25 June 2012

June 2012 Flowers In The House

You can stop in for breakfast on the deck
to catch the morning sun with our hydrangeas.
They are a few days old from the al fresco dinner
this past weekend, but with a little hydrangea
left in them.
Finish a lazy coffee - come inside and leave the dishes on the dining table next to the vase in the precarious corner position to get good light for the photo. It's got some extra items found around the yard this weekend - coconut lime and purple coneflowers, crazy daisies, and lavender.

Visit other gardeners Flowers In The House at Jane's Small But Charming and maybe show off what you have.

18 June 2012

St. John's Wort Treats Garden Gloom

As many know, St. Johns Wort (Hypericum calycinum) is used as an herbal remedy for mild depression. Around my garden, it treats the gloomy, sad area also know as the space beneath the photinia shrub - the dry, shady, clay, snail-infested territory. Snails are slow-paced fellows and have no need for anti-depressants.

I picked up my one St. John's Wort 'Brigadoon' at our neighborhood plant swap three years ago. Its chartreuse leaves were a cheery pick-me-up for the dark depressing spot where the photinas prevented any happiness from growing. It put out a few new shoots in year I while continuing to allow soil to wash into my lawn (excuse me - since I am a master gardener, the term is turf.) In year II, a few more shoots and one flower was all it could muster. I began to think the internet lied about an easy-growing perennial. Now year III sees it filling in nicely and maturing to the ground cover and erosion control it was born to be.

Besides its slow growth (good because I already have ample invasive plants to control), it is only about 6-inches high (15 cm). Yellow flowers are not very abundant. The leaves darken with age, but remain light enough to brighten up a shade.

Now the interesting facts. The name comes for is bloom time around June 24 when the birthday of St. John the Baptist is celebrated. It is believed to be native to Europe and Asia, and maybe western US, and has been classified as an invasive noxious weed in some countries, especially where cattle and livestock are raised. Ingestion by livestock can cause photosensitization, central nervous system distress, depression, spontaneous abortion, and can lead to death. How can you tell if a cow is depressed? All cows seem depressed to me. Maybe I am confusing depression with laid-back.

It was used by early Greeks for ailments including nervous disorders. Studies have proven it as effective as Prozac in the treatment of mild to moderate depression, but are inconclusive for severe depression. The major downer for taking St. John's Wort is its dangerous side effects from interactions with other medications and herbs.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments with small amount of fertilizer
  • Full light shade
  • No serious pests or disease
  • Slow growing

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: echinacea, daisy, lily, daylily, nicotiana, cleome, hydrangea, loostrife, hosta, astilbe, lavender
  • Harvested: radish, beans

05 June 2012

Full Figured Frances Williams

I did have a few moments last week to photograph and write about the Frances Williams hosta (Hosta sieboldiana), between a national convention, picnics, and happy hour in a whirlwind weekend. One of my only two plants from the 'famous Walmart collection' is now in its third year, and it continues to improve and impress. This year, Frances Williams is larger than life and reaching her full figured size. Look at those ginormous quilted 1-foot (30 cm) leaves! No slug can gnaw through that thick hide.

Frances Williams was an American hosta connoisseur and breeder. This was one of the first big leaf hostas, so it became very popular despite its shortcomings. What are they? First, like the best vampires, there is an intolerance to sunlight and summer heat. Second, it is slow to grow and mature with age. I read that the less green on a host leaf, the more sun tolerant it is.

He or she? Frances was a she. And she has 17 hostas to her credit, along with a notable impact on the American Hosta scene. This particular plant was given one name by Ms. Williams, but renamed in honor of her at a later date. Two different stories emerge about its origins. Did she breed this or find it in a batch of seedlings in the 1930s? Regardless, it was one of the most popular hostas for a very long time. Newer varieties improved on its deficiencies, but it is still around as an original.

My plant was purchased from Walmart and split into two after my infamous shopping trip there three years ago. I have been back a few times since, and have never seen anything like the selection available then.

Each year, the colorful leaves emerge bigger than the last. Flowers are on sturdy stalks, about 18-inches tall (45 cm). And each year, the plant develops crispy burnt leaves toward mid summer. In truth, it gets direct morning sun for about 3 hours. Its size has increased in direct proportion to the organic amendments I add to the clay between her toes.

Growing between the two gals is Gold Standard - a perfect companion. It has chartreuse leaves with green edges, as opposed to Frances with her green leaves with chartreuse edges. Goldie is lower growing with more-pointed leaves that gradually change over the growing season from chartreuse to gold yellow. Flowers are unimpressive, but we don't grow them for floral arrangements. I lucked out with another pair of plants with great complimenting colors. Tell them I planned it that way.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with lots of organic amendments
  • Mostly moist shade, a little direct morning sun
  • Small amount of organic fertilizer
  • Slugs and something else eating small holes in Goldie
  • Burnt leaf edges in summer due to heat and direct sun (I think)

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Echinacea, nicotiana, daylily, peony poppy, hosta, tradescantia
  • Harvested: Radishes