28 July 2014

Leisurely Blue

Balloon bud in the lower left
A friend offered a share of a balloon flower plant from her front garden. The balloon flower did not excite me much, but I needed filler material for the recently-created, clay-packed side yard garden along new platform steps to the back yard and deck.

Five years have passed, and the plant is finally beginning to spread a little. This year it sent up a short, second stalk. And, the flowers are more numerous, forming small clusters. The rude rudbeckia and brute baptisia have invaded the side yard garden, and are elbowing out the balloon flower and a few others that make this garden home.

Platycodon gradiflorus is a perennial, native to eastern Asia and Japan, and generally grows in climate zones 3-8 in the U.S. Flower buds resemble balloons, or paper lanterns if you are in Japan. It likes full sun and tolerates partial shade, where you will find mine. Cultivars are available in white and pink, and in dwarf sizes.

Context
Several sources state that because of its root system, it does not take kindly to being moved. If it is transplanted, it takes a year or two to recover. This is probably why my plant begin its first few years in its new home with only a few blossoms no larger than a quarter.

It is most likely stepped on when doing spring gardening chores, since it leisurely emerges after winter and is located in a perfect spot for a foot to balance on. I would like to move it, but after learning about the transplanting issues, may try to improve it in situ. I like it, but I need several more to form a clump to give it some presence among its neighbors.

The blue flowers are over 2 inches inches across (5 cm) and plants can grow up to 3-feet in height (1m). This five-year old is (maybe) 24-inches (60 cm). My friend's plant tends to take a bow, but in my garden it stays upright, probably depending on the surround rudbeckia and iris to maintain its posture.

Other facts surprised me. It supposed to rebloom if deadheaded, so I need to give this a try. Taller plants should be staked, and cutting stems back in May could help keep the plant shorter and therefore upright. They make good cut flowers, but with only one lonely stalk here, cutting would eliminate the plant in the garden! They are not invasive -- did you hear that rudbeckia?

For The Record:
  • Average clay soil on a sloping site
  • Partial sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • Very slow growth / spreading
  • No serious pests/disease


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, mexican zinnia, zinnia, rudbeckia, bellacamda, cleome, rose campion, sunflower, coneflower, phlox
  • Harvested: 14 tomatoes, 15 peppers, 16 onions

18 July 2014

Daylilies And Shakespeare

Annuals in the shade
It's been about three years since I visited the Cutler Botanical Garden back in my hometown, Binghamton NY. My first visit saw a vegetable garden and a generous balance of perennials, annuals, and a few specimen trees. The second time, however, was different. Flood waters of the Chenango River had just receded, and any plants not washed away were encrusted with mud. It has recovered since then.

Most botanical gardens, I believe, have a specialty or focus that distinguishes them from others and gives them a unique personality. I found something on my recent visit to Cutler that I did not see in previous visits: daylilies and Shakespeare. The picture quality is courtesy of my iPad2's crappy camera and a harsh, direct sun kinda day.

My favorite millet / Get those herbs out of the shade!
The garden is small and set on 3.5 acres (1.5 hectare.) It consists of a few meandering trails through a mostly turf-covered area, with a vegetable garden, herb garden, perennial, and annual beds laid out around the paths. A rose garden with path leads to a central gazebo, framed throughout with lots of annuals. LOTS and lots of annuals. I prefer perennials, but luscious, unique annuals pique my interest, too.



The vegetable and herb gardens were typical. The herb garden, surprisingly, was mostly in light shade. In fact, annual beds planted with sun-lovers were also in shade. The herb garden was part of the 'Shakespeare Trail.' The trail has about two dozen plants, identified by sign, that are cited in the writer's works. The plant and associated passages were listed in a brochure.

Here did she fall a tear; here in this place,
I'll set a bank of rue, our herb of grace"

--King Richard

I was also very fond of the Daylilies collection. My estimate is that about 60 daylily varieties were on display in their own area. A few varieties were shouting out to me, reminding me that I still wanted a red daylily for my own patch. The blooms with the green throats were really enticing.

These unnamed beauties caught my camera lens.


And my favorite unknown ... if anyone has a clue ...

The next day required a trip to Apalachin to help pick out plants for family and browse the W & W Nursery. The entrance was graced by a few dead tree trunks carved into sculpture. I picked up Cherokee Star daylily. No green throats, (well, maybe a little) but quite vibrant on muscular stems. And, it was a discounted price due to the 'Daylily Days' sale.

On the way out of the gate, a wagon cart o' plants beckoned with "Find Me A Home - $3 each." Who could resist a cart full of orphans, and why didn't I see this on the way in? Probably because I was too excited with anticipation at entering the nursery.

Through the dried-out pots I found a hydrangea arborescens "Invincibelle Spirit" still clinging to life. I had just spied a large, fragrant, healthy $60 specimen blooming in the nursery. I scarfed up the orphan and giddily deposited $3 in the 'honor system' coffee jug on the wagon's edge. Today, the 1-foot tall (30 cm) hydrangea is beginning a new life and starting to bloom with tiny clusters, as if to say, "thank you for my new home."
My new Cherokee Star

05 July 2014

Fibonocci Coneflowers

Fibanocci patterns are found in the seeds of a sunflower head, and in the head of a coneflower. My sunflowers are not yet blooming, so come on and admire the coneflowers.

OK, it's time for your math class. Leonardo Pisano Fibonocci was an 11th century mathematician who brought the Arabic numbers we use today to the merchant world to replace the cumbersome Roman numerals. He also pondered (mathematically speaking) the successive reproductive growth of rabbit populations. (Only a mathematician...) He applied an old Indian Hindu numbering sequence to develop a formula calculating the count over time. The Hindu sequence is what we (our Western-centric society) now call the Fibonocci sequence. The sequence adds the previous two numbers in a series to arrive at the next one: 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34...

But nature had already discovered this and was using it in all sorts of ways. The mathematical logarithmic spiral of a nautilus shell, the branching of certain trees, and the spiral seed arrangements of sunflowers and coneflowers all use this sequence or a formulation of it.

According to Innovation Factory, the image is a "Yellow Chamomile head showing the arrangement in 21 (blue) and 13 (aqua) spirals. Such arrangements involving consecutive Fibonacci numbers appear in a wide variety of plants. Plants produce their leaves and seeds from a growth tip that spirals around the plant or center of the seed head as it goes -- the most efficient way to pack seeds into the seed head... You get the closely packed Fibonacci spirals of seeds, with the number of clockwise and anticlockwise spirals at any point on the seed head a pair of successive Fibonacci numbers." Sure enough, my coneflower has 13 spirals in one direction, and 21 in the other.


Writing of coneflowers (Echinacea), I offer some observations on the three types in my garden: native Echinacea purpurea, Sundown of the Big Sky series, and Coconut Lime. The original echinacea purpurea are the most drough-tolerant, but the flower petals can droop, leaving a large prominent seed head. Bumblebees love them, and so do the goldfinches who perch on top and chow down. They are taller than the others with the largest flowers and largest seed cones -- making it easy for the finches to fly in for a snack.

The flowers can vary in their color intensity for no apparent reason -- some being a dark purple-pink, while others are light pink. They do have a distinct fragrance. Speaking of rabbits multiplying, they also easily seed themselves in my habitat.


Sundown, part of the Big Sky series, is what happens when breeders get involved. This coneflower puts out a riot of blooms early, then dies out before summer ends. The blooms start out with an beautiful orange color then fade in a few days into an dirty washed-out salmon. Deadheading does not seem to help the plant continue into the summer, as foliage turns a dark bronze like it has given up making chlorophyll. The plant goes ugly on me and slowly melts away until next year. The internet is full of stories of disappointments on this one.


Coconut Lime, another plant breeder introduction, looks different than the others. The blooms start out with petals and centers looking like the native, but the centers begin to increase into larger pompoms. The blooms last a long time, but bees never touch them. I suspect the thick pompoms prevent them from getting to the pollen, or the pollen is not to their liking. Height is much shorter than the other two coneflowers at about 16-inches (40 cm.)

For The Record:
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer on the Sundown
  • Some early season pests eat bloom petals & leaves

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: coneflowers, liatris, rudbeckia, daisy, monarda,
     echinops, phlox, daylilies, bachelor button, zinnia, hydrangea
  • Harvested: 20 onions, green beans