19 July 2009

Seven Cleome Surprises

This year, more plants new to the backyard gardener have been planted than any past year. The first to make a blog post is the Cleome (Cleome hassleriana), also called spider flower or grandfather's whiskers. The lavender cleome from the Sparkler series was selected from the Park Seed catalog because of its lavender color and dwarf height. The front display garden is small, and does not need any freakishly tall plants hulking over everything. Also, subtle colors were needed in the summer to soften the cannas and sunflowers shouting for attention.

The seeds were started and began growing in April - tiny, tiny seeds. After a painfully slow start, four plants eventually survived the poor germination and poor care and were hardened off and planted in the garden in June. They proceeded to do nothing after a month of constant nursing. Suddenly at the end of June, they began to grow, real fast.

Never having grown cleome before, this plant was full of surprises. If you haven't grown these, here are some facts you will not find in the garden catalogs:
  • First, the 'Sparkler' plants are growing into bushes with several side stalks producing their own side stalks. They were apparently planted too close together - about 12-inches (30 cm) and are muscling in on the poor nearby zinnias and calendula.
  • Second, dwarf with this plant means 4-feet (1.2 m) high. However, it's a good height for where they were planted.
  • Third, where did the thorns come from? No catalog mentioned thorns.
  • Fourth, the leaves stink.
  • Fifth, the blossoms are somewhat light sensitive, and open fully at dusk until morning.
  • Sixth, the lavender color seems pink, although lavender looks more true in these photos than the plants actually are
  • Last, they look great, and will be back next year. Do these come back from seed true to their original?

For The Record:
  • Good, well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of organic fertilizer at transplant time
  • Unique flower form and number gets ooo's & aah's

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nicotiana, cosmos, coneflower, zinnia, nasturtium, loosestrife,
    cleome, snapdragon, hostas
  • Harvested: Broccoli
  • Progress: Tomatoes and peppers fruit reach full size

15 July 2009

July 2009 Bloom Day

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

Green Nicotiana Echinacea purpurea (coneflower)

Cosmos sulphureus Physostgia virginiana (obedient plant)

Tropaeolum majus (nasturtium)
Cleome hassleriana

14 July 2009

Let Us Lettuce

During the spring plant swap brunch, I picked up a paint cap full of lettuce seedlings no bigger than thumb tacks. (Paint caps were not included in my list of possible seed starting pots [14.3.2009] earlier this year.) They stayed in the paint cap doing nothing for a week until I planted them at the beginning of May. Lazy indecision on where to plant them, the reason for the delay.

After careful consideration (actually desperation,) they settled down in the front flower bed in an area that the cannas would eventually grow into after lettuce was harvested. Onions and basil were planted among the sun-loving perennials here last year and did well. Why not consider onions and lettuce acceptable as ornamentals?

They languished in the flower bed for about a month through an unusually cool, rainy spring, perfect for lettuce so I thought. But they were buried in dirt splashes after every rain. In June the plants took off. It must be pointed out that this spring has been different in the Washington area, with plenty of below-average temperatures and low humidity.

The variety is not known, but the gardener who started the seedlings referred to it as head lettuce. It is not producing heads, and the largest plant appears ready to launch a seed stalk. The lettuce taste is quite strong in the large leaves, and contrary to the photo, the color is very dark green once it is washed and in a salad bowl. The success at growing lettuce in the front yard will encourage more of the same come fall and spring next year.

For The Record:
  • Well drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Organic slow-release fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nicotiana, cosmos, cleome, hostas, phlox, liatris
    alyssum, nasturtium, coneflower, obedient plant
  • Harvested: lettuce, broccoli
  • Progress: tomatoes full size, peppers 1.5"

06 July 2009


After waiting a few years for something to happen, several ornamental plants have mushroomed into large showy displays this year. Now in its third year, the gooseneck loostrife (Lysimachia clethroides) [22.6.2008] have spread into a tough, formidable, low-growing bush. Two years of tender loving care and manure/humus have encouraged it to begin its notorious spreading. For the first time, I have been pulling up rhizomes in the spring.

The concrete hostas [10.8.2008] growing in full sun have flower stalks that rivaled the bearded iris. Such a mass of blooms from my deck looks like a solid lavender cluster. The same plants in the shade are less conspicuous, not as large, and do not get their leaves crisped.

The coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) [10.6.2007] have now grown into a firm bush. Goldfinches no longer need to balance on the tops, swaying under their weight. The number of stalks support each other. They are the highest - standing tall in the front garden.

After three years, the obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) [1.8.2008] has decided to produce clusters of flowers on branching flower stalks instead of flowers along one solitary stalk. This feat allows the flowers to bloom for a longer period of time, and gives a thicker display of blooms.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Cosmos, obedient plant, hostas, nicotiana, loosestrife,
    coneflowers, daylillies, cleome, liatris, phlox
  • Harvested: broccoli, lettuce
  • Progress: tomatoes 1"; peppers 0.5"