Friday, May 25, 2012

Herb Gardening.

I have to admit that I love herbs.  They spice up foods deliciously, they make drinks more delectable, they have health benefits galore, and most have fragrances that delight the nasal palate.  Add to this the fact that they are very attractive plants and you have a most dynamic combo.  Did I mention that many of them are highly attractive to butterflies and bees too?  I've just got to have them!

Many of the herbs in my yard are planted in this 4 x 4 raised bed.  At the back are Lemon verbena, common sage, French lavender, and Genovese Basil.  Just in front of the Lemon verbena is a Cinnamon Basil.  In the front are Lemon Basil, Pineapple sage, and oregano.  Raised beds are a good bet for herbs in the Southeast because they offer well-drained soil which is essential for many herbs that originate in the dry soils of the Mediterranean region.   I have plans to finish filling out this bed in the future.  I definitely don't have enough basil!

Some other herbs that I have planted around my yard are bronze fennel, dill, rosemary, parsley, garlic chives, and onion chives.  In containers I have chocolate mint, spearmint, and lemon balm.  There are so many myriad uses for these herbs that I could literally have a blog entry for each one - any maybe I will in the future.  For those of you that want a quick start, then I recommend basil, rosemary, and any of the mints.  These plants are practically unkillable.  In fact, don't plant mint where you don't want it to take over.  Rosemary thrives on neglect, as long as it is in full sun.  Basil grows like a weed and is delicious.  Get started in herbs and you'll never be able to stop.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Superieur" than Most

In my growing up years I always admired the sweetly fragrant, profuse, and healthy roses that my Paw-paw grew in his yard.  We were forever picking bouquets of these cute little rose blooms to bring in to Maw-maw and make her day.  When I grew up, I realized that these roses were the heirloom China rose that is seen all over the South, Cramoisi Superieur.  

The blooms are crimson with darker petals on the outer edge and lighter ones inside.  The size is rather small, usually no more than 3" in diameter.  The fragrance is a light, but noticeably sweet one that is very pleasant.  

This plant blooms almost year round in the South.  This year's mild winter really made for non-stop blooms.  They are especially profuse in the spring.  

My plant has not reached full size yet.  It came from a cutting off my Paw-paw's roses.  I wanted to get mine from his roses because of the memories.  This is one of the healthiest roses on the planet.  I have never sprayed it and I have yet to see any disease on this plant.  The leaves are a rich bluish-green that contrast well with the crimson flowers.  This is also one of the easiest roses of all to propagate from cuttings, which makes it easy to pass along to friends and family.  Highly recommended for the no care yard!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Cant" Get Enough

I can never get enough of Mrs. B. R. Cant.  This old tea rose is such a stellar performer in our hot, humid climate that it newly astounds me each year.  This plant only gets better each year.  The full blooms are lush and many-petaled.

The buds are a perfect silvery pink that would look nice pinned to a tux.

The profusion of blooms is the most noticeable trait, especially in the first flush.  I can't think of a rose that is more covered in bloom during the spring flush.  

The leaves are a lovely deep green that set off the blooms to perfection.  You see little disease.  The yellow leaves on this plant are just the yearly shedding of old leaves to be replaced by new ones.  Because of our mild winter this year, my specimen stayed green all winter long.

It makes huge flushes of bloom followed by a slight rest, but nearly always has at least a few blooms on it.  

This is a picture to show the size of my plant.  It's nearly 8' tall and about as wide.  I have it against the front chain-link fence.  I can barely smell the tea-like fragrance, but it's still detectable.  Some people can smell this fragrance much better than others.  This rose is just as care-free as the Knockout roses for me, but it gets far bigger.  It makes a huge statement in any yard and would look lovely as a solo specimen in the middle of a large area.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Lovely Christmas Cassia

How would you like a tropicalesque bush with lush green leaves and showy yellow flowers that makes an amazing statement in a yard in the fall?  If you do, then I present to you the Christmas Cassia.

The flowers are so profuse that they cover the large shrub.  They will fall forming a carpet of fallen petals under the plant too.  Butterflies and bees come in by the droves to visit the blooms in the fall just before that first killing frost.

The plant gets 10' or so tall and can be just as wide.  It likes full sun and reasonably moist soil.  I have mine planted against the south side of my house to keep it going as long as possible before being killed to the ground by frost.  (In the above picture, the large leaves are from a brugmansia plant and the smaller leaves are from the cassia.)  It will come back each year in zone 8 where I live.  Further south it can stay evergreen year-round.  This plant is very fast growing and should be trimmed back to keep it from sprawling and flopping.

The plant is a host for the sulphur family of butterflies - those bright yellow ones you see all over.  This makes it even more attractive to me since I'm so fond of butterflies.  It is not a great plant for northern areas because it needs a fairly long growing season to reach the point of making flowers.  However, when it does reach flowering time, it does so with gusto!  Highly recommended for the Gulf Coast region.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Sweet Fragrances of Autumn

Fragrances fill my life with pleasure.  Nothing brings back old memories and nostalgia to me like a smell from my childhood.  Fall is one of the best times of the year for fragrance.  Houses are filled with the aroma of pumpkin, apple, and the spices that go with them.  Yards are filled with the perfume of flowers of many types.  

One of my favorite Autumn flowers is the Butterfly Ginger (hedychium.)  This sister of the canna just isn't grown in enough places.  It thrives all over the South and is so easy that it should be in every yard.  The gardenia-like fragrance permeates a yard like nothing else. They bloom from late summer all the way till frost.  Then they come back again next year and spread even more.  Such an easy pass-along plant that you can give plenty away by the second year.

However, my absolute favorite fragrance of the fall comes from the delectable Sweet Olive (osmanthus fragrans.)  This one is dear to my heart because it was a staple in my grandmother's yard and in my mother's yard.  My memory is stoked every time I get a whiff of the distinctive aroma of this shrub.  The shrub itself is a nice evergreen plant that gets the size of a small tree.  The flowers are barely noticeable.  But from mid-fall through spring the fragrance wafts through the cool air of any yard where the shrub is planted.  I think a hedge of this plant would be a delight.  Give your own children and grandchildren another aroma to bring them good memories in the future.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nothing Like a White Rose

I have three "white" rose plants and I love them all.  White roses stand out so beautifully- the blooms are highly visible from a distance - and they look great even under moonlight.  There is something delicate and enticing about them that is different from other colors of roses to me.  They are quite difficult to photograph with my cheap digital camera because they capture too much light and are overly bright under normal lighting conditions.

This first picture is a wonderful China rose called Ducher.  It is one of the famous Earthkind roses, which means it is one of the most maintenance free of them all.  Ducher has a slight yellow tinge to it at first bloom. It has a slight but noticeable and lemony fragrance.  The bush form is full and lush getting to about 5' x 5' around.  I never spray mine and it gets practically no disease in my Louisiana climate.  If there is a complaint against this rose it is that the blooms crisp in the heat of summer and are much smaller.  In spring and fall this plant really shines.

Madame Alfred Carriere
 This next rose is actually a very light pink in color, but it quickly fades to almost pure white after being open for a few hours.  It is Madame Alfred Carriere, a rose sometimes classified as a noisette and sometimes as a tea.  It is a vigorous climber with a sweet, wafting fragrance that is impossible to miss.  The rose is a bushy climber that gets both long and full.  First bloom in spring is spectacular with the vine being covered with blooms.  The fragrance will fill a yard at that time.  It blooms more sporadically throughout the summer and then puts on a fairly large flush again in Autumn.  I get maybe 30% leaf loss on this plant in the summer without spraying at all.  I can't imagine not having this rose, but it definitely needs lots of space.  One last thing I appreciate about this rose is the small number of thorns it has.

Prosperity is the whitest of the white.  It's nearly pure white right from the start.  It blooms in large clusters on a sprawling plant that doesn't know if it wants to be a climber or a shrub.  It is in the hybrid musk family of roses and has the distinct and lovely fragrance of that clan.  Mine stays beautiful without spray and blooms 9 months out of the year for me.  I've seen this rose especially recommended for a wedding rose because of its beauty and fragrance.  The blooms are smaller and get easily crisped around the edges in the hot part of summer, so it looks its best in spring and fall.  One of the things I like best about this rose is that it has ready-made bouquets.  You can cut off one of the clusters of bloom, put them straight into a vase, and set them anywhere in the house for a beautiful look and a natural air-freshener.

These are three of the very best white roses for Louisiana.  To this list I might only add the popular polyantha, Marie Pavie.  Marie Pavie is a smaller shrub with fragrant blooms on a plant with few thorns.  I don't currently have one of these, but it's on my wish list!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Plants and Elephants

There is a square "courtyard" type area in our yard where we annually put a swimming pool up for our three children.  Last year, I got the bright idea to make this area into a tropical square.  It's perfect for this because it's in a sunny place on the south side of our house and quite sheltered from north winds.  It has become my place to experiment with various tropicals.  No tropical area is complete without some elephant ears (colocasias and alocasias.)  I picked up two beautiful colocasias this year as my first victims.

I love the dark-colored, purplish colocasias.  Purple Ruffles fits that bill and it quickly found a spot in the tropical square.  It is a medium-sized colocasia that should thrive in Louisiana.

This is what is looks like now.  The leaves are burnt around the edges because of the drought conditions we had this year.  Tropicals typically don't fare well in drought!  Still, it's growing and I anticipate great things next year.

One of the colocasias that I really love is Thailand Giant.  It makes such a loud statement in the yard!  This is one that requires plenty of water and fertilizer to look best.  This year was not ideal, but my plant still looks fine with all the supplemental water I've given it.  If it survives the winter well, I really want to baby it next year and get those giant leaves this plant is known to get.

My plant has leaves only about 3' long which is quite below the possible 6' size of this plant.  These plants grow well in zones 8 and higher.  It's best to put them in large pots if you live further north.  They will die back to the ground every winter only to come back strong in mid-spring.  They prefer part shade and moist, rich soil.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Touch of Goldsturm

Goldsturm rudbeckias are among the easiest of all perennials to grow and they make a statement like none other when in full bloom.  These are commonly called "Black-eyed Susans" though this is a hybrid cultivar that makes much better plants and larger flowers than the wild variety.  The flowers start in July and continue for at least several weeks atop a bushy plant that has a pleasant shape.

The plant is so bulletproof that everyone should grow them.  They look good even when not in bloom, mix well with many other plants, and add great color to a mixed bed or border.  Butterflies are attracted to them as well.  They will slowly spread and can be divided every three years or so.  You can also plant the seeds, though they won't be exactly like the mother plant.  They prefer full, hot sun but will tolerate some shade.  They will grow in any but soggy soil and are virtually pest free.  The stems are also long enough to make this a nice cut flower for indoor bouquets too.  Such a winner of a plant deserves all the accolades it gets.  Highly recommended for everyone!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Send Now Prosperity"

The title of this blog entry is from Psalms 118:25 in the Bible, for those who are curious.  Prosperity is the name of this clustering, white rose.  It is one of the hybrid musk roses developed in the early 1900's by Joseph Pemberton.

This is the only whole bush shot I have at the moment.  It shows just how prolific the blooms are on this plant when it is in full flush.  The plant, like most hybrid musks, is either an arching bush or a short climber that blooms in flushes throughout the season.

You can see just how huge the bloom clusters often are.  The fragrance can be wafting and noticeable when Prosperity is at full flush.  I really noticed the fragrance when first coming across this rose at the Gardens of the American Rose Society in Shreveport a couple of years ago.  That is what convinced me to get this rose.

Because of the pure white beauty of this rose, it is highly recommended as a wedding rose.  Cut a whole cluster for a wonderful bouquet.

The leaves are dark green, somewhat small, and pretty resistant to disease.  I don't spray and this rose has remained largely blackspot-free for me.

Sometimes the blooms open up more.  They also have a pink tinge if the weather is cloudy or cooler.

The canes of this rose are fairly lax and don't get super long.  I think that makes this one of the best candidates for a pillar rose.  Many other climbers either get too long for a pillar or they have too stiff of canes.  Like other hybrid musks, this one reportedly takes more shade than most roses, so it would be a great candidate for an area that gets partial shade.

I really love white roses and this is one of the best for my area.  My only complaint against this rose is just how hard it is to deadhead so many blooms!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Wonderful Shasta Daisy

Nothing says "cottage garden" like Shasta daisies.  They are beloved the world around and are the favorite flower of many people.  The one I grow is the cultivar "Becky."  It is the best variety for the South and is renowned for taking more heat and humidity than most other daisies.  It is also great about not getting too tall and floppy.

The plant grows into a bushy clump that gets about 2' tall and about the same wide.  They like well-drained, sunny spots.  The blooms start in May at my house and continue for a couple of months.  They will bloom longer if deadheaded regularly.  Don't let them go long without water during the growing season.  On the other hand, in the winter they will die if left soggy.

My plant is growing in a corner by my fence.  It will be ready to divide and spread around this fall.  You can divide them every three years or so when the clumps get large.  The blooms grow on long stems making for great bouquets, so be sure to pick plenty of them.  Butterflies and bees also appreciate all types of daisies.