28 May 2011

Pipsqueak Rose

My only rose bush is tiny. On New Year's Day, I host an annual open house for neighbors, who usually bring contributions of wine or food. Two years ago, my next door neighbors brought me a miniature rose bush in a small pot. Its name on the tag was "Miniature Rose Bush." Well, they were not gardeners, you can tell.

It grew through winter in its cozy pot at the base of my east-facing french doors. Actually, it did not grow, but it did not die. Having survived the winter, it was placed at the side yard, along stepped platforms [3.09.2009] leading to my new deck. This area was being landscaped, and I needed something to keep the cactus [24.06.2009] company and reduce the runoff down the slope.

Two years and two winters later, it prospers in its sunny dry spot. Last year, it bloomed profusely at times during the summer, interrupted by periods of rest. Flowers are vivid red and fade to a light red-pink after about a week. They have little fragrance, and no real stems for cutting.

I trimmed it back last fall like a good gardener, and this spring it responded by growing into a bushy ball about one foot (30 cm) high. And, it now sports multi-blooms on a single branch. It fits in adjacent to the walking surface where it gets noticed.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • Little disease, but a few aphid outbreaks

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: hydrangea, nicotiana, larkspur, bachelor buttons, coneflower,
    rose, hollyhock, phlox, salvia, geranium

21 May 2011

A Change Of Heart

After moving into my house around twenty years ago, it was obvious that past owners had been gardeners. Although it was a used rental when I got my hands on it, there were several plant specimens of note around the grounds from better times of previous owner-occupants. Daffodils, azaleas, iris, roses, and holly were found hidden among the overgrown jungle.

But, each plant had some inferior quality to it. The bearded iris (iris germanica) was a small flower, with light lavender falls and bland colored upper petals. It was a shorty at only 2-feet tall (60 cm.) I did not find its likeness in any iris catalog. I ripped it out, along with many of the other substandard "heirlooms." (The red azaleas and the daffodils were kept.) But, I did not get all of the plants, and some gradually came back. I let them grow.

I appreciate my inferior no-name iris more these days. I see them as "subtle." Either my taste and attitude evolved and matured, or the irises evolved over the years. I do not remember them as this attractive.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with no organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • No pest or diseases

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nicotiana, bachelor buttons, alyssum, rose, hollyhock, spiderwort

13 May 2011

Ain't No Rhodie Kill

After purchasing my house, the hybrid rhododendron Roseum elegans was one of the first plants bought for the yard when my gardening journey began, back in 1988. An older hybrid from the 1830's, it was also one of the few 'first plants' that survived my horticultural learning curve.

There were actually two planted in the corners of the rear yard, back when a diseased apple tree and a neighbor's overgrown crabapple trees blotted out the sun. Over the years, my dogwood and muscular star magnolia grew to provide the shade that disappeared when the apple trees were cut down. Both rhodies grew in the deep recesses of the back, but one died out about a decade ago from some mysterious die-back disease.

Growth slowed over the years, but the sole survivor bloomed each spring, with some years more exuberant than others. Summers revealed occasional winter die-off or diseased sections that needed amputation, yellowing leaf and drop, chomping bugs, vitamin deficiencies, or 'white fuzzy bugs.' But the plant always pulled through.

Then in winter of 2010, our town was hit with two record 24-inch snowfalls close together [2010.02.19]. The spring thaw revealed that the grand old lady had been flattened. My recent master gardener classes taught us to let the plants be and allow them to bounce back on their own. Remarkably, most branches did that, but some required pruning off.

This year the plant is taller than ever at about 6-feet (1.8 m), albeit with a bit of a scraggly appearance from the previous winter damage and pruning. And the 6-inch (15 cm) lavender blossom balls are numerous.

As evidenced by the photo, birds love hanging out in the dogwood tree above and providing fertilizer. This spring, I will need to rescue the rhodie from the invading azalea hordes nipping its base, and maybe prune to restore its shape. The survivor deserves better care after being in the dark forgotten corner of the 'back woods' for so long.

For The Record:
  • Moist soil with acid and organic amendments over time
  • Light to heavy shade
  • All sorts of diseases but they never kill it off

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: dutch iris, iris, salvia, hollyhock, rhododendron, alyssum, geranium, macrorrhizum geranium
  • Transplanted outdoors: peppers, tomatoes

03 May 2011

A Clearance on Clarence

With four varieties of iris in the yard, why would anyone want a fifth? Because none of the four are a true bearded iris (iris germanica) with a true blue iris color - (my Dutch iris is blue, but it is Dutch.) I selected Clarence, a blue one from the gazillion varieties at Shreiners based on photos and descriptions. "Highly recognized for its dependable rebloom, this light blue bitone has quickly risen to prominence."

I never ordered Clarence, although I did search for it when I ran across iris plants for sale at local stores. Then in late spring of 2009, I was at Walmart, the discriminating gardener's source for high end plant material. (I was frantically searching every store for vegetable plants still left on the shelves for garden procrastinators). While browsing the offerings the store carried, I spotted Clarence iris on the clearance rack for around $3. But, there were only leaves - no blooms to verify that the label was correct. I succumbed to the sale price; I took a chance.

Expectations were high in spring of last year after coddling my prize during the previous summer. But alas, there were no flowers. What went wrong? Was this really Clarence or a Walmart dud? After another summer of cosseting, Clarence is finally blooming this spring.

The flowers are huge and well proportioned, at 5-6 inches wide and high (15 cm). Light colored standards ease into a creamy yellow beard, and cream colors ease into the blue falls. And the 3 foot high (1 m) stalks stand up. For comparison, my Invitation Iris [15.5.2009] needs crutches now, even through it is not yet blooming.

I finally got a proud blue iris.

For The Record:
  • Clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • No serious pests

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: azaleas, Clarence iris, ajuga, salvia, allium, macrorrhizum geranium, muscari