An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

June 15, 2014

Bloom Day - Feeling Blessed

     The weather gods have been smiling on us as of late. We have had abundant rainfall interspersed with beautiful crystal clear days. It has been especially nice on the weekends, and I have been torn between gardening and adventures. Adventures have usually won out, so it was good that today was Bloom Day, it got me into the garden to see what was what. You can hover over the pictures for the plant names.

Musa basjoo, Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey'. and an Unknown Hosta

Rudbeckia maxima

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' and Verbascum 'Banana Custard' and Rubus cockburianus 'Aurea'

Verbascum 'Banana Custard' and Foeniculum vulgare 'Rubrum'

Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate'

Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum

Asclepias currasavica

Cestrum aurantiaum 'Orange Zest'

Cuphea ignea 'David Verity' with Rubus cockburianus 'Aurea'

Echinacea purpurea

Gardenia jasminoides 'August Beauty' with Sabal minor

Hemerocallis 'Web of Intrigue'

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Frau Kinue'  with Jasminum officinale 'Aureum'

Hydrangea macrophylla serrata 'Bluebird'

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Sun Goddess'

Macleaya cordata

Lilium 'African Queen'

     Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is held on the 15th of each month, even on Father's Day. Carol at May Dreams Gardens is our gracious host, and you should pay her a visit.

June 14, 2014

Lessons Learned from Lupines

     I first fell in love with lupines on a trip to Maine, where the plants seemed to be growing without effort. I think what attracts me is their stature, and the upright drama they add to the garden. For the same reasons I am similarly attracted to other tall flowers, such as Digitalis, hollyhocks, and Verbasum. But for me there is something else about lupines that I can't quite put my finger on, perhaps it has something to do with symmetry and uniformity. When I first began gardening I couldn't find any lupines for sale in local nurseries, and more than one nursery person told me this perennial wouldn't grow here, that it was just too hot. A little research confirmed my disappointment, and I begrudgingly resolved to admire them from afar. Years later, I saw them again, only this time coming up through cracks in the pavement during a trip to Grand Lake, Colorado, and I just haven't been able to let go.

     In the fall of 2012, some co-workers and I attended a lecture by Lisa Ziegler, a nearby wholesale cut flower grower. The gist of her talk was how she sows seeds for cool climate flowers in the fall to harvest fresh cut flowers in the spring. Her lecture inspired us to try some of the annuals that love that cool shoulder-season between late winter and early summer. Among other things we decided to try lupines as annuals, rather than perennials. Though I was dubious, I found an inexpensive source for Lupinus polyphyllus seeds and gave them to the propagator at work. They were sown in early autumn of last year, quickly made size, and were planted-out in late October/early November, about the same time as the pansies were planted. Being hardy to at least zone 4, I knew they would survive our winter, and indeed, their foliage remained pristine and attractive, even through one of the worst winters in many years. Perhaps that cold weather was what they liked, because by early May it was apparent we were in for a spectacular show.

Lupinus 'Band of Nobles' (6)

Lupinus 'The Chatelaine' (3)

Lupinus 'The Chatelaine' (7)

Lupinus 'Band of Nobles' (3)

Lupinus 'The Chatelaine' (13)

Lupinus 'The Chatelaine' with Digitalis 'Foxy Hybrids'

Lupinus 'Band of Nobles' (5)

Lupinus 'The Chatelaine' (10)

So this is what I learned, but not necessarily about lupines:
  • While it is good to listen to the voice of experience, there is more than one voice.
  • Don't be afraid to try something new, especially if it can be defined or framed in a new way (from perennial to annual), or if your investment is small ($2.49 for a pack of seeds).
  • Look close to home. There are over 80 Lupinus species, and from one of the native plant experts at work, I was surprised to learn that L. perennis is native here in southeastern Virginia, and is tolerant of our hot and humid summers.
  • Be careful what you wish for, as what you covet may be someone else's bane. Ask gardeners in New Zealand or Scandinavia what they think of L. polyphyllus.

June 7, 2014

Yorktown Onion

     This past Sunday on the way back from kayaking, I impulsively took the Colonial Parkway home. Nearing Yorktown I quickly pulled to the side of the road when I recognized blooming fields of Yorktown onions (Allium ampeloprasum). This Eurasian native (known to the rest of the world as wild leek) made its way to England eons ago and then made its way to Yorktown during the Colonial era. It naturalized locally and is now revered by people who live in the area. It has even been given protected status by county ordinance.

Allium ampeloprasum (11)

Allium ampeloprasum (1)

Allium ampeloprasum (2)

Allium ampeloprasum (3)

Allium ampeloprasum (10)

Allium ampeloprasum (8)

      Local gardeners who want to grow Yorktown onion usually get them from friends or family as a passalong plant. The only other source I know of is Brent and Becky's Bulbs, but if you live in Idaho the import of all allium species is forbidden.

(My usual disclaimer is in place, in that I have not received any compensation for the mention of anything in this post, including a bag of Muscari neglectum or Lilium henryi which would not be refused if they should happen to appear in my mailbox.)