Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Regal Torch Lily

I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the torch lily blooms each spring.  I have one plant and because I only have one, it makes the bloom period all the more special!  The combination of the torch lily with anything purple or blue is particularly outstanding.  In this case it is paired with Siberian Iris.  Every year I say to myself, I need to buy more torch lilies because I have so many purple blooms in the garden.  I said it again this year.  We'll see if I follow through or not.

The torch lily has a short bloom period, but the flowers are so unusual that it is worth having in the garden.  A full sun, drought tolerant plant, it does very well in Southeastern Virginia.  Another nice asset of the torch lily is that it never gets devoured by the deer or other wildlife.

 A Cloudless Sulphur on the 'Homestead Purple' Verbena.

I had to look this butterfly up on the computer.  What I had thought was the Cloudless Sulphur, apparently is not, as this is the real deal!  There is another butterfly that comes into the garden later in the year that is a citron color, hmmm....now I will have to look that one up.

Never fails...as soon as the peonies start to bloom, we get torrential rain storms that push the heavy blooms down in to the dirt.  This year was no exception.

Unscathed peonies!

This area of my garden has taken a long time to fill in.  I used to get an English garden magazine and in one particular article there was a beautiful formal border with plans on how to recreate it at your own home.  That was about 7 years ago and this is the first year that I am completely satisfied with the result. 

The lines are very straight and orderly in this section which creates the more formal look.  On both sides of the checkboard path I have planted the same plants to mirror each other and also create a more formal design.  Closest to the checkerboard is Salvia 'Blue Hill' with their deep blue flowers low to the ground.  At the top of the checker board are single flower pink Knock Out Roses and dwarf boxwood.  Behind the salvia is the tallest plant -  the wispy Brazilian Verbena, along with Shasta Daisies (they will bloom midsummer).  Behind that layer are the peonies and finally on the outside of the border is a row of Catmint, followed by Creeping Phlox.

 Sedum as a groundcover is lovely when it's blooming.  It's not much to look at the rest of the year though.  Right now it's blooming, so it looks wonderful with 'Johnson's Blue' Geranium and Lady's Mantle. It is also a nice combination tucked in between the soft silver leaves of  Lamb's Ear (pictured below).

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Hummingbird Moth

A few years ago I saw this strange insect in my garden.  It had the colors of a bee and it was the size of a large bee. The flight pattern was all wrong for a bee though.  It hovered around my flowers like a hummingbird and it looked like it had a proboscis like a butterfly.   Not long after, I took the master gardener courses and we studied entomology (the study of insects).  I soon discovered my strange insect is called a hummingbird moth.  So, I was wrong, it's not a hummingbird, bee or butterfly.  It's a moth!  First sighting of the hummingbird moth was today on the 'Blue Hill' Salvia. 

Hummingbird moths enjoy feeding from the nectar of phlox, bee balm, honeysuckle and verbena and a variety of other perennials.
 If you don't have a peony you are missing out!  A full sun plant that has the most beautiful blooms for about two weeks in May.  I know, I know, two weeks is not a long bloom period.  Snap your fingers and it's over...however these blooms are worth it.  I have enough so that I can enjoy them in the garden and also cut some and bring them inside.  They are a superb cut flower and they are a real show stopper by themselves or with other cut flowers.  The foliage is a glossy dark green and it stays that way all summer long.  Invest in some peonies.  You won't regret it.

A show stopper peony!

 A look down the garden path...

 A rose with no name.  I planted this years ago and have no idea what it's called. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bloom Day in May

Knock Out Rose

'Blue Hill' Salvia

'Blue Hill' Salvia with peony buds in the background

Mexican Primrose

'Ellen Huff' Oakleaf Hydrangea

 'Golden Showers' Rose

 Peony - variety unknown

 Clematis - variety unknown

 Virginia Sweetspire

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

'Homestead Purple' Verbena - A Top Performer

There are certain plants that gardeners will go back to time and time again to fill in those bare spots where other plants have been tried with no avail.  'Homestead Purple' Verbena is one of those plants for me.  There is an area of my garden along a public sidewalk where I have tried many other perennials over the years, such as dianthus, sedums, tickseed and rose campion.  However, I think the public sidewalk just sucks a ton of water out of the ground around it and it also radiates a good amount of heat in the summer.  I can't get anything else to stick around for very long...except 'Homestead Purple' Verbena.  It comes back every year along the sidewalk and so I continually add more and more of this faithfully strong variety.  At some point you just have to give up trying the latest and greatest and just go with what works for you.  Interestingly enough my next door neighbor had a patch growing for a few years, but theirs has long since died out.
This variety of verbena is a low, spreading type.  It does well in dry, hot, full sun conditions.  I clean it up every spring as it does have a lot of dead woody stems.  This is not an invasive plant for me, but rather spreads slowly.  If you live in Southeast Virginia and have a sunny location, this is a wonderful plant to own.  It looks good around a mailbox, underplanted as a base plant for shrubs and in the front of a garden.  A variety of butterflies also flock to it in the spring and summer.



I mentioned earlier this month that this Spring was much colder than previous years.  The first full week of May is always teacher appreciation week at my kids' school.  On Wednesday of that week each child is supposed to bring a flower in for their teacher.  My peonies are always in full bloom during that week and so I usually send my kids into school with peonies for their teachers.  This year my first peony bloomed this past Monday and most of them have not bloomed yet.  We are about two weeks behind schedule!
The first peony opens!

  These flowers look pretty don't they?  Well, this is one of those perennials I wish I didn't have in my garden.  This is Mexican Primrose.  Yes, it looks good right now.  However, in a week or two it will be done blooming and I will be left with very unsightly foliage/stems.  It is an invasive spreader in my garden and I will be pulling it out of every corner all summer long.
Good comb: Japanese Iris, Catmint and Torch Lily (check out the cool buds to the right of the bird bath.)
Mexican Primrose, Japanese Iris and 'Homestead Purple' Verbena
Golden Showers Climbing Rose

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Bit of England in Virginia

I know I am repeating what everyone else in the South has been saying this spring, but when did we switch weather patterns with England?  It's been so cool and damp.  Typically kids are in their bathing suits running through sprinklers by now.  In fact my daughter and her friend went outside in their bathing suits and tried to make a water slide with the hose yesterday. I had to send them back inside.  It was 60 degrees and cloudy!  So here's my attempt at cottage gardening in the English style. Viburnums are a wonderful choice for Southeast Virginia.  This particular variety is 'Summer Snowflake'.  They love the sun and do very well in heat/drought conditions.  The viburnums have been paired with a couple of varieties of clematis and a climbing red rose that runs up the trellis behind the shrubs.  The clematis have taken a liking to running up and through the viburnums as well. If you decide to add viburnums, make sure you give them plenty of room to grow.  These have been in the ground for about seven years and they have to be pruned every year at least once or twice.
 One of the clematis varieties that has been paired with the viburnum.  Not sure of the variety.  It has been here longer than me.  Clematis work really well when paired with other climbing vines like roses or Carolina Jessamine.
My father-in-law gave me this container.  It is a tree trunk that was hollowed out and treated so it won't rot.  I am pretty happy with the grouping.  The chartreuse colored plant is Gold Selaginella (aka a fern!) with 'Catalina Midnight Blue' Torenia in the middle, along with a very tiny Rabbit's Foot Fern.  This container is placed in our woods along a pathway as all of these plants take shade.
  Okay I admit it...I dislike getting rid of plants even if they are diseased or are just all wrong for the spot.  This time I have learned my lesson though.  Last year two carpet roses contracted rosette disease.  At least I'm pretty sure it's rosette disease.  Rosette disease is characterized by a witch's broom appearance on some of the branches while other branches tend to shoot out and get lanky.  I love my carpet roses and just couldn't get rid of them.  Now I wish I had.  The disease has spread to this Knock Out Rose in the picture.  As you can see it has the witch's broom appearance and the lanky branches.  I have three more Knock Out Roses very close in proximity to this one as well as an old fashion rose.  So I guess it's time.  I can't wait any longer.  I will have to dig up the carpet roses and this Knock Out and get rid of them.  And to think that mulching is a tedious job...hmmm...something tells me this will take the cake for tedious, not to mention require a few band-aids.