Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coming Soon: 'Bloomerang' Reblooming Lilac

I don't even waste my time thinking about lilacs. For ten days of bloom, you have to see this mangled bunch of stems going in all differrent directions. It has to be one of the least desirable tree/shrubs in the gardening repetoire. And even the fragrance with the association of masking outdoor toilet stenchs make its only strengths a huge liability for me. My Australian grandmother didn't have one, so there is absolutely no emotional attachment at all.

But according to the folks at Proven Winners, the growing season of 2011 will completely blow up all the reasons I despise lilacs and its name is 'Bloomerang.' She starts off the season with the traditional flush of blooms but then she takes some time to regroup and returns mid-summer to bloom through the end of the sesson. Sure the later flushs don't have the punch seen in the spring but they are respectable. She'll be a sight for the very bloodshot eyes of many patient gardeners even including me. Talk about 180 degrees.

'Bloomerang ' is only available at White Flower Farm and Wayside Gardens for somewhere over thirty bucks but you can be assured that will get you a few bareroot sticks. The majority of the available stock is probably growing an additional year to be sold under the Proven Winners brand. If PW is marketing 'Bloomerang', it is not just another novelty destined for the chopping block/shredder. I'm still trying to grasp the reality I can't wait to see a lilac. Anything is now possible.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Native American 'Three Sisters Garden'

I've always been fascinated by the Native American tradition of the three sisters. The basic concept is to plant beans, corn and pumpkins in a large mound. The corn gives structure for the beans to grow, the beans, a legume, fixate the nitrogen for the corn and the pumpkin.
For more information see attached an excellent article from one of my favorite seed companies, Renee's Garden. She has created a collection of three excellent varieties .Let me know if you try this and give me your feedback.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seed Starting: Pumpkin on a Stick

From the pages of BH&G comes these cute little pumpkins dancing on willow branchs stuck into black mondo grass and beautifully captured in a 'Jarrahdale' pumpkin from Australia. I know I'm describing a beautiful scene but there is one inaccurancy. They're not pumpkins but rather a dried eggplant known as Pumpkin on a Stick, or Solanum integrifolium. The other common name is the mock tomato. The fruit are a red on the plant and when dried lighten up to an orange red.

Intergrifolium's culture is the same as the vegetable eggplant. The plants reach 3 to 4' tall with rather large leaves coming from a very thorny purple stem. I found one recommendation to grow in a high traffic area as a launching pad for hours of conversation. I would hope that traffic wasn't the pitter patty of little feet.

Since the red fruit, huge green leaves and treacherous purple stem make for a stunning display it's just a prelude to the captivating home arrange possiblibilities.

To dry the fruits, remove the leaves and allow to dry. I found a report of it taking considerable time to dry completely so the red becomes more of an orange.

I've seen seed packets from Botanical Interest. My friend the owner of a cutflower farm that sells its products to high end florists said she couldn't get any interest when she tried to sell it. And even if there was high demand, she wouldn't grow them again because she was getting pricked to death. Now she was growing six plants, I could see one as the ultimate thriller
in a very large container with the new 'Midnight Lace' sweet potato vine. I think its tough enough to hold its own and its more contained and less vigorous than the common black species.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Feature Story: Introduction to Boxwoods

Boxwoods "Man's Oldest Garden Ornament," have been with us since Roman times and before. The first boxwoods were planted on America soi l at Long Islant in 1653 brought over from Amsterdam.

The three most popular types of boxwoods grown in the United States are "American" (Buxus sempiverens), "English" (buxus sempivirens 'Suffruticosa') and Buxus microphyllum. Sempivirens is latin for evergreen. Hybrids from 'sempivirens' and 'microphyllum', like most hybrids that are marketable, are generally faster growing and more disease resistant.

Boxwood grow very well in the Kansas City area as long as two very important needs are met.
They require good drainage AND they do not "like their feet wet." By this I mean plant them a little higher than soil level so they can drain. If the drainage is poor then leaves will discolor and depending on the severity may even die. Also, both soil and heavy mulch should not hug or smother the trunk of the shrub.

The above image is from the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. The Blanke Boxwood Garden does justice to the species. I saw the Garden in its first season before I moved from St. Louis to Shawnee. So I only saw the hardscape and the young plantings but all the potential. I look forward soon to see the crodensho. Visitor enter through a brick wall courtyard catching glimses of the center of the garden. The entry walk leads visitors with plantings showing the perfect interplay of perennials and boxwood along the way. The center of the garden is an oval boxwood parterre accented by flowers and groundcovers. A parterre is a garden where flower gardens, beds and path are arranged to form a parttern. The lower hedges map out he initials of the founder, Henry Shaw. (A future issue will have more about this fine gentlemen)

P. Smith uses boxwood in two distinct ways. Traditionally sheared as a low hedge surrounding rose and herbs. He says boxwood responds well to being "put under the knife." But also using boxwood as "punctuation marks' as in

I strongly reccomenmd visiting an independent garden center for aid in selecting height hybrid ftor the location in your garden. You CANNOT rely on plant tags to make your selections at the big box retailers (i.e. Home Depot) It's a little known fact the commercial growers hyave only one tag for the information regarding height and width of that variety.. So talk to your garden center for local information.

'Green Velvet' was born and bred in Ontaria, Canada so you know it tough.

Although boxwood is a slow grower, it is fairly easy to grow

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Native Pasque Flower

I've seen the Pasque Flower in catalogs for years but I always thought it looked too delicate to work well here. But I recently read it's native to our plains and part of Nebraska's Great Plants program. It's a hardy anemone whose cousins include the cutflower seen in high end florists.
(right). I've seen the cutflower commercialy grown under glass which is a sight to see.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Country Club Plaza Hanging Baskets

Rosehill Gardens has been beautifully landscaping The Country Club Plaza since the 1960s. And in recent years, the hanging baskets in the middle of the streets are some best examples I've seen even of the craft rivaling the Disney properties.

My contact at Rosehill told me working out logistics to get a water source under the busy streets on the Plaza was a major task. It took several seasons of trial and error to pull off the wondervful creations we see today.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Morning Glories and Moonflowers Combo

My friend Jan Vinyard passed on an impactful combination that is easy to grow. Combine white morning glories (left) and moonflowers on the same archway or trellis. As the morning glories are fading , the moonflowers are showing off with beautiful flowers and their incredible fragrance. The fragrance attracts a certain moth to help fertilize the blooms. I tried this two years ago in a container that was too small for a Western facing site. This year, I'll be growing one of each of the vines in a larger container and I plan to add a few 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia at the base. I am also planning to plant both vines on an arch way on the side of my house Spring.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Six AAS Winning Vegetables

The Victory Garden on PBS named some All-America Selections that have stood the test of time. AAS trial gardens are accross the US. The variety being tested is grown next to an existing variety considered to be the best in that class. The Kansas City trial garden is in Olathe as part of the KSU Extension Experiment Station

'Juliet' Tomato - 1999 AAS

'Diva' Cucumber - 2002 AAS

'Cornell's Bush Delicata' Squash - AAS 2002

'Siam Queen' Basil - AAS 1997

'Magical Michael' Basil - AAS 2002

'Buttercrunch' Lettuce - AAS 1963 WOW!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hardy Hibiscus - 'Kopper King'

'Kopper King' is the culmination of 50 years worth of the Fleming's brother breeding work. Relatively compact by hibiscus standards, the 3' X 4 plants are impressive by themselves. The whole effect are plants that are composed of burgundy, maple-like foliage as an impressive background for the foot-wide pink blossums with red eyes and fantastic veining.

I can't stress how late the plants take to leaf out. Dave's Garden reports as late as the fourth of July in some areas. But they quickly make up for it by bursting on the scene and never stop until the end of the season. The Nebraska breeding allows the plants to survive even in Zone 4.

Hardy Hibiscus -Huge 12" Flowers

I grew my first deep red hardy hibiscus as a teenager. It looks just the same as it's tropical cousin except they are huge. Im talking about a foot wide on average. The petals are more rounded to create a real dinner plate effect. It's hard to imagine the scope and size of these blossoms.

I recall two differences from tropical ones. The leaves and stems are bigger and stronger. The other thing you must know is the plants are slow to come back to life. I mean later than any plant I have ever grown. I'm sure many good plants have seen trashbags before their time.

I discovered Flemings Flower Fields from an ad in this month's Fine Gardening. Three brothers, all deceased, dedicatefd themselves to growing and hybridizing hardy hisbicus for the wholesale market.

The company is headquarted in Lincoln, NE. There is a park dedicated to the three brothers with over 500 hybrids. Sounds like a summer road trip.