Nice Note from NARGS and an Opportunity

Adonis amurensis 'Chichibu Beni'

Adonis amurensis ‘Chichibu Beni’

I got a nice note today from Malcolm McGregor who is the editor of the North American Rock Garden Society journal the ‘Rock Garden Quarterly’.  His message was that the above picture of an Adonis from last winter was selected as the the Joint Winner of Class 5 (Close up) in their annual photo contest.  At the same time he said that my photo of a Gymnospermium albertii was given a Highly Commended rating in a different class.

Gymnospermium albertii

Gymnospermium albertii

As a class winner, I am entitled to give a free annual membership to NARGS to the person of my choosing.  If you are harboring an interest in rock garden plants but have not yet taken the plunge, let me know, and if it’s not already been given away, I’ll be happy to give you this opportunity.  Personally I have found the whole NARGS experience — growing plants, exchanging seeds, and reading the excellent journal articles — to be very fulfilling.

Meanwhile, here is the latest little Zephyranthes in the greenhouse to usher in the fall season

Zephyranthes smallii

Zephyranthes smallii

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day August 2015

Gentiana paradoxa

Gentiana paradoxa

Well I have very mixed feelings for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  There are a few flowers like the beautiful gentians in the alpine bed.  But it is also the dog days of August with over a week since the last rain and no rain in the immediate future.  On top of that we returned from vacationing on Cape Cod to find that the water pump had stopped a week ago and all the elaborate water timing I had set up was a total fail.  It was bad enough for the outdoor plants surviving the drought-like conditions, but the worst casualty was the greenhouse.  With no water the greenhouse becomes an oven.  I can’t even bear posting the picture of what the greenhouse looks like.  The bulb things will survive but the alpine seedlings that were painstakingly started this year were devastated.  Focusing on the positive, there is a splendid Cyrtanthus hybrid which found the desert-like conditions just to its liking.

Cyrtanthus elatus x montanus

Cyrtanthus elatus x montanus

Another little bulb in flower right now is a Barnardia from Japan.

Barnardia japonica

Barnardia japonica

Out in the very dry yard, the first thing that strikes you as it hangs over the porch is a lovely Limelight Hydrangea.

Hydrangea 'Limelight'

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’

In the perennial beds there are two very striking lobelias that capture one’s attention.

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Lobelia x speciosa (Compliment Deep Red)

Lobelia x speciosa (Compliment Deep Red)

This one was brought up from Plant Delights this spring.

There is also a cute little Rosularia from Wrightman Alpines that I noticed flowering on one of the pieces of tufa.

Rosularia sedoides

Rosularia sedoides

There are lots of annuals that give us picking flowers for inside the house.  I noticed a clearwing moth hanging on one of the verbenas.

Clearwing Moth on Verbena

Clearwing Moth on Verbena

For the annual flowers in the garden the Mexican Sunflowers have totally dominated over the zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, etc.

Tithonia dominating annuals

Tithonia dominating annuals

Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

 

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day July 2015

Anastasia en masse

Anastasia en masse

We returned from our trip to the Dolomites to find that there had been pretty constant rainfall while we were gone (and that has continued).  The temperatures have also stayed 5-10 degrees below normal.  This meant that we had a LOT of mowing a weed pulling to do, but we also didn’t have to waste a lot of time dragging hoses around the yard.  The lilies were in full bloom.  It is marvelous to walk out in the yard and get knocked over by the lily fragrance.

Orienpet Lily ‘Anastasia’

Orienpet Lily ‘Anastasia’

Oriental Lily 'Casablanca'

Oriental Lily ‘Casablanca’

Oriental lily ‘Time Out’

Oriental lily ‘Time Out’

Trumpet Lily 'Lady Alice

Trumpet Lily ‘Lady Alice

Lilium 'Pink Perfection'

Lilium ‘Pink Perfection’

Besides other lily varieties there are also the day lilies blooming in gay profusion right now.

Daylilly 'Apollodorus'

Daylilly ‘Apollodorus’

Many annuals are also happening right now but of a couple of perennial standouts are as follows:

Stachys officianalis

Stachys officianalis

Crinum powelli

Crinum powelli

Hydrangea 'Blue Billow'

Hydrangea ‘Blue Billow’

Yes, the ‘Blue Billow’ is very pink.

From the greenhouse we have a couple of little cuties.

Habranthus tubispathus

Habranthus tubispathus

Calydorea amabilis

Calydorea amabilis

And lastly though the Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is mostly about the flowers, I think it’s worth noting a couple of beneficial insects that I saw on the flowers.

Tachynid Fly

Tachynid Fly

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

The Tachinid fly parasitizes caterpillars, including monarch larvae, but on balance it’s a very useful contributor to the garden.  The Widow Skimmer Dragonfly grabs small flying insects out of the air and it’s like having your localized air force to guard the space over your garden.

Why Alpines Inspire

A sea of buttercups

A sea of buttercups

We’ve been back a little more than a week now from a wonderful exploration of the Dolomites with Greentours.  We spent our days walking through meadows or scrambling up rocky cliffs finding hundreds of species of wildflowers in bloom.

Botanizing in the Dolomites

Botanizing in the Dolomites

The whole experience was a reminder of why alpines are so captivating for gardeners all over the world.  Their relatively short growing season and difficult exposed conditions has produced adaptations characterized by rapid abundant flowering from compact plants that are often nestled in or on rocks where many other plants cannot grow.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that the scenery is glorious whenever you take the time to look up from the plants.

The trick is to learn where to look for the different species.  Meadows are often filled with various small ground orchids in the same way we would expect to see dandelions in Maryland.  Potentilla, Sage, Thyme, and Ranunculus are abundant.

Meadows filled with flowers

Meadows filled with flowers

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Dactylorhiza majalis

Dactylorhiza majalis

Bird's Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)

Bird’s Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)

Orobanche gracilis (Growing parasitically on Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculata)

Orobanche gracilis (Growing parasitically on Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculata)

The interplay with the rocks mean that you often seek out rocks in a field to see what has colonized the rocks.  Of course Saxifrages are particularly good at this.

Saxifraga paniculata

Saxifraga paniculata

Saxifraga paniculata hugs the rocks

Saxifraga paniculata hugs the rocks

But in between you find other treasures like the famous Edelweiss.

delweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) amid Bird's Foot Trefoil and other smaller flowers

delweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) amid Bird’s Foot Trefoil and other smaller flowers

The Rampions were a particular favorite of mine.  The Round-headed Rampion was found in many locations.

Round-headed Rampion (Phyteuma obiculare)

Round-headed Rampion (Phyteuma obiculare)

And on three occasions we came upon the famous Devil’s Claw in flower.  This alpine flower is found only in Italy, Austria, and Slovenia and we were fortunate to actually be there when it was flowering.

Devil's Claw (Physoplexis comosa)

Devil’s Claw (Physoplexis comosa)

The Physoplexis seemed happiest when growing on a cliff face.  It immediately produced a question in our group which apparently has been a serious question for botanists.  Namely, how does the Devil’s Claw get pollinated?

Another particularly beautiful flower, like the Rampions, is also in the Campanula family.

Bearded Bellflower (Campanula barbata)

Bearded Bellflower (Campanula barbata)

Mostly we explored the areas around the mountain passes, but we also got to higher elevations on two occasions.  One I wrote about on the previous posting and the other was on the next to the last day when we took a ski lift up to the shoulder of Marmolada at 8500 ft.  The ground at the top is all scree below the snowline and at first you would conclude there is nothing gowing there.

Barren looking landscape on Marmolada at 8500 ft.

Barren looking landscape on Marmolada at 8500 ft.

But on closer inspection you see that many things thrive in the scree.

Purple saxifrage (saxifraga oppositifolia)

Purple saxifrage (saxifraga oppositifolia)

Vitaliana primuliflora

Vitaliana primuliflora

Saxifraga androsace

Saxifraga androsace

Especially prevalent was the Round-leaved Pennycress which seemingly colonizes every spot where someone else is not…

Thlapsi rotundifolium

Thlapsi rotundifolium

 

Dolomitic Joy

King of the Alps (Eritrichium nanum)

King of the Alps (Eritrichium nanum)

We are experiencing a wonderful surplus of wildflowers this week on a tour of Dolomites with Greentours.  I hadn’t intended on reporting on this journey until we returned home but today was such a wonderful experience I just had to share some of what we have been seeing.  Every day has been a discovery of new plants that we had never seen, with hundreds of species recorded so far, but today was just over the top for anyone interested in alpines.

We spent the day walking at over 7000 feet looking over majestic scenery and crawling up crags to get close to cushions of alpine plants or walking next to meadows where flowers and butterflies were abundant.  I’m just going to share a few of the images at this point to give a sampling of what we are seeing but for anyone who is interested Greentours does a phenomenal job of giving you a rich and thorough exploration of the landscape.  We’re on the trail from about 9 to 5 every day and each day seems to exceed the last in wonderful experiences.  I expect to provide a more complete sampling of the wildflowers in the future but this is a sampling of today’s encounters.

View into Austria

View into Austria

Silene exscapa

Silene exscarpa

Geum montanum

Geum montanum

Alpine Toadflax (Linaria alpina)

Alpine Toadflax (Linaria alpina)

Phyteuma hemisphaericum

Phyteuma hemisphaericum

Alpine Poppy (Papaver aurantiacum)

Alpine Poppy (Papaver aurantiacum)

Juncus jacquinii

Juncus jacquinii

Pedicularis verticillata

Pedicularis verticillata

Soldanella alpina

Soldanella minima

Ranunculus glacialis

Ranunculus glacialis

Vitaliana primuliflora

Vitaliana primuliflora

Potentilla nitida

Potentilla nitida

Potentilla nitida detail

Potentilla nitida detail (note the green stamens)

Saxifraga paniculate on rock outcropping

Saxifraga paniculata on rock outcropping

Last, but not least, we have encountered a number of Gentians and several have the stunning blue color that Gentians are famous for.  It seems appropriate to begin with the blue Eritrichium and end with a Gentian.

Gentiana brachyphylla

Gentiana brachyphylla

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day June 2015

Stewartia japonica

Stewartia japonica

Hello to Summer.  It’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and the Stewartia decided it was an appropriate time to open its flowers for the occasion.  It always astounds me that a tree with such beautiful bark manages to have exquisite flowers as well.  Unlike other years we have yet to put out all the hose sprinklers because we seem to be getting thunderstorms every other night.  The peonies and maincrop irises are all passed now but some of the iris are just happening now.  One that has pretty much taken hold of a spot in the garden is a hybrid, Kimboshi.

Iris x pseudata 'Kimboshi'

Iris x pseudata ‘Kimboshi’

Another iris that keeps expanding its space every year is the Japanese Iris, Agripinella.

Iris ensata 'Agripinella'

Iris ensata ‘Agripinella’

Another flower from the Iris family that is blooming right now is the Prairie Iris.

Alophia drummondii

Alophia drummondii

This one I grew from seed obtained from the SIGNA (Species Iris Group of North America) seed exchange in 2013.  There are several of the Zephyranthes, Herbertia, and Moraeas that seem to want to bloom about this time of the year in the greenhouse.  This one is said to be zone 8, but I might give it a try outside when I have enough of them.

Another greenhouse item right now is from the  Amaryllis family

Cyrtanthus mackenii

Cyrtanthus mackenii

Like many of its kin, this comes from South Africa.

We also have a number of Ismene and Hymnocallis in bloom.  They are easily grown in pots that can be overwintered completely dry and then brought outside for the growing season.  My favorite at the moment is Sulfur Queen, which is a hybrid between two Ismene species.

Ismene 'Sulfur Queen'

Ismene ‘Sulfur Queen’

A very special little Astilbe that I picked up at Oliver Nurseries this spring has come into bloom.

Astilbe 'Cobblewood Fireworks'

Astilbe ‘Cobblewood Fireworks’

This is a very dwarf astilbe with thick shiny green leaves and lovely pink flowers that was originated by Darryl Probst.

Another rather special plant coming into bloom is a Lysimachia with a very tropical aspect.

Lysimachia paridiformis var. stenophylla

Lysimachia paridiformis var. stenophylla

It withstood a difficult winter with flying colors.

If you are looking to feed the butterflies and bees while satisfying your lust for flower color I would recommend a very nice butterfly weed, ‘Hello Yellow’.

Asclepias tuberosa 'Hello Yellow'

Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’

This is very vigorous and covered with dazzling yellow flowers.  I saw a large, bright orange butterfly on the plant at one point and it was an OMG moment, but I couldn’t get the camera in time.

Many other flowers are blooming.  I’ll let some of them speak for themselves.

Red Monarda

Jacob Cline Monarda

Calendula hybrid

Calendula hybrid

Stokesia laevis 'Honeysong Purple'

Stokesia laevis ‘Honeysong Purple’

Delosperma basuticum

Delosperma basuticum

While this post is about the flowers blooming today, I would be remiss in my reporting duties if I didn’t observe that it is also maximum fruit day where the strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are all flowing into the house.  And it is also when the birds are having their mulberry/wild cherry festival just beyond the garden fence.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Enjoy!

Strawberry Jewels & More

Strawberry jewels

Strawberry jewels

Last year we replanted strawberries after disease had taken hold in our old row.  I first put in 25 Jewel strawberries in a double row 18″ apart with pinebark mulch.  Those 25 were allowed to expand and expand they did.  I would say that the mesh of strawberries is about three foot wide and so dense as to exclude most weeds.

Double row of Jewel Strawberries

Double row of Jewel Strawberries

They have been extraordinarily productive.  We’ve been bringing in a very large bowel of strawberries every night and predominantly from this patch.  Later on last year, near the end of June I added another 50 plants (Allstar & Cavendish) and those have been contributing too, but not nearly so many as the jewel plants.  Somehow in my unreasonable fear that we would not have enough strawberries, I added another 25 strawberry plants this spring (Cabot).  I think we will need help picking next year.

3 nights of strawberry picking

3 nights of strawberry picking

Meanwhile on the flower front much has been happening.  I was really pleased to see the Martagon lily ‘Arabian Knight’ flowering for the first time.

Martagon Lily 'Arabian Knight'

Martagon Lily ‘Arabian Knight’

I love the way the Martagons have a completely different profile from the normal lily hybrids.  The foliage itself makes a statement.  We’ve also have the first flower on a small Chinese lily that I got from Far Reaches this year.

Lilium duchartrei

Lilium duchartrei

This is said to spread underground so that should be fun.  I wouldn’t mind a clump of these little guys.

I was more than pleased to see that a couple of my favorite Arisaemas (fargesii and candidissimum) have finally decided to emerge.  Take a note for future years that I should not expect or dig in these areas until June.

Arisaema fargesii

Arisaema fargesii

There are a number of little rain lilies popping out in the greenhouse right now.  They are all a bit tender for this area, but I may give them a shot at outside exposure when I have enough of them in hand.  For the moment I just take out to sit on the back porch.

Habranthus brachyandrus

Habranthus brachyandrus

Zephyranthes rosea

Zephyranthes rosea

Habranthus tubispathus var. texensis

Habranthus tubispathus var. texensis

Zephyranthes dichromantha

Zephyranthes dichromantha

You can see from the pictures that these little bulbs are multiplying in there pots, but it’s hard to compete with the oxalis which REALLY multiply in the pots.  I started separating out the oxalis from 2013 plantings this year as they went dormant and the original 1-3 bulbs have expanded a lot.

Oxalis flava 'Yellow'

Oxalis flava ‘Yellow’

Oxalis flava 'Yellow' yield

Oxalis flava ‘Yellow’ yield

They can be kept in a bag until August when they will be ready to go again for fall/winter blooming in the greenhouse.  As a reminder the Oxalis in the greenhouse are nothing like the little pests you find in the garden.

Oxalis flava - yellow

Oxalis flava – yellow

Thinking of the greenhouse, there is a South American bulb with gorgeous deep blue flowers that has been blooming steadily for the last two weeks.

Gelasine elongata

Gelasine elongata

I always enjoy seeing these new bulbs or seeds bloom for the first time.  I recently planted out several Anemone multifida ‘Rubra’ that I grew from the NARGS seed exchange in 2014.

Anemone multifida 'Rubra'

Anemone multifida ‘Rubra’

Similarly this little Dianthus that I planted in tufa was grown from the NARGS 2014 seed exchange.

Dianthus spiculifolius

Dianthus spiculifolius

Speaking of seed exchanges, now is the time to be gathering seed from the early flowering plants.  For many of them, like the Jeffersonia, you have to watching carefully to see that you get the seeds before the wind and the insects do…

Harvesting Jeffersonia dubia seeds

Harvesting Jeffersonia dubia seeds

Jeffersonia dubia seeds

Jeffersonia dubia seeds

Identifying the seeds for these large seeded plants is pretty straightforward but many plants are pretty tricky.  Helps you appreciated what goes on for a more wide-ranging seed collector like BotanyCA.

I had a perfectly wonderful time at the NARGS annual meeting, but that deserves a posting in itself.  I will say that I brought back a number of exotic plants including this little Conandron that I’ve put in the alpine bed.

Conandron ramondioides

Conandron ramondioides

The alpine bed continues to be very successful.  I’ve added another Lewisia since they seem to like it so much.

Lewisia longipetala ‘Little Peach’

Lewisia longipetala ‘Little Peach’

And the alpine aster has returned from last year.

Aster alpina

Aster alpina

Out in the main garden beds the astrantia is coming into bloom, along with the horned poppies.

Astrantia 'Moulin Rouge'

Astrantia ‘Moulin Rouge’

Yellow Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum)

Yellow Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum)

Orange Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum)

Orange Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum)

There is one little garden mystery.  Somehow a european spotted orchid has appeared on the opposite side of the yard from where it bloomed last year (and where it has no flower buds this year).  I have no memory of having planted one in this spot.  But nonetheless it seems to be happily blooming away.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Let me close with the first thing I check in the morning — the spuria iris.

Spuria Iris 'Cinnebar Red'

Spuria Iris ‘Cinnebar Red’

Spuria iris 'Stella Irene'

Spuria iris ‘Stella Irene’

 

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day May 2015

White-Pink Tree Peony

White-Pink Tree Peony

Well, I can’t believe that I completely missed the date for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  Especially given that May is one of the most flower-filled months of the year.  So given that I am so late I will just hit the highlights without a lot of reflection.  The Peonies are well into their cycle with the species peonies and tree peonies just finishing up and the intersectionals (Itohs) just starting.

Yellow tree peony up close

Yellow tree peony up close

Paeonia x 'Morning Lilac' single flower

Paeonia x ‘Morning Lilac’ single flower

Paeonia x 'Morning Lilac'

Paeonia x ‘Morning Lilac’

Paeonia x 'Scarlet Ohara'

Paeonia x ‘Scarlet Ohara’

Many of the garden standards like Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Bearded Iris, Roses, and Clematis are starting up.

Rhododendron chionoides

Rhododendron chionoides

Black and Blue Bearded Iris

Black and Blue Bearded Iris

Yellow Bearded Iris

Yellow Bearded Iris

Knockout Rose Red

Knockout Rose Red

Azalea Exbury Hybrid 'Klondyke'

Azalea Exbury Hybrid ‘Klondyke’

One strong growing plant with wonderful foliage in the monument bed is Virginia Waterleaf.  Based on last year’s aggressive spreading, I’m planning to cut this back after flowering and before seeds set.

Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)

Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)

Hydrophyllum virginianum

Hydrophyllum virginianum

Right behind the waterleaf is an Enkianthus which holds myriad little bells at the moment.

Enkianthus campanulatus

Enkianthus campanulatus

Also a bit uncommon and quite nice is the Indian Aster.

Indian aster (Kalimeris indica)

Indian aster (Kalimeris indica)

In the alpine bed and troughs there are lots of saxifrage and androsace in bloom.

Androsace, saxifrage, campanula, aubretia, and oxalis all blooming in the alpine bed

Androsace, saxifrage, campanula, aubretia, and oxalis all blooming in the alpine bed

But I continue to find the Lewisia particularly attractive.

Lewisia pygmaea

Lewisia pygmaea

Lewisia cotyledon

Lewisia cotyledon

My favorite flower in one of the large troughs right now is a very compact silvery dwarf harebell from Croatia that naturally forms a cushion of flowers.

Silvery dwarf harebell (Edrianthus pumillo)

Silvery dwarf harebell (Edrianthus pumillo)

Well that’s it for this month given that I am already a day late.  What a glorious time of year!