Thursday, July 24, 2014


I won't attempt to give a species name to this plant as there are several hybrids and a great deal of confusion in its taxonomy right now. As far as I can tell it does not even have a common name. It is in the Solanaceae family which has such unlike members as tomatoes and eggplant along with poisonous members as Brugsmania (angel's trumpet) and Datura (jimpson weed). Like Brugmansia and Datura which is used by medicine men in South America, it is likely poisonous and hallucinogenic. Iochroma is native to the mountains of Ecuador. 

Iochroma is not hardy in my zone 8a garden, as I well know from trying it outside several years. I always take cuttings which root easily and overwinter them in the greenhouse. Up until this year my results with Iochroma in the flower bed were fairly dismal. The plant remained small and produced few flowers. This year I put a rooted cutting into a five gallon pot and gave it lots of water and some fertilizer. Wow!! It grew to 2 or 3 times the size it usually becomes in the soil, and had flowers at the end of every branch. I had found the key! Plenty of water! A few days ago I decided to move the pot containing the Iochroma into a spot that would get less sun as the days are getting hotter. The next day all of the flowers were gone (eaten off) and about a third of the leaves. Yesterday all the leaves were gone and the whole plant was just bare stems. I suppose the culprit could have been a squirrel or a deer, or even some insect larvae (tomato horn worm type?), but whatever it was, I hope it has a belly ache now!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blackberry Lilies

Blackberry lilies (Belamcanda chinensis) is a perennial that spreads by both rhizome and seed. Often called leopard lily because of it's freckled blooms, it is now in a controversy about its scientific name. It is not a lily, and has recently been moved into the iris family and it's new name there is Iris domestica (the specific epithet chinensis had already been taken in the Iris family). Sometimes they are called candy lilies which I believe was a variety developed and sold by Park's Seed long ago.

These plants form a clump that increases in size as years go by, and the larger the clump, the more attractive it is. Many people grow them solely for the seed pods which open in late summer to reveal clusters of black shiny seed (hence the blackberry name).The seed hang on pretty well and can be cut for use in dried arrangements. I  like the seed, but also enjoy the flowers. Each flower lasts only one day, but the next day, more flowers open.
The spent flowers twist into attractive adornments as you can see in the above picture. The large seed pods that are seen there also will soon put on a show of their own. The blue-green leaf fans can be up to 2 feet tall, with the bloom stalks standing another foot above the foliage. The flower colors range over the orange yellow pallet with some purple thrown in for good measure. As with any seed grown plant, you can never be sure that it will look exactly like the parent, but it will resemble the parent. The solid yellow flower is said to belong to a different species, but that seems kind of iffy to me.
 Blackberry lilies are easy to grow from seed and if started early enough, will flower the first year, and many years afterward. They are tough warriors and require only a minimum of care. I do not plant mine in the flower bed, because they don't require the care flowers in the bed get. I plant them out in the edges of the field and roadside and let them go their own way. I have some that still live and bloom in spite of being rundown by the bush hog countless times. I read that they don't do well in clay, which gave me a hardy laugh. Apparently the writer has not spoken with any lately.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Balloon Flowers

These balloon flowers have been growing in my "corral" for at least 20 years-ever since it was built. The original idea was to build an enclosure to keep the deer out of my flowers. And, it did work, to a certain extent. The adult deer do not come in, but the fawns go right through those parallel  boards and nip a few things. Once I disturbed one that was bedded down inside the corral and it almost scared us both to death.
The fence does not deter rabbits, however, and they have killed most of my lilies that used to live there by repeatedly nipping out the tops.

 I have never had any  attacks on my balloon flowers-not deer, not rabbits, fungus, or insects.  They are hardy to an incredible degree and  blue flowers are always welcome in my garden.
 Balloon flowers do need support, at least the taller ones. I put a smaller tomato cage (the kind made from welded rings) around the plants to keep them from falling to the ground. They lean on this support and are beautiful for months if  I keep the spent flowers cut off. Starting in early spring, I keep watch on the stems and tuck any that have a wayward bent back inside the cage. I leave the cage on all year, because before they come out in late spring, it's easy to loose track of where they are and dig into them.
 Balloon flowers (Platycodon grandifloris) can be started from seed (I started mine this way), but can also be propagated by root division, although this needs to be done gently so as not to  tear the thick roots unnecessarily. They are said to root by stem cuttings also, but I've not had luck with this. I am trying again this year, and so far so good. The cuttings have not keeled over (yet).
My balloon flowers are growing in partial shade, in fairly dense clay. I do not fertilize them with any regularity, so they are mostly on their own, doing a good job of taking care of themselves.
I have never seen these for sale locally, and suspect that the best way to get them is by ordering plants or seed. They typically will not bloom the first year, but after that they should bloom for the rest of your life with a minimum of care. Interestingly, in spite of their trouble free hardiness, I can't remember ever having seen them in anyone else's garden. Maybe a public garden. If you grow them, let me know, and where your garden is located.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Golden Lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia)

This is Golden Lace (Patrincabiosifolia)

I have been growing it for at least 20 years. In the beginning I had several plants, but in recently years the number has dwindled so that I only have one now. I had forgotten the name of it and requested naming help from a group of specific epithet wizards I found online.  I got the name in minutes from the picture I sent.

I knew almost nothing about Golden Lace, except it is extremely hardy and is able to survive benign neglect for years on end.  Here you can find a lot of info about the growing Golden Lace, as well as about its area of origin (Far East), and see beautiful combinations of it growing with other flowers, as well as using it in arrangements. After seeing these pictures, I want to use it in my garden more. It is a great see-through plant, and stays in bloom for a very long time.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Young Groundhog

Yesterday the dog announced to me that something unusual was afoot. This groundhog was what it was. It was a youngster, quite small. I took this picture through the screen on the porch. He seemed unsure of what to do and was just sitting still and looking around while the dog barked. Eventually he (it) wandered off. My only hint of why it may have come to visit was that the day before I had some bush hogging done and perhaps that had disturbed its nest or made the territory look unfamiliar. Even though I do not relish groundhogs in my yard eating up my plants and digging burrows, I did feel sorry for it and wondered where its mother was.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Night Blooming Cereus

I have had a bumper crop of night blooming Cereus! I counted 24 blooms. Twenty one of them opened the same night! I have 5 plants growing in pots. I leave them in the same pots till the roots split the pot; they seem to bloom better that way. I put them inside the greenhouse when the weather cools off, usually about mid-October. Since the plants are so large and ungainly I coral them with a rope. In the summer I stand them against a rickety wire fence. The treatment seems to agree with them. Over-watering is not a problem since they are so root bound. I do water them several times per week and fertilize haphazardly. They generally open about 9 PM and by 7 AM they have turned to mush. Short-lived, but so beautiful and fragrant! They are about the size of a dinner plate

360 Degree Time Lapse of Night Sky

This 4 minute time lapsed photography by Vincent Brady combines earth and sky is a truly beautiful film.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pink Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

A friend gave me  some water lotus roots and showed me how to grow them. This is my second year with them, and I am very pleased with them. I think they will need division after this year. I persisted in calling them water lilies and my friend kept correcting me that they were lotuses. On checking the matter out, I found some differences between water lilies and lotuses. The lotus has leaves and flowers that stand well above the water, whatever the water depth,whereas the water lily's leaves and flowers lie flat on the surface of the water. Also lotus flowers have a distinct "pod" ovary in the center which lilies do not have.

You can see a you tube video here that shows the differences as well as some gorgeous pictures.

As you see, I grow my lotuses in a kid's pool and they overwintered there nicely in spite of our very cold winter. At the bottom of the pool is a layer of red clay that they are growing in.

The seed pods made wonderful additions to dried arrangements and wreaths.

Wikipedia says the oldest known germination of a lotus seed was one found in a dry lake bed in China and was 1300 years old. I had previously heard that the oldest know seed germination was from a pyramid in Egypt, but I have not tried to verify this.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Orange Tiger Lilies

I say that I don't really care for orange flowers, but I might as well fess up to the truth: I like them as individuals. How could you not love these stately old  orange tiger lilies?  These are the epitome of pass-along plants. Nearly every gardener who has been at it a long time has at least one clump. They grow vigorously, multiplying from both the bulb in the ground and the bulbils that form between the stem and leaf axils.They have few enemies and stand up well to almost any environment. They do best in full sun, though. I have some whose site has gotten shadier through the years (hazard of old gardens), and they are not blooming as well s they used to.
In Auburn Alabama, everyone wants orange flowers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Wild Petunia ( Ruellia caroliniensis)

Ruellia caroliniensis or wild petunia is native to the southeast and I have it all over the place, in the lawn, in the flower beds, in the overgrown edges, sun and shade. If it were not such an aggressive spreader, I would be wild to cultivate it, as it is pretty and starts blooming early, keeping on right through the heat of summer. It is a drought tolerant perennial and pulling it out does little to control it as the stems snap off at the base and it regrows, soon blooming again and making more seed.
However, I have to admit, it is pretty. There is no doubt that I will never be without it, like it or not.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Oenothera biennis (Evening Primrose)

 Oenothera biennis, one of many evening primroses, have been a nightly joy in my garden for several weeks, and are keeping up their nightly extravaganza. I can see from the number of buds formed at the top of the stalk that they plan to continue for some time to come.
 When the light begins to fade in the evening the chosen buds seem to rise in preparation for the nightly show. First a single petal begins to emerge from the once tightly wound bud, then the sepals snap back from the bud, releasing it to open in a swirl of petals that is fast enough to see and cause a gasp in any sentient being. The time required for any single bud to unfold may vary from a few seconds to a minute or two. The speed of the opening seems to be related to the humidity and the soil moisture. Sometimes the petals unfold all in one fluid motion; at other times, there will be a pause right before the final wide open display.
Hawksbill moths, yes the same that lay the eggs that will become tomato horn worms, begin visiting the flowers as soon as they unfurl. As soon as a flower is fully open, they arrive out of nowhere to probe the interior, taking nectar and pollinating the flowers to produce the prodigious amount of seed that will follow. Once I saw a hawksbill hover over a partial opened flower that had paused in its opening. It apparently was not moving fast enough for the moth, who decided to go ahead and get the nectar, ready or not. It was a rape of the flower.
 Some of the flowers open just as dark is setting in, but others wait till good dark. All the ones that will open that evening will have opened in about 30 minutes from the time the first one starts. Add to the flower drama, the moth escapades, the singing of cicadas, frogs, toads, katydids, and one bird calling in concern for Chuck's Widow, and it is a magical evening.

The plants reseed mightily and I usually cut the seed stalks off before they can all cast their seed, or I could grow little else. These plants, as the name indicates, take 2 years to make flowers (biennis), but they get a jump on the first year by starting the new year when the seed are cast. I acquired my first seed in North Carolina from a neighbor who called them Pennsylvania Poppers. They do seem to pop open suddenly. But not only to Pennsylvania are these plants native but to most of  North America. In fact they have spread worldwide to temperate and subtropical areas, carried by gardeners eager to share the magic.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Agapanthus, Lily of the Nile, is neither a lily nor does it  come from the Nile. It is in the family of the Amaryllis and it hails from South Africa. They come in both white and blue.  I grow some in pots and some in the ground. The ones in the pots grow better. The reason is probably sun.

Through the years, the place where the ones in the ground are has gradually gotten shadier. Agapanthus need full sun and regular water. They have thick roots and resent too frequent resettlement and may not bloom as readily when moved.

In warmer areas Agapanthus are evergreen but here in east  Alabama zone 8a, the foliage dies back, but arises the next year to bloom again.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pink Rain Lilies

Zephyranthes grandiflora  are pink rain lilies. They typically bloom when it rains after a dry spell and  usually bloom several times over the course of summer. I had some white ones once, but they have not bloomed this year.
 Although the individual flowers do not last a long time, they are a joy to see spring up so quickly and beautifully. These are in my main flower bed.
I got a book from the library called Garden Bulbs for the South by Scott Ogden. I never knew there were so many different kinds and colors of Rain lilies. They are in all shades of white, pink, rose, and even yellows. Many of the ones he describes seem to be native to Texas and drier areas west of the Mississippi.  Many of the ones he lists are native species. Here in the southeast we often see Atamasco lilies along the roadsides in wet areas. They only bloom once a year and are white. Some of the other white species bloom more than once if conditions are right.

Orchid Blooms

I got this orchid at Lowe's several years ago at a freakishly low price, but it was in freakishly bad shape. It has grown out of it's condition. I believe it is an interspecific hybrid, but the tag is gone. I love the green and pink color combination. It has been in bloom for at least a month.

Hey, Aunt Zubie!!
Let's all eat a buncha hot dogs for the 4th.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Baby Snapping Turtle

Dora (dog) found this baby in the same spot that she had found a copperhead about a month before. The copperhead, I understand, but what was a baby snapping turtle doing up beside my house?!
I kept it a few days, tossing it dirt daubers I had killed, and then it was released to its destiny in a local waterway.
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