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Archive for August, 2009

August Blooms in my Georgia Garden

Thursday, August 20th, 2009
Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne' and Salvia guaranitica

Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne' and Salvia guaranitica

Rosa 'Perle d' Or'
Rosa ‘Perle d’ Or’
Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva' with Chrysanthemum 'Becky'

Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva' with Chrysanthemum 'Becky'

stachys-helen-von-stein-and-euphorbia

Stachys 'Helen Von Stein' and Euphorbia

Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers'

Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers'

Ornamental Grasses Add Motion to the Garden

Thursday, August 20th, 2009
Nassella tenuissima and hollyhock

Nassella tenuissima and hollyhock

As summer begins to wind down I find myself thinking of plants for fall and winter.  Ornamental grasses appeal to me for their texture, form and long lasting beauty.  They add  motion to the garden and are effective  as accents, groundcovers, specimens or in masses.   And,  once established many are drought tolerant and carefree.

A few years ago in September I had the pleasure of visiting Chanticleer, a public garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.  This rich and diverse garden offers visitors a chance to see amazing combinations of plants displayed in both formal and more natural settings.  One of the plantings I particulary enjoyed  was a mass of the feather reed grass, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ paired with asters and yuccas.  Large clumps provided strong vertical accents in this informal planting.  A perennial, feather reed  has rich green foliage and airy  inflorescenses up to 6′ tall that start out purplish.   By late  summer they  turn a  buff color that persists well into winter.  Undemanding yet graceful, this ornamental grass adds movement to the landscape when it sways in the breeze.

Muhly grass, plumbago and coleus

Muhly grass, plumbago and coleus

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

Another clumper, the native pink muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaries,  is both tough and beautiful with fine textured dark green foliage and delicate blooms that start out pink or pink-red, and turn  a tan color as they dry.  Growing to about 3′ tall, this “see-through” plant makes a good companion for perennials like asters, chrysanthemums and sedums.

Panicum virgatum, switch grass is a sturdy native that, depending on the cultivar, grows 4 to 8′ tall.  The selection ‘Shenandoah,’ red switch grass,  grows to 4′ tall and  takes on red tones in summer before turning dark burgundy in fall.  I have grown this grass in combination with the native Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ which is noted for its red fall foliage.   There are also forms of switch grass with blue foliage.  Once established it  tolerates a range of soil types including drought or periods of wet and dry.  This grass is also valued for its erect habit and texture in the winter garden.

If you want to make a bold statement and have plenty of space there are numerous cultivars of  Japanese silver grass, Miscanthus sinensis, to consider.  The cultivar Gracillimus reaches 7′ tall in bloom.  Growing to 6′ tall, Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ has a rounded habit with narrow fine-textured foliage, with white-variegated leaf margins.  This beauty glows in the garden, especially when sited near water.

grasses in mixed shrub border at Polly Hill Arboretum

grasses in mixed shrub border at Polly Hill Arboretum

Nassella tenuissima, Mexican feather grass, (formerly known as Stipa, a name I prefer) grows happily in my garden both in the ground and in containers.  The overall effect reminds me of fine green and straw colored hair.  Its size, to about 2′ tall in bloom, makes this clumper easy to use in small gardens.

Two ornamental grasses that I have not grown but hear glowing reports about are Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues,’ a selection of the native little bluestem and Sporobolus heterolepis, prairie dropseed, a native to North American prairies that forms a 15″ tall mound.    Tiffany Jones of McMahan’s considers Schizachyrium “the best grass they sell” for its blue foliage, purple tones in the fall and its upright habit with no flopping.

Prairie dropseed starts out glossy green in the summer but come fall it turns a deep orange before fading to light copper in winter.  The delicate flowers are held high on stalk to about 30″‘s.   A clumper, this  low maintenance grass tolerates a range of soil types and is known to be long-lived and low maintenance.

No matter what the season, ornamental grasses add their own special beauty to the garden, whether you grow them on their own, or in combination with other grasses, perennials, conifers, trees and shrubs.

Tips for Growing Ornamental Grasses

* the best time to divide your grasses is in the early spring just before new growth begins

* cut back grasses in late winter to early spring

August blooms in my garden

Friday, August 7th, 2009
early august with cup flowers, hydrangea and rose

early august with cup flowers, hydrangea and rose

Rosa 'Perle d' Or' with Kalimeris, Dogwood and conifer

Rosa 'Perle d' Or' with Kalimeris, Dogwood and conifer

Silphium perfoliatum, Salvia and Physocarpus 'Diablo'

Silphium perfoliatum, Salvia and Physocarpus 'Diablo'

New and Familiar Favorites for Your Summer Garden

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

It’s always exciting to discover new plants or improved selections of  familiar favorites.  Even the most dedicated gardeners have a hard time keeping up with the plethora of  new varieties that appear on the scene almost daily.  With this in mind I made a trip a few weeks ago with two gardening friends, Anne and David to the Trial Gardens at the University of Georgia.  http://ugatrial.hort.edu    Once we found the gardens, tucked in behind some greenhouses and next to the pathology building   we were glad we had made the trip.  Free and open year-round to the public, the trial  gardens are a great way to observe up close and personal a large selection of annuals from all over the world.  Plants are evaluated for their flowers, leaf color, habit, resistance to insects and diseases and overall appearance.  They also evaluate perennials at the gardens but I will focus here on annuals that made us take note.  We visited the gardens and made our top choices before referring to the UGA website to see how they rated the same plants.  I was not surprised  that our favorites rated well under their system too. 

 

Zinnia 'Profusion Yellow and Z. 'Zahara Double Orange'

Zinnia 'Profusion Yellow and Z. 'Zahara Double Orange'

 Finding good doers for our hot, humid summers is not always easy.  Popular annuals that I have known, grown and enjoyed over the years include the narrow-leaf zinnia, Zinnia angustifolia with orange flowers and the hybrids including ‘Profusion White.’  This zinnia only grows 12 to 18 inches high but pacts a punch with its nonstop flowers making it perfect to fill in gaps in the perennial border or to enhance a container planting.  New to me is Zinnia ‘Profusion Yellow’ and two plants from the Zahara series, ‘Zahara Fire’ and ‘Zahara Double Orange.’  The brilliant flowers look great are bigger than the species.  These three selections were all growing next to each other and it was hard to pick a favorite. 

 

The annual purple fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ and the various selections may not be new to most  gardeners but  there is a group of fountain grasses that elicited high praise both from me and my cohorts. Ornamental millet, Pennisetum glaucum ‘Jade Princess’ grows 3 to 4′ tall and forms a mound of lime-green leaves with  striking dark maroon seed heads that don’t have pollen.  For colorful foliage that stands up to our weather, Pennisetum ‘Princess’ and Pennisetum ‘Princess ‘Caroline’ offer choice alternatives to Phormiums, also known as New Zealand flax;  and they are much more  vigorous in our climate.  P. ‘Princess’ boasts purple foliage that gets even darker with hotter weather, and P. ‘Caroline,’called ornamental Napier grass,  also has brilliant purple foliage but only grows to 3′ tall;  great news for southern gardeners.  Whether you plant them in containers or in the ground these fountain grasses are bound to please; providing color and movement from spring until frost.

 

Pennisetum 'Jade Princess'

Pennisetum 'Jade Princess'

Also on trial, (that was fun to write) were numerous plants that all looked very much the same to me as the good doer, Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost,’ which looks like baby’s breath but blooms all summer even with intense heat and, it  will tolerate some drought too.   Some selections  may have been taller or shorter or had more blue-green foliage but the differences were not great.  A large pot of the showy chartreuse green Boston fern, Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Rita’s Gold’ will brighten up any shade garden especially when combined with begonias, impatiens or caladiums. 

Vernonia lettermanii 'Iron Butterfly'

Vernonia lettermanii 'Iron Butterfly'

One of the most unusual annuals that was new to the three of us is Ptilotus exaltus ‘Joey’ an Australian native that grows to about 1′ tall with feathery spikes of lavender and white and thick foliage, it seems to hold up well in hot, dry weather. 

Of the perennials on display two unusual selections I liked were Vernonia lettermanii ‘Iron Butterfly,’ a compact selection of ironweed with small purple flowers and  delicate foliage similar to that of Amsonia hubrichtii; and the cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum, which is blooming in my garden now. 

Erica’s pick

Cup plant

 

Botanical name: Silphium perfoliatum

Cup plant catches rain water

Cup plant catches rain water

Silphium perfoliatum blooms in late July

Silphium perfoliatum blooms in late July

 

About the plant:  This perennial grows 6 to 8′ tall or taller.    In late summer it produces masses of yellow daisy type flowers.  The stout leaves encircle the stem and form a cup that holds water which attracts birds. 

Use in the garden: Great at the back of the border for late summer bloom. 

Planting and Care:  Full sun and a moist well-drained soil is ideal but this native will also tolerate dry soil. 

Source: Woodlanders, Inc., 1128 Colleton Ave., Aiken, SC 29801, 803-648-7522

www.woodlanders.net

Art Show October 9 at Historic Oakland Cemetery

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Atlanta, Georgia-  On Friday, October 9, 2009 from 7-10pm  Cooper Sanchez presents his fifth Atlanta solo art show and third independently produced art event (one night only) in the old greenhouse ruins at Historic Oakland Cemetery.  After working in the cemetery over the past year as part of the tornado recovery and restoration garden installation, Sanchez developed this body of work from an interest in things forgotten, past and in a state of ruin.    For more information about Cooper and the event visit www.coopersanchez.com