Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

The last day of the calendar year has arrived. On this day we reflect on the twelve months that have just passed and look forward to the 365 days ahead. Those of us who love gardens and gardening begin to think about excursions and acquisitions we yearn to make during the new year. 

My garden travel plans? I hope to return to Taiwan and spend more time visiting gardens there.

And in my own garden, my goal is to tame more of the "jungle" by adding more ferns to an area overrun by English ivy. 

I wish for each of you a blessed 2015. What are your garden-related goals and dreams?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Colors

My backyard jungle in November before the early freeze

Happy Thanksgiving, readers! What am I grateful for on this day? Among many blessings, I am enjoying seasonal color without leaving town.

We don't normally have a whole lot of autumn leaf color where I live. Most often the leaves drop without changing to mango, topaz,  ginger, or garnet. This year is different. Leaves have remained on trees a bit longer than usual, I think, and an early freeze last week seems to have coaxed startling pigment from some of them.

In addition to the effect of climate change, there is another reason for the increase in fall color in the Lowcountry. A couple of years ago the Town constructed medians on Highway 17, landscaping both the medians and the verges, on each side of the road, with an attractive palette of plants. And in my own yard, I now take into account the potential for gorgeous autumn foliage when I select new shrubs and trees to plant. Several months ago I purchased a coral bark Japanese maple with color in mind.

Coral bark Japanese maple
Coral bark Japanese maple before the freeze
Coral bark Japanese maple
Coral bark Japanese maple after the freeze
The leaves on this "Desert Gold" peach tree have dropped now
A hosta coordinates foliage color with Japanese maples 
Oakleaf hydrangea
Oakleaf hydrangea (see last month's post for comparison)
Japanese maple
Lace-leaf Japanese maple "Viridis" surrounded by a partridge berry ground cover
Leaf shapes in a public space

Friday, October 31, 2014

Autumn in the Lowcountry

Here in the Lowcountry, autumn is a time of beauty in our gardens, even if we don't have much brilliant leaf color. Camellia susanquas are in bloom along with lantana, Confederate roses, Turk's cap mallows, chrysanthemums, sweet Williams, pansies, and marigolds. I have narrowed down to nine the plethora of photographs I want to show you. 

Every picture contains a story. 

Confederate rose

Confederate Rose

I first noticed the Confederate rose at a plant sale perhaps three or four years ago and bought one not knowing what to expect. Wow! Here, it flowers in autumn. The blossoms start out white and pinken before turning red. Now I notice Hibiscus mutabilis when I'm out and about. In one yard in my neighborhood, closer to the deep water of the Wando, a line of Confederate roses grow near the street. Two weeks ago, during the Charleston Horticultural Society's Garden Tour, I spotted a gorgeous specimen in a Seabrook Island cul de sac island.

"Peace" rose

"Peace" Rose

As a teenager, my now-grown daughter loved roses and asked to plant some. This "Peace" rose is around twenty-years-old and the only one to survive of the three or four varieties I bought for her. Ten or more years ago, I relocated the rose hoping it would be happier in a spot without full sun. Eventually nearby trees grew and blocked the sun for most of the day. Last year I finally wised up and put down mulch. Voila!  This month: Four or five rose buds at one time on this hybrid tea. That's a first. If you look closely at the photograph, you will see that something has been nibbling on the leaves. 

Shepherd's needle
Bidens alba or shepherd's needle

Shepherd's Needle

The soil around a magnolia I purchased from a local nursery in 2012 contained a seed from which sprouted a bonus plant. The plant had daisy-like flowers. It grew tall. I transplanted it to another spot in the garden and took cuttings and planted them directly into the ground. I also scattered the seeds. Late last summer I began to suspect the plant must be invasive. During my trip to Taiwan, I saw this same plant growing weed-like along mountaintop roadsides. Upon returning home, I uprooted the plants still growing in my yard. A few sprouted this year. I pulled up most but allowed two or three to grow. Earlier this month, while serving as a garden tour docent, I discovered this plant growing en mass along a small portion of the homeowner's driveway. I asked him what it was. "Shepard's needle," he said before confirming that it can be invasive. But the way he incorporated it into his landscape? Amazingly beautiful! The pollinators feasted.

American Beautyberry
American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

American Beautyberry

How could I not have noticed the American beautyberry until recent years? Visiting my oldest sister in North Carolina, I discovered one growing behind her house beside an old cemetery where several of our ancestors are buried. In 2011 (I think), I bought one at the Native Plant Society sale and another at Plantasia and planted both beneath the huge live oak in my front yard. Both have thrived.  

Oakleaf hydrangea
Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Oakleaf hydrangea
Oakleaf hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangeas

These oakleaf hydrangeas are ones I transplanted from the backyard. Both came from the same parent plant. The top one I planted last year. The one with the interesting leaf color, I moved this year. 

Turk's cap mallow
Cloudless sulphur butterfly on Turk's cap mallow (Malvaviscus)

Turk's Cap Mallow

During lunch I used to walk past a house on the Charleston peninsula where each autumn Turk's cap mallows bloomed in the tiny front yard. I coveted these bright blossoms. Lucky for me, a plant I selected at a swap last year turned out to be a Turk's cap. 

Alhambra Hall on the Harbor

All of the photographs above I took in my own garden. The two below depict an October morning at Mount Pleasant's Alhambra Hall.

Monarch butterfly on lantana
Monarch butterfly feeding on lantana

Grounds of Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant
Marsh grass, sweet grass, and lantana

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Plant Swap

A section of a blood banana leaf

Back in my grandmother's day, gardeners regularly traded cuttings, seeds, and seedlings with friends and neighbors. Nowadays, people often buy their bedding plants and shrubs at local nurseries or from big box stores. They hire landscaping firms to make selections and implement designs. 

Too many 21st century homeowners are missing out. Trading plants is not only fun, but it's a great way to save money and discover new varieties, and even new species, at the same time.

This past Saturday I woke early. After dressing, I hurried out to the garden where I dug up and potted nine plants to take to a plant swap in North Charleston. My contribution consisted of 2 yellow cannas, 1 camellia seedling, 1 avocado, 1 oak leaf hydrangea, 1 bushy marigold, 1 cast iron plant, 1 old-fashioned orange daylily, and 1 plant that escapes my memory. 

Participants arrive at Park Circle between 10 and 11 a.m. and place swap items on a stretch of lawn. After unloading my car, I wandered across the lawn looking at what plants were on offer. I saw plenty of Mexican petunias, but since I already have some of those (from two or three different sources) and they almost never bloom for me, I didn't linger. 

Many participants already stood guard beside their first swap choices. I found a blood banana and fell in love with its gorgeous red and green leaves. Actually, I found two of them, a few yards apart. I stationed myself beside the one that stood upright. The other was lying down. A man, helping other people unload plants, came over to me and said, "Thank you for guarding this for me." He pointed to the blood banana. We both laughed. He wandered off to more carry plants for someone. What a friendly, funny man! When he finished assisting the newcomers, he came back to where I was and said, "Thanks," and moved in as if relieving me at the end of a shift. I stood there awkwardly for maybe fifteen seconds before making my way to the prostrate blood banana.

At 11 a.m. the organizer of the event called out, "Select one plant." After allowing participants time to move chosen plants off the lawn, he announced it was time to pick another plant. Later it was "Okay, now pick two plants." After a second "two plant" selection opportunity, it was "get as many plants as you can carry, because I don't want any left over."
I came home with the blood banana ( Musa acuminata ssp. zebrine),  a badly butchered azalea, a regular banana, 2 red cannas with green leaves, 1 canna with yellow and orange blossoms, 1 ginger stalk, 1 named daylily (Hemerocallis "Strawberry Candy”), 2 or 3 wandering Jew starters (not yet rooted), a tiny Japanese maple (a variety with leaves that look similar to those of a cannabis plant), a camellia seedling in poor condition, a tiny angel trumpet, an orchid cactus, a lily of the valley, a couple of small plants marked “blue flower short,” a tiny and possibly-dead miracle berry, and a flame tree seedpod. 

The reason I received more than I gave was because some folks bring lots and lots of one thing, perhaps focusing more on what they want to get rid of than what someone else might want. Others, I think, are more discriminating in what they choose to take home, looking for specific items, hoping to find something they already knew they wanted. The end result is loads of plants in search of new garden homes. 

When I left, all of my donations to the swap had found takers - all except one, that is. A yellow canna remained, still hoping, I imagine, to get picked. 

Japanese maple

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rose of Sharon

This rose of Sharon languished until I moved it into full sun

Hibiscus syriacus, better known as rose of Sharon, is a hardy deciduous shrub native to Asia. 

A few years ago I bought a small rose of Sharon and planted it where I wanted it - outside the laundry room. That first year it graced me with a few flowers. The next year there might have been two or three blossoms; the following year probably none. It didn't seem to grow any taller or wider. If anything, I think it shrank. 

In spring of 2013, I moved it to a spot with full sun. It flourished in its new location, shooting up a few feet in height and bursting into flower. This summer it bloomed early and profusely and continues to do so. 

While visiting public gardens, I've been introduced to other members of the hibiscus family, to other varieties I'd grow if I had sufficient room. 

A double white Rose of Sharon growing in Greensboro's Arboretum

This pink grows near the entrance to the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy's Marsh View Trail