Monday, December 30, 2013

What I planted in the allée - Bushes Edition

As I keep hearing on the radio, temperatures in parts of the country are so cold right now that you can get frostbite if you're outside for more than a few minutes. Other parts of the country haven't had power for over a week due to crippling ice storms. So in comparison, my 35-degree day felt like the tropics and I decided to do what any gardener already sick of winter would do - do yard work. I tied up my Japanese holly so the next round of snow doesn't bend its branches. I also hacked away at the last remaining rose bush. I've barely made a dent in it but I only have so much room in my garbage pails. As I wandered around outside, I realized I never posted about my new additions to the allée so I thought I'd take the time now to both warm my fingers and mention the bushes I planted.

As I mentioned in my last post about the allée, my mother generously purchased some shrubs for me during my visit to New England in September. My criteria at the nursery was that the bushes wouldn't get too wide - there's just not enough room - and these shrubs were suggested, so we bought all three. 

Nandina domestica
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The first is one that I've been toying with buying for months. Nandina domestica, also known as Heavenly Bamboo, has gorgeous fall foliage and bright red berries in the winter. I thought I'd done my due diligence when I looked my state's invasive plant species list and did not find this specimen on that list (it exists on other state's invasive plant species lists). The one I purchased already had berries on them - berries that have since turned bright red. I've cut them all off and brought them inside to use as holiday decorations. And though I'm afraid of most birds (and therefore don't like most birds), the fact that the berries contain cyanide and are toxic to birds doesn't sit well with me at all. I'll need to consider this berry dilemma next year when they start to emerge again. It doesn't make sense to create a habitat of plants that bees and butterflies love and simultaneously poison birds. 

Fernleaf buckthorn "Fine Line"

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This plant did not come with a tag with its Latin name, so imagine the almost-heart attacks I had (and there were several) when I was trying to research it. Apparently, its parent plants (e.g., Rhamnus frangula) can be very invasive in many parts of the country. Fine Line, though, was made to have few, if any, berries. It will maintain its tall, columnar shape. It is a deciduous bush (thank goodness I looked that up, as I thought I killed it after planting) and its leaves turn a nice yellow in autumn. I really like the texture of the leaves - the word "wispy" comes to mind. Right now it's on its own in the middle of the allée but I may pair it with another bush when warmer weather rolls around again.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Cross Compact' (Compact Fernleaf Cypress)

I love this plant. Love it. It looks like a tiny chartreuse Christmas tree at the moment. Its foliage looks like soft ferns. Online research is totally mixed. One site says it's rapid growing, the other says it's slow growing. One site says it's tighter and more compact and another site says it will branch out to 6-8 feet wide. The tag says it will look like an upright globe (what the what?). This is clearly a plant after my own heart as it sounds like it can't make up its mind and is in a constant state of identity crisis. It will also probably need to be moved as it's at the start of the pathway and it might get too big. It might be nice in front of or behind another bush (depending on which identity it assumes).

Those are the three new additions to my gardens. Unfortunately, I suffer from a bad case of one-itis, and these three singletons are joining a lone Golden St. Johns Wort, a single dwarf lilac, my pesky viburnum 'Summer Snowflake', and a random hydrangea. I may need to make some (or many) adjustments in the allée in the spring. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The kindness of strangers

I received a gift in the mail last week. I sent away for it and was expecting it but it still thrilled me when it arrived.

No, I'm not peddling baggies of drugs. They're seeds! Despite my initial shyness at requesting seeds from an esteemed garden blogger (even though she was giving them away!), I made a request of Nan Ondra at Hayefield for several seed packets and was sent all that I requested! I was only hoping for one or two, so to get eight was a nice surprise. Let's see what I received.

Amsonia hubrichtii (Arkansas Bluestar)

A multi-season interest perennial, it was named 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. It ought to get 2-3 feet tall by 2-3 feet wide when it matures in a few years and it grows in full sun to part shade. According to this site, it may take 16-20 weeks for seeds to germinate and then evolve into a transplantable plug. I guess I better start them soon!

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Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)

A perennial that attracts both Monarch butterflies and hummingbirds, it will grow about 2-3 feet and enjoys full sun. Once it is established, it should bloom in May-June. According to this site, it should germinate in about 2 weeks. This one looks like a good seed to start under my grow lights in late winter/early spring or to try in my still-to-be-built cold frames.

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Digitalis grandiflora (Yellow Foxglove)

A perennial that may be more of a biennial, it likes part shade and will grow to about 3 feet,  producing yellow flowers in late spring/early summer. This is another cold frame candidate.

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Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape' (Lauren's Grape poppy)

This annual should get about 3 feet tall and likes full sun. It should bloom in early summer and apparently likes to reseed itself, but considering how beautiful it is I hope that it seeds itself all over my garden! This can apparently be direct-sown in early spring. 

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Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove Beardtongue)

These seem to resemble Penstemon 'Husker Red', of which I purchased a couple during my end-of-summer plant binge. It should grow 3-5 feet and enjoys full to part sun. It will have white or light pink flowers in late spring/early summer and red foliage in the fall. It attracts bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies! According to this site, I should surface sow the seeds for 8 weeks at 40*F, so maybe I'll start these outside around March. 

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Stachys officinalis 'Alba' (White Betony or Wood Betony)

I requested this seed because I'd like some more white flowers in my gardens. This perennial's flowers will only grow about a foot tall in early summer and likes full sun to part shade. Bees and butterflies also like it (are you seeing a theme in my selections?). It seems that I can channel my inner Laura Ingalls and make an anti-anxiety tea or a poultice for bug bites from this plant. This is another cold frame candidate.

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Vernonia lettermanii (Narrowleaf Ironweed)

This butterfly-attracting perennial grows about 2-3 feet and has purple flowers in late summer/early fall. It likes full sun and has foliage similar to Amsonia hubrechtii (I better label both!). This is yet another plant to put in my it-better-be-very-large cold frame.

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Zinnia haageana 'Soleado' ('Soleado' Mexican zinnia)

The only other annual I requested, this zinnia reminds me of some coreopsis varieties. They like full sun and will grow 18-24 inches tall. I'll direct sow them in the spring.

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Wow. I have my work cut out for me! I've never grown perennials from seed before. But thanks to the kindness of a stranger, I have the potential to have a lot of new plants in my garden that I wouldn't have had otherwise. 

Have you ever grown perennials from seed? How has it worked out for you?