Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nothing But Colchicums...

Among the plants brought here from my previous gardens was this colchicum; I couldn't even tell you which cultivar it is. I suppose I replanted about a half dozen bulbs in my present garden, and now there must be several hundred. This is quite surprising, as saying that once planted they were totally ignored, is an understatement... they have survived and thrived even though they are totally buried and crowded and abused by large, aggressive perennials like phlox and daylilies, to the point where I barely notice their foliage, and am always quite surprised when scads of large clumps of colchicums start blooming in fall. This is my kind of bulb!
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Very Curious...

This is Rabdosia longituba, and it certainly is curious (or absurd) that Rabdosia longituba Noshoku, as pictured in the earlier post is named as if it is a selected clone of the above species. Noshoku has large, branched panicles of long-stemmed, tiny flowers, as opposed to the slightly branched, short-stemmed, larger flowered longituba. Also, as mentioned by the astute previous commenter, Noshoku blooms slightly earlier than longituba. They cannot, surely, even be the same species.
Both are pretty darn nice, though. There are not too many lovelier, more delicate fall bloomers.
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Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Real Blue

This is the real Plectranthus kameba, in all its deep blue glory, showing the squarish "mint stem" in the second picture. As a commenter gently pointed out after my last posting, the plant picture I placed last time, identified as plectranthus is, in fact, Rabdosia longituba var. Noshoku. That's what happens sometimes (with me, anyway) when I'm up at first light, and want to pop something on the blog before I'm out the door, and have two pictures of unusual deep-blue flowered plants growing right next to each other.
I will say, you couldn't go wrong with either (or both) of these lovely, fall-blooming plants, regardless of what you call them.
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Friday, September 26, 2008


Plectranthus kameba blooms in mid-September, continuing usually until the first freeze. If it had larger flowers, it would be in every garden; its flowers are just amazingly deep blue. The squarish stems tell you it's a mint, but it's genus consists mostly of tropical mints. (correction: see comments below... this picture is actually of Rabdosia longituba).
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Clever Spidey

When you see a little orb weaver spider who has picked out a stem of dried seed heads as his perch, which just perfectly camouflages him, you wonder if he's just lucky... or very clever.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ugly Or Interesting?

I've never been able to decide if Tricyrtis Raspberry Mousse is very interesting or very ugly... or both.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Babbling Brook

There are garden projects, there are garden dreams, and there are garden delusions; The Babbling Brook may be one of the latter (the project merits capitalization, as it has taken on a certain non-physical yet lurking presence in the garden; rather like a dark cloud). Our garden is on a slight hill overlooking a lovely four acre pond, with several ravines cutting down to the pond. A number of years ago I got the idea to build an artificial stream down the bottom of one of these ravines, running from my goldfish pond at the top of the hill to the four acre pond at the bottom, pumping water up to the goldfish pond, and letting it burble and babble downhill, under a couple of bridges. Let us be kind and say there has been a rather lengthy planning phase for this project, with no actual construction over these years. The subject of this non-babbling non-brook has become a source of much mirth amongst some of our friends, who invariably cup an ear when they enter the garden, the better to catch sound of the water splashing downhill.
Well, much to my surprise (and probably to the astonishment of some of our friends), I've actually started construction on the streambed; just so far roughing out about six feet of the bed... but it's a start. I may have water running in a short stretch by next fall. Now maybe I should think about whether I could build a gazebo overlooking the stream...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Life And Limb...

My Mother always said, "You can be good or lucky, and lucky's better." Well, I've always taken that statement to heart, and have recent proof of its validity: I was out starting on the construction of The Babbling Brook (capitalized because it has been a garden project in the planning stage with no actual work done on it for so long that the words themselves seem to have taken on a formal, looming presence in the garden). Liz came out to see what I was working on, so I took a five minute break, walking back to the house. When I got back out to the garden, this very large limb had cracked off a black cherry tree without any warning; it didn't break off completely, but had fallen enough to bean somebody standing underneath. I had in fact been standing in that exact spot, as I had piled some bags of topsoil there and was moving them one by one down into the ravine to where I was working.
Good or lucky... I'll take lucky.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

White Toad

Tricyrtis Maya White is a white hirta type of toad lily. It is similar to several other white cultivars, but unique in that its flowers are very bright, pure white rather than creamy white. It is much more striking in the garden than the picture above can convey. It is a toad well worth seeking out

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

If You Like Spots...

Tricyrtis Lunar Landing is a favorite toad lily here because of the large, prominent spots on its leaves. Well, the blooms are no slouch when it comes to spots; very bright white flowers with large, dark cherry spots and blotches.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blue In The Fall

Blue flowers seem to just glow in the clear fall sunlight; that's why gentians are so treasured in our garden. This is gentiana paradoxa; a lovely little gem. Someday I mean to make a study of gentian culture in order to try and expand our small collection, but it is buried rather deeply on my to-do list at present.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Orchid Pest?

It seems odd to think of a native orchid as being a garden pest, but the nodding pogonia (Triphora trianthophora) comes rather close in our garden. This little orchid has very tiny leaves, obtaining much of its nutrition from a symbiosis with fungi in the soil. The orchid spends most of its time underground, only briefly sending up its frail stalks and blooming in late summer. I like its common name of "three birds", referring to the fact that each stalk has three pale lilac flowers. It is considered a threatened orchid, due largely to loss of habitat, but seems to have made itself at home in the garden, as it likes the rotting bark chip pathways, and in late summer pops up in clumps right in the middle of some of these walkways, so one has to navigate around them. But, the flowers and stalks are only above ground for a few weeks, before disappearing, so it's a brief nuisance.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fragrant Days

Is there anything finer than the perfume of a fragrant honeysuckle on a fine, clear fall day... I think not.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

Toad Babies Mine

One of the nice things about having a selection of toad lilies is when they start seeding about the garden; they especially seem to like seeding out into the garden pathways (where they have no plant competition and maybe a bit more sun). Most of these seedlings in the garden are pretty clearly close copies of a nearby parent, but some seem to be pretty unique; not superior certainly, but at least quite interesting. All three of the above are seedlings in one spot on a path, downhill from a flowerbed containing several named tricyrtis hybrids; all these seedlings are obviously hirta types. The bottom one is just a rather poor copy of nearby T. White Towers. The two upper seedlings, however, don't seem to match any one single plant in the flowerbed. The middle one appears like a hybrid between macropoda and hirta (which are both in the bed). The one at top appears to be more purely hirta, and is particularly nice, with large flowers and slightly bluish spots.
I usually pot up these new plants to give away to visitors and friends. These seedlings are probably nothing particularly special, but they're mine.
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Sunday, September 14, 2008


Tricyrtis Sinonome is really an impressive tricyrtis; the plants are a full three foot tall, with large, thick, deep green leaves. The flowers are dark beauties; light lilac with numerous inky purple blotches and spots. The plant is thought to be a hybrid between tricyrtis formosana and hirta, and it certainly has the hallmarks of that cross; rather upright plants with a lot of foliage and the flowers are held in upright sprays and are deeply spotted. However, the plant undoubtedly is infected with a virus (as are a number of other toad lily crosses like Dark Wonder and Raspberry Mousse); the virus causes the flowers to coalesce their spots into blotches of color.
There is no consensus on what, if any, actual harm the virus causes to the plants; will these hybrids over a number of years begin to decline in health, or is the virus just a case of the sniffles? Tricyrtis Sinonome presently is as healthy and vigorous looking as one could hope to see in a tricyrtis... time will tell.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Small Toad

Tricyrtis nana 'Karasuba' is a lovely little toad lily; only four inches high, with dark, waxy, thick leaves, its pale yellow flowers with red spots are just delightful. This plant is so small that it needs special placement to show up well, as it otherwise gets lost in the fall when it blooms.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

And So It Begins...

The garden is starting to stir from its late summer snooze; wet, cool days and long, chilly nights have awakened it. Plants are starting to put up new foliage; a few now, and soon hundreds will be showing crisp, shiny leaves, taking advantage of the increased light reaching the ground, as tree leaves begin to fall. It's a nice time of the year.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Korean Waxbells

Fall is continuing to creep up on us; the large wetland wildlife preserve just north of us is filling up with coots, black ducks, and cormorants; the woods is filled with blooming, foamy white snakeroot, and the geese, after much practice, are finally getting their formations to look like serious V's.
Here in the garden, the Kirengeshoma koreana is in full bloom. In a week, its smaller cousin, Kirengeshoma palmata will be blooming. The former is also called Korean yellow waxbells, and its flowers do indeed look like they are cast from yellow wax, with hard, thick-substanced petals that later shatter into multiple bright yellow shards that litter the ground around the large plant.
I've seen this plant called "a shrub masquerading as a perennial", and indeed it is large; five foot tall here (where it is in a somewhat dry spot) and said to reach six foot tall when given plenty of water. It seems odd that it likes water so much, for its leaves are rather fuzzy and pale green and stiff; the plant just somehow "looks" like it would be native in dry waste spots. In fact, I'm really not all that keen on the appearance of this plant; it's huge for the size of the flowers, and as mentioned the leaves are kind of dry and drab appearing. Also it seems to end up every year with lots of little holes in the leaves from insects (it's not helped this year by lots of bigger holes from a bad hailstorm in July).
But, the flowers are quite unusual and come at a time when the rest of the garden is starting to slumber. Besides, It's my fault for planting Kirengeshoma koreana in a spot where it's crowding everything else out; it just looked so cute in its little four inch pot that I couldn't envision it someday looking like a semi truck parked at a motorcycle rally. I've been meaning to try and move it to a spot where its size would be an asset rather than a threat, and its got to happen next spring; the other plants in that flower bed are starting to glare at me when I walk by.
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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Cornus Kousa Wolf Eyes

One of the new areas that I'm working on in our garden consists of a large ravine that opens onto the pond; it's quite shady, with a couple of large red oaks and a pair of black cherries casting the whole area into shadow except when the morning sun slants underneath the tree canopy. When that happens, Cornus kousa Wolf Eyes just lights up and glows.
This large shrub has leaves that are gray green with a wide white margin, and it maintains its shining look all summer. Other gardeners have also commented on how this dogwood lights up their garden. The white flowers in spring are nice too, but tend to not be very noticeable due to the brightness of the leaves.
There are very few shrubs that can stand out in a dark corner of the garden like Wolf Eyes.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

The Wandering Toad

Toad lilies (tricyrtis) as a group have a reputation for being a little fussy, at least in the harsher midwest type of climate, with its hot, dry summers and frigid winters often with poor snow cover. Then there is Tricyrtis dilatata (macropoda) from eastern Aisia. It's fairly attractive, with wide leaves, and flowers that are white with bright pinkish red spots; the flowers are held in upright clusters on fairly long stems, the stems arising from the upper leaf axils as well as terminally; thus there are quite a few flowers in contrast with the lasiocarpa and formosasna types of tricyrtis that I've recently shown... these latter two types having only terminal flower clusters. Dilatata is fairly vigorous and hardy, rapidly forming a good clump, and it blooms early enough (late August-early September here) so that it doesn't get blasted by frosts like many of the toad lilies.
Those are the good features of dilatata; there are then two features that are a little less pleasing. First of all, the flowers in the clusters bloom a few at a time (normally not a bad feature, as it makes for a long bloom season); however the old blooms on dilatata don't drop off quickly. They stay attached for quite a while, slowly turning brown, which greatly detracts from the new blooms. Secondly, once the blooms finally drop off, large seed pods quickly start forming, which further muddle the subsequent flowers. The size and number of these pods also should give one pause, for as they mature, they drop thousands of seeds. The tiny new toad lilies that then start popping up are very cool, with shiny, waxy leaves, and they are easy to pluck up and pot or stick elsewhere in the garden. However, one day you suddenly realize these little seedlings are everywhere; it's rather like that old nightmarish Mickey Mouse cartoon about the multiplying brooms. The seedlings are easy enough to pull up, but new ones just keep popping up. I'm trying to be better about deadheading these plants, but it's rather time consuming. Should you want to stop by for one of these plants, I have several in pots...

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fall Pink

Chelonopsis yagiharana (also called C. moschata) seems like a rather ponderous name for such a delicate little plant. It is sometimes called Japanese turtlehead, for it is native to eastern Asia and resembles our native Chelone (turtlehead), though to me its flower is more reminiscent of a tiny foxglove.
The foliage of this Chelonopsis is very neat but unassuming, forming a fairly tight but tangled clump; then in early fall it begins blooming, with numerous little bright mauve tubular flowers, and it blooms for weeks, often up until the first frost.
This plant should be much better known and more widely grown, and there are close to twenty other species listed in the genus which seem to be unavailable here.
Chelonopsis yagiharana is one of those plants that looks like it should be blooming in spring, with its delicate little pink flowers, but I am always happy to see it in September.
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