25 August 2010

Small Black Eyes

Seeds were obtained from Jim, a participant in the fall plant swap brunch last year. I wanted Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) in the garden for a long time, given their exuberant displays in late summer through fall, when other stars in the garden fade. I was glad to have the chance to finally grow them.

Two years ago, I was in luck - a neighbor had them growing throughout her back yard and offered me the chance to dig up as many as I could carry. Then, in less than a month, her house went up for sale and she moved away. Yes, I thought of helping myself after she moved and before the new owners arrived, but did not want to give the new owners the idea that we were a neighborhood of plant thieves.

In November, I quickly grabbed Jim's Rudbeckia seeds. I was told the plants seed themselves every fall and come up in the spring on their own, so I should just scatter the seeds around the ground. I was hoping these were not going to be the drooping petal, normal size, large-center-eye type my transient neighbor had, but beggars cannot be choosy.

Welcome springtime. Never having grown these before and being unfamiliar with the plant and its leaves, I almost pulled the seedlings out as weeds. Now, they are loudly announcing their presence in the side yard. I am happy to report that we have the 5-inch (10 cm), large-bloom, small black-eyed variety!

This is another American native plant, and is the state flower of Maryland, (with its state flag having the same black and yellow colors.) The name comes from Olaus Rudbeck, who was a professor of botany at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and a teacher of Carl Linnaeus (Father of Taxonomy).
"Rudbeckias were grown in English gardens many years before they were accepted by Americans as worthy garden plants. British plant collector John Tradescant was given roots of the wildflower by French settlers in the New World. The plant was shared with others and was soon popular in English gardens. By the mid-1800's, the rudbeckia had found its way back to America.
For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • Pest: small holes in leaves beginning

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, canna, nasturtium, mexican zinnia, rudbeckia, zinnia, cosmos, cleome, rose, salvia (again), calendula
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 2 tomatoes, 10 cucumbers (done)

15 August 2010

August 2010 Bloom Day

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

Here are some newer blooms that have not yet been posted on the blog this year. The castor plants are in full "bloom" with the seed pods now forming. The new white cleome was planted from seed this year, but never grew more than a foot tall (30 cm). Cosmos 'Bright Lights' are also new, but are topping out around 4 feet (1.2 m)! The miniature rose was a New Year's Open House gift two years ago, and a consistent performer. The Rudbeckia was planted last fall after receiving the seed from the fall plant swap. What a successful surprise.

The hollyhocks are not very tall, after planted from seed this spring. Being a biennial, they are not supposed to bloom until next year, but do they know that? I would expect the blossoms to be more hollyhock-like next year.

As usual, you can find other garden bloggers' August bloom days at the blog May Dreams Gardens.

Castor Plant (Ricinus communis)

Hollyhock (Malva sylvestris)


Cleome (Cleome hassleriana 'Sparkler White')

Rose (Rosa)

Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus 'Bright Lights')

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, mexican zinnia, petunia, red cosmos, nicotiana, calendula, phlox, cleome, salvia, rudbeckia
  • Harvested: 6 cucumbers, 6 tomatoes

04 August 2010

Impressive Spring Tryout

Each year I allow in a few new plants for a tryout, giving rookies a chance to make the team. They come from the plant swap, from local garden centers, from online nurseries, and from seed companies. If they impress the coach, they are invited back for future seasons.

One of the impressive rookies this year was the Ornamental Millet 'Jester' (Pennisetum glaucum). As with anything ordered online or through a catalog, the pictures and description looked incredible. But, we all know how a little Photoshop and a few writers from the J Peterman catalog can make a plant seem. The Jester height and color sounded exciting.

The millet seeds were started indoors in late spring with a good germination rate. They flopped over in the pots, causing concern about planting and hardening off. After planting outside, the chartreuse leaves resembled nothing in the catalog descriptions, but after a month, the burgundy colors began to come out in newer leaves.

The millet put out its 12-inch long (30 cm) seed heads this summer after reaching 6-feet (1.8 m) in one month. Each of the 7 plants has 2-4 stalks, nicely filling in its bed. It is growing in an area recently reclaimed from years of ivy, so the soil is still a bit on the clay side, and no disease or pest have bothered it. Now that the seed heads have formed, each plant is beginning to send out new shoots from the base.

Millet is a grass plant know for sustaining civilizations, like the other grasses corn, rice, and wheat. It is still an important agricultural food crop in many parts of the world. There are five classifications of millet: proso, foxtail, barnyard, browntop, and pearl. My ornamental is the pearl type, coming from Africa and India. Foxtail is the type grown for bird seed.

Several comments have run in the vein of, "do the birds love it?" No, the birds are unimpressed, whether because the seeds are not yet ready for eating, the plants remain undiscovered, or the birds are connoisseurs of seed and hybrids don't make the grade. Most gardeners are intrigued by my rookie millet for its color and height; a few of its relatives Jade Princess and Purple Majesty might be invited to a tryout next year to join the Jester.

For The Record:
  • Clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Average to light watering
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of organic fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, mexican zinnia, nicotiana, cleome, zinnia, canna, cosmos, rudbeckia, phlox
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 6 tomatoes, 6 cucumbers