Category Archives: Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Heavenly Blue Morning Glory

Morning glories are well known and popular; they need little description. I plant them every year along a wooden banister. Their brightly colored faces greet me in the morning as I go to work. By summer’s end, they have become close friends with the other plants, clasping their thin tendrils around the branches of neighboring shrubs and perennials.

Growing morning glories from seed is easy if you bypass that hard seed coat. Either soak the seeds in water overnight before planting or nick the seed coat with a file to allow water to permeate. I start my seeds by soaking in water and then planting in a small plastic cup with soil, under lights in my house. I start in late April and transplant after last frost, typically after Mother’s Day here in Virginia. Morning glory seeds can be direct sown but I do not have luck with that. They do need support so make sure they are planted in a place where the tendrils can clasp on to something.

Each year, I try different varieties and this year it was Heavenly Blue from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Heavenly Blue is an heirloom with bright blue flowers and a white throat. Other varieties have pink, white, magenta, or purple flower colors. I have even grown morning glories with variegated green and white foliage.

Morning glories have to be grown in full sun in order for the flowers to open up in the morning. They prefer well-drained soil, not too rich or one gets more foliage than flowers.

Even though I associate morning glories with summer they can often start blooming later in the season. Some people call them “back to school” vines because they seem to start (finally!) blooming in the fall.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day occurs on the 15th of the month. Garden bloggers around the world post their articles about blossoms in their garden. #gardenbloggersbloomday

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Four O’Clocks

yellow four o’clocks in my garden, 8:30 pm

When we were at Monticello last summer I was struck by how large Thomas Jefferson’s four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) were compared to mine. I also liked the fact that it was a plant he knew and grew and could still be grown today as an heirloom. Although I had a few small plants in dry, lean soil in full sun, I was inspired to start new plants from seed this year. I planted them in very rich soil, under morning sun and afternoon shade. Yes, Virginia, despite our heat, humidity, and lack of rain, they are growing very well. They are about 2 feet tall with light green leaves and many yellow or pink blossoms.

The only trick is that the flowers do not open in the day. Although they are named for opening at 4:00 pm, mine never do. The tubular blossoms are sensitive to light and temperature and prefer to open during the cool of the evening, usually between 4 and 8 pm, and stay open all night long. Currently we are in the midst of a heat wave so they do not seem to be opening fully.

flower begins to open in evening

Flowers come in pink, white, red, yellow, magenta, or mixed, liked speckled. They are tender perennials which means they will grow as perennials in the south but in my zone 7 garden, I can grow them as annuals that may not overwinter, dig and save the tubers for next year, or start new seed next year. Four o’clocks were cultivated and selected for various colors by the Aztecs prior to the Spanish Conquest. They were then introduced to Spain and England and were in cultivation in Europe for about 200 years before Linnaeus first described the species in 1753. Thomas Jefferson received his from France. In July 1767, exactly 250 years ago to the month, he noted in his journal “Mirabilis just opened, very clever.”

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day occurs on the 15th of the month. Garden bloggers from around the world post their articles about blossoms in their garden.

pink four o’clocks at Monticello, early afternoon

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Feverfew

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is an old herb once thought to treat fevers but actually is helpful in preventing migraine headaches. I first saw the plant blooming at a demonstration garden a few years ago and liked the small, daisy-like flowers, similar to chamomile. I sowed seed late last summer and transplanted the seedlings in the ground before frost. They weathered the mild winter in my zone 7 Virginia garden but remained small. When the temperature increased in early spring, the plants grew up very fast and started blooming as early as . The plants are several feet tall now in full sun, oblivious to our current dry spell. I do not use feverfew medicinally but as a summer flowering perennial. Because they are small white flowers, they are great by themselves in a vase or as a filler with other flowers.

I read that the plant has a strong and bitter smell but I don’t notice it. I have also read that feverfew has mosquito repelling qualities but there are still the same number of mosquitoes in my garden.  However, I have noticed that nothing goes near it, no deer and no rabbits.

My variety is Heirloom Double White Wonder from Renees Garden but there are other cultivars on the market such as Aureum, White Bonnet, Golden Ball, Crown White, and Ultra Double White. You may not find this in your local nursery as a plant; you may have to purchase seed but the seed germinates easily. Feverfew is known to be a short-lived perennial but it will be a summer-long success in my garden this year.

The 15th of the month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day where garden bloggers post photos of plants that are blooming in their area across the country.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Border Pinks

Years ago I was given a border pink named Heart’s Desire. A border pink is a group of Dianthus perennials that are used for border edging or rock gardens. They are small plants with gray green, grass-like leaves. They prefer full sun and are drought tolerant once established. Dianthus flowers range from pink to red, have the same ruffled look as a carnation, with the same clove fragrance as a carnation. But a Dianthus is a much smaller plant, a mound of foliage less than a foot wide with inch-wide blossoms on 6-inch stems. Heart’s Desire, a Blooms of Bressingham introduction, is bubblegum pink with a red halo.

Dianthus flowers are edible but fortunately deer don’t eat them. For my family, I pull apart the petals to add color to green or fruit salads and lemonade or fruit drinks.  I also cut the flowers for small vases in the office. This plant is a performer — it has thrived on a sunny terrace in my Virginia garden with no maintenance and no fertilizer for many years. Heart’s Desire blooms all summer long and the leaves stay above ground during the winter. 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Bleeding Heart

Last fall, a friend gave me the root of her bleeding heart plant she called Fred. Unfortunately it was some time before I could get the root from her that by the time I did, it was very dry and hard. I soaked it in a tub of water for a day before I planted it. It was so desiccated, I did not think it would make it through the winter. But this spring I was pleasantly surprised by a tuft of foliage peeking through the soil. Fred is alive! Since March, Fred has produced beautiful fern-like leaves and nodding racemes of pendulous blossoms. Each blossom looks like an earring or a puffy locket on a chain and is actually comprised of two outer rose-colored petals and the two inner white petals. If you turn the flower upside down and pull the rose petals apart you will see the lady in a bath. Lady-in-a-bath is another moniker for bleeding heart.

Bleeding heart is an herbaceous perennial that prefers a woodsy environment with moist soil that is high in organic matter. Some shade is best, can be morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled light. With such delicate foliage, you would think that rabbits would decimate bleeding hearts but both rabbits and deer do not seem interested in this perennial. However, by June the leaves do get yellow and ratty and eventually the plant goes dormant as summer’s heat arrives. In order to prevent a gap in the garden, other herbaceous perennials such as hardy geraniums or hostas can grow to fill in the gap during the summer or annuals can be planted in its place.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is the 15th of each month.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Shamrock Plants

Although it looks like a three-leaf clover because of its trifoliate leaf structure, a shamrock plant is actually a species of Oxalis. These green or burgundy foliage plants are often sold as novelty houseplants, especially around St. Patrick’s Day. The small flowers rise high above the leaves with five white or pink to white petals. Most people grow them as houseplants but they can be grown outdoors in the summer here in Virginia. Because they are small, it is best to grow them in containers (off the ground level) for better viewing. Shamrock plants grow from rhizomes called pips which can rot if overwatered so it is best to let the soil dry out a little between watering. Eventually the plant will go through a dormant period and produce more pips that can be dug up for more plants.

The plant is best grown in indirect light with cool temperatures. Usually it is only after you purchase the plant that you learn of its charm:  the leaves move up and down every day. In the daytime, at maximum light, the leaves are horizontal or open. By nightfall, when light levels are reduced, the leaves bend down almost as if the plant is wilting. Don’t worry, this is normal and does not mean that you have to water.

Shamrocks are beautiful houseplants but there is one caveat: they do not combine well with pets. Oxalis contains a high level of oxalic acid, which can be poisonous.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Shasta Daisies

shasta daisy 'Freak'Probably one of the more common summer flowers is the Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) yet surprisingly it took Luther Burbank, an American botanist and horticulturist, 17 years to develop this hybrid. Inspired by oxeye daises in his Massachusetts hometown, Luther wanted to create an improved daisy plant with larger flowers, a sturdier plant structure, and a longer blooming period. He wanted the petals to be as white as the snow on California’s Mt. Shasta. In the late 1800s, he crossed the oxeye daisy with an English field daisy and then a Portuguese field daisy and a Japanese field daisy. The new species, really a quadruple hybrid, was introduced in 1901. Since then, others have continued his work and to date there are many different cultivars of Shasta daisies.

Shasta daisies are herbaceous perennial plants, about 2 feet tall and hardy to zone 5. They are deer and rabbit resistant and drought-resistant when established. My plants get morning sun and afternoon shade but they can be grown in full sun. The flowers attract butterflies and bees and are excellent for cutting and arranging in vases, which is encouraged to promote continuous blooming. Depending on the cultivar, Shasta daisies can bloom from May to September. Cultivars vary in the number and arrangement of the outer white petals, from a simple, single row to a double row, to frilly or shaggy.shasta daisy

Mine is a Blooms of Bressingham introduction called ‘Freak’ and it has just the right amount of “frilliness” for me. I have had mine for 3 years now with no problems, no pests or diseases. It seems to have expanded which is good because it will soon be time to divide and place in other areas of the garden. If you want to read up on Shasta daisies, the Chicago Botanic Garden trialed 36 cultivars from 1999 to 2006 to identify outstanding cultivars for the northern gardens (my Freak was introduced after the study). Check out https://www.chicagobotanic.org/downloads/planteval_notes/no30_leucanthemum.pdf

The 15th of every month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day where gardeners across the country post about plant that is blooming.