26 June 2010

Kniphofia Phobia

This year the hopes and fears came true. The Tritoma, or I mean Torch Lily, or I mean Red Hot Poker, or I mean Kniphofia uvaria bloomed in grand style. The tiny seedlings were started indoors in spring 2008 as directed by the Ferry Morse seed packet. I had always admired these plants, although from afar, and relished the idea of growing them for myself. The seedlings sprouted, and promptly dampened off, leaving only three survivors.

The seedlings that resembled sprigs of grass saw their first outdoor sunlight in the front cottage garden. Expecting a spring bloom the following year, I used the summer to nurture and coddle my kniphofias into adulthood. By summer's end, the leaves began to rival the daylilies.

Winter turned into a Spring 2009 anticipation of a fruitful display after a year's work. But, the plant had other ideas. Leaves and more leaves, big leaves and then bigger-than-bearded-iris leaves arrived. The plant was on a bull market tear. It crowded out the purple salvia - completely. Had I not transplanted a salvia offshoot, I would have none.

Last winter, leaves were more or less evergreen, or more like everolivegreen. They resembled a deflated yucca, draped across the ground and browning around the edges. And this was the only plant visible in the front garden bed from the sidewalk. What would the neighbors think of their Master Gardener? My reputation was sinking.

Kniphofia care articles were consulted on the internet. Uh oh. This was normal. These things grow really big, especially after a gardener fertilizes them in an attempt to coax blooms. They get tangled, look crappy in the winter and most of summer when not blooming, and punish you with few blooms if you ever attempt to divide or move them. Fear set in.

This spring, the weird South African native named after Johannes Kniphof finally bloomed. Out of the three original plants now grown into one tangled mess, seven stalks emerged to redeem the neighborhood gardener. The straight spikes were like 5-foot tall (1.5 m) air traffic control towers, looming over the late spring bulbs, and taller than anything the front garden has ever seen. People noticed.

I think I must find a more appropriate place for these blue collar plants. A more well-behaved variety is needed in this location. Lots of photos of several varieties were found, but sellers of these plants need to be tracked down. And remember that these are admired from afar. I find them a bit ugly and unkempt close up.

For The Record:
  • Rich well-drained soil
  • Full sun, average water
  • Organic fertilizer in the spring
  • No pests
  • Consider unattractive leaves in fall through winter
  • Unusual height & flower gets ooo's & aah's

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, cosmos, phlox, mexican zinnia, nicotiana, rose,
    coneflowers, salvia, late daylily, cleome, asian lily, hostas
  • Tomatoes and cucumbers set fruit

14 June 2010

2010 Bloom Day

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

After a bust of springtime, and a lull last month, things are a poppin' in the garden again this June! My Red Hot Poker bloomed for the first time, after planting from seed three years ago. Nice reward for three years of work. The Coconut Lime Echinacea just started, and is a new plant this year. As usual, click if you want to see them close up.

Hosta (True Blue)

Oak Leaf Hydrangea


Purple Coneflower

Common Daylily

Green Coneflower (Lime Coconut)

Red Hot Poker Kniphofia

Unknown Red Daylily

Salvia (May Night)

Asiatic Lily (Lolipop)




Unknown Peach Daylily

08 June 2010

Unlicensed Propagation Prohibited!

Unlicensed propagation prohibited! This is what PP#18184 means on the coreopsis purchased last spring - Plant Patent #18184. Coreopsis 'Autumn Blush' from Wayside Gardens came in the mail after it was selected as one of the new plants for the garden last spring. After reading about its care this spring, I find that it has a 'Plant Patent,' here as well as Canada. PPAF, in case we run across that one, stands for 'Plant Patent Applied For.'

When reviewing online nurseries selling this coreopsis, I see that all have some non-descript tag or asterisk that probably raises no red flag for most people (like me.) Only after some sleuthing does one learn what the nomenclature and anacronyms refer to. Can I be fined by the Plant Police (um. . . I mean the 'Plant Variety Protection Office') if I divide the plant? Will I be hauled off to the slammer if the plant decides to reproduce itself? Not to worry - the plant is sterile, probably bred that way to prevent unauthorized propagation.

So who holds the patent? I cannot find that information online at the Patent and Trademark Office. I did find PP#18183 (the number before #18184 coreopsis) is an Alstroemeria. I also found the following information about plant patents at the US -PTO Office:
The law provides for the granting of a patent to anyone who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced any distinct and new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber-propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.

Three or four blooms created only disappointment when it was planted last spring. After a summer pampering and a hearty winter, the plant peeked out in late spring, then bolted into the loose, lacy mound of foliage now exhibited. Blossoms are coming on strong and are incredibly interesting.

Two-color petals attract attention without the gaudiness they would on a larger plant. Don't believe the photos in the catalogs (as if you ever do.) Although the coreopsis has grown into a foot high mound (30 cm), it is anything but thick and dense. Descriptions also state "Attracts butterflies and bees." Attracting nothing here. "Forms a compact mound." Try sparse and floppy. "Blooms repeatedly." Maybe later this year.

If you want a piece of the action (er, a piece of Autumn Blush) at our next plant swap, meet me in the parking lot - I will be the one in the trench coat and sunglasses carrying the brown paper bag.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with organic fertilizer in spring
  • Full sun
  • No pests

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: coneflower, hydrangea, salvia, phlox, nicotiana,
    calendula, hostas, bletilla, spiderwort, alyssum