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.