30 October 2008

Seedy Beauty

During this time of year, there is not much to document as plants reach their last gasp of the season. Although deadheading spent flowers before seeds set in is a common practice, sometimes a brave gardener (or lazy gardener) may keep the seeds intact for various reasons. For example, coneflower seeds are kept around for the goldfinches, even though cutting them off can encourage more blooms.

Old canna blooms are cut off the stalks during the summer. Leaving them to produce seed pods at this time of year does not discourage new flower buds. The colder weather tends to do that.

Spent liatris stalks are kept around because I want something in that location. If the stalks were cut back, there would only be an empty hole in that part of the garden. The resulting seed stalks look interesting, and since they bloom only once during the year from a root cluster, cutting them back does not result in more blooms or branching stems.

Sometimes, seeds can be as beautiful and interesting as the flowers.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: canna, basil, dwarf zinnia, lime nicotiana
  • Harvested: 10 peppers & 2 tomatoes before frost,

19 October 2008

Plethora of Pitcher Plants

The trip to the Atlanta Botanical Garden produced a refreshing shot of enthusiasm for gardening. At this time of year when the summer plants and newness of annual gardening begin to fade, it becomes more difficult to tend my own gardens. The sights of new exciting flora (many of which will never grow here) give a boost to the gardener's soul.

This week, mostly photos of the plants in the greenhouses are presented. Especially interesting were the tropical carnivorous pitcher (nepenthes) plants. According to the sign at the greenhouses, the Nepenthes plants "produce nectar, attracting insects and luring them to a watery death at the bottom of the pitcher." You Tube has an impressive video snippet from the BBC's Private Life of Plants that includes time lapse development of the pitchers.

Greenhouse plants include a giant staghorn fern (platycerium bifurcatum), giant tree ferns, plants with roots several stories high. There was a small beauty that gives new meaning to 'butterfly bush, ' with a flower so closely resembling a butterfly that it even fools human eyes.

Carnivorous Pitcher Plant Further Reading
  • American Botanical Society
  • The International Carnivorous Plant Society

12 October 2008

Atlanta Botanical Garden

My vacation included a trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. One morning was spent viewing and documenting the highly unusual and very interesting plants, as well as a great number of those that might be suitable for locations in my own gardens. A photographic system was developed on the fly that included photographing a plant followed by photographing the tag. Unfortunately, the lens stop focus on the automatic camera produced some plant tag photos that were blurry and unreadable.

This week, a few of the photos of the plants that were considered interesting are presented. Although not appropriate for the home gardens here, these plants were unusual or unique enough to catch my interest.

The Angel Trumpet tree (Solanaceae) was the biggest surprise. This South American native contained vibrant orange cremesicle flowers that were delectably fragrant 50 feet (15 m) away. White flowers have been seen before, but never this color. Internet information sites state they are related to the potato and tomato family and are extremely poisonous. They take a lot of water, and need warm temperatures to survive winters. Both requirements make it unsuitable for Alexandria, VA.

The North American Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia leucophylla ) grows
in marshy areas of the Florida to Mississippi gulf coast. It apparently is in danger from habitat destruction, and the botanical garden has a conservation program to help its survival. The botanical garden created a natural bog where these plants were flourishing. Hybrid variations of this wildflower exist with variations in size, flower shape, and flower color.