Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Some Things Make Me Want To Cry

Last year at this time, I had a wall of sweetpea's growing on one area of my chainlink fence.  After they finished, I planted some morning glories in the same place.  Because these morning glories were still going strong in late October and early November when sweetpeas should be planted, I didn't pull them out and plant some more sweetpeas in the spot.  Now I'm really regretting not having any sweetpeas as I see the bare area of fence and remember the beauty and fragrance that was there last year.  The following pictures from last year just make me wanna' cry!

This wall of sweetpeas put out enough fragrance to be smelled from 50 yards away if the wind was right.  Not to mention it was a show-stopper that made everyone who passed by ask about.  Don't even try planting these at any other time in Louisiana besides late Oct - early Nov.  They just can't take the heat that arrives in May. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Japanese Painted Fern

I used to have a thing against ferns.  They somehow seemed boring to me and I refused to plant any of them.  Over time, my ideas changed and I started wanting some more filler for shady areas.  Not to mention that ferns are so easy to grow and come in so many shapes.  This is one I have growing between my azaleas in nearly full shade.  It merrily marches along and takes whatever comes its way.  It has a nice burgundy color to its leaves with a silvery sheen.  Put one in a pot for a shady porch or in the ground in a shady bed  and the Japanese Painted Fern will provide color and texture for many years.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Azaleas Getting Ready to Burst

This is the latest I remember the azaleas starting in my section of Louisiana.  Usually, by the end of March they are filling the countryside with color.  This cold winter has put everything behind schedule.  But the show must go on and and azaleas are just about ready to explode into vibrant pinks and pastels.  My Red Ruffles typically are first to bloom in my yard and some buds are just sprouting.  Here's a close-up of a bloom.

Here's a shot of one of the bushes as it's starting.

Here's what it looked like two years ago at this same time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Yet Another Weed Picture

This is a picture of a butterweed flowerhead that is peaking through my azalea plant out front.  As I've said before, some weeds have their place!  So don't chop all the weeds down.  Let some of them grow and bring joy to your yard or especially your "cottage garden."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Archduke Charles in Bloom

This is my second bloom of the year on Archduke Charles.  I decided it would be nice to post a progression of pictures of the bloom as it opens.  Enjoy the show!

Notice how the bud starts off dark, then the bloom is light colored, and finally it gets darker again.  The last two pictures were taken in less than perfect lighting, so sorry about that.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cool Season Containers

Today is about container planting in the cool season.  These petunias are in a window box outside the kitchen window.  They really brighten the view in the dreary days of late winter and early spring before much else is blooming.  Petunias are a fine container choice that never fail.  You can either let them trail out or cut them back for a more bushy look.  I'm keeping these cut back for a more full look.

Another nice container plant for the cool season is Dianthus.  This is Ideal Violet, a common variety found at garden centers.  They are easy to grow and quite forgiving for those who sometimes forget to water as frequently as they should.  They naturally have a bushy, full appearance and bloom like crazy. 

For my last cool season container I present the lovely pansy.  These are great because you can hang them in areas that get less sun.  I've got these on my front porch on the north side of my house where they get only indirect sunlight.  (This same area will get some impatiens once these pansies play out.)  I don't know what variety this is, but the unusual color really caught my eye and I bought them on impulse. 

So what is the secret to containers?  One, stuff plenty of small plants in each container.  I used to make the mistake of putting one or two plants per container.  Instead, put at least four in a typical hanging container.  This gives much more of a mass effect and fills the container out better.  Second, get some slow release fertilizer (like Osmocote) and put the appropriate amount in with your potting soil.  This will keep the plants well-fed for the whole growing season.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ducher Takes the Silver

Archduke Charles may have taken the gold again this year by being first to bloom, but we have a new contender this year in Ducher who has taken the silver by being the second rose to bloom.  These delicate, white blooms with a touch of lemon are showstoppers.  I look forward to at least 8 months of continual bloom from this wonderful little China rose.  If you live in the South, get you one!  My sympathies to those of you who live north of zone 6.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Good Ole Verbena

You just can't go wrong planting verbena in a flower bed.  Many of the better types will come back each year, they attract butterflies, they are covered in bloom, and they multiply.  If you bury runners, they will easily root and you can get new plants to put anywhere.  This is the most common type, Homestead Purple, and it's justifiably famous.  I put one lonely plant of this variety in my butterfly garden last year.  This one plant sent out runners and is coming back as about half a dozen new plants this year.  They overwintered this harsh year quite well and are already starting to bloom.  I'm letting them run all over my butterfly bed between all the taller plants and will only shear them back if they get leggy this summer.  They look great trailing from a container too.  Give them a try.  You won't regret it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Grape Hyacinths

This fall, I got a large bag of grape hyacinth (muscarii) bulbs for a bargain basement price.  With nothing to lose, I scooped them up.  It was easy to plant them in the back yard amongst the leaves near some trees.  This is an area that gets plenty of sun till the trees get their leaves in the spring.  I simply took a broom handle and poked holes into the ground and stuffed the small bulbs in them about 3-4 inches deep.  Now they are springing up in a broad patch of these cute little blooms.  They aren't very noticeable from a distance and don't really add much to my landscape, but I love them anyway.  They don't get more than 6" tall and you can mow over them later in the spring when it's time to start that tedious duty.  Just make sure they are in an area that doesn't stay boggy.  They make more a visible impact if you plant a cluster of them together in a smaller patch than I did. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wave to the Petunias

I threw a few Rosy Dawn Wave Petunia seeds into some pots last fall hoping they would survive.  These have and are just starting to bloom.  I haven't had much success growing petunias from seed and find it much easier to just buy small plants.  However, it can be done.  The Wave series is so popular that it needs no introduction.  Suffice to say, they are a good choice for Louisiana and last longer into our hot season than other types of petunias.  Do NOT utilize them as a hot season flower!  Even the Wave's can't take our "waves" of unending heat.  Keep them trimmed back for a fuller, bushier appearance.  They make a wonderful container plant. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

An English Daisy Update

Not long ago I posted pictures of my English Daisy (Bellis Perennis) plant growing wild in my yard.  Since then it has grown and put on many more blooms.  I think it's just a lovely little plant.  Wish I had more of them now.  They are a cool-season annual that are easy to grow from seed down here.  Plant them in the fall for best results, though it may be worth a try in the early spring.  They grow in the same conditions that calendulas grow in, so refer to my post of yesterday for more infomation.  I think these would be perfect in a cottage garden at the front of a bed with taller plants behind them.  They only get about 6" high.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Have You Checked Your Calendula Lately?

These cute little flowers resembling daisies are called calendulas.  They are sometimes called pot marigolds.  They are basically a cool season annual in the Deep South because they just can't take our hot summers.  Calendulas come in various shades of yellow and orange and some have more full blooms than others.  They close up at night and open back up the next day when the sun comes out.  I don't detect any fragrance on them at all.  I've been told that they can be used as a food garnish, but I've never tried it.  The good thing about them is how easily they are grown from seed.  Just buy a cheap pack of seeds, throw them on the ground in a sunny location and water.  They will come up profusely in a few days.  When they start getting some size to them, thin them to about 8" apart.  Keep them weeded and watered and watch the show.  That's it!  Down here, you should plant them in October or November.  You can try to plant them in early spring too.  If you live north of zone 8, then definitely plant them in the spring.  They also make a fine potted plant and are a great companion to other flowers.  After seeing the ones I have, it makes me wish I'd planted more of them. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The First Rose of Spring

Archduke Charles was my first rose to bloom last spring despite in being a very young plant at the time.  Wouldn't you know it's the first to bloom this spring too?  Look at this perfectly quartered little bloom!  There are some other blooms on the plant too - some lighter pink than this.  As you may know, Archduke Charles is a rose of many different shades of pink.  It changes colors as the bloom ages.  It can be anywhere from light, blousy pink to deep crimson.  I expect this plant to really take off this year and get huge since it seems to love our Louisiana weather so well.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Party With Petunias

This is the time of year that petunias shine in Louisiana.  From now till May, they look great in the yard and especially in pots.  These are the bright red ones growing in a window box at my house.  Many thanks to my sweet wife, Jo, for e-mailing this picture to me at work.  Nocice the wonderful 70 degrees showing on the thermometer too.  I don't know what variety this is.  They were purchased at Lowe's last fall.  Down here, you put them in pots in the fall, then just baby them along until the warm weather of spring hits.  Once warm weather starts, petunias explode into bloom and growth, usually putting on a blissful show.  The various Wave petunias actually perform longer into the hot season than the other varieties, so plant them if you want the best performance.  However, Wave's don't come in all the colors and all petunias will give adequate performance for a while.  To keep petunias looking their best, keep them trimmed back before they get leggy.  Jo loves this bright red color, so these were planted for her. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

At This Time Last Year

I'm back out in the Gulf of Mexico where I can't take new pictures of my plants.  I do have all my old pictures though and it's interesting to see where my flowers were at this same time last year.  We are WAY behind this year due to the abnormally cold and long winter.  Last year I planted a nice section in my yard with a variety of cool season flowers that readily grow from seed.  I called this my "wildflower" garden.  At the end of February, the toadflax were blooming like mad.  They were gorgeous.  Sure makes me wish I had planted more of them this year.  Here are a couple of pictures for your enjoyment.  Toadflax readily grow from seed and just thrive in my Louisiana winter weather.  They come in many colors.  The early bees seem to really enjoy them too. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Some Weeds To Put A Damper On Your Day

This first plant is the infamous spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper.)  It makes yellow puff-ball flowers that are similar to dandelions.  The leaves and stems have sharp little spines and if you break a stem it emits a milky substance.  They are very prolific and have a tap root that is quite hard to completly remove from the soil.  This makes them extremely hard to eradicate.  Try to remove them before flowering.  This is one of my most hated weeds. 

Henbit (lamium amplexicaule) is another cool season weed that grows all around my yard and flower beds this time of year.  It is short and grows thickly and forms these small tubular flowers that are lavender in color.  It's not so bad as sowthistle, but I still don't like it.  The flowers aren't large enough to be attractive and the foliage is not noticeable.