July 4, 2015

Ethereal Flowers and Giant Leaves on Crambe cordifolia

After a few seasons of maturing, Crambe cordifolia (aka Colewort) bloomed for me for the first time this spring.  In the photo above it is at the left.

In early spring these interesting maroon-green leaves sprouted and just kept growing and growing.  The large, dark leaves provide a nice contrast in texture to other plants in the garden.

In mid-spring a single giant bloom stalk began to emerge from the base.  It took several weeks of growing before it reached six feet tall.  Eventually this dramatic plant can grow to eight feet in height.

In May the tiny flowers opened to create an ethereal cloud of white above the visually heavy leaves.

This plant grows in full sun to part shade and is relatively low maintenance, though it can reseed if not deadheaded.  Of course deadheading the entire stalk takes just one snip, so it's very easy.

After the flowers finish, the leaves continue to have a worthy presence in my white garden.  Unlike large rhubarb leaves, which decline dramatically in the heat of summer, these leaves remain sturdy throughout the season.  They do have some holes from slugs or something, but that could be prevented by spreading iron phosphate early in the season.  I don't recall the fall color, so it must not be showy.

This is not a common garden plant but is well worth a place if you live in zone 4-9.  

June 25, 2015

Shady Haven

Trees grow slowly around here, but we're finally starting to enjoy some shade in the backyard.  The northeast corner above has become deliciously shady during most of the day.

While looking at this view, it's hard to believe that the backyard was barren of anything except lawn when we bought the house in 2007.  Dwarf 'Thumbelina Leigh' lavender shrubs are blooming at bottom left, and soft yellow perennial foxgloves (Digitalis grandiflora) lean toward the bench at right.

There is still plenty of sunshine in the backyard, but we are especially grateful for maturing trees during our current heat wave.  We are supposed to reach 107 degrees Fahrenheit (41 Celsius) in a few days, with temperatures hovering around 100 for the next week.  Our average high temperature in July and August is usually 84, with June even cooler.  This is the price we pay for a gloriously mild winter, I guess.

The warm season has run through many flowers prematurely, but I'm finding the differing shades and forms of leaves pretty enough even without a lot of flowers.  In fact, I'm planning to replace the roses at the focal point of the backyard sunny garden with a 'Red Dragon' contorted filbert.  The filbert won't bloom but will have beautiful twisted branches all winter and interesting maroon leaves for much of the growing season, while the roses only spend a couple of weeks at their peak each year.

Of course the garden still features plenty of flowers and deadheading chores in some areas.  'Peach Blossom' Astilbe above is finishing up a few weeks of lovely bloom.

This is the same view from a wider angle.  Just look at how full and fluffy the 'Shademaster' honey locusts have grown!

'Let's Dance Big Easy' mophead hydrangeas and 'Pearl Deep Blue' bellflowers (Campanula) grow happily under the honey locusts, with some pink 'Giles Van Hees' Veronica in the background.  No, the hydrangea leaves are not supposed to be chartreuse.  They're just iron deficient this year.

The 'Hall's Purple' honeysuckle continues to scramble up the swing set.  Recently I read that Hall's Japanese honeysuckle is very invasive through its berries, but this purple-leaved form has not produced any berries for me.  I haven't seen any suckers, and I keep it trimmed around the base to avoid rooting at the nodes.  

 Here's another shot of a honey locust, with a chartreuse 'Sutherland Gold' elderberry shrub (Sambucus) at right.  A 'Fama' pincushion flower (Scabiosa) blooms lavender at bottom left.  I really love this variety of pincushion flower, as its blooms are large, showy and long-lasting on the plant or in a vase.

The other corner of the backyard (southwest) is also filling in with green.  The columnar 'Spring Snow' crabapple trees (Malus) along the west side of the fence don't provide much shade midday, but in the evening they cast long shadows across the yard.

'Bridal Veil' Astilbe is in full bloom in the shaded part of the white garden.  The white spikes echo the variegation on the leaves of 'Jack Frost' and 'Looking Glass' Brunnera below.  White delphiniums lean drunkenly in the background, just begging for me to give up on them and plant something easier.  Now I'm definitely in the editing stage of gardening, with finicky or lackluster plants giving way for better choices - often repeats of plants that are working elsewhere.  Not that I'm going to be doing much gardening until the heat recedes, of course.

June 19, 2015

June Garden

These photos are from the beginning of June, before a heat wave left many plants looking a little toasted around the edges.  Above is the west garden.

The year's first flush of bloom on my 'Abraham Darby' rose featured large, citrus-scented blooms.

'Eglantyne' seemed especially fragrant this year with the warm weather, and passersby commented on the sweet Old Rose scent.

My climbing 'Teasing Georgia' bloomed mostly at the top, so I learned that next year I need to prune it more aggressively to keep the flowers at eye level.

My 'Comtesse de Bouchaud' clematis also bloomed at the top, which was fine since it's not very tall yet.  I'll have to prune it hard next spring.  It's such a lovely color of cool pink.

Chartreuse lady's mantle blooms are lovely but they reseed like crazy.  I need to deadhead earlier than I did last year.

A true blue 'June to Remember' Siberian iris plays well with the chartreuse.  These irises don't bloom for very long, but their grassy foliage is a nice addition during the rest of the growing season.

White 'Snow Queen' Siberian iris and 'Casablanca' blooms brighten the white garden, along with a lingering white 'Mount Everest' allium and spikes of 'June Bride' heuchera.
After returning from a week long family trip, I have been trying to catch up with deadheading and other garden chores.  There is a lot to do this time of the year, but my children have been a great help.