Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let's Go Tubing!

Tubing on the river is a common summer activity around this part of the South in the hot part of summer.  Around this same time, the tuberoses start blooming with their sweet-smelling spikes of bloom.

The blooms are set on long spikes of buds that open starting from the bottom buds.  The fragrance is very gardenia-like and wafting.  A stand of these can make a whole section of yard fragrant.  The blooms can crisp quickly in the blazing sun, so I tend to pick off the crisped blooms each day and keep the fresh ones on the spikes so as to keep the blooms tidy.  Cut off a whole spike to put in a vase for natural air freshener in your house.

I have way more bloom spikes this year, but they aren't as big and lush as last year.  I think this is because my little bed of tuberoses has become crowded and needs to be divided.  I can leave them in the ground year-round here and they will keep coming back.  I suppose they need protection in winter in zones colder than zone 8.  The variety I have is called "The Pearl."  Mine keep sending blooms up until frost, as you can see from the date in the above picture which was taken last November.  They like a sunny, dry spot.  I suggest they would make a nice additiion to a bulb bed where you might want some blooms later in the year after other plants have finished.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dreaming Along With Belinda

This is Belinda's Dream today.  Still performing wonderfully in our humid weather and hot temperatures. 

Here's a picture of the delectable blooms as they first start to open up well.  They have a sweet fragrance and a pleasing form.

This is a picture of the whole bush as it looked two days ago.  You can't see the buds well because of my poor photography, but you can get an idea of how the bush looks.  There are a few discolored leaves, but by and large this plant is unaffected by blackspot.  It has basically no leaf loss from the disease.  That fact makes this rose a huge winner for my area.  Notice the full form of the bush.  This is my ideal in a rose.  Notice the lack of "naked legs" as well.  This is how a shrub rose should look!

I'm finishing up with a picture of Belinda's Dream at peak performance in April.  Wonderful!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Day With Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay is my only pure red rose.  I have Double Knockout, but it's more of a crimson or maroon than a pure red.  Dublin Bay is a stiff-limbed climber that doesn't really climb that well.  I have mine espaliered on the chain link fence where it can sprawl more than climb.

It blooms in clusters of the deepest red blooms.  The blooms are semi-open and double. 

The blooms last for days on the vine and are equally long-lasting in a vase, though the stems aren't long enough to be ideal for cutting.  One slight knock on this otherwise wonderful rose is a total lack of any fragrance. 

This is how my bush looks right now in the depths of summer.  It's not really a pretty plant at this time of year.  Blackspot defoliates it around 40%, but not nearly as much as it does some of my other roses, such as the David Austin's and the hybrid teas.  I'm willing to put up with this to have such nice blooms.

The above picture is Dublin Bay at peak bloom in mid-April.  That's a whole bush shot showing just how florific this plant can be.

This is another picture at peak bloom in April.  Shows how nice the blooms are. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Put On Your Royal Robes

This delightful purple and gold flower is known as King's Mantle.  (My camera does not capture the true purple coloration of the bloom.)  It's scientific name is thunbergia erecta, and it's in the same family as Black-eyed Susan vine, clock vine, and scrambling skyflower. 

The "erecta" in the name comes from the fact that this plant is a bush and not a vine, which is a contrast with all of its cousin thunbergias.  The leaves are deep green and beautiful, as you can see in the photos.  It will get almost tree sized in more tropical climates, such as southern Florida.  It has no pests that I know of.

The plant is not reliably hardy even in my zone 8B area.  However, mine surprisingly survived this last winter which was colder than normal.  I recommend you plant this in a protected place in your yard.  It prefers full sun and tropical conditions, so give it plenty of water.  It really thrives in hot weather.  It would make a unique and different potted plant for Northerners, since it's not often seen.  And for all you LSU Tiger fans out there, there is no flower that more perfectly matches our team's colors than this one!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Spend Some Time With Grandpa

Meet my Grandpa Ott morning glory.  He is cussedly persistant about coming back every year and trying to take over certain areas of my fence.  I generally let him have his way in some places because he's so healthy.  His blooms are deep purple that my camera doesn't capture well. 

The plant is vigorous and deep green.  I don't give it any care.  Volunteers are sure to come up year after year, so you have to keep them thinned.  If you want a non-invasive morning glory, then I recommend Heavenly Blue - I've never had one of them come up volunteer.

Though I sometimes get angry with this cantankerous old cuss, I generally let him have his way so he can bloom away without interference.  He blooms in the deep summer when few other's are, so that makes up for his misbehavior. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cardinal Climber

Often mistaken for Ipomoea quamoclit ("Cypress Vine"), this closely-related plant is a cross between Ipomoea coccinea ("Red Morning Glory") and I. quamoclit ("Cypress Vine") with slightly coarser leaves.  The real Cardinal Climber has leaves that are more palmate than cypress vine and more ferny than morning glory.  It's quite confusing, especially since many seed companies label them wrongly.  The flowers are small, red, and tubular.  They are absolute hummingbird magnets.

This above picture may actually add to the confusion about identifying the cardinal climber because I have it growing with a real morning glory.  The large leaves you see are from the morning glory.  The cardinal climber blooms much earlier than the Heavenly Blue morning glories.  However, they play out and die before the MG's.  They are quite easy to grow from seed and will readily climb any structure you put them on.  The real Cardinal Climber is not invasive and the seeds have been sterile in my experience.  I have planted them every year for a number of years now and have yet to get even one volunteer plant the following year.  This is why I much prefer planting these to planting its parents - red morning glory and cypress vine.  Give this easy and well-behaved plant a chance and you won't regret it.  Just be sure you get the real thing or you will be stuck with an invasive, though beautiful, substitute.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"In the Day of Prosperity Be Joyful"

The title of this blog entry is a direct quote from the Bible.  It comes from Ecclesiastes 7:14.  I thought it was quite appropriate for today's pictures.  This is the rose Prosperity, which is a hybrid hybrid musk rose.

This rose blooms in clusters and has a unique fragrance that is wonderful.  It is a gracefully lax shrub that can be grown as a small climber if trained well.  I'm trying to train mine to grow on the chainlink fence. 

It blooms in continual flushes from spring till winter.  I've seen very little disease on this one and am told that it's pretty care-free.  I love the creamy white color.  I first saw this rose at the gardens of the American Rose Society in Shreveport and immediately knew I had to get it.  The fragrance wafted to us long before we saw the rose while walking in the gardens. 

The yellow leaf in this last photograph comes from the brugmansia that is growing next to this rose.  This rose is supposed to take some shade well, as do all the hybrid musk roses.  They are a wonderful family of roses that should be further explored by gardeners.  Some others in the hybrid musk family include Buff Beauty, Lavender Lassie, and Felicia. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Star of the Summer Show

The unquestioned star of the late summer show in my yard is Butterfly Ginger (hedychium coronarium.)  The snow-white bloom clusters on top of lush, strap-like foliage says "the tropics" like nothing else. 

The plant looks something like a corn stalk.  I like them growing close to some sort of support because they can get top heavy and flop over.  They get around 5' tall.  I think they would look great at the back of a tropical bed along with some cannas and banana trees.

The flowers put out a fragrance that is intoxicating and will fill the whole yard on a summer evening.  I have them stategically placed around my yard so as to really get good scent coverage.  This is one of my favorite fragrances of all time - it's very similar to a gardenia smell.

These plants spread very readily from the roots and eventually will form a large grove of stalks.  There will be plenty to share in just a few years.  They do not take drought very well and will not survive winters north of about zone 7b unless really protected.  Mine die to the ground each winter only to return better than ever in the spring.  I have them growing in everything from shade to full sun.  The ones in full sun need more water and don't look as happy as the ones that get at least some shade.  Every Louisiana yard should have some of these.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Dr. Jekyll Side of Gertrude

Gertrude Jekyll is a David Austin rose that I've blogged about in the past.  It has a very Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde personality.  Lately, it's shown much more of its Dr. Jekyll side.  It's known for not being very disease resistant, but mine has shown less disease than my other DA roses.  It's also grown much more vigorously for me than my other DA's.  I would say this rose is definitely a climber in the South.  It easily reaches 12' tall on the rebar teepee I have it growing on.  The blooms are deep pink and have the most powerful fragrance of any rose I've ever smelled.  There is a huge flush of bloom in the spring, sporadic blooms in the summer, and another nice flush in the fall.  The canes are fairly flexible making it a perfect pillar candidate.  Watch out for the vicious thorns on this rose.  I'll finish up with a picture of Gertie at her peak last spring.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Moonbeam Coreopsis

"Moonbeam" is perhaps the most popular member of the threadleaf coreopsis family.  It's a light, pastel yellow flower about 1" - 2" across.  The flowers are prolific from April through the summer in Louisiana.  The leaves are fern-like and the plant habit is short and mounding.  It's a perfect border plant for a hot, dry area of your yard - maybe that area where your hose won't reach.  It does best on neglect and poor soil.  Not only this, but the plant will come back year after year and will slowly spread.  It should be divided every three years or so.  It's a favorite nectar source for butterflies and bees.  This is my first year to try one and I'm sold on their value.  There are other varieties, one of which is the deeper yellow "Zagreb,"  which are worthy of a try too.  The color of "Moonbeam" mixes well with other perennials and makes a wonderful companion plant.  I have mine planted in the "dry" butterfly garden surrounding a chaste vitex tree.  It's in with gaillardias, crocosmias, Ragin' Cajun ruellias, and cosmos.