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Archive for March, 2011

Daffodils and More

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

 On March 16,  I had the pleasure of visiting a private garden* (this garden will open to the public in March of 2012, stay tuned for more information) in north Georgia with millions of daffodils (they planted three million and there must have been at least one million in bloom on the day that I was there; a real treat for a Narcissus lover like me.  In my own garden I only have hundreds but aspire to thousands and add more daffodils each year.  In our ever changing southern climate we can grow early, midseason and late varieties.  The garden I visited had the luxury of large spaces and rolling terrain but even small gardens can create wonderful effects with daffodils.  The same seasoned gardeners who know that all azaleas are rhododendrons but not all rhododendrons are azaleas also know that all jonquils and daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus

Daffodils in private garden, north Georgia

 More often than not when I give a lecture and recommend plants a common question is “Is it deer resistant?”  In the case of Narcissus, the bulbs are poisonous and therefore deer and other critters avoid them.  I did have someone challenge me on this point once but in my experience (over 20 years of gardening and visiting gardens throughout the US I have never known of deer to eat daffodils.)   Some of my favorite selections  include ‘Thalia’ an heirloom that dates to 1916, with two to three pure white flowers per stem, it and ‘Sweetness’ a golden yellow with delicious fragrance, it dates to 1939. 

Other blooms and plants of interest in my garden this week include Angelica keiski also known as perennial Ashitaba, which I see listed in Plant Delights Nursery catalogue,  hardy from zone 7 to 9 or colder.  A native of Japan it is probably best known as a medicinal plant.  For me the glossy green foliage adds great architecture when it comes up early  and looks good until the extreme hot weather sets in.  At which point the leaves begin to die back and the plant goes dormant.  Because of this I grow it with Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty.’ (Zone 7 to 9)  Planted close by is Acer palmatum ‘Villa Taranto’ with beautiful its fresh spring foliage.   In the background Viburnum macrocephalum (Zone 7 to) is just beginning to put on a show with large clusters of flowers that start out chartreuse and then turn white,  extending the bloom time for weeks.  This viburnum can easily grow to heights of 20’ or taller so site it at the back of the border and give it plenty of room.   The heuchera’s look great too,  especially Heuchera ‘Citronelle.’  Planted in the same area is  Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight, with new shoots that remind me of  asparagus, although I would not recommend eating them.  Purple violas add color in this sea of green.

Viburnum macrocephalum, Acer palmatum 'Villa Taranto' and Angelica keiski

Narcissus 'Sweetness' March 22 in my garden

Yes, spring is here and each day my garden offers new delights.  Now if I can just keep the chickweed under control before I plant summer annuals.

Deciduous Magnolias

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011


Magnolia x soulangiana

 It’s early March and this has been a banner year for deciduous magnolias in my part of the world.  Living in Atlanta, GA (zone 7) when you say magnolia, many people assume you are talking about the ubiquitous  evergreen southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora but plant lovers know that there are dozens of different types of magnolias to grow that are hardy from zone 5 to 9.  In late February to early March there are many years in Georgia when both the saucer magnolia, Magnolia x soulangiana  and star magnolia, Magnolia stellata, come into bloom(on bare stems before any foliage appears)  only to be zapped by frost a few days later.  Not so this year, trees have been blooming for close to two weeks, filling the air with their color and fragrance.  A yellow flowered hybrid, Magnolia ‘Butterflies,’ the result of a cross between Magnolia acuminata, the cucumber magnolia and Magnolia denudata, also known as the Yulan magnolia was just coming into bloom on March 6, when I photographed it at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.  Growing 20 to 30’ tall, it makes a great specimen tree and stands out when planted against a backdrop of evergreens.   

Magnolia 'Butterflies'

If you’re trying to decide what to plant under your magnolia, many of the minor bulbs (ranging from 3 to 10” tall)  are great candidates including the following.  You can plant a mass of one type or mix different types together.

Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica in March

Below is a list of bulbs that make happy companions under deciduous magnolias.

Anemone blanda-windflower-comes in blue, pink and white

Crocus tommasinianus-tommies-squirrel resistant, lavender, white,

Eranthis hyemalis-winter aconite-yellow flowers that look like buttercups

Iris reticulata-dwarf iris-

Ipheion uniflorum-spring star flower-almost pure white to soft violet

Muscari americanum-grape hyacinth-cobalt blue spikes

 Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica – puschkinia-pale blue to white flowers with dark blue stripes

Scilla siberica-Siberian squill-blue flowers, easy to naturalize

Puschkinia and Scilla in March

A great mail order  source for interesting deciduous magnolias is Fairweather Gardens. http://www.fairweathergardens .com/