Monday, August 28, 2017

R&R Summer's Ups and Downs

It been over two months since by last post and the summer gardening has had its ups and downs. In fact I would say that the summer is, in many ways, the most challenging season of the year. There always seem to be the some disappointments from what seems like a good start in Spring. Anyway, here is a recap of the ups and downs.

Hibiscus moscheutos
Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos): definitely an up. One of the first plants I bought when I moved to Olive Branch in 2001 it has bloomed every year. My hibiscus is a six foot plant with large pink flower (they are also red and other flower varieties). It's the June star of the flowers of my full sun flowerbed. The flowers close in the early afternoon; this phenomena is called nyctynasty. The flowers are spent now but the foliage remains, I'll leave it up until February and then cut it back to the ground.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): definitely an up. Another perennial that's been around for more than a decade. Three feet tall with yellow flowers and a black center the Susans have bloomed for over two months and are still going strong. While other plants faded out this plant just keeps going throughout the summer heat. Gotta love that!
Lilies (Lilium): Asiatic Hybrid definitely an up. True lilies, not Day lilies which are Hemerocallis. I bought 25 bulbs from White Flower Farms and planted them in March. They did great producing a number of pretty flowers. I purchased a mix so I had red, orange white and yellow blossoms that lasted about a month.

Lilium Asiatic Hybrid
Lilies (Lilium): Oriental Hybrid were up and down.  Another White Flower Farm purchase this year. Of the three bulbs only two managed to produce flowers and the flowers were short-lived. These were planted in a part sun bed but I don't think that was the reason for their mediocre performance. My reference books say the Oriental Hybrids are more difficult to grow than the Asiatic Hybrids. That was my experience as well. On the positive side the blossoms were very pretty even though that didn't last.
Spider Lilies and Naked Ladies (Lycoris squamigera and Lycoris radiata): were up and down. Both
varieties of lycoris bloomed in late July/early August but were gone too quickly; plus the Naked Ladies by the mailbox only produced one blossom as opposed to three in other years.
Dahlia (Dahlia) way up with a little down. Another of my spring 

purchases, Dahlias are known for their large flowers and it's hard to argue with that. Last week I picked the prettiest yellow flower that I have ever grown, a blossom larger than my hand. There are some downsides to Dahlias in my opinion. While the flowers are gorgeous the plant itself is not pretty at all; its appearance reminds me of a smaller version of pig weed that is a curse of cotton growers. Also, I have had to stake the flower stalks. (I'm a tough love gardener and expect plants to make it with minimal help from me.)
Mulberry weed definitely a down this year. This is devilish weed; at only two inches in height it will produce seeds and produce them in abundance. Whoever is in charge of weeding my garden did a poor job the last two months. The heat makes for a less than enthusiastic gardener when it comes to weeding, at least it does that to me.
Okra and Cucumbers and Hostas: all downers. Dr. Brewster M. Higley may have been fond of deer (Higley wrote the poem that became the song "Home on the Range") but they did in my vegetable garden and my poor hostas. It was positively a case of "hosta la vista baby". Sorry about that, but the pun was too good/too bad to pass up.
I'll close with two poems one by Anonymous published in 1602 about Naked Ladies (unfortunately or fortunately depending on your point of view, not about Lycoris) and one about Lilies by Raymond A Foss.

by Anonymous

My love in her attire doth show her wit,
    It doth so well become her;
For every season she hath dressings fit,
    For winter, spring, and summer,
    No beauty she doth miss
    When all her robes are on;
     But beauty's self she is
    When all her robes are gone.

Raymond A. Foss
Clothed Like the Lilies
by Raymond A. Foss

In the finery of God
our every need met
in wondrous grace

Clothed like the lilies
fed like the birds
watered like the grasses
held in his arms

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Glorious Caladium

I’m not sure there is any plant dependent on foliage for beauty that can surpass the self-dramatization of caladium in the garden throughout the growing season.  In a previous garden, I paired
Caladium having green-veined white leaves with dusty miller (Jacobaea maritima) and variegated monkey grass (Liriope muscari ’Variegata) against a backdrop of variegated privet (Ligustrum sinense ‘Variegata’).  I loved the green and white palette and the vertical design, and the caladiums always seemed to leap forth with a joyful nodding to greet me.

Caladiums are grown as ornamental plants in large “fancy-leaved” and “lance-leaved” or "strap leaf" forms.  The more common of these is the “fancy-leaved” form with its heart-shaped white, pink, or red leaves, whose veins in contrasting colors add to the beauty of the leaves.  Common names for Caladium are elephant ear, Heart of Jesus and Angel Wings.  The epithet “elephant ear” is more likely associated with Alocasia or Colocasia, whose leaves are much larger and thus more emblematic of the name.  The true elephant ears (Colocasia) have wintered over in my garden during mild winters, but not my caladiums.  They are a tropical South American plant, zone ten (note details of caladium cultivation).  In zone 7, the tubers should be lifted before frost, cleaned of soil, and stored in a cool location.

My favorite formal display of caladiums this year is in the bed leading to the Hughes Pavillion at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. There, one finds a thickly planted circle of a variety that is new to me: 'Frog in a Blender.' I bought tubers of this variety at the Dixon Garden Fair early this year and planted them in pots. When these beauties popped up and started unfurling, they didn't stop until they were more than three feet tall! Had Dale Skaggs' garden workers mislabeled Colocasia as Caladium?  Not so.  This new variety is not only as tall as some Colocasia, but produces many beautifully variegated leaves for a 
striking display.  While I have trouble imagining real frogs in a blender, I can see that the name refers to the combination of lime-green splotches against a dark green background.  That touch of red in the center of each leaf is hardly visible here and certainly not dramatic like the red veins in "Fantasy" at the bottom of the picture.  I prefer to think of the red as the frog’s eye.

How does one add the “Wow! Factor” to shaded gardens?  At the Memphis Botanic Garden, caladiums are an obvious choice to brighten shady nooks.  Along the pathway to the herb garden, for example, a patch of white caladiums with green veins sparkles in the shady area near the dry creek bed, and just   
over the bridge at the entrance to this garden, the smaller lance-leaved (or strap leaf) Caladium 'Desert Sunrise' seems to pop out of the dark shade beneath Colocasia 'Mojito' to welcome visitors.  "Desert Sunrise' is doing well in the shade here, but the strap leaf variety can tolerate more sun than the fancy-leaved variety. Near the entrance to the garden, beside the rectangular fountain, Caladium 'White Wonder' thrives with Croton variegatum and other sun-loving plants.


Caladiums brighten porches all over Midtown and will continue to do so until temperatures drop.  A fernery plant stand on my porch presents a mixture of ‘Frog in a Blender,’ ‘Fantasy,’ and ‘Candidum, Jr.’ all from the Dixon sale.  Rectangular concrete pots with red and pink caladiums invite visitors to neighboring porches.  Caladiums are also planted in some flowerbeds.  Patience is key to successful inground planting.  The gardener must wait until the ground warms; otherwise, the tubers may rot in the rains that come in early spring.  Also, the tubers take three to four weeks to emerge after the ground warms to about 70 degrees.  I learned both of these lessons the hard way.

Caladiums will bloom only if conditions are right.  One of my plants did bloom this summer, although the bloom (which looked like a stunted Calla lily bloom) was less spectacular than the foliage and lasted less than a week.  But who needs blossoms when the glorious foliage of caladiums lasts an entire season?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What's going well in your garden?

It's been said that our gardens are always the most beautiful in January because in that frigid, non-verdant month it is all in our heads: the seeds we plan to start early, the trimming we plan to do to get in a little more sun, the arm loads of harvest from our vegetable gardens, the woodland path we think of putting in and that all important focal point at its end. It will all be splendid! Weeds grow not in my dreams, and cucumber beetles are non existent. And if these problems arise THIS YEAR I know just the thing to eliminate them. I have my watering system all planned out and, of course, it all comes into color at the same ytime so that in my MIND, the hydrangeas of early summer contrast beautifully with the scarlet runner beans of late summer. The dreams of January! 

But it is now the hot middle of summer and reality has set in for us all. So I ask, "What is going well in your garden?" 

In my garden there are three C's that are bringing me joy; three C's that actually exceeded my expectations. 

The first is COLEUS. The seeds I planted back in February thrived under the grow light in my garage and I had enough to share with a friend.
These bursts of color in the cool shade are most rewarding.
The second C stands for CUCUMBERS. For two years now I have ordered from Park Seed the seeds of a most deliciously sweet cucumber called Diva.  And while They are a slender 6 to 8 inches when picked, they produce abundantly. There is a family debate about whether or not to dress them with Apple Cider Vinegar.
The C that brings me the most joy, however is the CHAPEL GARDEN. Blessed with two family weddings this fall I dedicated one raised bed to a chapel-looking bird house I found on the man's discard... A rock path, some zinnias, marigolds and volunteer sunflowers complimented the rosemary and thyme that were already in place. It takes a bit of pruning to make sure the little chapel does not get lost in the foliage; maybe I should have cut back the zinnias before their first bloom. But they are reasonably cooperative and resemble exotic trees surrounding the chapel path.

There are plenty of disappointments in my garden this year; that is part of it, right? So I'll choose today to ask myself, "What is going well in my garden?" 
What is going well in yours?