Saturday, August 30, 2008

Survival of the Fittest

Once again, let's revisit a plant. This is Lespedeza. You may recall from an earlier post that I had some worries about it because it has spent four years in the same pot, it is enormous and I fear it has become terribly root bound. I thought these factors might inhibit its blooming this year...guess I was wrong. It is blooming out of control. Still, I have a big job ahead of me because there is no doubt that this is the year it will have to be divided. Be prepared to see some pictures of me with a hacksaw.

I love this plant because it really makes a statement out on the deck and it blooms late in the year. But it has its detractors. Because it is so invasive, it's probably best to keep it contained in a pot rather than plant it in a landscape. I can definitely see that with such a survival instinct, it would choke anything that dares cross its path. Another thing you may not like is that when the blooms start falling, they fall en masse leaving your deck or patio strewn with these pink blossoms. That doesn't bother me in the least because I have a hose with powerful sprayer nozzle and I just spray everything off the deck floor and into our tiny fenced-in back yard that no one ever sees or spends any time in anyway.

This lespedeza has thrived in the same partly sunny spot on my deck and other than having put time released fertilizer pellets in the soil when I first planted it, it has only received a water soluble fertilizer maybe five times in four years. If that's not low maintenance, I don't know what is.

For me, the plusses far outweigh the minuses. Take a look at the pictures and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Almost Forgot...

In my August 17th post, I promised I would talk about this plant. I discovered it when I was at the nursery a couple of weeks ago on the hunt for some replacements for an arrangement that was a casualty of our deck project. In my search for a trailing-type plant, I stumbled across this Ornamental Oregano "Kent Beauty". I never knew there was such a thing but upon finding it I wondered where it had been all of my gardening life. I mean to tell you this is unlike any oregano I have ever seen. Upon closer inspection of the label, I learned that it truly is ornamental in that it is typically not used for culinary purposes. That's okay because I have a pot of regular oregano for that.

"Kent Beauty" is hardy to zone 5 and like all herbs, appreciates full sun and good drainage. There are shades of purple in the leaves and it produces the tiniest of blooms (see below). I'm actually glad this oregano is for decorative purposes only because to tell you the truth, I wouldn't have the heart to cut it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lovely Cecile

Cecile Brunner arrived at my house on the second day of May. She was one of two purchases I made from the Antique Rose Emporium which specializes in old roses, that is to say, roses that have been around for so long almost no amount of neglect can deter them from being the beautiful flowers that they are. So thanks again to my friend Barbara for recommending this company to me.

In that May 2nd post, I showed you how carefully Cecile was packaged so as to ease any apprehension you might have about buying plants via mail order. I planted the rose in a very large pot made of composite material in hopes of leaving it out all winter. I am reassured because Cecile is hardy to zone 5 but I will still do some crossing of fingers and toes, just in case. Because the pot is so big, I added a multitude of plants as companions including a butterfly bush which I am certain will return as well as various annuals that I will have to replace next year. I probably won't have to add as many annuals because when the rose and butterfly bush return, they will take up more space in the pot.

As you can see from the images below, Cecile is not a huge, in-your-face sort of rose. Rather than come on too strong, she makes her presence known in an understated way. So while it's not the first thing to get noticed, once seen, it is sure to be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Enjoy the Show

I'm a sucker for a good before and after story. Although, I'm always curious about the "after" part because I wonder how long it really takes before there is considerable backsliding. Perhaps you've thought the same when you've seen a personal makeover show or a decluttering/redecorating episode. So I'd like to offer an example of an "after" that only gets better with time.

Below left is a photo I took when I first bought my butterfly bush in May. By all appearances, it didn't look too promising. But such is the case with most perennials in general and the butterfly bush in particular--which is why I have it in the garden every year (I now have a total of three). To the right of the "before" picture is how the same plant looks today. This is Butterfly Bush "Peacock", a compact version that is hardy to zone 5 which means it will return for me next year. It blooms midsummer to fall and will grow to about 4 feet in height. It loves the sun and plenty of water. And you know my modus operandi: I hardly ever fertilize so when I say this is a high performing, low maintenance plant, you can believe it.

And the best part of all is this plant is true to its name. It attracts all kinds of butterflies. All day long.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An August Oasis

I won't say a lot here, other than to remind you that in mid-May, my deck was complete chaos (see below). Now it is a most pleasant place to have a snack, read a book or just enjoy the bumblebees, butterflies and hummingbirds. (Enlarge picture above by clicking on it). Feel free to tell me what you think by commenting below.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Acquired Tastes

There are things in life that only become palatable or aesthetically pleasing after one has had sufficient exposure to them. Such was the case for me with Guinness Stout, asparagus and the color orange. But a person has to decide for herself if the appreciation will develop over time or if that thing that is initially unpleasant will be ever thus.

Which brings me to Coleus Midnight Train. When I first saw it at the nursery I kind of thought "Eeeww". Something about it brought to mind scary things that go bump in the night. But what kind of gardener would I be if I didn't make a commitment to trying new things? For only $4.99, I figured it was worth the risk.

I potted it with a penstemon whose blooms echo the bright pink in the veins of the coleus foliage, some chartreuse sweet potato vine which is in sharp contrast to the deep purple (nearly black) of the leaves and an ornamental oregano (more on that delightful plant in a later post).

Of course, it could have ended up being a disappointment in which case I would not have hesitated to replace the coleus with something else. Instead, what I got was a plant that was at first strange and is now a contributor to one of my favorite arrangements this season.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blowin' in the Wind

Back in June, I posted a segment on "Thrillers", those plants that are meant to take center stage in your mixed container or overall garden arrangement. One of the plants I mentioned was Pennisetum Rubrum or Purple Fountain Grass (shown here). At the nursery, you are likely to find all different kinds of grasses and they are very useful in adding variety to your containers but my hands-down favorite is this one. It's a plant-it-and-forget-it type of plant and earns a spot in my garden every year.

Purple Fountain Grass is hardy to zone 7 which would mean if planted in the ground, it would likely come back the next year for zone 7 residents. But since I plant in pots, I have to consider that my containers are more exposed to the elements. As such, I have found that only perennials that are hardy to zone 5 will reliably return for me every year. That's okay, I'm willing to spend the money on this plant (sometimes two or three of them) every year because it's that spectacular. It requires full sun to partial shade and blooms until frost. I love seeing the plumes when the breeze catches them.

Write this one down as a plant you can always rely on to be stunning even if the rest of your container fails miserably. Believe me, the feathergrass is the only thing anyone's going to notice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What is a Weed?

It all depends on your point of view. Most gardeners will tell you that a weed is something that is growing where it is not wanted. Judging from what I've read about the invasive qualities of this plant, I can see why it is the bane of a gardener's existence. But I think in most cases, those voicing such strong objections to it are landscape gardeners. For a container gardener, it is a most excellent trailing plant (or spiller). It's called Variegated Ground Ivy, or Glechoma Hederacea 'Variegata' if you want to get all fancy and Latin about it.

This ivy is of the sage and mint family and is considered invasive which is what makes it more suitable for containers. I bought it strictly for foliage interest but I've heard it blooms in mid-summer. I looked up what it looks like in bloom and the flowers are so tiny as to be nearly invisible. Maybe mine bloomed after all and I never noticed.

Anyway, it's hardy to Zone 6 and likes full sun but will tolerate part shade. As always, allow for good drainage.

This is no weed as far as I'm concerned and it will be making a regular appearance in my garden.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Who's That Girl?

I'm a little late with my posts because I was in Colorado celebrating this girl's (my Mom) 70th birthday. Not bad, huh? Anyway, here she is posing with a nifty gift she received from her friend, Elaine. It is a telescopic shovel. When I first saw it, I thought, hmmm, this is cute, but I'm not sure how practical. And then with a quick turn of the handle, it became long enough to also use while standing. Since my mom does more gardening in the ground than in containers, it would be handy for her to use in tight spaces.

Meanwhile, back in Virginia, my plants survived well in my absence, thanks to my backup gardener's (read: husband) help. My fear is that my Lespedeza has become so rootbound that it will inhibit blooming this season so fingers crossed on that. The butterfly bushes are really starting bloom and I have more herbs than I know what to do with. Time to start researching how to preserve them for later use. I have one small pot of zinnias that bit the dust so I may do an easy and quick arrangement in that now empty container. It's no great tragedy because they had barely survived the time they spent in the garage when we were having the deck refinished. I'll post the new arrangement next time.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Blog Days of Summer

I went to the nursery on Saturday to replace some of the casualties that I sustained from the deck refinishing project. (Before and after pictures will be in a later post). Since it's the beginning of August and really hot, I expected there to be slim pickings but, boy, was I wrong. Sure, it wasn't like the first week in May but I was surprised at how easy it was to find some replacements for the plants that sacrificed themselves so that I could have a beautiful deck.

Here's a flower that I've not grown before. It's Cleome "Linde Armstrong". I'm dying to know who Linde Armstrong is but my Internet research yielded zip. What I do know is that this is a very interesting looking annual. The bronze colored stem is sort of on the woody side so it does lend some upright structure to a mixed planting. The bloom is teeny tiny though. According to the tag, it loves the sun, is rather compact (maximum height is 18" which is considerably shorter than the typical cleome), it blooms until Fall and pruning is not necessary. Well, I'll be reporting back to let readers know if this tag overpromised or if I will be adding it to my annual rotation.