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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sweet Olive!

This diminutive shrub is not much to look at.  It does have a pleasant shape and is evergreen where I live, but there's nothing especially noteworthy about its looks.  It can make a nice hedge, but is a slow grower.  It will eventually get 15-20 feet tall.

The flowers are also hardly noteworthy.  You don't even see them unless you get up close and personal.  They're just not much to see.

What makes this plant so wonderfully worthy is that these small clusters of flowers will intoxicate you with their delectable fragrance.  The smell will waft through an entire yard.  People will burst through your door demanding to know where and what that sweet smell is coming from.  This fragrance is one of my favorite in the entire world.  My grandmother and my mom both had/have these in their yards and I remember the smell from earliest childhood.  This plant is somewhat tender to cold weather and might not make it well north of about zone 7b.  Otherwise, plant it in loamy soil in part shade or full sun.  It blooms fall through spring for me.  You've got to have this plant if you live where it can grow.  Imagine what a whole hedge of these would smell like!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Orange Cosmos

This beautiful, orange flower is the common, everyday, lowly Orange Cosmos.  Nothing special about it except that it's beautiful, easy, care-free, attractive to butterflies, and re-seeds itself. 

It blends well with zinnias and sunflowers in my west butterfly bed.  All of these plants volunteer and come back on their own if you let them.  Butterflies flock by the droves to this patch of flowers.  I've seen swallowtails of all sorts, common buckeyes, sulphurs, monarchs, fritillaries, and many others stopping by for a drink.

The feathery, fern-like foliage is pleasant on the eyes.  These plants can get pretty tall, so I like to shear them back before they bloom to make them more compact.  None of the flowers in this bed need supplemental irrigation to thrive since all of them are quite happy in dry areas.  I really encourage everyone to plant a bed like this to help attract butterflies and flower-loving people.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Heavenly Blues

I don't have as many of these Heavenly Blue morning glories as normal this year.  I've gradually replaced them with other vines over time.  However, a few always seem to find their way into my dirt every spring because they are so easy and beautiful.  The sky blue color is delightful.

For me, this type of morning glory usually takes longer than others to bloom.  They usually don't start till September or even later.  The good thing about this variety is that it is sterile and will not send up seedlings all over the following year.  Most MG's are terrible about re-seeding everywhere.

These will grow anywhere in the continental US.  Just plant them in a sunny spot once the ground warms up in spring.  Keep them watered till they get established.  Be sure to provide something for them to climb on and wait for the show. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fit for a King

These purple flowers with golden throats come from a tropical shrub I have growing in my yard called Thunbergia Erecta, or King's Mantle.  I'm guessing the royal purple color is where the popular name came from.  This is a lesser known member of a family of mostly vines, such as Black-eyed Susan vine, clock vine, and scrambling skyflower.  The flowers closely resemble morning glories, but this plant is certainly no vine.  This grows into a small shrub with shiny, attractive foliage and tons of these flowers in late summer and fall. 

Here is a better picture of the shrub, though it is squashed between an alocasia and some lantanas.  This plant came back for me this year despite the colder than normal winter we had.  It's not reliably hardy in my zone 8b area, but usually makes it.  I bought it on a whim at an LSU Arboretum sale last year and am so glad I did.  It's a very different plant and many people have asked us what it is because it's not common.  Put it in a sunny and sheltered spot where it will get good moisture and still be protected from freezing temperatures.  Mine is thriving with no extra care. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mexican Bush Sage

Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia Leucantha) is a fall blooming salvia that grows into a nice shrub.  It starts off in spring like in the above picture.  The silvery foliage is nice even when not in bloom.  The purple flowers around it in the picture are verbenas.

Here is a picture of the full plant as it now looks at the end of September / beginning of October.  This is one of the best fall bloomers I have.  The butterflies and especially the migrating hummingbirds really appreciate the nectar this plant puts out.

Here is a close-up of the velvety blooms.   They are a nice purple and stick out the top of the plant, beckoning all flying friends to come in for a visit.

This plant is reliably perennial in my area of the country.  It likes a sunny location that has good drainage.  Like most salvias, it doesn't do well in boggy conditions.  However, this particular type does well in the humidity of the Southeast and is a good choice for our area.  A great plant to add to a non-irrigated bed because it takes drought like a champ.  It dies to the ground each winter only to come back strong in the spring.