Saturday, July 31, 2010

Native Honeysuckle

This is a native honeysuckle, or lonicera sempervirens.  I believe the variety name is Alabama Crimson, but since I threw away the label I'm not sure about that.  I have it growing on our mailbox and it continues to put on quite a show.  The reddish-orange flowers come out in profusion in April and then continue sporadically through the summer.  Hummingbirds dearly love this flower.  It does not have the fragrance of the rampant and invasive Japanese honeysuckle that you commonly see. 

Here is a picture of my vine at peak bloom in April.  Since this time it has completely taken over the mailbox and I have to trim it back so the poor postman can get to the box.  It remains full and lush in its growth with no disease at all.  It's really too bad that so few people down here grow this easy and beautiful vine.  It's native to our country and thrives nearly anywhere.  Mine is growing in full sun, but they grow equally well in partial shade.  They will grow in the cold of zone 4 and the heat of zone 9. 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Abraham Darby in the Heat

Abraham Darby changes colors at different times of the year.  Still, it always has a peachy undertone even in the summer when more pink is prevalent. 

In this heat of summer, the blooms are full and fragrant.  I attribute the size of the blooms to the fact that we've been getting lots of rain again over the last month or so.  I think this is a rose that wants plenty of water, just as it's sister Golden Celebration does.  I'm beginning to really believe this is a key to all the David Austin roses. 

Nevertheless, my main gripe about these roses is blackspot.  They are very prone to this disease and at least 50% of this plant is defoliated and yellow.  You don't see it in these pictures because I don't photograph that part of the plant.  It's a vigorous enough grower to overcome the loss of it's leaves and still thrive.  I may start spraying fungicide on my David Austins next year just because I'm tired of them looking bad through the summer.  They are not good candidates for a no-spray garden in my area, but the blooms make it impossible for me to resist planting them!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Cant" Get Enough of This Rose

Pink with a silvery sheen is how I would describe the color of the blooms on my Mrs. B. R. Cant rose.  The form of the blooms is flat and full, and the fragrance is pure tea and not strong to my nose.  The blooms are usually about 3" in diameter - not large, but not tiny like many roses can be in the heat of summer.  They are a little smaller at this time of year than in the spring, but not too much. 

By and large, the leaves are perfect green with almost no disease spots.  There is some yellow coloration to some of the leaves, but it's hardly noticeable.  The plant form is pretty full and getting more so as it gets older.  I get the impression this is a rose bush that fills out with age.  I'm looking forward to a huge 8' x 8' monster of a plant. 

Here is a shot of the whole bush.  Not bad at this worst time of year for the plants.  Very little yellowing and lots of blooms.  If this is how all tea roses perform in my climate, then I need to get more of them.  Does anybody out there have more tea rose recommendations for me?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Reason I Plant Bengal Tiger Cannas

Folks, this is the reason I plant the Bengal Tiger canna.  It's not for the velvety orange and striking flowers., it's for these striking leaves.  What a statement they make!  I just had to share this photo though it makes for two blog entries in one day.

A Bloom I Can't Wait To Smell


Care to guess what this cone-like bud is?  It's the lovely Butterfly Ginger (hedychium.)  There is no late summer flower I love more than this one.  It will fill the whole yard with a delicate, gardenia-like fragrance on a summer evening.  I love it so much that I've spread these around the yard in strategic places to make sure I get good coverage.  They are extremely easy to grow, with new shoots coming up from the roots by the dozens.  They are related to cannas and will grow anywhere their cousins will.  Give them plenty of water or they will look sad.  One issue with them is that they get tall and top heavy causing floppiness unless you give them some support.  Everyone in the South needs this plant.  One whiff and you'll be hooked.  By the way, they are very reliable to come back for me, even after this particularly cold winter.  I'll post pictures of the flowers when they come out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Have a Cigar

This is a Mexican Cigar plant, or Cuphea ignea.  If this is a cigar, then consider all hummingbirds to be nicotine addicts, because they LOVE this small, flowering shrub.

The flowers are 1" - 2" tubes that are reddish-orange in color.  As you may know, red is also the favorite color of hummingbirds, so this makes the flowers doubly attractive to them. 

The shrub is fairly dense with dark green leaves.  The blooms usually start for me in May.  The plant dies back to the ground after a freeze, so it makes a fresh start each spring.  It's quite reliable to come back in my zone 8B yard.

The plant grows quickly and easily reaches 3' - 4' tall.  It makes a fine foundation plant or back-of-the-border perennial.  It does best in a sunny spot.  I have yet to see any disease or insect damage on my plant.

I recommend cutting this plant back about once a month after it reaches a height of 3 feet.  This keeps is bushier in appearance and less leggy at the bottom.  No gardener wishing to attract hummingbirds should be without this plant.  It grows quickly enough to use as an annual or potted plant in the North.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Belinda Still Dreaming Away

This is Belinda's Dream, a medium pink, shrub rose that is purported to be nearly disease free.  It is on the Earthkind list of roses, which means it is a top performer in our climate without needing all the spraying and watering that normally are required for roses.  The blooms are shaped like normal hybrid tea roses and have a wonderful fragrance.  The stems aren't especially long, but are adequate for cutting.  Notice just how huge the bloom is even in the deepest part of summer here. 

Here is another shot that shows the beautiful leaves and stems as well as the perfect blooms.  I can't think of another rose in my experience that is less prone to blackspot than this one.  The leaves stay clean all year.  Also, this is a nearly continuously blooming shrub.  It puts out flush after flush of bloom from April till December where I live.  One way I help it bloom better is to prune each stem way back after the blooms fade.  This helps the plant also maintain a full, bushy appearance instead of a tall, leggy look.

I prune this plant just like a hybrid tea.  Cut it back to about 18" in February, keep the stems cut back after each flush of bloom, and give it a secondary pruning to about 30" in late summer (August) before the fall flush.  In this shot you can see the full shape of the plant and the perfect, deep green of the leaves.  There is no yellowing anywhere.  You cannot ask for more from a rose in Louisiana.  (Note that I don't spray at all.) 

Once again, this is a rose that is not commonly seen at my local nurseries.  Why!?  I had to order mine from Chamblee's Rose Nursery.  It sickens me to visit nurseries and see tons of hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses that are guaranteed to fail unless constantly pampered.  The only exception is the ubiquitous Knockout family, which is the only group of roses that common people can easily find and grow.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Earthsong In Summer

Mid-summer is a good time for me to gauge which roses will truly thrive in my climate.  It's the most brutal time of year for roses to endure in the Deep South.  We have extreme temperatures, off-the-chart high humidity, sometimes flooding rains, and sometimes long droughts.  The conditions are also perfect for that number one enemy of roses - blackspot.  Since I don't spray, this is about the best time to get an evaluation of what roses will make the cut for me.  One rose that is definitely passing with flying colors is the Griffith Buck rose, Earthsong. 

The blooms are this deep pink color and they have a sweet fragrance, though it is not extremely strong.  The flowers fade to a lighter pink in the sun, but they still retain attractive coloration.  I've seen no insect damage at all to the plant.

Here is a whole bush shot of mine.  It doesn't have a full, bushy shape and grows somewhat like a grandiflora.  I've determined to start pruning mine like a grandiflora/hybrid tea from this point onward.  The leaves are almost completely free of blackspot, though it sometimes gets a very small smattering of the disease.  I keep a layer of mulch around it's base and water with a drip irrigator when needed.  Once or twice a year I'll put a cup or two of alfalfa pellets around the base of the plant.  This is about the only care I give for any of my roses.  One of the things I really like about Earthsong is that the blooms don't seem to get smaller in the heat of summer like so many other roses do. 

The Griffith Buck roses were bred to take cold, so I like to recommend them to my Northern friends.  This is one of Buck's best ones.  These are some tough bushes because they take our Southern heat just as well as the Northern freezes.  A hardy family of roses and very worthy of consideration as easy to grow options in the landscape.  It's so sad to me that these are not readily offered in most area nurseries.  I recommend you look at Chamblee's web site to purchase this rose and many other Buck roses.

This last picture was taken back in May at the peak bloom of this rose.  I'm including it so you can see what it looks like at its best.  The smaller, lighter pink blooms are from an adjacent Super Dorothy rose.  Earthsong nearly always blooms in these luscious clusters early in the year. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Black-Eyed Beauty

Black-eyed Susans (rudbeckias) are one of the easiest and most prolific perennials that you can plant.  They will thrive on neglect, poor soil, and drought conditions.  They also do well in our humidity.  Their commonality made me overlook them for some time, but I'm trying to make up for lost time this year. 

This variety is the ubiquitous "Goldsturm."  There is a reason for the popularity of this variety - it thrives everywhere.  The flowers are so happy and cheerful - especially on a wet, summer afternoon. 

This picture shows more of the plant, though a morning glory is trying to choke it out.  I've only got two small plants this year, but I fully expect this to spread and prolifically fill its area.  By the way, I think it looks great growing near the deep purple Grandpa Ott morning glories.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crocosmia Explosion

Crocosmias are hard for me to photograph.  Their airy habit and bright colors make them easy on the eyes but hard on the camera lens.  They are among the easiest of all the summer bulbs to grow in the Southeast and are extremely prolific.  Within two years of planting one specimen, you will have more than enough to share with your friends.

Here are some growing near my small herb bed.  They look nice alongside the achillea (yarrow,) bronze fennel, rue, parsley, and dill. 

Here's a close-up of the blooms.   I don't know what this variety is since it was given to me by a friend.  Nearly all cultivars grow the same and they come in all the fire-colored shades - yellow, orange, and red. 

Such bright colors don't mix with everything, but sure do brighten up where they are.  This is quite a versatile plant that will grow and bloom anywhere from bright sun to half-shade.  They don't do so well in boggy soil, but they tolerate drought superbly.  I have some growing in a dry un-irrigated bed and they are doing just as fine as the ones that get plenty of water.

The tube-shaped blooms are near the top of the food list for ruby-throated hummingbirds.  I've seen them busily buzzing around these blooms nearly every morning.  This is a perfect pass-along plant that will reward you over and over again with little effort.  What more can you ask for?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Purple Coneflower

These days everyone is going crazy for the new colors of echinacea.  The purple coneflower is no longer purple!  I've heard bad reports on the performance of many of these new-colored plants, so I've stuck with the old stand-by "Magnus."  This is a proven performer that simply does its job of staying healthy and pumping out loads of lavender blooms.

This first picture shows the healthy growth on a plant in April before the blooms start.  It's an attractive plant even without the flowers.  I have this one growing in a butterfly bed, along with Homestead Purple verbena, Royal Red buddleia, Jacob Kline monarda, and verbena bonariensis.  This bed is a magnet for all types of butterflies as well as hummingbirds.  Echinacea is also quite popular with finches when the seed-heads ripen.

This shows a Magnus bloom as it first starts to turn purple.  The petals have this quill-like look when they first form. 

Here is Magnus in full bloom with a friendly bumblebee coming over for a visit.  As mentioned before, this is one of the top wildlife attractors that you can plant in a flower bed. 

The blooms last for many days on the plant.  If you deadhead, it will put out even more blooms.  The bloom season lasts for months.  I recommend leaving at least some of the seed heads on for the birds and to save some seeds of your own for either passing along to others or to plant for yourself.  This light shade of purple is a perfect mix in the cottage garden.  Give some love to the old-fashioned PURPLE coneflower!  Don't forget that this plant reliably returns every year, which makes it even more attractive.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Still Going to the Dogs

I'm still sitting inside during these dog days planning out my fall gardening strategy.  In this last installment of this series, I'm showing what shrubs and trees I want to plant in the yard.


The above picture shows one of my all time favorite shrubs.  It's evergreen, gets about 15' tall, and wafts fragrance all over a yard during the fall, winter, and spring.  It's the Osmanthus fragrans ("Sweet olive.")  I've already got one of these in the front yard, but I'm thinking about putting a row of them along my back fence as an evergreen privacy hedge.  They are fairly slow growers, but eventually fill out - and that fragrance!

Another plan of mine involves putting some Encore azaleas in between the sweet olives in my new hedge.  Autumn Moonlight and Autumn Angel are the two I'm considering.  They are both white blooming azaleas.  The above Encore is my Autumn Twist.  Encores take sun much better than regular azaleas, plus they bloom up to three times per year.  I've always wanted some white ones in my yard, so the above choices would fit the bill perfectly. 

Two flowering shrubs/trees that I've been wanting are Eastern redbuds and Innocence mock orange.  Red buds have been one of my favorite flowering trees since I was a child and saw the one blooming in my grandma's yard.  Mock oranges are another of those fragrant blooming shrubs that are great for an understory planting beneath large trees.  I'm thinking of planting a small grove of redbeds in my back yard.  The mock orange would compliment the area too.  Innocence is a variety known to have strong fragrance.  I may also plant a Korean Spice viburnum to add to my collection of fragrant shrubs.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dog Days Planning

This cool-season flower bed of mine had California poppies, toadflax, Telstar dianthus, and sweetpeas in it.  It was wonderful to see in March and April of last year.  During these dog days of summer, I'm trying to plan out my strategy for cool season annuals so I can have this again next year. 

This wall of sweetpeas was so successful that I will definitely plant more of them.  So much fragrance and beauty!  These need to be planted in late October / early November where I live.  They have to be some of my favorite flowers of all. 

I tried some nigella ("Love in a Mist") last fall and they turned out well.  They are easily grown from seed and mix well with other flowers.  They will definitely find a place to grow in this fall's garden.

Larkspur are another favorite of mine that grow very well from seed and look nice in a cool season bed.  Hummingbirds appreciate coming to these in the early spring too, as do the bees. 

Some of my other plans for fall planting include some Wave petunias, pansies, and violas for containers.  I like to have a few hanging plants around the house and these look gorgeous in the cool season.  Toadflax is another option that grows and blooms quickly in the cool season, plus I love their bright colors and they are easy to grow from seed.  Alyssum are a great favorite of mine because they fit so well at the front of a bed where their small size works well.  Plus, the honey-sweet fragrance of alyssum wafts tantalizingly on cool evenings.  California poppies are so simple to grow that I have to plant some of them.  Calendulas are another bright-colored annual to fill in some spots.  I've never had much success growing snapdragons from seed, but I love them so much that I want to get some seedlings from a nursery to plant in my beds.  A new plant I want to try this fall is nicotiana ("flowering tobacco.")  I hear it thrives in the cool season down here and has heady fragrance.  Anybody out there have some more suggestions for cool season annuals in the Deep South?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Dog Days Blues

During the dog days of summer when it's too hot to do much in the yard, you have time to make plans and dreams for the fall.  Fall is one of the busiest times of the year for gardening in Louisiana.  It's when you separate many perennials, plant all the cool season annuals, and plant shrubs and trees.  Here are some of my plans for dividing perennials:

First off, my daylilies need to be divided and planted in new beds.  I have big plans for how to re-arrange my daylilies.  The white Joan Seniors are to be put in mixed beds with other flowers because their cream color mixes so well.  The darker colors should be put in part shade where their colors won't get faded by the sun.  I also have family and friends that might really like to get some nice daylily starts.

The Becky Shasta daisies have really spread a lot and can finally be divided this fall.  I'm really excited about this since I've been patiently waiting to spread these around to other flower beds in my yard.  I can think of many places where an unfloppy, mounding, white and yellow flower would look good. 

My other plants that need dividing and re-planting are the irises along the fence.  I don't like them being along this fence because it becomes quite hard to weed this area in the summer.  Irises don't like to be mulched, so it's really hard to keep weeds and grass out of the area they are growing in.  Hence, this fence gets ugly in summertime.  I'll put these in a proper flower bed where I can get to them easier.  This fence will get some other plants that like mulch.  I'm thinking of making up a bed that has all bulbs, corms, and rhizomes and that will have nearly continual blooms all year.  I could have daffodils, gladioli, lilies, irises, crocosmias, tuberoses, and etc in this bed.  Wouldn't that be neat?  Speaking of tuberoses, they need to be divided this fall as well.  I can't wait!