Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spring, Summer, Fall - Belinda's Dream

If there's ever a rose that gets rave reviews from me, it's this one.  The blooms look just like hybrid tea blooms, but the plant is full, bushy, and disease free nearly year round.  It blooms in flushes throughout the growing season.  It will take a two or three week rest between flushes, then come back out again. 

This first photo is at peak April bloom.  The blooms are slightly deeper pink in cooler weather.  The fragrance is sweet and noticeable.

This is the same plant in mid-July.  Notice that it hasn't gotten much taller.  This is because I keep it cut back as I deadhead the blooms.  I find that this makes for a fuller-looking bush on this and other bush roses.  I like doing this to my hybrid teas and shrub roses.  I don't do this to Old Garden Roses such as hybrid musks, Chinas, and teas.  You can also notice the lack of diseased leaves on this rose.   

This is a month later at a time when the plant is resting between flushes.  In mid-August the plant is still looking robust, green, and quite pleasing in form.  My Belinda's Dream was planted in October 2008, for those of you who want to know its age. 

In mid-September, the plant is going into yet another flush of blooms.  Notice that the blooms are not diminished in size at all by the blazing heat of our Louisiana September.  The pink might be a little lighter in color from the hot sun. 

This last picture is late October just before the full flush of bloom.  You'll notice one limb that has broken and fallen to the ground.  This was because of the weight of so many buds on that particular limb.  Still no loss of leaves and almost non-existent blackspot. 

For anyone in my corner of the world that wants a stellar performer that needs little care, this is one of my top recommendations.  It has fragrance, perfect blooms, health, and pleasing bush form.  I've given it the same care as all the rest of my roses - plenty of water during drought times, a cup or two of alfalfa pellets in the spring, heavy pruning in late winter, light pruning in the growing season to keep it bushy, and hardwood mulch around its feet.  It gets no fungicide or insecticide.  I'm guessing that it would do fine without any of the stuff I give it.  A definite "must have" rose for Louisiana.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spring, Summer, Fall - Archduke Charles

I know that I've just posted on Archduke Charles a few days ago, but since this is in alphabetical order, AC is next in line. This is one of three China roses that I have growing in my yard.  As with all of them, there may be some leaf loss in mid-summer and mid-winter, but I have yet to see any blackspot on them.  I think this is the plant's natural time to shed some leaves and make way for new ones. 

This first picture is from peak bloom in April.  This rose has been my first to bloom in each of the last two years.  It has all the shades of pink at the same time on the same plant. 

Next is the same plant in early August.  Unfortunately, I don't have full plant pictures of any of my roses from early summer.  Still, this shows the plant at the most stressful time of year in my climate.  As you can see, there is some leaf loss, but none of the leaves are yellow or spotted.  (The smaller-leaved climber behind this plant is a rambler known as Super Dorothy.) There are not many blooms at this time of year and the blooms that do come out are small and crisped from the heat.

By mid-September, blooms are coming back in profusion.  I love the light peppery fragrance of these flowers!  I've given this rose the same care as the Abraham Darby and it looks much better.

At the end of October, this is what AC looks like.  I'd say this is about as good as first spring flush.  It will continue to bloom like this till a hard frost comes.  This rose comes pretty close to being an evergreen in Louisiana.  I planted this specimen in October of 2008, so it is still a youngster.  It's filling out nicely as it ages and I expect it to get around 5' x 4' at full size.  It's a fairly bushy and full plant that has been recommended to me as a good candidate for a rose hedge. 

This is a great rose for beginners.  It requires almost no care to look great.  I suspect that it's easy to take cuttings and get them to root for passing on to friends and family.  To me, this rose has so much more character than the Knockout family of roses and does nearly as well.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spring, Summer, Fall - Abraham Darby

I'm starting a small series that shows the performance of roses (and perhaps other plants) in the three growing seasons of Louisiana.  It's my way of sharing how these roses perform through the year.  I don't have enough pictures to show every month or I would do a month-by-month comparison.  It's been quite enlightening to me seeing these comparison photos and realizing just how much difference there is in various cultivars. 

The first subject will be my Abraham Darby rose, since it's the first alphabetically.  The first photo is Abe at peak in mid-April.  At this time of year there is no better looking rose in the world.  The leaves are deep green with red stems that really stand out.  Top them with huge, fragrant, apricot blooms and this rose is to die for.  All memory of it's many problems disappear at this time of year when it's one of the greatest stars of my yard.

This barren few sticks with roses on them is the same plant in early August.  Gone are all the lovely leaves.  They all turned yellow and black and fell off.  It's had plenty of water and mulch and still didn't thrive.  Keep in mind that I haven't sprayed all year and this rose does not appreciate that. 

This is the last shot taken at the end of September.  Many of the leaves are growing back out without spots.  It's regained much of its former health and it's looking much better.  Into October and early November, this good trend has continued and Abe looks even better now than in this photo.  It will look really healthy by the time the first frost comes around and sends it into dormancy. 

This is a classic example of a rose that definitely needs fungicide if you want it to look good all year.  I give it plenty of water, mulch, and alfalfa pellets for nutrients, but it still has no resistance to the dreaded blackspot.  Starting next year I may start spraying this plant again because I don't want it looking half-dead for most of the year.  Keep in mind that David Austin roses such as this one have a reputation for being divas and this is no exception.  If you're willing to pamper them or else overlook loss of leaves for half the growing season, then this is a great rose.  Otherwise, it's not a good choice.  I do not recommend Abraham Darby to people who aren't willing to spend plenty of time spraying.  On the other hand, if you put in the effort, this plant is one of the most beautiful and desirous on the planet. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Duking It Out With the Charles

Right now Archduke Charles is looking his best since April.  The blooms are profuse and in every shade of light pink to crimson. 

The blooms are in clusters surrounded by perfect, blue-green leaves that are attractive by themselves.

The bloom shapes on this little China rose are utter perfection.  The fragrance is spicy and peppery, to my nose.

The bush is filling out more and more as it ages and there is not a sign of disease on it.  With the cooler weather, the blooms aren't crisping either.  As with all of my roses this year, no spray has touched this plant.  It has received a couple cups of alfalfa pellets and plenty of water from my irrigation system.  I keep it mulched with hardwood chips.  This is certainly a good candidate for a maintenance free rose in Louisiana as I'm sure it would look nice even without the mulch and extra water. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

End of Season Awards

It's almost November and the flowering season is nearing its end.  That means it's time to give out some of the awards for best performance of the year.  These awards go out to the flowering plants that performed best for the longest period of time.  Longevity is the key here.  These are not necessarily my favorite flowers, but they have merited favor by looking good for the duration.

In the perennial category, there is a two-way tie for the win.  First up is Arizona Sun gaillardia.  This plant brightened up the flower bed from mid-spring all the way till now and is still going.  It has never been without blooms and is in a bed where I don't have irrigation.  It's taken all nature can throw at it and kept on smiling. 

The other winner is lantana.  I'm not breaking it down into varieties because all three of my lantana varieties did equally well.  They too have bloomed from mid-spring on and with little to no care at all.  Above is Ham and Eggs.

The lantanas bloom like crazy and are never without the constant buzz of insect and hummingbird wings.  Above is a mix of Miss Huff and (I think) Dallas Red.

In the annual category we have a surprise winner.  I didn't even plant this vinca, but it hasn't taken this slight to heart and has performed through heat and drought without a blink.  I've never watered it and it has happily bloomed away from it's crack in the concrete.  It is constantly covered in bloom and has a very pleasant form.  No other annual in my yard has looked this good for such a long time.  Next year I will definitely plant a bunch of these. 

In the shrub category, a couple of roses share the honor.  None of my other shrubs bloom as often or as long as these roses.  Above is Earthsong.  It keeps large blooms even in the heat of summer, gets no disease, has a pleasant fragrance, and asks for little care.  It has almost never been without at least a couple of blooms.

Belinda's Dream has a similar description.  Huge blooms, nice fragrance, pleasing bush form, no disease, and carefree.  It puts on a new flush of blooms at least once per month and the blooms are not diminished by heat.  It has not been touched by blackspot, even without fungicide. 

Honorable mention in the shrub category goes to my Royal Red buddleia ("butterfly bush.")  It has also bloomed all year, spreading sweet fragrance to people and sweet nectar to butterflies and hummingbirds for the duration.  I don't have a decent picture of it to post here. 

In the tree category, the winner is my Chaste Vitex tree.  Such lovely flowers, interesting foliage, a pleasing form, and sweet fragrance.  I also love that it attracts the friendly flyers that I delight to see. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another Kind of Rose

Hibiscus Mutabilis is one of the biggest, showiest shrubs to grow in the Southern landscape.  Around here it is called "Confederate Rose," but it is also known as the "Cotton Rose."  The flowers are huge, up to 8" across and they change in color as they age. 

The flowers start off a light pink.  I have the single-flowered specimen, but there are double-flowered forms that do just as well.

As the flowers age, they darken into a hot pink color. 

Before falling off, they get almost crimson.   At any time, the plant will have all the shades of pink, making for quite an interesting look.

The plant itself makes quite a statement in the yard.  It is wonderful planted alone in a place where it can really show off.  It makes a perfect round shape with huge, course leaves.  Even when not in flower, it looks distinguished. 

Plant in full or partial sun in about any soil.  It takes drought like a champ.  The leaves fall off in the winter and you can cut it down the ground if you want to at that time.  It can get 15' tall in the Deep South in one growing season.  It does well as far north as zone 7.  This is a great pass-along plant because it is so easy to root.  Just cut a small branch off, stick it in the ground, and water to get a new one.  It requires practically no maintenance at all and blooms at a time of year when many other shrubs aren't.  The flowers are a favorite of bumblebees. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rioting Flowers

Several of my flower beds have run amok.  They are refusing to stay in bounds, re-seeding everywhere, clashing colors, and inviting every insect in the neighborhood to come over for nectar.  They are completely out of line and in open rebellion against any rules. 

Other than the Heavenly Blue morning glories, this bed is all volunteers.  The zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers did not ask permission to party here.

These sunflowers are seeking to intrude into the yard and have even invited BIRDS over. 

The zinnias, meanwhile,  are openly flirting with every winged butterfly that passes by.  They will recklessly dance with ANY butterfly that chances by. 

All these intruding volunteers have passed on their attitude to the morning glories who have now flaunted their wares to every passing bumblebee. 

The place is in shambles!!

If that's not enough, another of my beds has started openly rebelling too.  This once orderly bed is now a shadow of it's former self.  The lantanas are sprawling everywhere in baudy profusion. 

Even the Double Knockout and the plumbago are waiste deep in lantanas.  Every traveling stranger of a hummingbird that passes through stops by for a nip of nectar at this nefarious-looking facility.  It's all too far gone for me to to anything about.  I'll just have to wait for a freeze to run this riff-raff off.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Being a Pansy

I can't help it - pansies always find a way into my shopping basket at the local garden supply centers.  They are such appealing and colorful plants for the cool season down here.  They come in such a variety of vibrant colors, from deep reds to sunny yellows.  Did I mention they work wonderfully in containers?

I have this large container that will house a large tropical next year.  A batch of pansies will keep it looking interesting till mid-spring next year when tropicals can be planted.  Pansies also look great in a bed with bulbs as they can be planted over the bulbs and provide color and vegetation till the bulbs send up shoots.

These are the pansies I had in a container last cool season.  Hopefully the new ones will be this nice in a few months.  Down here in Louisiana, these should be planted in October or November.  They easily can take the freezes we get here and will look good till hot weather comes in April.  Give them moist, loamy soil and full or part sun.  If you plant them in the ground, be sure to plant a bunch of them together to make a better visual impact because they are small plants.  Even in a container, it's best to stuff at least several plants in for a fuller look. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spending Time With Clockvine

Having written in the past about other members of the thunbergia family, it's time for me to report on the grandest of them all - Thunbergia Grandiflora, often called Bengal Clockvine or just clockvine.  The normal color of the flowers is this purplish-blue, but there are white ones available.

They closely resemble Heavenly Blue morning glories, at least to me.  The blooms don't really start till the days start to shorten in September. 

This flower grows on a lush, tropical vine that is beautiful even without flowers.  The vine is from India and is hardy to zone 8.  It will die to the ground after a freeze, but reliably comes back for me each year.  It's quite fast growing and will cover a fence pretty well in a growing season. 

Here's a picture of the vine so you can see just how lush it it.  It prefers a sunny area and loamy soil.  Mine gets adequate moisture because I have it irrigated.  It's a much bigger plant than its sisters in the thunbergia family - Black-eyed Susan vine, King's mantle, and scrambling sky-vine.  It's yet another of those unusual plants that many people don't know about and you seldom see.  I don't know why this is because clockvines are so easy and do so well in our hot, humid Southeast US.  It makes a nice substitute for morning glories if you want a vine that comes back every year and isn't as invasive.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Riding the Tidal Wave

I just recently planted some Tidal Wave Silver petunia plants.  I really love the silver/purple blooms with deep purple throats.  The Tidal Wave series gets larger than the normal petunia so they make nice additions to beds.  I think they are really nice in a cottage garden setting. 

Ideally, petunias should be planted in the Fall down here.  They are able to get roots established well before hunkering down for the winter.  Then they are ready to really burst forth in the spring when warm weather starts back up.  The Wave series can take heat a little better than other types, so they tend to last longer into the warm spring before melting in the heat.

I'm adding this picture since I got a better camera and this shows the colors of Tidal Wave Silver better than the other photos.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Few Fall Roses

My blog would not be a reflection of me if I didn't include some pictures of my roses fairly often.  It's been a while, so it's time to show off some of the recent blooms. 

This is a Ducher bloom.  The blooms are just starting to get better with the cooler fall weather.  They're not crisping as much and are getting larger.  The best is yet to come from this plant over the last part of the season.  Still not a stitch of blackspot on this shrub.  I love the slightly fragrant lemony-white blooms. 

Here's the typical quartered bloom form of Abraham Darby.  In the morning, the fragrance of this rose is nearly overpowering and fruity.  The color is more orangey-apricot in the fall of the year.

Here is a nice bloom on Archduke Charles.  This is when the bloom first comes out and it has lighter pink highlights.

This is the same bloom a couple of days later when it takes on a crimson-wine color.  I've always said that the fragrance of this rose is "peppery."

Here are a couple of Buff Beauty blooms.  I really love the flowers on this rose.  I'm hoping this plant gets huge and florific as it matures.  I've only had it in the ground for a year now, so it should really take off next year.

This is a deep red bud on Dublin Bay.  My camera does not do justice to the colors on this rose.  The blooms last for quite a few days on the plant before falling off.  This has to be one of the longest lasting blooms of any rose.