Sunday, May 18, 2014

Yellow Foxglove

One year I went to the Longest Yard Sale in the World which is scheduled every year in early August. Driving over some mountain toward Chattannoga there were numerous yard sales off the narrow winding road and we stopped at one place with a few parking places.  The shade was deep and the sale was not mobbed and I found this yellow foxglove (Digitalis grandifloria)  for sale among a small trove of plants offered up for new homes.

It is a perennial, unlike the Digitalis purpurea (a biennial) we are most familiar with. They usually live 4 or 5 years instead of blooming the second year and dying. This one is no more than 18 inches tall, if that, and is happy in a partially shaded spot. They are said to rebloom if deadheaded after bloom. They are also said to reseed freely, so I plan to let mine set seed and try to increase my holding of this garden gem.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


I never heard of Penstemon until 3 or 4 years ago. I had heard of beardtongue but had never seen it and thought it must be a plant that grew far away from here. Now they are everywhere, including my own flower bed. I even saw some at Lowe's last week.They have become the latest plant fad. Wikipedia says they are a large group of North American and East Asian natives that come in a variety of bright colors. The reds are said to be hummingbird magnets. The pictures of them I see in red and blue are stunning. Unfortunately the two plants I have are a washed out pink. The stems have more color than the blooms. One of these plants I grew from seed and the other was a gift.

This is the second year for both of these plants and their first year to bloom. They are really quite nice looking, and if the literature is to be believed, quite hardy.

I understand there is a nice red called 'Husker's Red' and I would like to get a red one. And a blue. But understand, I like these also! They come in both annual and perennial forms, but who hadn't rather have a perennial?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Clivia Lilies

Clivia lilies bloom in the very early spring, but the flowers are very long lasting and  are frequently followed by seed pods that turn a bright red and cling for months. Clivias provide a point of interest more than 6 months of the year from either flowers or seeds, and the rest of the year, they exude a calming effect with their staid stiff dark green leaves additionally, they are so easy to care for. Their care actually involves not giving them too much attention. Don'y give them too much water-keep them on the dry side or they are likely too rot. By this I mean do not water on a schedule and  hardly at all during the colder months. When you see the flower scape forming, give a little more water. Don't let them freeze, and give bright light, but not direct sun. They might enjoy a summer under the trees but I never do that for fear they may get too wet when we have a rainy spell. I leave them in the greenhouse through the heat of summer and they seem to thrive. I have planted the seed that developed and find that they germinate well. keeping them underpotted and crowded in the pots helps with not getting them too wet, as well as the display of flowers when they bloom. I usually put 3 mature bulbs in aa 8 inch pot. 

 This year I was surprised with a different sort of bloom that I have not had before (that I remember). The markings on the bloom  below are  striking and I am left wondering whether this dual coloration was a result of some environmental condition or if  this plant never bloomed before, or if I was just not observant. Next year I will take more careful note.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

March and April Orchids

There were lots of orchid blooms in the greenhouse in March and April. These are a sampling. Below is a Cymbidium. They used to have Cymbidium corsages in walmart and like stores at Mother's Day, but I did not see any this year.

I post a picture of this Epidendrum nearly every year. I have been hgrowing it in the same pot for over 30 years. It is a misnomer to say it is in a pot, but there is one somewhere down under there. Many Epidendrons have been killed with too much water, so my solution to that is no potting media at all. The roots just hand in the air. When I water in the greenhouse, I spray it, except from October til I see buds on it around February. I start watering it again then. This just says "Spring' to me!

My slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) bloomed sporadically this year. I only had 2 or 3 blooms. I try not to let the greenhouse temperature fall below 52F but this year one night it did. This may have effected the bloom or any one of a number of other factors. But this beauty is not to be sneezed at. It is the cultivar called 'Rosy Dawn'.

 I often think the orchids bloom in spite of me, not because of me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Backyard in May

Spring is so beautiful, and too brief, at least in Alabama. Generally spring comes one day and the next we are headed full steam into summer. But here it is, a snapshot of my backyard in spring, without tidying or mowing, just happy to be green.

Below is the Clematis 'General Sikorski'. It's one of the Clematis that bloom on both old and new wood and therefore do not require pruning except to keep it in shape.

This is the first real bloom of my Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternafolia). It is native to the eastern US, from Canada to Florida. This is news to me as I thought it was from the west or maybe an introduction from the far east. I had about given up on it and thought maybe it was in too much shade. I have had it at least 10 years. But it is certainly worth the wait!

I have had this pink rododendron for years also. The first few years it did not bloom , so I moved it into a little more sun. Nobody could argue that this is not uplifting!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day Roses

Until about 30 years ago on Mother's Day nearly everyone would pin a rose to their Sunday outfit. If your mother was alive you pinned a red or a pink rose, white otherwise. Or if the right color was not available, you just used whatever color you could get. These were not florist roses. They were picked from yards, as roses were always blooming in Alabama by the second Sunday of May. This past Sunday I did not see one single person with a rose on. I guess that has gotten to be too "country" a tradition for my church. I had on one though. And maybe somebody else did, too. It's hard to see when you always sit in the back of the church. I always felt it was a nice private way to remember Mothers.

This is an almost infaliable rose which was given to me as a rooted cutting by Myrtle Minter, maybe 20 years ago. She called it a Hawaiin Tree Rose, but if you google that term, the plants you find are certainly not roses, so I guess that was just Myrtle's name for it.  It is a tough, reliable rose that is not troubled much by black spot disease. It roots fairly easily, and blooms throughout summer and on into fall. (If you know anything further about this rose, please let me know.)
This is a Knockout Rose, but the color is red, not rose as it appears in this picture. A friend dug hers up because threy were lining her walk and scratching the daylights out of her. She was tired of the incessant trimming. I was the joyful recipient of her curbside leavings. Knockouts need to be planted in a place where they cn be viewed from a distance (individual roses are single and not that striking close up) and allowed to take their own shrubby form. This one is too close to the house. Like many plants that become fads, I hear Knockouts have a problem on the horizon. It is a virus that causes rose rosette disease, and is slowly spreading .
This is an old pink sweetheart rose. This is the old southern rose that often survives without care at abandoned homesites. It does need at least annual pruning to keep it from becoming a tree, but it does not require spraying to help it survive the fungal south. The flowers don't last long in a vase, but they atre beautiful on the bush and the fragrance is heavenly (so rose-like!)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Alternate Yard decorations

Some people use deer antlers to decorate, but not me. I think the sinuous curves and etched appearance  of this old butterfly bush (Buddleia) is worth a second (or more) look.
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