Archive | September, 2012

Maiden’s Wreath

24 Sep

Maiden’s Wreath (Francoa sonchifolia) evergreen, clumping growth to 1-2 feet in height and width, branched spikes of small pale pink to white flowers in summer, full to part shade, good cut flower.

Native to Chile. This old-fashioned favorite is more often shared among gardeners than sold in nurseries. Large, wavy-edged leaves to 6 in. long growin a rosette 1–2 ft. high and wide (and spreading wider by rhizomes). Graceful, slender stems rise 2–3 ft. above the foliage in midsummer, with upper portions carrying spikes of many small white blossoms, sometimes blushed pink or marked with deep pink.

A selection sold as ‘Rogerson’s Form’ is compact, with dark pink blooms. F. sonchifolia is similar but bears light pink flowers, usually with deep pink markings. Some botanists believe that all maiden’s wreaths belong to a single highly variable species. Excellent cut flowers.

In just a few years, one plant increases sufficiently in size to let you divide and replant fresh new segments from clump’s outside edges. Needs rich, well-drained soil. Best with dappled shade all day or with sun for half the day.


Tasman Flax Lily

24 Sep

Tasman Flax Lily (Dianella tasmanica) evergreen, upright growth to 3 feet in height with equal spread, dark blue flowers through summer, bright blue berries in fall, long thin leaves can be variegated.

From southeastern Australia, including Tasmania. This plant grows narrowly upright when young but spreading slowly by rhizomes with age. Sturdy, medium green leaves (striped white in ‘Variegata’ and yellow in ‘Yellow Stripe’). Loose clusters of small, blue summer flowers on straight, slender stalks are followed by large (3/4 in.), glistening blue berries that last 2 months or longer on the plant. ‘Tasred’ has green leaves that are red at the base. The red color intensifies in cold.

Lily-of-the Valley Shrub

20 Sep

Lily-Of-The-Valley Shrub (Pieris japonica) evergreen shrub, slow growth to 5 ft. in height with an equal spread, drooping clusters of small bell-shaped white or pastel pink flowers midwinter to midspring, can be variegated, full sun to light shade, likes rich soil, excellent drainage a must.

Hybrids and selections Asian (primarily Japanese) natives; one species from the eastern United States. Elegant in foliage and form the year around, these mid-size to large shrubs make good companions for rhododendron and azalea, to which they are related. They have whorls of leathery, narrowly oval, glossy, medium to dark green leaves and bear clusters of small, urn-shaped, typically white flowers. Most plants form flower buds by autumn; these resemble strings of tiny beads in greenish pink, red, or white and provide a subtle decorative feature in winter. Flowers open from midwinter to midspring.

New spring growth is often brightly colored (pink to red or bronze). Same cultural requirements as rhododendron and azalea. Need acid, well-drained but moisture-retentive soil and summers that are cool to merely warm; they do not thrive in hot, dry conditions. Fairly easy to grow in the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascades, but as you move south and inland, they become increasingly fussy and are often less satisfactory. Also do well in milder parts of the eastern United States.

Where water is high in salts, soil needs careful leaching. Choose a planting location sheltered from wind, where plants will get high shade or dappled sunlight at least during the warmest afternoon hours. Where summers are cool or foggy, plants can take more sun. Prune by removing spent flowers. Thin older specimens by taking out whole branches; or limb them up to reveal attractive peeling bark. Splendid in containers, in woodland and Japanese gardens, in entryways where year-round quality is essential.


10 Sep

Protea, evergreen shrub 4-8 ft. in height depending on variety, upright open vase-shaped growth habit, large goblet-shaped flowers in many colors appear winter to summer, full sun, regular water to establish, do not fertalize, excellent cut flower, deer resistant and drought tolerant.

Some 150 species of beautiful flowering plants native to South Africa. Born at branch ends, the flower heads consist of tight clusters of tubular true flowers surrounded by brightly colored bracts; the effect is that of a large, very colorful artichoke or thistle. All make superb cut flowers: they hold their color for weeks and retain their shape even after fading. Leaves are leathery, often edged in red. Widely grown in Hawaii and Southern California for the cutflower trade.


Boxleaf Azara

7 Sep

Boxleaf Azara (Azara macrophylla or dentata), evergreen shrub or small tree, moderate to fast growth to 15 ft. in height with narrower spread, lacy, fountain-shaped growth habit, clusters of fragrant yellow flowers early spring, full sun to light shade, best with regular water, good screen plant.

These natives of lakesides and woodland edges in Chile and Argentina have attractive evergreen foliage and fluffy yellow flowers that smell like chocolate to some, vanilla to others. Blooms are followed by small,shiny berries. Need fast drainage,regular fertilizer, and protection from hot afternoon sun. Prune after bloom to remove crowded or wayward branches.

Azara dentata grows to 15 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide, with toothed, rounded, shiny leaves.Rounded shape makes it useful for screen or informal hedge. Tolerates considerable shade. Blooms in spring.

Azara microphylla is the  best-known species. Grows slowly in youth, faster once established. Typically reaches12–18 ft. tall and 8–12 ft.wide, but may attain a treelike 30 ft. tall in great old age. Shiny, roundish, dark green leaves. Flat-branching habit and neatly arranged foliage make it natural for an espalier or free standing wall plant.Blooms in late winter. ‘Variegata’has leaves edged in creamy white.


Ornamental Oregano

7 Sep

Ornamental Oregano (Oreganum), semi-evergreen perennial herb, spreading growth to 12 inches in height and 2-3 ft.spread, loose open spikes of flowers in pink, purple or white bloom in summer, full sun, drought tolerant, deer resistant.

Mint relatives with tight clusters of small flowers. Each blossom has a collar of bracts—large, colorful, and quite decorative in some species—that can overlap to give the inflorescence the look of a small pinecone. Blossoms are especially attractive to bees, butterflies. Many species have aromatic foliage, and the leaves of several have culinary use. Some are good as ground covers, as trailers to cascade over rocks or retaining walls, or in hanging baskets. Those with conspicuous bracts are attractive dried and used in wreaths and arrangements; cut and hang just as first flowers open.

Not fussy about soil type but need good drainage. In milder climates, many species can become woody with age, but wood of previous seasons is seldom as productive as new growth from the base. For best results, cut previous year’s stems to ground in winter or early spring. Propagate by division or from cuttings taken before flower buds form. The various species hybridize freely, and seedlings may not resemble the parents. Colored leaf varieties need a half day of direct sun for best color but can burn in afternoon sun in hot-summer areas.


Pink Haze Muhly Grass

6 Sep

Pink Haze Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) evergreen, dense mound to 2 ft. in height, 4 ft. when in bloom, narrow blue-green blades, showy pink flowers in summer, full sun to light shade, drought tolerant, good cut flower.

In autumn, this unique specimen creates a spectacular, billowy inflorescence of massed, vibrant pink, airy flowers on 4-foot stems. It is noted for its tolerance to poorly drained soil. It is possibly hardy to Zone 6 with protection.

Noteworthy characteristics: Muhlenbergias create textural drama which, in some species, is enhanced by deeply colored flowers. Some make exceptional specimens, and all are great en masse in borders, meadows, and native gardens. Most species are native to Mexico, Asia, and the U.S.

Care: Muhlenbergias thrive in full sun or partial shade in average, moist, but well-drained soil; however, most are tolerant of drought, heat, and poor soils.

Propagation: Divide plants or sow seed in spring.