Last year I received a small green plant that just sat in my garden all year long. It really did not grow much, it did not bloom, it just took up 6 inches of space. I assumed it was on its way to the pearly gates. This year, it has bloomed so well I would not mind having a few more! Lychnis ‘Petite Jenny’ has leaves at the base (a basal rosette) with inch-wide lavender-rose, tufted blossoms atop 12-inch wiry stems. Petite Jenny started blooming in April in my Virginia garden and should bloom all summer long. Because the flowers sit atop the thin stems, the blossoms sway in the breeze, much like a Calder mobile.
Now that it is flowering (its alive!), I realized I was fortunate to plant mine next to a ninebark called ‘Summer Wine’ (Physocarpus opulifolius). Summer Wine is a small bush with dark, red/purple foliage that complements Petite Jenny’s lavender-rose flowers and also provides a dark backdrop to make it easier to see the flowers.
Hardy to zone 5, Petite Jenny prefers full sun to part shade and more moist than dry soil. It is deer resistant and the flowers can be cut for arrangements. There is a “Jenny” that is a larger plant; Petite Jenny is a dwarf form with sterile blossoms (sterile blossoms have a longer blooming period). Petite Jenny is a Blooms of Bressingham introduction. If this great perennial is not available at your local independent garden center, contact http://www.musthaveperennials.com
I forgot to grow zinnias. Every year I grow zinnias so I can put a vase of flowers on my desk at work but for some odd reason, I didn’t this year. Now in the heat of summer I don’t have many options to choose from but next year I will grow zinnias for summer blooms and on top of that, will start even earlier with spring flowers.
To learn more about increasing the diversity of flowers in my Northern Virginia garden, I have been following Lisa Mason Ziegler’s virtual book study for the past month. Each Friday for 10 Fridays, she posts a 10-minute video that corresponds to a chapter in her book, Cool Flowers: How to Grow and Enjoy Long-Blooming Hardy Annual Flowers Using Cool Weather Techniques. The videos can be viewed on her website any time and she is more than happy to answer questions. Lisa manages a commercial cut flower business in Newport News, Virginia. She is well known in the horticulture field, has written books and given lectures, and has an online garden shop called The Gardener’s Workshop. Lisa is an expert on hardy annuals, which prefer to bloom during spring’s cool temperatures. Hardy annuals differ from the summer annuals in that the seeds are sown in August/September or February/March, depending on the plant. In contrast, summer annuals, like zinnias, prefer the heat so they are sown after the danger of frost has passed in late April/early May.
Of the 30 plants mentioned in her book, I have seeds of six plants on hand. I can start snapdragon, dianthus, and feverfew indoors now and transplant at the end of August. I can direct sow love-in-a-mist, larkspur, and calendula seeds at the end of August to the beginning of September. All of these will bloom in the spring and peter out when summer arrives which will increase my number of cut flowers from spring to early summer. From then on the summer annuals can take over and I will look for a few more in addition to zinnias. In her videos and in her book, Lisa discusses her preference for direct sown versus transplants and starting in the fall versus early spring. If the plant is hardy to a zone colder than one’s own zone, plant in the fall. If the plant is not has hardy as one’s own zone, plant in early spring. However, early spring can mean cold, wet soil so she suggests preparing the bed in the fall and covering with mulch or landscape fabric to prevent weeds and to enable the ground to be worked easily in February and March.
So far I have viewed 5 of the 10 videos and I have read the book. If hardy annuals are something you would like to try, you can catch up by visiting her web site and listening to her videos or buy her book on her site or at a bookstore but it is not necessary to have the book in order to follow along with her videos.
Posted in flowers, seeds
Tagged calendula, cut flowers, dianthus, feverfew, flowers, hardy annuals, larkspur, Lisa Ziegler, love-in-a-mist, seeds, snapdragon, summer annuals, The Gardener's Workshop, zinnias
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
I have updated my website page of free seed catalogs (also listed below). The first list is of companies will mail a free print catalog — just ask! The second list is of companies that list seeds on their website. I grow edibles in Northern Virginia so I tend to collect those catalogs that offer vegetable and herb seeds.
Seed companies that mail free catalogs
Adaptive Seeds http://www.adaptiveseeds.com
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed http://www.rareseeds.com
Botanical Interests http://www.botanicalinterests.com
Fedco Seeds http://www.fedcoseeds.com
Harris Seeds http://www.harrisseeds.com
High Mowing Seeds http://www.highmowingseeds.com
Hudson Valley Seed Library http://www.seedlibrary.org
John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds http://www.kitchengardenseeds.com
Johnny’s Selected Seeds http://www.johnnyseeds.com
J.W. Jung Seed http://www.jungseed.com
Kitazawa Seed Company http://www.kitazawaseed.com
Nichols Garden Nursery http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com
Park Seed http://www.parkseed.com
Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply http://www.groworganic.com
R.H. Shumway http://www.rhshumway.com
Seeds of Change http://www.seedsofchange.com
Seed Savers Exchange http://www.seedsavers.org
Seeds from Italy http://www.growitalian.com
Select Seeds/Antique Flowers http://www.selectseeds.com
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange http://www.southernexposure.com
Sow True Seeds http://www.sowtrueseeds.com
Stokes Seeds http://www.stokesseeds.com
Territorial Seed Company http://www.territorialseed.com
Tomato Growers Supply Company http://www.tomatogrowers.com
Totally Tomatoes http://www.totallytomato.com
Urban Farmer http://www.ufseeds.com
Vermont Bean Seed Company http://www.vermontbean.com
Online Seed Companies (companies do not produce print catalog, order from web site).
American Meadows http://www.americanmeadows.com
Renee’s Garden http://www.reneesgarden.com
Sample Seeds http://www.sampleseeds.com
Landreth Seed Company http://www.landrethseeds.com