Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Have Some Strawberry Candy

The name of this daylily is almost as delightful as the flower - Stawberry Candy.  The flowers are lush, plenteous, and easy on the eyes (pun intended.)

This is a semi-evergreen daylily that grows vigorously, spreads quickly, and sometimes reblooms.  Mine haven't consistently rebloomed, but they do bloom for quite a long time in May and June.  In my mild winter climate the plant usually stays green all winter.

The blooms are a lighter pink in full Louisiana sun with a rose eye and a golden-green throat.  The outer edges of the petals are frilly.  The flower form is nearly always perfect on this daylily unless the slugs get hold of them early.    This cultivar has won many daylily awards and is consistently one of the most popular varieties.  It is not as ubiquitous as Stella D'Oro or Happy Returns, despite this popularity.  I cannot imagine a May in my yard without daylilies blooming.  They will bloom like crazy with utterly no care at all.  Plant you some!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rose Bloom Clusters

I love the perfect, large, single blooms put out by many hybrid tea types of roses.  They stand out so well alone in a vase.  However, nothing in the plant world moves me more than a cluster of fragrant blooms on a rose bush.  They are natural bouquets to delight the heart of any passerby.

Many of my roses bloom in clusters.  Above is just one of many.  This is Compassion who is out-doing herself this year.  This cluster is so fragrant that it begs to have a nose buried in it.

Belinda's Dream is yet another rose that blooms in cluster profusion.  The blooms are also huge and fragrant.

Earthsong also often has nice clusters of bloom that are a much deeper pink than this photo looks on the computer.

Mrs. B. R. Cant makes clusters of these cabbage-like globes of color.  My newer camera just doesn't capture the color of these very well.  These flowers are such a deep rose color tinged with silvery pink that they really stand out.

Super Dorothy makes tight, grape-like clusters of small and frilly flowers.  You almost feel like you can cut a cluster off and eat it.

Dublin Bay also makes velvety-red bunches of blooms that are extremely long-lasting on the plant.  This plant is putting on a stellar show this late spring.

Cramoisi Superieur also puts out sweet little groups of bloom with a hint of cloves in the fragrance.  I love this little rose because Paw-paw had them planted all around his yard.  As a kid, I remember picking blooms off and smelling them and then giving them to Maw-maw.  Fragrances are such nostalgic things for me and bring back many wonderful memories.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Tidal Waves

Back in March, I made a blog post about my Tidal Wave Silver petunias - see A Tidal Wave of Silver.  There I posted about this one petunia plant that I am trialing this year.  As you can see from these pictures, this is one experiment gone good!  The flowers are covering every inch of plant available and they are beautiful in a silver and purple sort of way.

The plant is at least 5' x 5' in size, and that's without any fertilizing.  It has nearly taken over my little area.  It's also highly visible from a long distance away.

Next fall I fully intend to plant a number of these.  They are still looking great now in late May too.  I'll eventually pull them up, but not until they start to fade and look bad.  I cannot say enough good about these Tidal Wave petunias.  I think they are a wonderful cottage plant and the unusual color of these is quite refreshing and welcome.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This One's for the Birds

Sunflowers are among the easiest annuals of all to grow.  Wait till the danger of frost is past, put the seeds in the ground and cover with 1/4" of soil, water, and leave alone.

The variety I planted the last two years is called Autumn Sunset.  This year, I didn't plant any sunflowers at all.  I just allowed natural seeds dropped from the plants last year to grow.  They easily re-seed if you let the flower heads mature and drop the seeds.

I prefer to let the flower heads dry on the stalk anyway because the local birds really appreciate it.  They will happily visit the dry heads for a snack.  Meanwhile, they will spread the seeds around for me.

Autumn Sunset is not meant to be used for people to eat.  There are much better varieties for that.  This is supposed to be an ornamental type.  As such, it makes multiple, small flowers per plant as opposed to one big one.  The flowers can have many different shades of orange and yellow in them and are very attractive.  They make a fine back-of-the-border flower in a butterfly/bird attracting garden.  The only pest I have seen on mine have been Leaf-footed stink bugs, but they didn't seem to damage the sunflowers.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May State of the Roses Post

Before anyone should think that all my roses look fabulous, be it known that I'm only showing pictures in this post of my better looking plants or those that I have good pictures of.  My Double Delight looks so bad that I haven't shown any pictures of it this year.  Some of my other roses, such as Mrs. B.R. Cant, Westerland, Madame Alfred Carriere, Gertrude Jekyll, Compassion, Prosperity, Buff Beauty, and Crepuscule, are all in-between flushes.  With that disclaimer in place, on to the show!  The following pictures were all taken within the last day or two.

This is Abraham Darby looking better at this time of year than ever in his life.  Usually, by late May blackspot has this bush looking very poor.  I think it's because we've had an exceptionally dry May that this hasn't happened this year.  Plus, I'm trying to keep this plant pruned back very far so it is continually putting on new, spotless leaves and growth.

Belinda's Dream is performing up to her usually stellar standard.  The blooms are as huge as normal and they have been continual this year.

Dublin Bay is putting out a second flush of bloom right now that will be amazing in about a week or so.  It's really doing well for me this year too.  I've trained the branches quite horizontally along the chain-link fence and he's putting out far more blooms than last year at this same time.

Ducher is also blooming like crazy right now.  Of course, this bush always blooms well for me through the heat.  Because it hasn't been as hot as usual, the blooms haven't started crisping yet and are larger than normal for this time of year.  As usual, no disease to speak of.

Yet another stellar performance month out of Earthsong.  The blooms have kept a deeper color because of the cooler weather.  Such a perfect plant!  I don't think there is a spot on any leaf on this entire bush right now.

Golden Celebration is performing about like Abraham Darby this year and I think for the same reasons.

Julia Child is putting out her best flush of blooms of the whole year right now.  She is such a sweet plant.  The other plants around her tend to shade her out some in the late summer, but at this time she is getting the perfect amount of sun.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Pot of Gold

Golden Celebration is a David Austin rose of (naturally!) golden coloration and full form.  The fragrance is sweet and good, though it's not quite as good as some other Austin roses such as Gertrude Jekyll or Abraham Darby.  This is my son Isaac's favorite rose that I grow.

The bush can develop long canes, but I've been unsuccessful growing it as a climber.  It just gets long, lanky, and ugly if I don't prune it back.  I've determined that Abraham Darby and Golden Celebration are better as shrubs than as climbers in my yard.  A side benefit of trimming the old foliage back is that it keeps at least some of the blackspot off this rose.

Speaking of blackspot, this rose is quite prone to it.  This year it isn't spotted too much yet because we've had super dry weather over the last month.  This rose is definitely a candidate for anti-fungal spray if you are the spraying type.  I just let it duke it out with the evil blackspot and try to give it the best growing conditions possible.  Plenty of water and mulch seem to give this rose enough strength to overcome the fungus and come back stronger than ever.  

This is such a beautiful rose that I had to have one, but I don't recommend it to people in my area unless they are dedicated rose growers who are willing to baby it.  If anyone out there can recommend any of the Austin's for a no-spray garden in the Southeast, then let me in on it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Top Louisiana Rose

If you sat me down and forced me to pick just one rose to grow in my yard, Belinda's Dream would be the winner.  It has a full, hybrid tea form of bloom, wonderful fragrance, bushy plant habit, and is almost disease free.

The blooms have tons of petals and a perfect form that is imminently worthy of a vase.  The stems aren't especially long, but they are plenty adequate for cutting.

The flushes of bloom are huge and come about every month from April through November.  The blooms also hold their size even in the sizzling heat of summer.

The foliage stays green and full through the whole growing season and offsets the blousy, pink blooms perfectly.

The bush form is full and lush.  I recommend dead-heading the blooms back pretty far when they fade to keep the bush form even more compact.  This plant can get pretty tall and wide if left completely unpruned.

Even in mid-May when blackspot and hot weather begins to take its toll on most roses, this plant is still looking fine.  In short, Belinda's Dream inherits the best traits of several families of roses to make for the perfect mix.  It has the size, bush form, and heat tolerance of the tea roses; the bloom form and fragrance of the hybrid teas; and the disease resistance of the china roses.  I have read from other sources that this rose is also quite cold tolerant and would do well as far north as zone 5, so it's well worth a try in those regions too.  It also has the perfect color and form for the traditional English cottage garden look.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Larkspur Ascending

(For those who don't get it, the title is a reference to a beautiful classical piece by Ralph Vaughn Williams called "The Lark Ascending.")

Larkspurs are an annual related to Delphiniums (which unfortunately don't grow in the Deep South.)  They are planted from seed in October or November down here and will grow throughout the winter and bloom profusely from March through May.  The flowers are highly prized by bumblebees and hummingbirds.

My variety is called "Rocket" larkspurs and they get quite tall.  They are very reliable re-seeders and come back year after year without me having to replant.  I sometimes scatter the seeds in new places if I want them in other areas.

They come in all shades of blue, purple, pink, lavender, and white.  I really like the blue ones.  They are essential for the cottage garden look and for the insects and birds that I love so much.

They are best planted at the back of a bed because of their height.  I think they mix well with sweetpeas, dianthus, nigella, and petunias for a cool season bed.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chicago Apache

Daylilies are starting to go full force down here right now and one of my early and best performers is the wonderful Chicago Apache.  It has deep red petals with a golden throat.  The color stands out from a great distance and is quite eye-catching.

It is a profuse bloomer for me and makes for a thick clump wherever I plant it.  Put it in a sunny or part shade area and it will thrive even on neglect.  The flowers hold color better if they get some afternoon shade.

The color in this last photo is a different shade because of the low-light conditions that were present when it was taken.  Just look how healthy this plant and the flowers are.  I can't imagine not having daylilies all over.  They provide nearly two months of delicious blooms for me - and even longer when some of them re-bloom.  Scatter some clumps of daylilies liberally around in your flower beds for a great splash of color in late spring and early summer.

More Beautiful Foliage

I made a large entry two days ago and with the Blogger trouble, it got wiped out.  Anyway, here is some more plants that look good precisely because of their striking foliage.  Aren't the leopard spotted leaves of this calla attractive?  The flowers it makes are just an added bonus.

Here is a better picture of the glamorous Bengal Tiger canna leaf. You can clearly see the red outline around the perimeter of the leaf and the striking stripes.  This plant makes a terrific statement in a tropicalesque bed.

I'm not overly fond of the ubiquitous elephant ear - at least the common ones you see everywhere down here.  They will easily take over an area and start looking "ratty."  However, there are some cultivars of colocasia that are fabulous.  This one is called Black Ruffles.  The leaves get to be a deep purple color as they age.  Another great specimen for the tropical bed.

And if the above plants don't make a big enough statement, I present to you the Thailand Giant colocasia.  This plant will make leaves over five feet long and over 3 feet wide!  You must keep it well watered and fertilized for that type of performance though.

If you want something a little less bold and demanding, then nothing beats a good old-fashioned fern.  This is one I recently planted in a shady area on the foundation of my house.  Doesn't it look lush?  Foliage plants add so much to flower beds if you need to have a more full look.  Don't neglect to add some of these beauties to your gardens.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sometimes All You Need Is Foliage

I have a number of plants that are solely placed because of their beautiful and interesting foliage.  Caladiums are among the brightest and best plants for shade precisely because of their delectable foliage.  The caladium above is called White Queen.  It makes a very bold statement in a shady area.

Here's another picture with more caladiums.  Be sure to put these in a shady, moist area.  They should be put out once the weather turns hot.  In the very deep South, they often return after over-wintering in the ground, but elsewhere you must dig them up in the fall.

Another bold statement in a tropicalesque bed is this lush Bengal Tiger canna.   In contrast to caladiums, these do best in bright sun.  They will still do fine in part shade though.  The leaves are grean with yellow stripes and each leaf has a red highlight all around the edge.  These are bold and beautiful and will spread rapidly to make many more.  Keep them well fertilized and watered.  In my zone 8 area, these never need to be dug up and will come back every year.

Yet another plant that makes for striking foliage is the ornamental sweet potato.  This particular one is a chartreuse-green variety called Sweet Caroline.  You can also get these with burgundy foliage and it looks just as good.  These will easily fill out an area under a tree in a dry, sunny, poor-soiled place.  They have almost no pests and require no care once established.  They will completely die once a frost hits and must be treated as an annual.

These plants are just some of the great ones for filling out an area between flowering perennials and shrubs.  They give a garden that "full" look that is so desirable.  Don't neglect the fillers!