22 July 2010

Society Blooms Continued

The late spring walk through the American Horticultural Society was most intriguing at the meadow. It was wild and natural, yet at the same time tidy and cultured. I felt like walking inside an impressionist painting. The meadow was also an attraction for wildlife - fox dens were found, birdhouses had no vacancies, and butterflies used it as a stopover hub.

Native golden coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) were found blooming. What I thought to be another coreopsis was actually the Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), sparse but calling attention to itself with its vibrant red color among the green and with its unusual shape. The Coreopsis grandiflora, red version, also stood out.
Coreopsis grandiflora

Coreopsis tinctoria

Ratibida columnifera

Perfuming the air around the grounds were the old giant magnolia tree and the lilies. The lilies were not labeled.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, mexican zinnia, petunia, red cosmos, nicotiana,
    calendula, phlox, cleome, coneflower, salvia
  • Harvested: 3 cucumbers, 1 tomato (season's first)

17 July 2010

Horticultural Society

Last month, in the attempt to keep up the momentum of my local weekend stay-cations, I ventured down the road to the American Horticultural Society for the first time. It's one of those places in my backyard that I have never visited, although living here for 25 years. Located along the Potomac River, a few steps north of Mount Vernon, the AHS headquarters is housed in an old estate house on River Farm, one of George Washington's land holdings. The grounds are free for visitors to wander about through the gardens and meadow.

Several large centuries-old trees with wrinkled skin screen out the sun for the shade garden. They create a refuge from the southern heat and along with the house, lend a sense of quiet permanence to the property. Tourists were sparse on the day I visited.

Located among the hostas was a small structure, maybe a well cover, with a 'green' roof overflowing with plants. The same roof was found on a garden shed near the annuals garden. These appear to be nothing more than a 6-inch (20 cm) deep pan on top of a standard asphalt shingle roof - a container on the roof. I was intrigued by what type of maintenance these require, specifically the water needs. It is a shallow root zone on a hot roof after all. The photos seem to indicate the full-sun roof is not as lush as the shade roof. Maybe these roofs were tests, or maybe they were demonstrations.

More sustainable demonstrations were on display. Bamboo was used to support the top-heavy blooming oriental lilies. Notice the push mower in the shed? And the natural meadow, planted in 2008, has become the new "sustainable alternative to the traditional American lawn ... and a popular attraction for visitors." The next post will include plants in the spring gardens and meadow that I found interesting.

Interesting? Two months before, the meadow did not exist - it was purposely burned to the ground to maintain it. "Without some type of management–either mowing or burning–any meadow eventually reverts to woodland. Burning aids in controlling woody and herbaceous invasive species and can also invigorate older meadows by helping to recycle nutrients and reduce matted vegetation to allow better air circulation." If a meadow were to replace my front lawn, do I need to burn it every other year? :-)

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, mexican zinnia, petunia, red cosmos, nicotiana,
    calendula, phlox, cleome, coneflower, salvia
  • Harvested: 2 cucumbers, dill

14 July 2010

July 2010 Bloom Day

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

The perennials are in full swing, with some beginning to fade as the annuals take over. Oh, and the vegetable garden is beginning to produce.

I resisted the temptation to flood this post with photos of the same beauties that bloom every year and are already posted. Only a few new rookie notables are included this month like the millet - winning my affection as the best new plant of the year in my garden.

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

Cosmos 'Sonata Pink' (Cosmos bipinnatus )
Ornamental Millet 'Jester' (Pennisetum glaucum )

Mexican Zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia)

Zinnia 'Violet Queen' (Zinnia elegans )
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima )

Hosta 'Gold Standard'

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, mexican zinnia, petunia, red cosmos, nicotiana, calendula, phlox, cleome, coneflower, salvia
  • Harvested: 5 cucumbers

05 July 2010

Da Lime In De Coconut

In the past decade, a bunch of new unique echinacea varieties popped up every year. I searched the internet, but never found a definitive answer to the question, "Why now?" They are perennial, easy to grow requiring little care, look great, a North American native with few pests or disease, and attract butterflies and birds. Echinacea are suddenly cool.
"Among ornamentals, Echinacea purpurea has consistently been among the top 10 herbaceous perennials grown and sold in the United States in recent years. This species is native to prairies and open woods in the central and southern United States and is cold hardy to USDA Zone 3. The sturdy flowers have petals in pink to purple shades with a prominent, spiky center cone. Echinacea purpurea are tough, drought-tolerant plants that can thrive in a variety of habitats. They are deer-resistant."
They were used as medicine by native Americans for infection, colds, sore throat, and stomach ailments. Maybe new interest in natural and herbal cures has lead to a new interest in the coneflower, too, as it appears to have an immume-enhancing ability, particularly with throat, urinary, lymph, and certain skin afflictions.

For home gardeners, breeders have introduced new cultivars with different color, petals, and cone shape. According to a university evaluation, some of these were found to be lacking in flower production and longevity. The native appears to be more consistent and long-lived.

I was intrigued by many of these newbies, attracted by the color and shape of an easily grown, cut flower. I purchased two to plant last fall: Coconut Lime and Big Sky Sundown. I could not resist the white-green color combo of Coconut Lime, and its puff ball shape was really interesting. This spring, it started blooming earlier than expected, and was shorter than the native, being about 15-inches tall (40 cm), (or was that because of its first year?)

My Coconut Lime is very happy nestled between the cleome and expanding cannas. Flowers start out with a flat central area of tiny compact petals and flat orange cone. As the bloom matures, the central area continues to bloom and puff up into a small pom-pom sphere. It becomes more green in color while the orange gradually disappears. The flowers last for about 3-4 weeks like the native. Time will tell if they bloom throughout the season (as they appear to be doing now) or poop out in mid-summer.

They are a swallowtail butterfly and bumblebee magnet, and goldfinches love to feast on the seed heads in early morning, balancing on top of the stalks.

For The Record:
  • Medium well-drained soil
  • Full sun, average water
  • Organic fertilizer in the spring
  • No major pests or diseases

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, cosmos, phlox, mexican zinnia, nicotiana, rose,
    coneflowers, salvia, late daylily, cleome, hostas, calendula
  • Harvested 3 cucumbers