Monday, September 24, 2012

Shrub Althea

Shrub Althea is known by several common names: Rose of Sharon , Rose Althea, and St. Joseph's Rod. The Scientific name is Hybiscus syriacus, and the flowers show their hybiscus heritage in the structure of the flower. (They look like okra, don't they, and cotton.) My mother and grandmother called them simply Althea, and that is the name I use most often. The lavender usually starts blooming in late July or early August. The double pink follows a few days behind the lavender. This year they were a few weeks later blooming, I suppose because of the drought. I never water them, they have to make it on their own, and they are very capable of tending to themselves. I had read online that the lavender was particularly prone to reseeding but had never seen it in my own yard til about 3 years ago. Now I have two new shrubs  that have come up nearby the mother shrub. I do not consider them to reseed at the nuisance level though and new plants can easily be controlled. 
Altheas can be pruned if they become too large and this is best done in spring as it flowers on new wood, and pruning early won't cut back on the flowers either.
Also, an Althea bush makes an ideal place for a cardinal nest. I have had one several years in mine. They  build a nest about 3 /4 feet off the ground.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ladies Tresses

One day at the end of August as I pulled into the driveway, I saw a group of these beautiful sparkling white Ladies Tresses orchids (Spiranthes).This is a native orchid of the southeast and other species of this orchid grow all over the country.  Although not common, you can see them sometimes shinning through the grass on roadsides. They do best in the full hot sun. There were 8 in this group and a further check of the yard revealed  11 more , some in groups  within 3 feet of each other, others single individuals. The flower stalks were 12-15 inches tall and the flowers were spiraled around the stem. They are pure white with a green smear in the throat. I have had these bloom on my property before, but never so many. They are so tough. Who would believe an orchid would grow and bloom in the heat and drought of August? That is certainly not the requirements we usually think of for orchids. But Spiranthes knows what  is best for it. After the flowers pass, the leaves emerge and they grow in a fairly flat rosette and have a slight succulent appearance.
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