Sunday, July 30, 2006

Egyptian Star Cluster
Pentas lanceolata ‘New Look Red’
(PEN-tass) (lan-see-oh-LAY-tuh)

The name of this plant sure sounds exotic. It is a lovely and underused annual. I guess it does over winter to the south of here. After growing it for a couple of years, I didn’t get any this year. I must not have seen it at the right time. My cultivation memories of this plant are good ones. It does not get too tall or big, and fits nicely in front of the border. It mixes well with other summer annuals. I tend to like the brighter colors of this plant, like this red, but it also comes in pink, white, and violet. The red types also attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Helenium autumnale 'Moerheim Beauty'
(hel-EE-nee-um) (aw-tum-NAH-lee)

Another gardener recommended this plant to me and when I saw it at the Wave Hill plant sale three or four years ago, I grabbed six of them. I planted them in a small island garden right next to the edge of the pond. It has done very well, producing copious amounts of flowers and seedlings. I usually try and pinch it back once during the spring, as it can get quite tall. The stems are sturdy and it doesn't really need to be staked.

There are about 21 species of Helenium.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Pheasant Berry
Leycesteria formosa ‘Golden Lanterns’
(ley-ses-TER-ee-uh) (for-MOH-suh)

Someone bought one of these plants and wanted it planted in their garden. I had not heard of it and looked around the yard for a spot. I found a small open area by a Dwarf Blue Holly (‘Blue Angel’), Wood’s Dwarf Nandina (N. domestica), and a rare Azalea cultivar ‘Rainbow’. This is the spot I had moved a large Burkwood Viburnum from last year. I love Viburnums but they get too big!

The Pheasant Berry is synonymous with Himalayan Honeysuckle. ‘Golden Lanterns’ is apparently a new cultivar. I didn’t notice the scent when I planted it, but the flowers, surrounded by dark bracts, were easy to see. The new growth had a wonderful burgundy color. I will keep you posted on how this plant performs.

I am headed up to Caribou, Maine, for the weekend. I will try to post remotely, but that may not work. If not, I'll be back on Monday.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sweet Alyssum
Lobularia maritima
(lob-yoo-LAR-ee-uh) (muh-RIT-tim-muh)

What can you say about a plant that smells wonderful, grows well, and gives free plants? Sweet Alyssum does all those things and more. This is a plant that I prefer to grow from seed rather than planting it from the nursery. Sowing the seeds along the edge or in the joints gives a nice appearance to garden walks and patios. If the conditions are right, you can end up with a carpet of color. The purple strains have not done well for me, but they are pretty. My main problem with growing Alyssum is not getting it out early enough in the spring, as it likes cool weather. If I remember, I shear off about half the height during the summer and get a nice wave of blooms for fall.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Garden Phlox
Phlox paniculata ‘Speed Limit 45’
(syn, ‘Cotton Candy’)
(floks) (pan-ick-yoo-LAY-tuh)

This Phlox was labeled ‘Speed Limit 45’ at my local nursery. The owner assured me of this. It seems a little bluer than other pictures I have seen. In recent trials, ‘Speed Limit’ was one of only a few cultivars that rated highly resistant to powdery mildew. It seems like they could have come up with a better name than that. Overall, the newer cultivars seem to be more resistant to mildew, but I have resigned myself to having it. This year the Phlox were exceptional, and only recently did I notice some mildew.

Garden Phlox is a classic addition to any garden. There are 32 species of Phlox and they are mainly native to North America. Many of the species are grown in ornamental gardens.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Honeycomb Buddleia
Buddleia x weyeriana ‘Honeycomb’
(BUD-lee-uh) (wey-er-ee-AH-na)

This Butterfly Bush has a different flower than most. The color, of course, is much different. Also, the fact that the blooms are more compact and less cone shaped. It still attracts butterflies and bees; there were many flying around while I took this picture. The plant itself seems a little more compact and a lighter color than Buddleia davidii.

While Butterfly Bush is easy to grow, it does need a little attention throughout the year. Mine have produced a lot of seedlings; enough so that some of them have to be removed. Other seedlings I cut to the ground each year and that helps them stay a little smaller. All in all, a very rewarding plant.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dwarf Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Toto Gold’
(rud-BEK-ee-uh) (HER-tuh)

Green Bottle Fly
Phaenicia sericata

While visiting a friend’s garden, he was raving about this plant. It was planted in front of some taller ‘Rustic Colors’. It did indeed look nice. I took a couple of pictures of the flowers and this one came out the best. The Green Bottle Fly was extra; he landed on the flower a second before I fired the shutter. I looked up the Bottle Fly and it turns out that it does act as a pollinator on some plants. A little research on ‘Toto Gold’ reveals there is another cultivar called ‘Toto Rustic’. Both look like they are worth a try for next year. I will have to look around during the fall and see if it can be acquired.

Rudbeckia is native to the Central and Southeastern United States. It is one of three genera that are commonly referred to as Coneflowers. There are about 25 accepted species within Rudbeckia. It is also the state flower of Maryland.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Chinese Hibiscus
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Moonlight’
(hi-BIS-kus) (RO-suh se-NEN-sis)
Nikon D70s 60mm Micro-Nikkor
1/500 F/11

This is another plant from the container garden. I always have problems photographing Hibiscus because of the long tube with the stamens and pistils at the end. It requires a tricky depth of field. While photographing some other flowers I saw this backlit view of ‘Moonlight’. It has bloomed profusely on very short stems, which leads me to believe it was treated with some sort of growth regulator. It maybe dwarf, but there was not much reference to this particular cultivar. It’s flower, kind of a whitish yellow with a pink center is quite nice. I will probably try and take it into the greenhouse at the end of the season but I really haven’t had a lot of luck over wintering these plants. As most gardeners would do I‘ll keep trying.

Chinese or Tropical Hibiscus is native to tropical Asia and has a seemingly endless variety of cultivars. It can get up to 30 feet in frost-free locations. I once saw a plant in Florida that had several colors grafted on to one plant, and that was amazing. Hibiscus is a flower that just about everyone can enjoy.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph'
(SAL-vee-uh) (kok-SIN-ee-uh)

This plant has been a wonderful addition to the annual border this year. It is compact and free flowering. Having grown many of the blue and purple Salvias, I decided to give this one a try. It doesn’t seem to need cutting back as much as the other types.

The Sages have a long history of cultivation, back to the Romans. There are many medicinal and seasoning uses. The ornamental Sages are generally referred to by their scientific name, Salvia.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Morning Glory ‘Heavenly Blue’
Ipomoea tricolor
(ip-oh-MEE-uh) (TRY-kull-lur)
1/60 sec. F/5.4
Nikon Coolpix 8400

This plant was supposed to be ‘Star of Yelta’, which is a dark purple and red stripe Morning Glory. This is getting to be a pet peeve of mine. There have been several plants this year that were marked wrong. The ‘Star of Yelta’ was going to be a nice foil for some white petunias but it didn’t work out that way. 'Heavenly Blue' looks nice with the petunias, but it is just not as dramatic. Anyway, it is hard to mad at this plant as each morning it greets me with a dazzling array of beautiful blue. I decided to mix in a Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) and that really livened things up a bit. They are happy twisting around each other.

There are 68 species in the genus, a lot of which are considered invasive. The Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas) is among the species.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Passion Flower ‘Lady Margaret’
Passiflora (pass-iff-FLOR-uh)

My old Passion Flower finally conked out on me this year. It didn’t bloom too much last year and I decided to get some new ones for a large container garden I put out each year. After reading that old Passionflowers should be discarded and seeing the lack of bloom, the decision was easy. The container garden is made up of 15 fairly large pots and they get filled with various annuals. I usually plant some sort of centerpiece in each pot, like a rose or Canna lily and this year I used a couple of Passion Flowers. I sometimes get a little whimsical with these pots; it’s a chance to be a little adventurous. This one is ‘Lady Margaret’ and it is a brilliant crimson red. It flowers profusely, and is not quite as rampant as some of the species. Of all the other Passionflowers I've used this year, ‘Belotti’ and ‘Lavender Lady’ have done well.

There are over 500 species of Passions. ‘Lady Margaret’ is a hybrid between P. coccinea and P. incarnata. I only found out the religious significance of the name recently. I always thought the name had more to do with the passion the flowers brought out in their admirers. I will try and winterover this beauty in the greenhouse. It may be a little warm in there for them. I don’t cut them all the way back, however, as this can cause too much vegetative growth. I have really been enjoying this wonderful new hybrid Passionflower.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mexican Aster
Cosmos bipinnatus 'Picotee'
(KOS-mus) (by-pin-NAY-tus)

I grow Cosmos from seed every year. I spread it in some of the borders, as well as in front of the bed where I grow Dahlias. I usually lean toward the shorter types for this spot. This year I got a ‘Growers’ packet of 'Pictoee' and spread it in front of the Dahlias. I find the Cosmos help hide the sometimes ratty looking bottoms of the Dahlias. The foliage is almost a complete opposite of the coarse Dahlia foliage, but it seems to work. I couldn’t resist mixing in a few ‘Ladybird’ Cosmos sulphureus and that looks okay, as they are a little shorter. To finish the front of the bed, I used Striped Marigold and Sweet Alyssum. All of them direct seeded.

‘Pictoee’ is very nice. There is some variation among the flowers. For the most part, they are white with a red edge. This particular flower is much more red than the others. Luckily I had pinched the plants a couple of times early on so they have not gotten too tall.

Cosmos originates in Mexico. There are about 20 species in the genus, but I am only familiar with the two popular ones. They are a wonderful plant for tough conditions. They bloom well in lean soil and don’t ask for too much water. I usually cut them back pretty hard in late summer and enjoy another wave of blooms. The flowers are good for cutting and drying.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hybrid Tea Rose
‘New Zealand’

This is a new rose for me. I bought it at the local garden center. What made me notice it was its huge flower. So far it has done well. After I bought and planted it I decided to look it up. I read some people think the color is common. I guess it is, but in a good way. The fragrant blooms have just kept coming on a bushy disease-free plant.

Sam McGredy developed this rose in 1989 from the parents 'Harmonie' & 'Auckland'. 'Aotearoa New Zealand' is its full name, and it was introduced to celebrate New Zealand’s 150th anniversary. It has 34 petals, strong stems, and dark green foliage. It is said to bloom better in cooler weather, so with this heat wave, we will test that out. Yesterday was one of those days in the garden that takes a lot out of you. I took this picture at 8:30 am and it was already 80 degrees F.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Blue Globe Thistle
Echinops ritro
(EK-in-ops) (RIH-tro)

Blue Globe Thistle is a sturdy perennial for the back of the border. From afar, the flower has wonderful symmetry and beautiful color. When you get up close to the flower, you can appreciate the structure and geometry of it. The flowers are good for cutting or dried arrangements. My experience with this plant has been one small patch that a client bought at a local plant sale. I planted it at the end of her driveway in a bed that is wedged between the road and a huge rock. Nothing else grew there but the Echinops has thrived. I finally got some pink and yellow Lantana to grow with it. If it were somewhere else, I would love to try some Liatris and Gaura or maybe a short Phlox. A couple of good-sized clumps along the back of a mixed border would look nice. I would probably have to mix them with some purple and white Coneflower. There is a dark red Clematis growing near my Globe Thistles, and two years ago the two intermingled and it was great. My subsequent efforts to do it again have failed.

Something about planting a Thistle made me a little nervous, but this has turned out very well. I have read this plant seeds a lot, but in several years I haven’t gotten any seedlings. My plants are growing in poor soil and off the irrigation system. They seem to be happy with that. This plant is very hardy and seems not to take too much care. I have noticed the bees and butterflies have been enjoying the flowers also.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Zinnia elegans ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’
(ZIN-ya) (ELL-eh-ganz)

Yesterday I took a trip to the Bartlett Arboretum. While it was hot, there was not a soul around. It was like a big private garden. I like visiting a garden when all I have do is enjoy it. They do a nice job with the gardens. There is always something that I haven’t seen before. Celosia 'Tassel Purple'’ and Centaurea cyanus 'Black Gem' were nice. The Cornflower was particularly nice, set off by a hairy silver foliage plant (sorry, I don'’t know what it was). It would work well with Dusty Miller or even Lamb'’s Ear. The Celosia is thin and wispy and would have looked a little better planted closer together.

Today’s featured plant was one I hadn't seen before. It is a 2006 All-America Selection award winner. I decided to walk in by the road and I was glad that I had. This Zinnia could be seen from a distance, and at first I thought it was a Black-eyed Susan. When I got close, I could see that it was a semi-tall Zinnia. I love Zinnia, but with all the fungus and insect problems they are always a risk and a lot of work. The foliage on this type looked clean. I have only had success with the shorter types of Zinnia and they are great if the conditions are right.

Zinnias are native mostly to Mexico and that makes them a good hot weather performer. The selective breeding of Zinnia started in the 1800's and there are many variations now available. They do attract a lot of butterflies. This one is a winner from my point of view.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Variegated Blue Pine
Pinus wallichiana ‘Zebrina’
(PY-nus wal-ik-ee-AH-nuh)

This graceful pine tree is a striking accent in any garden. It was formerly know as the Bhutan Pine, but is now called Blue Pine. I have heard it called Himalayan White Pine also. I remember when I showed a friend, who I highly respect as a gardener. He said, “You will never be able to grow that in Connecticut.” Thankfully he was wrong, and the tree has flourished. I later found out this tree is quite hardy. It has beautiful variegated needles, which are gracefully pendulous.

This tree can get quite large; however, with careful pruning, I have kept mine at about 12’ for the last 7 or 8 years. I would recommend it for a mid to large size garden.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Today’s flower is from Ireland. It was growing in a small cottage garden with some daisies, sage, tall Goat’s beard, and roses. This flower was the star of this particular garden, although they had window boxes with lovely red Geraniums mixed with blue Lobelia that were also fantastic. This was probably one of the most beautiful flowers I have seen. My camera battery had died 10 minutes before I stumbled on this beauty, and I had to use my backup camera. At the time I was so disappointed, but later realized my backup is a very good camera and I am lucky to have it (it is a Coolpix 8400, by the way). It did a nice job capturing this beauty under tough conditions. It was kind of a misty twilight.

I am not sure what flower this is. That is probably a little of the attraction for me. I have grown a plant similar to this called Striped Mallow. It looks to me like it is in that family but the flower was larger and more refined. I think I have narrowed it down to Lavatera trimestris or Malope trifida. You can see the green calyx through the petals so that would point to Malope. I am going to try and keep researching it; if anyone knows, please share your knowledge. If I find out, I will edit this post and a few new plants will have to go in the garden next year.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Stokes Aster
Stokesia laevis ‘Blue Danube’
(sto-KEES-ee-uh LEE-viss)
Aster Family

This southeastern US native puts on a fine show this time of year. This is truly a perennial that comes back strong year after year. It is a low-maintenance, hardy (Zone 5) plant that does well in the front of the border. This is the only species in the genus.

This is the cultivar ‘Blue Danube’ and I have had good success with it. Part of the patch has now grown under some Cranberry Cotoneaster and the two plants seem to co-exist well together. It does look a bit odd when the top of the cotoneaster is a sheet of frilly blue. Seeding can be a slight nuisance, but I like it. I can’t understand why this plant isn’t more popular, although it is often grown commercially for cut flowers. It can grow in a slightly moist area and in part shade, two traits which make it a useful plant for me. It can also grow in sun and average soil. It doesn’t like wet feet in the winter!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ivy Leaf Geranium
Pelargonium peltatum ‘Acapulco’
(pe-lar-GO-nee-um pel-TAY-tum)

Coming up with a new photograph every day is a challenge. The light was terrible yesterday between the thick haze and massive showers. A couple of things caught my eye. The Phlox are out strong and the daylilies keep on going. This Geranium seemed like the brightest thing in the garden; the flower color is pretty remarkable. There are six major types of Horticultural Pelargoniums. ‘Acapulco’ is an Ivy-leaved or hanging type. The Pelargoniums are native to South Africa and were first cultivated before 1600. The plant was introduced to England after John Tradescant brought the seeds to Paris around 1630.

This Geranium seems equally at home sprawling over a rock as it does in a container. It is hardy down to about 25 degrees F, so it is best taken indoors or treated as an annual.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dahlia 'Shannon Magenta'

I love to photograph Dahlias. They seem to have there own built-in lighting system. This is the first Dahlia bloom I have grown this season. It came in marked as ‘Lilac Time’ and the color is certainly close. The flower is smaller than a dinner plate type. It is actually 'Shannon Magenta'. The other plants I have are just starting to bud. The wait is agonizing, as I bought mixed Dahlias this year and I am interested to see what I actually got.

Dahlias are native to Mexico. The Aztec culture had many uses for the Dahlia. A box of plants was sent to the Netherlands in 1872 and only one plant lived. This would go on to become one of the parents of most all of the modern hybrids. The breeding work that has gone into Dahlias is impressive; there are literally tens of thousands of cultivars. Of the 12 major classifications of Dahlias, my favorites are Cactus and Decorative. There are 14 different color classifications.

Dahlias are high maintenance gardening, though I encourage people to try them. They are one of the most beloved garden flowers.

If anybody is wondering, all these photos are digital. I like Nikon cameras and have a D70s, Coolpix 8400 and 5600. I use a Nikkor-micro 60mm lens on the DSLR.

“The heat was terribly oppressive, and the huge sunlight flamed like a monstrous dahlia with petals of yellow fire.”

The Picture Of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde

Monday, July 10, 2006

‘Centennial Star’
Hybrid Tea Rose

Last year I needed a few rose plants to fill in a spot in one of the small rose gardens I tend to. I decided that I wanted something a little different, so I ordered 4 roses from Wayside Gardens. Ugh, they were really expensive. It turns out that this rose is special. In general, roses have been doing well here this year, but ‘Centennial Star’ has really outdone the rest. It always seems to have a lot of flowers and good disease resistance. I think when this round is done blooming I will cut it back to about 3 feet. One of the other roses from the batch did really well also; ‘Gypsy Carnival’ has been a wonderful red.

‘Centennial Star’ is a Hybrid Tea rose (my personal favorite) and has an amazing 70 petals per flower. It has the venerable Peace rose in it’s parentage and was hybridized by Meiland Roses in 1997.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Giant Rhubarb
Gunnera manicata
(guh-NER-uh mah-nuh-KAH-tuh)

Bunratty Castle
Co. Clare, Ireland

I have never grown the plant behind the boat. I would dearly love to give it a try. I hope I have the right species listed here. The tropical genus contains over forty different species. They vary enormously in leaf size. The tenderness range is to about 10 deg. F, so it would make it in Connecticut if it had sheltered area and perhaps some extra protection. The giant leaves are a bold foliage statement that need the room to arch out. This plant likes moist-boggy conditions as you can see from the picture.

Bunratty Castle is a must see for the gardens alone. The Folk Park recreates Irish life in the 19th century. The place was stunning to me. The walled garden was amazing. The level of gardening was extraordinary. Around each corner there was something to be seen. The Castle was built in the early 1400’s. Just a 15 minute taxi ride from Shannon Airport.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Double Purple Coneflower ‘Razzmatazz’
Echinacea purpurea (ek-in-AY-shee-uh pur-PUR-ee-uh)
Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee)
Plant Patent #13,894

I tried a couple of these in the garden this year and all I can say is WOW! This is one of the many new Coneflowers they are coming out with. Jan van Winsen discovered this double-flowered version in Holland in 1997.

Coneflowers are easy to grow. It seems very hardy and left to its own devices seeds itself in. I have been collecting and replanting seed from my Coneflowers for a couple of years now. It certainly has produced some interesting color and flower variations. If you want the truly spectacular flowers, use some of the named cultivars. I like mixing the various types together. Mixing in the whites with the pinks has also worked well. Look for more and more colors coming to your local garden center. I was glad to get ‘Sunset’ and 'Razzatazz' from my wholesale supplier in Long Island. Echinacea comes from the Greek word 'echinos' meaning hedgehog in reference to the flower’s spiny center cone.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Butterfly Weed
Asclepias tuberosa

This North American native is difficult to grow unless you have the right conditions. Even then it can take a long time to get established. It likes a well-drained gravel type of soil. It seems to do well in dry fields. The color is outstanding and it produces copious amounts of nectar that attracts butterflies. Transplanting is difficult because of the taproot. It is better grown from seed or pots. The flowers and seed pods are edible and have some medicinal qualities. Unlike most plants in the Milkweed family, it does not have white sap. Watch out in the spring when you are working in the garden as this plant starts growing quite late. I found it is best not to disturb it. If you're up to a challenge and have a dry, not too fertile area, try the Butterfly Weed.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Japanese Iris (Iris ensata)

I am back from Ireland; we had a great time. The wildflowers alone were worth the trip. I hopefully will be posting a few pictures from the trip in a couple of days. I hope to update this blog at least 2 or 3 times a week. If you would like to subscribe please email me at You will have to cut and paste the address as I haven't figured out how to place a link in these entries. If you would like to see some of my other photography my website is or click on the link at on the right side of the page.

Featured today is one of my favorite perennials. Japanese Iris have the largest flower of any of the Iris. I have seen them 6-7" across! One garden I work in has a nice collection of Japanese Iris. They are breathtaking in the height of the season, which is the end of June. They are native to Eastern Asia and are very hardy. The plant has been in cultivation for ages and has been the focus of subjective breeding for many years. The modern cultivars are the most dramatic, with their Japanese names and seemingly endless variation. Their culture is easy on moist, well drained, acid soil. They grow well on the edge of the pond.