09 July 2016

A Tale of Two Poppies

Pink Bombast Rose double-flowered peony poppies are very prolific. Every year these annual opium poppies come back, with some seeds sprouting in new locations: across the garden, across the sidewalk (across the universe?) This is important later in the story.

They do not like the 'instant hot' of our Virginia spring weather. Saving these seeds is a must for all the gardening friends that crave something different, beautiful, and easy. Seeds originally came from Johnson City, NY, growing in our back yard when our family moved while I was in the second grade. They survive zone 5 winters there and heartily return each year.

Lavender Lauren's Grape poppy seeds were picked up about four years ago at the annual local seed exchange i attend. I had seen them growing here and there, and thought they would be a great companion to the Bombast Rose. Lauren's Grape looks like a normal poppy with its single flower, central seed pod ringed by stamens, and dark band. They look like the perennial red poppies that I easily kill.

I noticed that both poppies are named papaver somniferum. The somniferum part is Latin for "sleep-inducing," named no doubt due to the opium. The pinks are kept in the front garden north, and the grapes were first sown in the side yard. The grapes did not do well on the north side of a fence and in soil that was (is) still-improving. Saved seeds were sown in the front garden south the following year.

The grapes bloom before the pinks, but there is a some overlap in bloom time. So, then along came this tiny little bee -- I had never seen bees on the poppies until then. Across the sidewalk from the pink bed, a magenta poppy appeared last spring; neither lavender nor pink, neither double-flowered nor single. Could this be the result of the matchmaker cupid bee? For 25 years here, the pink poppies have remained faithful, but now?

This year, a magenta, half-double-flowered poppy reappeared in the same place -- where I do not plant poppies. I saved the star-crossed, illegitimate seeds for next year.

For The Record:
  • Rich soil with good drainage
  • Full sun
  • Little or no fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease
  • Poor showing in hot weather


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, rudbeckia, echinacea, datura, marigold, zinnia, late daylily, daisy, cleome
  • Harvested: several onions, green beans

27 June 2016

Getting Stoked

These beauties started out as seeds. They were picked up at the annual seed exchange in February 2015. I had heard of Stokesia (Stokesia laevis) before, but only vaguely remembered that it was a perennial, and that I would not mind having it.

Seeds were started last spring, and then seedlings went into the garden. I picked out a nice spot that was full of sun and good soil. The good soil part is a relative term -- relative to the soil around the property.

They grew beautiful full leaves and no flowers. This year, they sprung to life. Excitement built as the first buds started to emerge a few months ago. Then more excitement as stems branched out with even more buds. Were they blue? Were they pink? Where they bi-color? Who knew? Maybe they were not stokesia. After all, I have picked up bulbs labeled 'dwarf orange gladiolus' to find they were purple upon blooming. And, I planted a few things that never germinated, like Scabiosa, the same year.

The photos show the show at the beginning. This proud dad of a new perennial was very happy. They make good indoor cut flowers -- until all those strand-like petals decide to drop off. They close up at night and only fully open in direct sun. Clouds also tend to close them a little.

The 2-inch (5 cm), larger-than-expected flowers are a blueish purple that fade lighter as they age. The biggest issue I have is that they flopped over. The five plants relied upon each other to prop themselves up, but with a little wind, they now all fell over.

Stokesia or Stokes Aster, is a member of the daisy / aster family, and is native to the southeastern United States. There! I planted another native without knowing it was a native. It prefers wet or soggy areas, and is evergreen in some southern areas, but likes heat, and thus is considered drought tolerant. It was named after English botanist Jonathan Stokes. Shouldn't we have native plants named after native Americans?

For The Record:
  • Well-drained loose fertile soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer in autumn
  • No serious pests/disease
  • Tends to fall over upon blooming

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, phlox, rudbeckia, echinacea, liatris, marigold, Russian sage, daylilies
  • Harvested: cilantro, dill, onions

11 June 2016

Rocky Mountain Blue

The penstemon is finally coming around this spring, although not as much as I would like. Penstemon Rocky Mountain (Penstemon strictus), emphatically came out with an intense blue flower stalk on one of the plants in early May.

My penstemon, native to poor western soils, was started from seed obtained at last year's seed exchange. A few seeds produced five healthy seedlings. They were planted last spring in the front near the house where sun is plentiful, and near the driveway pavement where soil is warm in summer and consequently dries out fast. Perfect for them, I thought.

One solitary stalk from one plant shot out of the central plant, producing this cluster of blue blooms. Several protrusions on the other four plants looked like they would join the party, but they were just teasing me. Nothing materialized from them. But, oh! that one with its color.

Reading up a bit more, I learned that fertilizing is unnecessary and just produces leaves. Their location has good soil; maybe too good. I don't recall fertilizing them, but did not give them a poor gravel soil, either. One more summer, and I anticipate some excitement next year. I wonder if Rocky Mountain penstemon would make a good addition to my hell strip?

For The Record:
  • Mulched soil with no amendments or fertilizer
  • Full sun
  • No serious pests/disease


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: poppies, rudbeckia, stokesia, nicotiana, phlox, hostas, daylilies, coreopsis, lavender
  • Harvested: peas, cilantro,

30 May 2016

White-Tailed Radish

My inability to grow the simplest 30-day vegetable that school children can is legendary. Every year I look forward to radishes with a sweet crunch and a little kick, and ever year I am blessed with lots of leaves and no radishes.

This year, I dumped a whole bunch of seeds of three types into the front cottage garden. Even with the wet, cool May, there are still lots of plants, but very few radishes. The white daikons produced nothing but long thin roots. The Cherry Belles were not ringing. But I got something out or this batch of seeds.

These were French Breakfast -- an heirloom. Radishes for breakfast? Really? These will go into a pasta salad.

For The Record:
  • Light well-drained soil with a few organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • A few bugs nibbling at the leaves - probably flea beetles

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: phlox, coreopsis, geranium, merigold, tradescantia

24 May 2016

How Green My Garden

Very green, with a record 16 days straight of measurable rainfall in May. Cool temperatures, too. You'd think I woke up in the Pacific northwest! I often write about how dead the garden is at this time of year, and the paucity of blooms for May Bloom Day proves it. Even some readers posted comments suggesting I could do better in May -- especially gardening in Virginia.

But spring bulbs and blooms are gone, and the perennials lie in wait. The front cottage garden has never looked so ... green. Everyone is having a grand old time except the peppers.

It is interesting that with a month of more-than-ample rainfall and cool temperatures, annual poppies have taken over. Never before have they invaded my cottage garden, the sidewalk garden, the front bed, the side garden. They are even sprouting up in the cracks of the driveway and sidewalk.

The front cottage garden gets ready. Buds on the liatris, echinacea, and daylily. Look carefully to also see the dying hyacinth leaves, garlic, walking onions, radishes, volunteer dill, pepperoncini, rudbeckia, physostegia, nicotiana, aster, beginning cleome, poppies, and daffodil leaves. One exceptional spot of color is provided by the 'Tiger Eyes' marigold started from seed. What little grass I have needs mowing.

The sloping side garden provided the color on Bloom Day: a few iris, geranium, and coreopsis remain. Phlox is getting ready to burst, and waiting are solidago, daylily, stokesia, russian sage, penstemon, lychnis, more poppies, lily, more rudbeckia, kniphophia, peony, monadra, onions, eschscholzia, opuntia, and echinops.

The backyard has seen the magnolia, dogwood, virbirnum, ajuga, polygonatum, camassia, rhododendron, and azalea all come and go. Waiting are seven hostas, astilbe, hypericum, hydrangea, buddleia, daylily, and native lysimachia. The Autumn fern has begun new shoots to replace the ones flattened this winter. Oh wait! Is that tradescantia starting to flower? Did I mention the grass needs mowing?

Just wait until June's Bloom Day.

15 May 2016

May 2016 Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
What's blooming in the garden on the 15th of the month


Not much happening this May, so there are only a few photos this month. Instead of photographing the garden, I will be spending time looking through the other blogs. Most of these plants have been featured here before, but there is one new iris.
I helped organize and run a plant swap this spring for our county master gardener group. This bearded iris was picked up there. No name to it, but that doesn't matter. The color is really spectacular -- almost black and darker than the colors my camera picked up.

This is iris germanica 'Clarence' who is actually fragrant, and reblooming.

This is kalmia latifolia 'Sarah.' It is one of the darkest colored mountain laurels with red buds and deep pink blooms.

Geranium sanguineum is an unknown, obtained from a local neighborhood plant swap years ago, and a darn good ground cover. It resembles a magenta version of the popular 'Rozanne.'

Coreopsis auriculata ‘Nana’ -- another pickup from a neighborhood plant swap.

Check out other garden bloggers bloom day photos on our host's at blog May Dreams Gardens.

29 April 2016

Leap Year

Sleep
The woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) was purchased at the annual spring garden sale at the local botanical garden, Green Spring. I do like to grow natives and feel a bit of guilt because I do not exclusively limit my garden to them. This one was sold in the native plant vendor section. It did not have much of a label, except for "Woodland Phlox".

My newfound native came with a small cluster of flowers on a thin but upright stalk. It was planted in a lightly shaded bed with shade compatriots tradescantia, hosta, and astilbe and hydrangea, in the forefront front of them all. The internet says to expect a height of 12-inches (30 cm). The plant stopped blooming in summer and did not do anything for the rest of the year. Early morning sun bathed the area, but for most of the day it received dappled shade under an ever increasing neighbor's maple tree to the south.

Creep
Last year, it started to spread. There was an upright section that produced clusters of spring blooms, and a horizontal section that spread out flat to the ground. But it did have several flower stalks clustered together, indicating that it was growing.

It survived that nasty winter. Natives can survive beasts and weather in the wild, but sometimes do not survive me.

Leap
All those horizontal sections running along the surface of the ground last year produced dozens of flower stalks this year. The result is a mound of light blue, slightly fragrant flower clusters. If memory serves me, I was able to enjoy these flowers for over a month.

This wildflower phlox is native to woodlands of the eastern United States, north from Quebec, south to Texas. Yes, I know Quebec is Canada. Woodland phlox likes moist, fertile, loose soil. I have one out of three with my Virginia clay -- moist clay.

Common cultivars are 'Blue Moon' most resembling my plant, and 'Clouds of Perfume.' The flowers have nectar in the base of the long tubes, so insects need long tongues to get to it. Butterflies and hummingbirds are supposed like them best. I like them second best. They bloom at a place in the yard where hydrangea, hosta, and astilbe are still getting ready for their show to come later.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with mulch and organic amendments
  • Mostly shade
  • Very little fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: azalea, viburnum, dutch iris, coreopsis

15 April 2016

April 2016 Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
What's blooming in the garden on the 15th of the month


Leave the office early on a sunny Friday afternoon. Rush home to beat the rush hour traffic. Test out the new nuclear powered camera for the first time on the blog. See what's in the zone 7a garden.

I still have the simple rustic Canon Elph that I used for nine years -- for all blog photos up to now -- except for a few iPad and iPhone photos. But the new Canon T5i, well, there are as many settings as the space shuttle. Let's try figuring this contraption out to get closer than the old camera did. One photo was taken with a lens attachment that did not produce a clear image. Put that attachment in the closet or sell it.

My, I have a lot of white photos. I just realized that after looking at what I shot this afternoon. But the white is not all in one place except on my blog. The sun is setting, on another Bloom Day.

Maybe a new camera will help me take photos like A Tidewater Gardener, you think? Nah, no way.

Cornus florida

Azalea 'Snow'

Spirea prunifolia (Bridal Wreath)

Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Shasta'
Looking better now -- years after I severely pruned it and almost lost it

Pieris japonica cultivar

Phlox divaricata -- this is its third year and its leaping!

Tulip 'Princess Irene' not looking good in its second year

Narcissus poeticus -- the late fragrant daffodil even the ant appreciates

For other garden bloggers bloom day photos, check out our host at blog May Dreams Gardens.