Tag Archives: Garden Bloggers Bloom day

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Pineapple Sage

Currently, my pineapple sage plants (Salvia elegans) are blooming in my garden, their bright scarlet flowers are attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Members of the salvia or sage family, pineapple sage plants are herbaceous, tender perennial herbs. I have two pineapple sage plants, which I bought last year as tiny babies, and I often use their leaves and flowers in the kitchen.

From spring to fall this year, these plants grew fast, developing many lateral branches. Now they are 4-foot high shrubs, several feet wide. All season long, I harvested the leaves and used them fresh as well as dried them to store them. The leaves add a fruity flavor to many different types of beverages (makes a great hot tea), jellies, baking (line a pan with leaves before pouring the pound cake batter or cut leaves and add to batter), muffins, cookies, chicken dishes and chicken salads, butter, cream cheese, ice cream, sorbet, smoothies, etc.

From September to now, these large shrubs are blooming beautiful edible flowers that can be cut for a vase or used in the kitchen as well. Interestingly, the buds begin upside down. Red petals poke through a nodding green flower stalk and then as the stalk moves up more petals poke through until the stalk straightens up to be raceme of bright red tubular flowers. Pineapple sage flowers have the same type of sage or salvia bilabiate (two lips) flowers but larger. The flowers can be used as a garnish, frozen in ice cubes, beverages, fruit salads, butters, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, baked goods, and cream cheese.

In my garden, nothing seems to bother my pineapple sage plants. They are in moist, well-drained soil but one gets more sunlight than the other and I noticed that it has grown much bigger. They seem to prefer light dappled sun or morning sun and afternoon shade. They need space so they it is best to plant them in the back of the garden as long as there is a path to be able to pick the leaves and flowers. I have read that they are hardy to zone 7 and I have also read that they are hardy to zone 8. Surviving the winter is a 50-50 proposition here in my zone 7 Northern Virginia garden. Last winter, I did not do anything to protect them but the winter was mild so I was lucky that they survived. This year, after the frost kills the leaves, I will cut the plants back to stubbles and put down several inches of mulch to ensure their survival. If I had a sun room or a greenhouse, I could have taken cuttings a few months ago to pot up and bring inside.

If they don’t make it, I will buy more next year and will keep an eye out for cultivars such as Golden Delicious, which has golden yellow leaves; Tangerine, which has rounded leaves and a citrus scent; Frieda Dixon, which has salmon pink flowers; and Honeydew Melon, which has melon-scented red flowers with lime green leaves. Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, has a stand of Golden Delicious plants that are blooming right now.

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: 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: 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. 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Hardy Geraniums

geraniumEight years ago I wrote an article for Chesapeake Home magazine about hardy geraniums. I interviewed Faye Brawner, then president of the International Geranium Society and author of Geranium: The Complete Encyclopedia (Schiffer, 2003). She recommended Geranium macrorrhizum as a “workhorse.” Fortunately, I spied this workhorse shortly afterwards at a plant sale so I brought it home to see how well it would do in my Virginia garden.

Today this plant thrives under a linden tree (morning sun and afternoon shade) and blooms every spring with purple/pink flowers. Geranium macrorrhizum, or big root geranium, serves as a weed-suppressing, foot-high groundcover, untouched by deer and rabbits. In the fall, the green palmate leaves turn reddish bronze but most of the plant remains above ground during the winter. In early spring the leaves green up again and the flowers bloom from April to May. Although the flowers bloom high above the plant, they are reminiscent of apple blossoms, small and five petals. However, these flowers have very long stamens that protrude, resulting in a long fruit pod that resembles a crane’s beak. Hardy geraniums are often sold as “cranesbills.”Geranium macrorrhizum

I also interviewed Robin Parer who owns Geraniaceae.com, an online nursery devoted to geraniums. Robin suggested many other hardy geraniums which I am now trying in my garden. Hardy geraniums, she explained, are the species Geranium, and are cousins to the species Pelargonium, which are the bedding geraniums with the summer flowers. So far the hardy geraniums are proving to be ideal perennials and I am looking forward to reading her new book, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Hardy Geraniums (Timber Press, 2016).

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is the 15th of the month, check out this link for other articles: http://www.maydreamsgardens.com

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Emerald Creeper

emerald creeper (4)Emerald Creeper is not something that grows in my Northern Virginia garden but I was lucky to see it flower last week so I just had to share these photos with fellow gardeners on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Known for its turquoise colored flowers, which is an extremely rare color in the plant world, Emerald Creeper produces dozens of long pendent trusses, also called pseudoracemes, with claw-shaped flowers.  In fact, the only way I was able to see such an exquisite flower was by visiting the U.S. Botanic Garden’s Conservatory in Washington DC. Few botanical gardens have the Emerald Creeper, which is rapidly becoming an endangered species. Native to the Philippines, this tropical vine lives in rainforests that are being decimated.emerald creeper (2)

A member of the bean family, Emerald Creeper produces pea pods about 2 inches long but these are even rarer to see. The vine is pollinated by bats that hang upside down on the inflorescences to drink the nectar. Because there are no bats in glass houses, staff would have to mimic the way the bats enter the flower in order to hand pollinate.

emerald creeper (8)

 

The botanical name intrigued me.  Strongylodon macrobotrys comes from the Greek word “strongylos” which means “round,” and “odontus” which means “tooth” and refers to the rounded teeth of the calyx. In the specific epithet, the Greek word “macros” means “large” and “botrys” means “grape-like clusters.” I can see all of that but “grape” escapes me!

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls’

Deutzia Chardonnay PearlsToday is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day  where garden bloggers across the country post photos of blossoms on the 15th of the month. Although it is snowing today in Virginia, I am happy that spring is around the corner and “snow” in another form will appear soon in my garden. For many years now I have enjoyed Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls’, a small, deciduous shrub that leafs out in March and covers itself with tiny, pearl-like buds in April. From April through May, the buds open to white, bell-shaped flowers, complementing the light green leaves. When my Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls’ is in full bloom it looks like a snow-capped hill. Like snow, the flowers gently fall to the ground as they past their prime, melting and disappearing within the soil.

In the summer, the small shrub provides light green color in an otherwise dark corner of the garden. Some people say the leaves are lemon-lime colored; some say chartreuse, but mine are light green (I have another true chartreuse shrub near it so I can see the difference). The species has leaves of a darker green and grows taller, about 5 feet. Although the flowers are delicate, all deutzia shrubs are well-known for being pest, disease, and deer resistant.Deutzia Chardonnay Pearls 2 Proven Winners sent me my plant 9 years ago when it was a baby, only a few inches high. Since then it has matured into a 3-foot shrub and I do not expect it to grow any more. Mine is on the east side of the house where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade.  Although that particular garden bed has well-drained soil, high in organic matter, the plant can tolerate a wide range of soils. Hardy to zone 5, Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls’ thrives despite snowy winters and dry summers.