26 March 2011

Overwintered and Underwhelmed

As stated previously, a few annual plants are overwintered on a window sill and given a new life in spring. This is the second winter I tried this, and hoped to improve on last year by using larger pots and taking more cuttings. So far, the results are mixed. I am not convinced the additional effort was worth the results.

Coleus Dark Chocolate (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
In winter 2009, one cutting was made. It rooted in water and was planted in a small cup. In spring, after almost no growth over winter, it was planted outdoors. It grew last summer, but never reached the original size it was when purchased. Last fall a few more cuttings were taken. All but one died off. The survivor was potted and a second cutting was taken from it last month. The plants are no different than last year's at this stage, although there are two.

Coleus Kong Red (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
My other coleus had similar results during its first winter. Although both cuttings survived, they stayed small during winter and did not grow much during the summer. This winter, three cuttings were taken and potted. A fourth was started from one of these midway through winter. All are doing well. Plants in the larger pots are larger than last year's overwinters, so the pots made a difference here.

Pesian Sheld (Strobilanthes dyerianus)
Two years ago, two cuttings rooted and survived the winter in their small pots. When planted outdoors, they grew well into respectable plants. This year, five cuttings were taken. Two were placed in larger pots than the others, but all appear to be the same size at the moment. Apparently, size (of the pot) doesn't matter.

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
This plant was picked up at the end of summer sale at a local nursery, and has stayed in its pot during winter. It has prospered indoors, doubling its size and looking forward to a season of outdoor growing.

02 March 2011

Sorry Cocoa Say What?

The white forsythia [10.3.2009] and crocus are usually the first in the garden to awake in spring, announcing the beginning of a new growing season. This year there is a new addition to the early show. The Sweetbox (sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis) began blooming recently, beating the white forsythia by about a week.

While beginning my garden journey many years ago, I began scouring garden catalogs to learn as much as possible about the multitude of nursery plants available for Virginia. Many were new and strange to me after moving south 2 zones from New York. This one with the weird name sounded interesting - evergreen, shade, early, and fragrant.

Two years ago, I purchased two sarcococca (not sure of the plural) from Lower Marlboro Nursery and planted. Now in its third year, the plant began producing fragrant flowers last week, and finally began showing signs that it is ready to begin spreading.

Lower Marlboro Nursery, 60 miles away (95 km) in Maryland is another story itself. The nursery was essentially one person (Mary) who's mission was to promote and provide native species for the small gardening community who could not find them elsewhere. She propagated, grew, and sold them from her front 'yard' forest. I was a yearly customer. Last year, she decided to call it quits, since the supply and variety of natives is now more bountiful from mainstream garden suppliers - mission accomplished. (Sarcococca is not native here, but she sold it.)

This particular sarcococca is native to the Himalayas, and spreads slowly so I guess it is not at home in my 'invasives' garden. Dark, glossy evergreen leaves are only bothered by an occasional yellowing at the tips and are not harmed by any pests. The tiny flowers go almost unnoticed- resembling shards of hanging fingernails. When they came out last week, I am sure the squirrels and cardinals were amused - me on my hands and knees attempting a sniff. But yesterday, the blossoms became fragrant. They resemble lilacs to my nose. I left plenty of space to spread into a ground cover and continue to patiently wait.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with occasional organic amendments
  • Full shade, average water
  • No pests
  • No fertilizer