Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Evenings with a Blue Bird

"Blue Bird" rose of Sharon, that is... 😏

(Mea culpa... I originally identified the shrub below as 'Blue Satin'. There is a 'Blue Satin' rose of Sharon, but the one I have is called 'Blue Bird', as pointed out by Dottie in her comment below.)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Butterflyweed or Bumblebee weed?

Asclepius tuberosa is commonly known as butterflyweed.

But as this photo shows, that might be a misnomer.

Check out my video on YouTube for other evidence that "bumblebee weed" might be a better name for this marvelous perennial. 😉

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Penstemon Party

Penstemon digitalis

I've been experimenting with using more Penstemons in the garden recently.

I grew Penstemon digitalis (foxglove penstemon) in the garden years ago and removed it for reasons that I can no longer recall. 

I think in those days I might have been obsessed with long bloom cycles and maybe wasn't impressed that P. digitalis bloomed for 'only' a few weeks in the spring?

Penstemon digitalis

Anyway, nowadays I try to look at the bigger picture, and I value P. digitalis not just for its beautiful bloom and its attractiveness to pollinators, but also for its native characteristic, its attractive foliage, its toughness and (hopefully) its weed-blocking abilities.

I also grow Penstemon calycosus (calico penstemon), which is also native here in Tennessee.

Penstemon calycosus close-up

Penstemon calycosus

Both species are now in their second year in the garden and both seem to be getting stronger and more floriferous.

I also tried Penstemon smallii (Small's penstemon) on a hillside, but it barely survived the winter. I think it likes/wants/needs better drainage than my clay soil offers.

I do have a Penstemon x mexicali, which is very tough and resilient and floriferous in an extremely tough spot by the corner of the house and the driveway. It has been going strong since 2015, surviving both in deep shade (when it got swamped by a Vitex agnus-castus) and now in blazing sun since the Vitex was removed.

Finally, there's an unknown Penstemon which grows taller and has more purple flowers than P. digitalis and P. calycosus and has self-sowed enthusiastically around the patio. I really like its evergreen winter foliage and its beautiful bloom, but it does splay open after the bloom is complete. I cut it back drastically and hope it will fill in with new foliage. 

Stay tuned...

Do you have any Penstemons in your garden? Which are your favorites and how do you use them in your garden? 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Three Shots in the Garden - May 2020 Edition - Carefree Beauty rose, oakleaf hydrangea, smooth phlox

'Carefree Beauty' rose.
The rose is truly carefree in terms of being tough and self-sufficient, but... can get enormous if not cut back and has vicious thorns... best to take some care when pruning it. 😬 
Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) flower panicles

Smooth phlox (Phlox glaberrima) in bloom

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

Early spring flowers and foliage -- hyacinths, wild bergamot, hoary mountain mint, redbud buds and more!

Happy 2020.

Yes, it's already March, but frankly there was not much that I wanted to document in my Middle Tennessee garden in January or February.

Now, though, things have changed.

I limbed up some of the volunteer redbuds (Cercis canadensis) this winter. It looks like they should bloom soon. The buds are very pretty.

The hyacinths are blooming. On warm, sunny, still days, the fragrance is very pleasant. These are the most reliable perennial bulbs that I've found for Tennessee. We order them from Brent & Becky's Bulbs.

The basal foliage on Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) has looked good all winter.

So has the Pycnanthemum incanum (hoary mountain mint) basal foliage.

Volunteer elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) foliage starts emerging very early -- in January!

think this is new growth on a volunteer Symphyotrichum oblongifolius (aromatic aster). I used to grow this beautiful aster in my garden, but removed it a few years ago as being too prolific. Now I miss it, so I was delighted to find a volunteer that thrived in difficult conditions last year. I'm hoping that volunteer will spark a resurgence of the plant in my garden, but just in case I scattered some aromatic aster seeds over the winter and will probably buy at least a couple aromatic asters in the spring to add here and there.

Last spring, a local gardening savante generously gifted me with a few wood poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) from her garden. I planted them and tried to keep them going through various droughts and heat waves. I'm overjoyed to see that at least one seems to have survived. Beautiful new foliage - and check out those hairy stems!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Bees and Partridge Peas

Every day, I count my lucky stars when I go into the garden and see the buzzing bumblebees in the partridge peas (Chamaecrista fasciculata).

I started with just a few partridge pea seeds - from Kansas Native Plants, I think - and now I have more partridge pea plants than I could count. They do self-seed with abandon, but it's easy to pull any excess volunteers and they're so beautiful and helpful to beneficial insects that I love them regardless.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Rose Petty Rules!

Apologies for the wind noise in the video, but the rose petty (Erigeron pulchellus) flower stalks sway so prettily on a blustery day...

If you garden in this plant's native range, I highly encourage experimenting with it as a groundcover!

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Happy 2019 and Happy Almost Spring!

Happy 2019!

(OK, so it's March, but it's the first blog post of 2019, so I'm sending happy wishes regardless.)

As Spring peeks around the corner, I thought I'd send this encouraging photo of a Camellia japonica blossom.

Camellia japonica in bloom March 2019

You don't see too many camellias around here in Middle Tennessee. They're marginally hardy - susceptible to extreme damage if we have a winter with below-average temperatures. And in the case of C. japonica (which blooms late winter into spring), the flowers and buds can be damaged by late frosts and freezes.

But this one, growing right up against the porch steps, survives year to year. And as you can see, some buds escaped unscathed from a recent stretch of very cold nights (hard freezes in the 18-20 Fahrenheit range) to put on a beautiful show.

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Turtle Time

So happy to see this turtle enjoying a walk in the rain on my back patio a couple of days ago:

I'm no herpetologist, but it looks like an eastern box turtle to me.

Do you have turtles in your garden?

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Another Wonderful Groundcover - Golden Groundsel, Packera species

In April of last year, I profiled one of my favorite groundcovers - Robin's plantain (Erigeron pulchellus).

Well, here's another beauty - golden groundsel.

There's just one problem, I've ordered and planted two species of golden groundsel (they have the same common name) - Packera aurea and Packera obovata.

And I can't tell them apart in my garden. Or perhaps only one species survived? Don't know. But whichever I've got, it's doing lovely, especially on the shady northern foundation next to an arrowwood viburnum, but also in the far back bed where it gets full sun pretty much all day.

Versatile? You bet.

Beautiful? Yep.

I missed taking a pic of the yellow blooms for this post, but I still got the fluffy seedheads and the lovely foliage.

It's more or less evergreen here, though it can get tattered in a harsh winter like the one we just hand. So far) the old foliage seems to decay naturally and unobtrusively, never building up into an unwieldy mush (as with lamb's ears) or hanging on in a frazzled way (as with say cranesbill geraniums).

The yellow flowers attract little pollinators, and the white seedheads that follow are fluffy and charming. It mostly spreads by underground rhizomes, though occasionally I think I've found a seedling or two nearby to the parent plant. It does tolerate transplantation, although it tends to sulk for a while as it gets established.

In my heavy soil, it has spread by a measured pace so far. You can take a look back at this April 2017 post to see just how much ground it has covered in the last 16 months or so.

I do worry that it will be harder to control in the long run. Where it's relatively easy to uproot Robin's plantain, I tried digging up Packera in a couple places where I thought it was not growing so well only to find that I missed root particles that came back stronger than ever. So consider that a bit of a warning.

On the other hand, I don't think I'd mind having a lot of Packera in my landscape. It's certainly low growing enough that I don't think it would compete with bushes, shrubs or even taller, sturdier, deep-rooted perennials like Baptisia or Solidago. But I'm not sure. It will be interesting to see what happens as it starts to bump up against lawn grasses and/or other groundcovers like Erigeron.

For now, it would be one of my top groundcover suggestions to anyone gardening within the native range of the lovely golden groundsels.


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