For Bloom Day, What’s New and Good in the Garden

by Susan Harris on June 15, 2010

Gardenbloggers are recording what’s blooming this month but it’s June, so what’s NOT blooming? (I exaggerate, but you know what I mean.) A quick walk through my garden reveals blooms on:oakleaf and lacecap hydrangeas, daylilies, hardy geraniums, coreopsis, evening primrose, roses, astilbe, rose campion, coneflowers, and others I’ve probably missed. All lovely, but what I’m admiring most are the blooms that are new to me.

Above left is something I rarely see on variegated hydrangeas – blooms.  Guess I finally gave it the right spot.  On the right is a brand-new acquisition, a Gaura with the unceremonial name of Dark Pink (as far as I can tell).  I bought three and want at least six more.  I’ll soon be visiting its grower, though, and who knows but  Sandy’s Plants may have some extras to get off their hands.   I also bought some Agastache ‘Tutti Fruitti, but I’ll link to that coz mine aren’t photographing well yet.

Help Needed with ID of Creeping Sedum

Above left is new favorite of the groundcovers that replaced my front lawn (mostly thymes, creeping Jenny and Potentilla).  It’s ‘Dragon’s Blood’ sedum and in its second year it’s filling out nicely and blooming like crazy.   On the right is what I thought was S. ternatum but now that I’ve seen other plants labeled as that, I’m doubting that that’s what this is.  (Anybody know?)  Its flower – a gold puffball on a pike – was a total surprise.  I want more of both of these sedums, so some of the thymes will have to go.  Sorry, but compared to these guys, most of my thymes are pretty boring.

Still Fabulous

Now for old time’s sake, here’s my best border in June.   Starting at the top you see hardy kiwi vine, cherry laurel hedge, two lacecap hydrangeas, an ‘Anthony Waterer spirea’, and then a skirt of astilbes and a creeping sedum, which I now believe is S. linare “Golden Teardrop.”

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Am I Misidentifying this Creeping Sedum?

by Susan Harris on June 6, 2010

For years now I’ve been identifying my primary lawn-replacement plant as Sedum acre – on good authority, though I’ve long go forgotten which one.   Now I’m not so sure about the authority and definitely in doubt about this plant name since I perused Margaret Roach’s web page about sedums and discovered a photo of what I surely have, with a totally different name – Sedum linare ‘Golden Teardrop’.   (It’s the 12th in her slide show.)  See, not just the wrong variety but a wholly different species.

Then some Googling around reveals these OTHER folks who seem to agree with Margaret:

But I’m not giving up yet.   I Googled Sedum acre and found:

  • The USDA (good one!)  And they have no listing at all for this so-called S. linare.
  • Jeepers Creepers sells a S. acre ‘Aureum’ but it doesn’t really look like what I grow.
  • Ditto White Flower Farm.
  • Wikipedia has an entry for S. acre but the photo’s so bad, I can’t tell.
  • A whole different bunch on  Dave’s Garden seem to be calling what I grow S. acre.
  • A Polish (I’m assuming) photographer shows off a S. acre ‘Aureum’ that’s definitely what I grow.
  • Bluestone Perennials sells something they call S. acre and it could be the one.
  • And I’ll admit that Google is notorious for combining photos with the wrong names but here’s what they show for S. acre “Aureum” – it’s all over the place.

Now I’m more confused than ever.   To get to the bottom of this conundrum I’m emailing this post to Sandy at Sandy’s Plants and to that well-known troublemaker, Margaret Roach.

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Shrubs to Prune Now, and How

by Susan Harris on May 27, 2010

Azaleas at Ladew Gardens

More online coaching going on, this time about all the renewal pruning everybody should be doing on their shrubs.  I’m talking cherry laurels, azaleas, spireas, forsythia, viburnum, weigela, and lots more.   Renewal pruning may be counter-intuitive, but it really works to improve the look and health of shrubs, and is fun to do.

Pruning is hard of tricky to teach, I’ll admit, but man, it’s so easy to put “prune camelia” or whatever plant into Google and get the answers.   And then to check Youtube for demonstrations of pruning techniques.   And me, I still consult Lee Reich and Peter McHoy in print.

My job (self-appointed) is to keep talking it up – pruning, that is.   I’ve declared it the most important totally neglected gardening task in American yards today!  It makes shrubs so much happier, and gives homeowners all kinds of confidence in the garden.  I’ve actually been told people it’s empowering.

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Best Shrubs, Best Shade-Lighteners Revealed

by Susan Harris on May 21, 2010

A whole lotta garden-coaching is going on over on the garden-center blog I write for.

First up, I show off my favorite and most-recommended shrubs for turning a yard into a garden with big, showy ones, most of them fast-growing.  Cheap, too.  Like the Weigela above – ‘White Knight’ on the left, common pink on the right.

I’ve also compiled my favorite perennials and shrubs that brighten even the darkest of shady spots. Like the Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’ above left or the Bottlebrush Buckeye on the right.  Recommended perennials include Euphorbia amygdaloides, Solomon’s Seal, Hardy Begonia and Hakonechloa grass.

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Blooming in May

by Susan Harris on May 15, 2010

Happy Gardenblogger Bloom Day, and this time I’m going to play by the rules by showing you what’s actually blooming today in my actual garden.  Here we go.

Salvia ‘May Night’ (above left)  is super-common – because it does so well here.  On the right, the spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) may be considered an obnoxious weed by some, but with the right care it’s a winner.  The key to making this native plant garden-worthy is to whack back its foliage after the first bloom, when the foliage looks like crap.  Then new leaves appears and the gardener is happy once again.

Speaking of weeds, here are two more of my favorite garden plants that some consider a weed.  First, creeping Sedum acre is at its bright-yellow best.  It arrived here as a weed and does so well, I chose it as one of my top two lawn-replacement plants.  The Evening primrose blooming in pink is another volunteer.  It does seed freely and because I wanted it, that’s a good thing.  Free plants and plenty of ‘em!  Also shown here in the photo above are some lambs’ ears and the lovely ‘Ogon’ spirea in chartreuse.

Above in my adopted garden (next door) is a short-lived but stunning pairing of Siberian iris with peonies.

Above are two of the lawn-substitute groundcovers in my front yard at their bloomingest.  On the left is creeping cinquefoil and on the right, a Thyme – not sure which.  (Sorry – I moved them too many times to keep track.)

Also in the front yard, anchoring a corner quite nicely, is the Spirea nipponica ‘Snowmound’.  It blooms after the more common bridal wreath-type spirea and in a more angular, less fountainesque shape.  Both are do-ers and as close to no-maintenance as plants can be.

My Floral Carpet and Knockout roses are all blooming and they’ll keep it up til Thanksgiving or so.

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Take a gander at some super-common English Roseums on the shady side of my front garden.   Just posting this photo, I notice how much better they show off against the new fence than they ever did against the ivy-covered chainlink.  Big improvement!   (Though I DO hear from neighbors who “miss the ivy”.  I bet they wouldn’t miss the constant cutting back required to keep it off the beds and the sidewalk.)

But about rhododendrons, they sure don’t do well around here – except when they seem to flourish, and I may never understand why.   But even when they stay alive, my shrubs look great one year and then lose half their scrawny stems over the winter, and I start all over trying to nurse them back to a nice shape.   And this particular rhodie is often recommended as the most likely to succeed in this region.

On a positive note, the temporary nature of their perfection makes them all the more awesome today.

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My favorite native plants for the garden

by Susan Harris on April 27, 2010

With so many people interested in adding native plants to their garden, I thought it was time to weigh in with a list of my favorites. That’s based on their actual performance in my garden, y’all.

I’ll fess up that this ‘Little Henry’ Virginia sweetspire isn’t mine, though.  My full-size Itea is doing well and since seeing its little brother here in someone else’s garden, I ran out and bought 5 of them.  Now it’s “Grow, Henry, grow!”

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File this under Reasons to Blog for your Favorite Garden  Center – freebies.   Because the blogger needs to “trial” plants and report the findings, ya know.  (Anything for science!)

The fun started when I proposed to Homestead annuals manager Kerry Kelley hat I grow, photograph and report on some cool annuals for pots, and damn if she didn’t start hauling flats straight from the greenhouses to arrange FOR me, then loaded it all into my plant-hauling vehicle.  Home and potted up, they’re ready for their close-ups – with updates coming every month throughout the season.

“Experiments” pictured here include, on the left, as a focal point in a sunny border: Canna ‘Emerald Sunset’, Lantana ‘Pot of Gold’,  Angelonia ‘Serena Purple,’ and some deep purple sweet potato vine.  And on the right is one of four pots on my front porch, which is sunny all afternoon.  This one holds one ornamental millet, two ‘Vancouver Centennial’ geraniums, and a “Trixi”, whatever that is.

Honestly, as a shrub+perennials type of gardener, annuals are almost intimidating – who’s ever heard of these things?  And why don’t they have common names I might actually remember?  Though “ornamental millet” is easy enough to remember and makes me wonder why I’ve never seen one before – it’s so gorgeous and dramatic right out of the greenhouse.

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Happy Easter or Spring (whatever applies)

by Susan Harris on April 4, 2010

Or I guess if you’re Down Under, Happy Autumn.  No matter.  It’s just an excuse to post some some scenes captured yesterday on my street.

Girl in a Redbud

Hmm, I don’t seem to remember her name – my bad.  But I’m on it!

Pretty house with forsythia in bloom

Tulip poplar petals

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Research Update for Gardeners, April 2010

by Susan Harris on April 2, 2010

by Author and Professor of Horticulture Jeff Gillman (His quarterly updates are archived right here.)

If you’ve ever wondered where new plants that come out of university or USDA breeding programs are first mentioned, then you should read the journal HortScience. There is a special section in that journal which concentrates on new cultivar and germplasm releases. Here researchers publish the first official reports on new plants that are being released, including information about the plant and where the plant can be obtained. Most of these plants will never really “make it” with consumers and so will die a slow death, but some will. For your enjoyment, here are the new cultivars listed in the February issue of HortScience.

  • ‘Replantpac’ which is a plum-almond hybrid that serves as a rootstock for grafted plums.
  • ‘Blue Suede’ which is a southern blueberry already licensed for production at McCorkle nursery — a big, well known Georgian business. This cultivar is supposed to be good for the backyard gardener and, if I were to bet on which of the plants here has the best chance to succeed, I’d say this plant.
  • ‘Syrgiannidis’ a pear which matures early and which was bred in Greece (it may or may not ever reach the US).
  • ‘Charleston Scarlet’ sweetpotato which has remarkably red skin which will, supposedly, make it attractive to consumers. It is also highly resistant to many pests. Right now it is considered good for the backyard gardener or the small organic grower.
  • ‘Champagne’ fig, a fig for southern states which has good fruiting characteristics.
  • ‘Wyldewood’ elderberry, a heavy yielding elderberry named after Wyldewood Cellars Winery, a big Midwest producer of elderberry wine.

And now the research reports:

1. Are Habanero leaves hot?
On the off-chance that you have been wondering about the amount of capsaicin (the stuff that makes hot peppers hot) in the leaves of habanero peppers, you don’t need to concern yourself any longer. Researchers in Mexico used sensitive chromatographic equipment to determine that there isn’t any.

2. Weigelas for Serious Winters.
Weigela is a plant common in the northern part of this country, but not all Weigelas are made equal when it comes to being able to survive the winter. Newly introduced cultivars were tested for their cold hardiness and the cultivars ‘Pink Popper’, ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Ruby Queen’ were the hardiest, followed by ‘Alexandra’, ‘Evita’ and ‘Sunny Princess’.  All of these are likely to do fine in zone 4a (think Minneapolis). The cultivars “Brigela’, ‘Carnaval’, ‘Elvera’, ‘Goldrush’, and ‘Rubidor’ are not likely to handle zone 4a.

3. Yes, but would you choose this color if it weren’t Mother’s Day?
We have preferences for different color flowers depending on the holiday (or lack thereof), our age, and many other factors. For example, red and bronze colors are preferred for anniversaries and Christmas, but not blue and purple. White and yellow are preferred for Easter, and peach and pink flowers are preferred for mother’s day. Additionally, higher income female consumers over 55 prefer peach and pink flowers more that their lower earning peers, while higher earning females 40-54 years old prefer blue and purple flowers more than their lower earning peers. Most men, regardless of age or income, buy red and bronze flowers….

4.  Trees for the best shade?
Believe it or not, there are significant differences between the air temperature and soil temperature in the shade provided by different trees. In a test conducted in Taiwan (subtropical – think northern Florida) it was determined that how lightly the leaves were colored, the density of the canopy, the leaf thickness, and the leaf texture all had an effect on the air and soil temperature in the shade around trees. So, which tree provided the coolest shade? Chinese elm and Rose wood.

Photo:  Weigela ‘White Knight’.

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