26 May 2013

The Bedbug Plant

Coreopsis never appealed to me in photos and descriptions that catalogs produced. I saw a bland plant, not stunning or capable of being a signature centerpiece or attractive border or backdrop. That changed a few years ago with the Autumn Blush coreopsis I bought and with one from our neighborhood plant swap.

Coreopsis seemed to be popping up everywhere in the 1990's as the latest fad; one to fulfill the persistent low-maintenance, drought-tolerant quest. I soon saw many new coreopsis on the market, and some appealed to me. I gave Autumn Blush a tryout [posted 2010.06.08]. Although taking its sweet old time to emerge every spring, it is attractive and reliably blooms all season. In that same year, a neighbor gave away this coreopsis at our plant swap. She purchased it (Coreopsis auriculata 'Nana') but found its cultural requirements were not what she expected, and gave it up. Lucky me.

It has spread and bloomed every year, even surviving a major relocation. No pests or diseases bother it. Well, maybe there's a little mildew in late autumn. What seems to set Nana apart is its thick carpet of dense green leaves and the way it holds its blooms. The glowing 1-inch (3 cm) orange blossoms are held above the dark foliage on very thin stems. This makes the blossoms appear to float above the leaf clump hugging the ground.

The orange flowers burst out in spring, tapering off through the summer. Maybe some deadheading would help that.

Coreopsis is also called tickseed. The name coreopsis derives from Greek meaning 'bedbug' - because the seed on spent flowers look like bedbugs? I don't think so on this plant - I am not letting dead blossoms linger this year so there are no photos of them.

For some reason, last year it threw up a healthy litter of leaves, but few flowers. I thought this might be due to overcrowding, and gave it a buzz cut last fall. That did the trick. Even though the 16 inch diameter (40 cm) clump still looks very thick, there are more blooms this year. Sometimes we need a little tough love.

For The Record:
  • Clay soil improving with organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease
  • Easily spreads

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Bearded iris, coreopsis, salvia, tradescantia,
    california poppy, rose

11 May 2013

Iris Has Been Around The Block

This bearded iris (Iris germanica) gets around. Not like it's been sleeping with another, but it has had lots of offspring. It was a quick pickup up a few years ago at our neighborhood bar, or maybe it was a spring plant swap. Someone from the adjacent neighborhood brought it and has not attended since. Planted in the spring, it did bloom the following year.

I occasionally drive through that neighborhood and see two houses where this iris is flourishing in the front yard. I would guess one of those owners gave another some divisions in the past.

Being it is a very good hardy grower, I divided this one twice since, and gave away a few pieces to friends that live in that adjacent neighborhood - at another plant swap - so now it's found in three yards there. Last fall after my last division, I gave some to a neighbor on my street and see it blooming there now. Last week on my way to work, I spotted the same iris growing on another street in my neighborhood, along with some yellow iris. This is becoming an invasion.

Last spring, all bearded iris in the yard bloomed sparingly, and by end of spring, were beginning to die out. Iris borers were the culprits - larvae of an egg-laying moth - that tunneled through the root system, leaving them susceptible to rot. A few doses of nasties this spring at the right time kept them safe. One, my favorite, Clarence [2011.05.06], is going to bloom again, but the plants are small and hope is that they will grow back strong for next year.

I have come to love the color combination on this, even though I don't normally care for severely two tone bearded iris. The deep royal purple and light lavender top give me an urge to reach for a grape Nehi every time it blooms. Not knowing its name, it's the Grape Nehi iris to me. Apparently, there IS a Grape Iris out there, but not as grapey as this one.

I will be ready to give some more away next fall. Grape Nehis all around.

05 May 2013

A Patriotic Spring

It's been almost a month since the last post - there is little happening in the garden at this time of year. And, Google dumped me into Google Plus requiring information that screwed up my blog, Blogger profile, settings, and name that I cannot correct. (Was that Wordpress option still open?) This mess also prevented me from commenting on other blogs, (unless authored with my 'new' Google Plus account.)

The back yard looks like the 4th of July - red, white and blue. The white 'snow' azaleas were planted under the magnolia and dogwood when both trees and shrubs were small. I tried moving one two years ago and killed it. The azalea roots are too entangled with the trees.

The red (shocking acid pink) azalea is loud and was here when I bought the house over 20 years ago. Although very popular around town, I would never buy a plant of this color. It looks like my yard is on an LSD trip. Keep it from getting too big and put a white azalea next to it to calm your brain down.

The blue ajuga reptans has never looked so good or thick. It really loves its part shade and dry clay home. A few sprigs were picked up at our neighborhood plant swap two years ago and now, wow.

That barren viburnum is another story for later.

Enjoy the cool colors while the season progresses and while I learn how to restore myself on Google.