Now that it is August and my Virginia garden has suffered extreme weather, pests, diseases, and deer, I can definitely identify my survivors, or rather, my summer successes.
First, my pink and purple garden. This spring I was gifted four different annuals that bloom in the pink to purple range. In this full sun patch near the front door, I have Valiant Orchid vinca from Pan American Seed with extra-large flowers. Vinca is an impressive annual, it flowers all summer long and does not have to be deadheaded. It does not mind the heat, humidity, and periods of dryness. I also like the way the plant gets bushy, it fills its space. Next to them are Proven Winners Angelface Steel Blue angelonias. Often called summer snapdragons, angelonias provide vertical structure. This particular cultivar grows to 2 feet and has large purple flowers that do not need to be deadheaded. They are drought tolerant and deer resistant. I know because they are next to a volunteer dahlia that gets nipped by the deer every so often. Within this space are several shorter angelonias from Pan American Seed called Serena Blue. These perform just as well, just a bit shorter with smaller blue flowers to add a horizontal layer to the garden. At the ground level, to cascade through the plants, is Proven Winners Supertunia Vista Bubblegum. This petunia cultivar has bloomed all summer long, no pests, no diseases. I love the pink and purple combination plus the varying heights.
If I could duplicate this palette next year I might add the purple foliage oxalis. Mine are in a container along with other bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. The oxalis pips were planted in April and I put the container outside in May after the last frost. All of the bulbs have performed well but I am amazed at the longevity of the oxalis as well as the versatility. They have been blooming small pink flowers from May to August and the purple foliage does not seem fazed by our heat and humidity. Because they are low growing, the foliage can “hide” the “feet” of plants in containers.
Speaking of containers, I could have planted either the purple oxalis or the pink Bubblegum under the Black Diamond Best Red crape myrtle. J. Berry Nursery sent the crape myrtle in the spring as a small plant and it has grown so fast I replanted it into a larger container. The Black Diamond series has very dark foliage and can withstand being a summer container plant. I have always liked the use of trees as container plants on patios and decks. However, because this crape myrtle is hardy to zone 6, it will not overwinter in a container so in the fall I will plant it in the ground. Eventually this tree will grow to 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide and I am sure it will be a stunner with the dark foliage and red flowers!
J. Berry Nursery also introduced me to their tropical hibiscus series called Hollywood Hibiscus. The Hollywood Hibiscus plants have many long lasting flowers in a wide range of flower colors. Of my five plants, I have kept my two favorite flower colors, Chatty Cathy (yellow) and Social Butterfly (yellow/orange), in containers on the deck. In the fall I plan to bring them indoors to overwinter them and “save” them for next year. I planted the other three in with the irises in the front of the house. After I trimmed the foliage on my bearded irises, I discovered that First to Flirt (pink), Jolly Polly (pink), and Bombshell Red (red) were perfect for filling up the space and providing color among the truncated iris foliage.
Cardinal climber among oregano and sage
July is a good time to take stock of the garden and determine what worked and what didn’t. This year I tried growing cardinal climber because I have banisters and rails in several locations on my property. Cardinal climber (Ipomoea x multifida) is a flowering vine, grown as an annual in Virginia. It is easy to grow indoors in the spring from seed which I obtained from Renee’s Garden. In May, I transplanted them outside and trained them up to the banisters with yarn. They learned quickly and began to wrap themselves around the banisters. Now that it is hot, they bloom every day in full sun. The flowers are bright red and simple but I discovered that they add a pop of color against the other plants. The leaves are very lacy and the vines are light enough to weave into neighboring plants (I like it when two or more plants tumble into each other’s space). Cardinal climber is a winner in my book.
Vanilla Cream marigold with Cossack Pineapple ground cherry
The other winner flower this year is ‘Vanilla Cream’, part of the Alumia series of French marigolds from Park’s Seed. I started the seed indoors in the spring although it was not necessary, I could have started them outside later. In May I plant them outside in a row in front of a vegetable bed so the lawn service crew wouldn’t get too close to the veggies with the weed wacker. The marigold plants have filled out nicely. Each bushy plant has several blooms at a time. The flowers are unusual for a marigold, they are anemone-shaped and bright yellow. I like the fact that they are a clear solid yellow — they glow like beacons in the garden.
husks pulled back from ground cherry fruit on spoon
Speaking of yellow, this year I grew Cossack Pineapple ground cherries. I bought seed from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and started them indoors under lights in very early spring. I was surprised at how well they germinated. In May, I transplanted several in my tomato patch and although I thought I gave them enough space I did not realize how fast they grew. Mine are a few feet wide and tall and completely cover the ground. Members of the tomato family, the fruit is small like a pea covered in a papery husk. The husks are green on the plant and gradually turn yellow and drop to the ground. I have learned that some of the ones on the ground are empty, maybe something got to them before I did, so I gather the ones on the ground and gently touch the yellow ones on the plant to see if they will drop into my hand. The fruit really does taste like pineapple but without the zing so more like a cross between a pineapple and an apple. They can be eaten raw, used in desserts, or used in savory dishes like salsa.
These are just a few success stories in my garden, more to come!
Posted in Edibles, flowers, plants, seeds
Tagged Alumia, annuals, Cardinal Climber, Cossack Pineapple, flowers, French marigolds, ground cherry, marigolds, Parks Seed, Renee's Garden, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Vanilla Cream, vines
One of the advantages of being a garden communicator is that you have the opportunity to learn about new plants before they are introduced to the retail market. Often wholesale nurseries will send plants to garden communicators which in my mind is a good thing because if they had not sent me the plant, I might not have otherwise paid attention to it or even known about it.
This year, Proven Winners sent me an annual, Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst’. I had not grown or even heard of Bidens before. This is partly my fault. I tend not to purchase annuals especially plants (as oppose to seeds) because they are short-lived. Usually by October’s frost, they die so I find it hard to spend money on a plant that will only last a few months.
However, Bidens seems to be lasting even longer than a summer annual which increases its value tremendously. When I received it in the beginning of the growing season, I placed it in the garden in front of the house, which is on the southern side in full sun. Throughout the summer it bloomed and survived our mid Atlantic heat and humidity. I only watered a few times to get it established, I did not fertilize nor did I deadhead, trim, or stake.
Bidens was left to fend for itself but it thrived all summer long, blooming continuously. In the fall, its orange yellow flowers blended well with the mums and other Halloween decorations and now that it is December it is the only thing left blooming that I can cut and bring in to the office. I am amazed that it is still blooming in December. According to the Proven Winners web site, Bidens is hardy to zone 9 but we have had 30 degree nights where I have had to scrape the ice off the car in the morning.
Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst’ will be available at retail garden centers in 2016. Recently there has been an increase in breeding efforts with this species so you may see a wider range of color combinations from yellow, gold, orange, and red, including bicolor and white and even lavender. The flowers are a small, simple, and daisy-shape on wiry stems. The foliage also is small, fern like and pretty in a parsley kind of way. Although I had placed mine in the garden bed next to a blue fescue, I think they are best used in a window box or hanging basket to be able to see the flowers up close. Bidens are heat and drought tolerant and provide an unusually long stretch of color, well into winter in my Virginia garden.