maybe put some shrubs there. I put in 3 clumps of hyacinth bean vines. They quickly began growing and covering fence. I also scattered quite a few annual seeds of various types - this was to be survival of the fittest. Shortly after planting all the seeds, our 6 week drought began and my Tithonias (Mexican sunflowers) were the only plants to survive other than one or two Victoria Blue salvias which are hard to find in the thicket of tithonia. I now have a jungle of tithonia and hyacinth bean vines growing in the area. It looks okay and the purple and orange fit surprisingly well together. Here are a couple of pictures. In the future, I may plant dwarf tithonias to stop them from falling over as much. The hummingbirds absolutely love this area as do the butterflies.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What NOT To Do - Over-water

See how great this hanging basket of impatiens looks? This was before I got obsessed with making sure they did not run out of water. I was so careful to make sure they got enough water, that I wound up over-watering them. This caused them to get diseased and nasty, developing black leaves and root rot. They eventually recovered after I slacked off on the watering. Dan Gill with the LSU Ag Center says that people actually do this more during droughts than normal times. You actually wind up drowning plants during a drought! People with irrigation systems are also prone to over-watering. Not only is this bad for the plants, but it's irresponsible stewardship of water supplies and money. Find out what is ideal for your plants and water accordingly. A little less water is better than a little more because it forces the plant to form a better root system. Live and learn!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Profusion of Fire

The LSU Ag Center has touted the Profusion zinnias for several years as a wonderful zinnia for Louisiana. It takes heat well, resists mildew, doesn't get tall and floppy, and blooms continuously. Butterflies frequently visit the blooms as well. I decided to try one clump of the "fire" color in the series this year and am very pleased with this result. I'll definitely plant more of these easy-care annuals in years to come. The color starts out deep orange and fades lighter leaving subtle shades of variation over the plant. It makes a plant that has become a 12" ball of foliage and flower for me. I can imagine these look wonderful planted in larger drifts. Definitely a keeper. I've heard that some of the other colors in the series fade to an ugly shade, but "Fire" keeps its good looks.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What NOT To Do - Plant without research

Isn't this a beautiful Four O'clock? What could be wrong with this? Here's what's wrong with it -- it has no fragrance whatsoever! The very reason I planted four o'clocks was for the fragrance. I wanted more than just the yellow ones that my mom had, so I simply ordered another variety that came in multiple colors. I falsely assumed that all four o'clocks had fragrance. Wrong! I cannot imagine any reason to plant a non-fragrant variety of this plant unless you don't like the smell. True, they are pretty, but the fragrant ones also are. Do me a favor and plant only fragrant four o'clocks! This variety I have is called "Tea Time."
This same lesson applies to any other plant or seed purchases. If you're looking for something specific, then take the time to do a little research before making an impulse buy. This is especially important when buying expensive shrubs such as roses. All this being said, also leave room to experiment and try something new! Live and learn.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What NOT To Do - Plant the wrong companion plants

Portulacas ("moss roses") are wonderful annual plants that take dry conditions very well. They are also wonderful companion plants with the right companions. Last year, I did something that you should NOT do. I planted my portulacas at the base of roses. Why not? Aren't they commonly called "moss roses" anyway? The trouble is that portulaca don't drink nearly as much water as roses. In order to keep my roses happy I had to water them way more than the portulacas appreciated. The roses looked wonderful, but the portulacas under them became straggly, ugly, and developed root rot. The above picture was taken before the portulaca started looking bad. The moral of the story is to do your homework and plant compatible plants together. Live and learn!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What NOT To Do In Your Garden

In the midst of hot summer and while I'm offshore at work, this is a good time to start a new series that I intend to be on-going on my blog. There are various things I have learned NOT to do in my garden. In an effort to share this knowledge and document it for myself, I'll begin posting these learnings.

Since my moonflowers are blooming so well now and look so beautiful, it's a good time to share something I learned last year about them. I made the mistake of thinning my moonflowers too early. Why was this a mistake, you say? Well, bugs in my area particularly love baby moonflower seedlings. Since I thinned down each group of moonflowers to only 2 seedlings each, the bugs happily ate them all up before they got big enough to still live. The result was that I didn't have any moonflowers last year. This year, I planted at least 6 seeds per spot and didn't thin any of them until they started getting lots of growth. The bugs couldn't eat them all and I now have lovely moonflower vines like the one above growing everywhere I want them. This could equally apply to many other seedlings and is a lesson to don't get anxious and thin seedlings too early. Live and learn!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lucifer Crocosmia

Crocosmias are such cheerful and easy summer bulbs that everyone should try them. The ones I have came from a friend in town who didn't even know what they were. He just told me about some nice red flowers on plants that looked a little like gladiolas. I immediately knew them to be Crososmia, and I'm pretty sure they are the common Lucifer variety. I got some from him and they are thriving in several places around my yard. Crososmias are fast growers and fast multipliers. You have to divide them about every 3 years to keep them blooming. This makes them nice bulbs to share with friends. Hummingbirds really love them and frequently visit the blooms. They start blooming for me in June and keep on for several months. Put them in a sunny or partial shade site in an area with medium moisture and they will thrive for years.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gotta' Have Some More Roses

I haven't posted pictures of roses lately. This time of year rose blooms are typically smaller and there are less of them. The roses take something of a break in the heat of our summer. There still are some blooming though. Here is a bloom on my Golden Celebration bush. It's the same bloom on consecutive days. Small, but beautiful.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Those Glorious Summer Vines

To me there's nothing prettier than summer vines flowering on a fence. That's why I have so many of them. The recent rain that we've finally begun to receive has made my morning glories especially come out of their shell. The first two pictures are some more of my Grandpa Ott morning glories. They are really taking off this year.

This last picture is a new type of morning glory. I don't even know its name since it came in a mixed seed packet that I had. It sure is a beauty though. It's lighter blue than the Heavenly Blue's that I usually plant every year. I love the darker purple star. Wouldn't this look nice in a cottage garden?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Lovely Tuberose

Polianthes tuberosa is the Latin name of this lovely flower that comes from a bulb. It is a relatively little-known summer bulb that produces these lovely spikes of flower in mid-summer. What is especially attractive about these flowers is the heady, gardenia-like fragrance that they put out. Last year while ordering some bulbs, I had to order a few extras in order to make it to a minimum order from a certain company. On a whim, I ordered these. When they came in, I stuck them in a dry corner of my yard, watered them in, and forgot about them. The three bulbs put out delightfully fragrant flower stalks around July and August. I loved them and expected them to be only a temporary pleasure for just that year. Much to my surprise, this year I have about 12 new plants and they are all healthy. They must like where I have them! The type I have is a double variety called "The Pearl." I hear that the single flowered type is even more fragrant than this one - but that's hard to imagine! For any fragrant garden in the South, give this a try, especially considering what time of year they bloom. Also, these would look perfect in a moon garden. They can also be grown in the North if dug up for the winter to protect from freeze.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Caladium Collage

While we were gone on vacation, several inches of much needed rain indundated out area. The caladiums were very thankful for this and subsequently are putting on a show. This is a little corner that is filled with these colorfully leaved beauties.

Caladiums are much better in the Deep South than hostas. They take heat very well and love our humidity. They cannot take a freeze and die as soon as one comes. They will come back if the ground does not freeze. Do not make the mistake of planting them before it is very warm or they may rot in the ground and not come up. They come in many shades of white, pink, and red. Add them to any shade garden for a great filler or even as a specimen. They can be grown as an annual up North.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sensation Cosmos

I planted some Sensation Cosmos seeds late just because I needed some color in my late-season bed. They are just starting to bloom and I like them. This is a tall growing cosmos that can get 4-5 feet tall. They grow well in the heat of summer down here and can take a moderate amount of drought once established. The butterflies visit them on occasion too, which is a plus for me.

Autumn in the Summer

This has got to be one of my favorite photos that I've ever taken. Look at how beautiful these sunflower blooms are against the dark background. This is just how the picture came out with no doctoring of the photo at all. We just got back from 2 weeks of vacation in Tennessee and Virginia, and these babies were just posing for me when I got home this evening. I don't think I'll ever go a year without planting easy care sunflowers again. The birds appreciate my efforts too.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Moonflowers are so romantic looking. They come out in the evening and also have a charming fragrance. They look wonderful climbing a chain-link fence and are very easy to grow. Just put some seeds in the ground once there is no danger of a freeze, water, and watch them grow. They are in the morning glory family, but bloom in the evening. Because of this, they make nice companion vines to morning glories. Mine would be doing better this year, but this drought we are having is taking a toll on the moonflowers. They really need full sun to thrive, so don't try them under a tree.

The Joy of Sunflowers

I don't know why it took me so long to get on the sunflower bandwagon. Probably because I don't like the ones with one huge flower head that droops over and nearly falls down. I've recently realized that there are tons of different types of sunflowers. This one above is called Autumn Joy. It makes a number of branches with numerous smaller flowers like the one above. They're beautiful and they really attract birds, which is the main reason I want them. They are thriving in our heat and drought down here in Louisiana. Another thing I love about them is their fast rate of growth. I'll definitely be planting this one again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bennary's Giant Red Zinnias

This is a new zinnia that I'm trying this year. This one gets to be pretty large with quite large blooms.

Here's a close-up of one the blooms. It doesn't get any more attractive than this.

Friday, July 3, 2009

That's My Girl!

This is my baby girl, Ali, watering some plants in one of my beds. She's got an early start to loving flowers and plants. This was taken on 7/2/09, not the date on the picture.

Deep Red Zinnias

My daughter, Rhonda, took these pictures for me the other day and they look wonderful.

This is a red Bennary's Giant zinnia. Zinnias are a wonderful drought tolerant plant, so they are perfect for growing this time of year. You can even plant them in the middle of the summer down South. They love the heat. This variety is bright red and the plants get about 3 feet tall.

This is just another picture of the zinnia blooming right by a patch of Telstar Picotee dianthus. It's amazing that these dianthus have thrived in the heat. I think they will make it through the summer and really have a coming out party this fall.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Becky Shasta Daisy

This is my first ever shasta daisy to bloom. It is the variety known as Becky. This is purported to be one of the few shastas that do well in the deep South. Judging by the health of mine, this report must be true. I think this is a wonderful cottage garden plant. It's so cheerful looking! Mine is quite a sturdy plant that is not too tall and floppy. I hope it takes over this whole corner that I have it planted in. The date on the picture is wrong - it was actually taken on 6/30/09.