09 September 2007

A Fall Dud

I tried some crocosmia bulbs from Michigan Bulb, the variety Emily McKenzie. I saw some crocosmia growing and flowering at a nursery a year or two ago, and thought it would provide a unusual look with its thin leaves resembling daffodils, and its foot-long stems of fire red blossoms. The 'Emily McKenzie' description sounded even better.

The bulbs were planted in the spring and were nursed and tended to all summer with anticipation of a summer bloom. The result was that only about 3 of the 6 bulbs had blossoms. Contrary to the description, they did not bloom until early fall, did not all bloom at the same time, and the long arching stems I had seen in the nursery ended up being short stalks about 6 inches tall with one flower opening at a time on each plant.

Was it Michigan Bulb, or the conditions in full sun, or the exaggerated description? Emily McKenzie turned into small little insignificant nothings in the garden. They will be gone from the garden after this season. I am considering a different crocosmia variety from another grower in the future. Lessons learned.

For The Record:
  • Grows in well drained soil, full sun
  • Slow release organic granular fertilizer applied
  • Normal watering

02 September 2007

Fall Fire

The firey yellow-orange calendula thrives in cooler weather that starts coming around September. It does well in spring and fall and blooms well past the first frost. During summers it all but shuts down flower production, producing few flowers that are quite small with a dull yellow color. Once the weather starts to turn cool, it perks up and starts to thrive again. Photos do not accurately show the true vibrant color of flowers, good for cutting.

Leaves have an unusual spicy fregrance. The plant is self-seeding and profusely comes back each year. A few plants will survive the winter here, and exhibit lots of flowers in late spring right after the tulips stop.

26 August 2007

Summer or Fall?

The purple asters were received from the landscape architects many years ago. They grow about 3 to 4 feet tall (1 to 1.2 m), and form a large clump that needs support when reaching full height. The flowers are dime-sized in clusters along the top of the plant, and attract a certain orange & brown butterfly in late summer. The plant grows stalks with leaves during the summer, and begins blooming in late summer, continuing into fall. This aster overwinters and multiplies easily, forming what looks like a bush. I divide it in the spring and fall, and always take pieces to the neighborhood Plant Swap Brunch. It had white fuzzy 'cotton' bugs one year, but otherwise has been pest free.

As recommended, the stems were always pinched off at about 6 inches (15 cm), and then again at 12 inches (30 cm) in height during their growth to produce more side shoots and thus more flowers. As an experiment, last year I decided to let them grow without pinching off. The results: the plant bloomed earlier and was through earlier, was taller, had fewer flowers, and because there were fewer stalks for fellow support and was taller, it more easily fell over. Lessons learned.

12 August 2007

Peacock Orchid

Acidanthera 'bulbs' were purchased from Lowe's a few years ago. Called a 'Peacock Orchid' in some of the catalogs, these plants produce white flowers with maroon blothces in the late summer. The flowers are fragrant, but not noticable unless you place your nose in them. The corms are dug up and stored over winter and planted in the spring, and experience has shown do not multiply much here. (they are not technically bulbs.)

I grow them for their foliage as much as for the flowers, since there are not many flowers, and the vertical leaves provide a good contrast with other plants.

24 July 2007


The canna is starting to bloom and take off as seen in this early summer photo. Canna Pretoria was planted three years ago as a result of a purchase from Lowe's home improvement. It was a dud the first year. The roots were dug up and saved over the winter, and planted again the next spring. Now after a very slow start in the spring, the plant always comes back and starts blooming in the height of summer. It is similar to Tropicanna canna, but the leaf stripes are not burgundy and orange but green and Yellow. It ws thought to be Tropicanna when purchased.

The roots spread during the last half of summer, quickly producing several more flower stalks - and there are no pests with this plant. The tropical-looking plant likes sun and hot weather, and lots of water will make it grow faster.

17 July 2007

Summer Heat

Hot summer brings out the lime green nicotiana. This plant came from the landscape architects years ago and was one of the first contributions to the front display flower garden. It is an annual, but easily reseeds itself year after year with the same light green flowers. Last year its usual bed was disturbed in the spring when daffodils were dug out to be divided, resulting in fewer nicotiana plants germinating. Lesson learned.

The flowers stay closed during the day and open at dusk, releasing a sweet fragrance. Each plant produces several stems, and keeps bloming throughout the summer as long as spent flower stems are broken off. Usually this is a hassle because of the large number of stems produced in the many plants that grow. The plants do need some support after reaching a certain height. I let them lean on each other and flop over if they want to - giving a cascading natural look.

15 July 2007


The landscape architects divided and thinned out their dalylilies one year, and the cast-offs were planted in my garden. I will try to find the exact variety later, but these grow on sturdy stems shorter than the standard orange varieties found around the grounds when the house was purchased. Flowers are a peach-yellow color with some slight green in their throat. These bloom mid-season, a bit later than the orange type, and they do not spread much at all.

08 July 2007

Seeing Sunspots

Miniature sunflowers are a great summer flower for the small garden beds found here. A variety called Sunspot was the first dwarf sunflower variety I tried a few years ago. It did great and I always come back to it. The plants are about 4 feet tall (1.2 m) and produce a single flower, but the flowers are fairly large. The stalks do not flop over. It is also fast growing. Slugs like to chow down on the leaves.

I tried 'Pacifico" and a green variety, and both did not do well. The Pacifico was interesteing because the catalog promised multiple blooms in a drawf plant. Well, the plant did produce multiple blooms, but they were not appropriate for cutting which is what I had in mind. Pacifico grew one main stalk like a normal sunflower, then shot out 'mini' stems about 1 or 2 inches long (25 to 50 cm) from the main stalk with mini flowers on them. Some of the flowers were oval shaped, looking like they were malformed.

The green variety had trouble with small anemic looking leaves that attracted a lot of mites during the hot summer months. They also needed help standing up after heavy summer rains. After doing some research, I find that there are no good varieties of green sunflowers, yet...

01 July 2007

Silver Blue

Two types of salvia were planted about three years ago in the front display flower garden. Only one comes back each year after winter, but the exact name was lost. Of the two, the most interesting one survives. Flower stalks and buds are a silver white color, and only the actual petals are colored in an electric blue. It earned the nickname 'silver blue.' This has been a reliable no-problem plant over the years.

24 June 2007

Another Volunteer

It's early summer in the front yard display flower garden. For the third year in a row, the portulaca came back from seeds by itself. But just a few plants came back this year. This is a low growing plant that has succulent-type leaves, and requires little water. The flowers only open in full sun, though.

Thankfully the white color characteristics stayed with the plant and seeds. Once the seedlings were discovered growing in the spring, I was afraid that they would have some of the psychedelic colors that portulaca are known for. Plants that produce seeds can sometimes create seeds with characteristics different from the parent.

10 June 2007

Early Summer

The front flower garden is finally getting into full swing. The purple coneflowers are looking good after lots of rains this spring. There is a 'dead time' in the garden between the spring bulbs and the time the perennials start up when nothing is blooming; the purple coneflowers are the first plant that begins the summer bloom season.

These were started from seed about two years ago. After admiring a neighbor's plants, I was later given some seeds from them. They were planted and nothing grew that year. So, some seeds were purchased form the store and planted the following year. About four plants survived infancy, and the rest of the seed packet was thrown out. These resulting plants lived through the summer and never bloomed or grew much.

All that changed the following year (last year), when they came up after the spring and bloomed, then started spreading throughout the summer. This is the second year of blossoms, and the plants are very healthy and happy from the looks of the abundant flowers. I will need to thin them out now, probably in time for the neighborhood Fall Plant Swap Brunch.

27 May 2007

Liatris Envy

Last year, a neighbor across the street exchanged some plants with me. She gave up some of her lavender Liatris in return for some red cosmos plants that she admires every year. Her liatris was spreading and was being pulled up and thrown away. My cosmos come up from seed every year and always require thinning out, too.

I planted the litaris in the spring after it bloomed for her last year, and took care of it throughout the summer. This spring, it responded with a showy display of rather large 2 feet tall flower spikes looking like toilet bowl bristles. This week the neighbor remarked how good my liatris looked compared to her plants. She reasoned that this was due to the fact that my garden received more sun than her plants got. Maybe, but maybe someone is a better gardner.

20 May 2007

Foxglove Finally

Foxglove was planted in spring of 2006, and is finally producing flowers this year. Pam's Choice was purchased as three plants from Michigan Bulb. Two of the plants were correct, but the third is ending up being a shorter pink variety - not what was ordered. I have heard from several sources that this company is not a good one, with the plant material not being top quality.

This plant is producing several spikes with the tallest being 6 feet (1.8 m). It appears to have additional flower stalks beginning, so there should be a show well into June. The online sources state that Foxglove is a biennial, meaning it booms in its second year and then dies. The landscape architect friends state that if the flower stalks are cut off before going to seed, the plant will live and continue to produce in future years.

While visiting Mount Vernon estate this past weekend, several varieties of foxglove were blooming in George Washington's garden. None were the Pam's Choice variety, but were shorter, and colors generally included pinks, lavenders, and light yellows.

08 April 2007

Late Spring

A week later and the Poet daffodils (Narcissus poeticus) are blooming. These are a "geranium" type, with multiple blossoms on each stalk. They are fragrant, but only if you are nearby to notice. They came back quite well from last year.

The Red Emperor tulips have since finished blooming. Orange tinged tulips, and the Monsella tulips are now opening. I do not remember the exact type of orange tulips or where I got them from last year. The shorter later-blooming Monsella tulips are yellow with red stripes in them, and open wide in the sun. Although I am pleased with them, they do not resemble the pictures in the catalog, being smaller and less defined in shape.

01 April 2007

Late Bloomers

One of the two new varieties of daffodils that grew for the first time last year are beginning to bloom now. The Lemon Chiffon daffodils have creamy white petals and long cups with a lemon yellow color. The lemon color gradually turns to a creamy peach after about a week. These easily multiplied after the first year, so some were lifted last spring and planted last fall for this year.

Red Emperor tulips are now blooming. These are the earliest 'big' tulips to come out. I tried orange emperor a few years back, but they did not bloom at the same time as the reds - a week or two later, and they did not come back or multiply well. Experience with Red Emperors is that each blub splits into 3 bulbs after blooming. Each resulting bulb is not quite as big as the original, and may or may not produce a flower the following year.

21 March 2007

Spring Daffodils

The Ice Follies daffodils are blooming a bit earlier this year because of the warm weather. This are a reliable plant that easily multiplies year after year, and I like its visual interest. It is an early daffodil starting out with light yellow cups and creamy white petals, but the cups gradually turn white, too after about a week.

At the same time, the Fifer daffodils are blooming. These were found growing around the property when it was purchased, in the 1980's, hence they are named after the street. They are early too, but the flowers are somewhat smaller and unspectacular, with yellow petals and darker yellow cups.

Both types are planted in the front display garden to show up the property, and are doing well in full sun.