Tuesday, May 31, 2011

RIP Juniper Bushes


On Monday, I mentioned my husband cut down four juniper bushes over the weekend.  Typically, I don't like to cut down established plants.  However, these had outgrown their space and were hiding some other more interesting shrubs.


There's a slight change in perspective, but those are the same two trees as the first picture.  The one on the right is dead, and will be taken down soon.  Removing the juniper bushes will allow the arborist to get to the tree and grind out the stump without damaging any of the shrubs we want to keep. 

We found an interesting yew, more baby rhododendrons, a couple of azaleas, and a half dozen mahonia bushes between and behind the junipers.  We also found some scraggly hostas and a handful of leaves like the two shown above.  I think this is some sort of begonia groundcover?  It was very obviously planted along what would have been the edge of a bed, but was hidden under the junipers.

We'll be moving a couple of azaleas from the back island bed to this space (since the tree in the back island bed is also dead).  Once those are moved, I'm going to re-evaluate this space.  I think the junipers provided valuable greenery in the winter, so I'll probably look at some sort of dwarf evergreen to fill in the gaps without overgrowing the space.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day

(excuse the blurry phone photo)

It's been a long busy weekend!

We were out on the boat on Saturday, so I didn't get much gardening done.  On Sunday, my dear husband cut down four huge juniper bushes in the backyard understory and we managed to plant 57(!) plants.  Some were from Bluestone and some were from a local plant sale.

My goal of not buying plants for a whole year kind of went out the window, I guess.  If I had planted bulbs last fall or if I had started planted seeds/annuals in March, or even perennials in April, I could have run into problems, for sure.  For the most part, anything that's going to come up is up.  And if I had waited until July...well, what is plantable in July?  I would have had to wait until September or October.  That would have just been cruel!

I believe the spirit of my goal, to purchase plants in a more methodical and thoughtful way, was achieved.  Mostly.

*Quickly changing subject*

I know I complain about deer constantly, but sometimes I forget how close we are to the woods and how many other animals are out there.  Over the course of eight hours on Sunday, we saw: several lizards, a turtle, a fox, a gigantic bird of prey, and a raccoon.  Of course, I didn't have my camera on-hand to catch any of them.

I'm pretty sure the raccoon is what's been chomping on the strawberries.  We caught one on the deck about a week ago and shortly thereafter, something dug up three quarters of the pots on the deck.  I think next year, we'll be building a raised veggie garden with a fence and netting.  We can always use the strawberry pots for herbs and flowers...

Today wasn't much of a gardening day -- I spent about 30 minutes outside early this morning taking pictures and seeing how many of the plants we put in yesterday day were dug up this morning (only one!) and then the heat and humidity got to be too much.  I have a feeling we'll be focusing on weeding and watering for the rest of the summer.  Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter.

Stay cool, everyone.  Have a great week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Garden Parts: The side-bed

There's not much I can say about the side bed.  It's got a mild slope.  It's on the west side of the house, so it's mostly shady.
Gotta love the ivy taking over the house!
There's a rhododendron!  Hey, that's cool.  It's doing alright, but didn't really bloom this year.

The only other stuff in the bed is ivy and something-I-think-might-be Virginia creeper.

So - what are my plans? 

1. Dig out the ivy and vines
2. ....

I'll figure out step two after I finish with step one.  I think I need to find some shade loving shrubs for that side of the house, but I'm not sure if I want to do more rhododendrons or something different, like Japanese Aucuba with hakoechloa underneath. 

Exotic plants two days in a row?   What's the world coming to?

In other news, my shipment from Bluestone arrived yesterday.  All of the plants are in good shape, so I'm looking forward to a nice gardening weekend. 

Do you have any plans (garding or otherwise) for the long weekend?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Look what I found: Cornus Kousa

We have another dogwood!  This one's not a native - it's a Kousa Dogwood, also known as a Japanese Flowering Dogwood.

This looks like a flower, but it's actually a bract.
Now - in most cases, I prefer native plants.  They're better suited to the local environment, they're usually more pest resistant than exotic plants, and they provide valuable shelter for local wildlife.  However, I'm not one of those people who insists on only having native plants, so I won't be digging up this lovely tree any time soon.

In many ways, the Kousa dogwood is better than the natives.  It has more "flowers" and a longer bloom period.  It is more resistant to the dogwood anthracnose disease than the native flowering dogwood.  Finally, the Kousa dogwood has large, supposedly edible, fruits.  The little green bauble in the middle of the "flower" that looks a little like a raspberry will turn pink, and then eventually a dull red.  I look forward to giving them a try in the fall. 

If you're a native plant lover, do you ever make exceptions for exotic plants? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Favorites: The Baltimore Herb Festival

This Saturday is the 24th annual Baltimore Herb Festival.

The Baltimore Herb Festival is a great day out - it is fun for the whole family.  I've been going since I was a kid. 

Even when I was an awful teenager, I enjoyed going to the Herb Festival with my parents.  I remember, during probably my worst years, I decided I was going to start an herb garden.  This was in the mid-nineties when herbs were getting pretty popular.
I did some research and came up with a list of completely random plants to buy.  Vervain (because it was mentioned in the Vampire Diaries), pennyroyal (from a Nirvana song), and valerian (to treat depression).  Hard core research, huh?  Pretty typical for teenager me.

The herbs were so "interesting", we couldn't find there anywhere except for the Herb Festival.  Well, the valerian smelled like a rotting corpse after it flowered.  The vervain self-seeded so readily  it took years for my parents to eradicate it.  The pennyroyal jumped over the edge of the bed and is still in parts of my parents lawn.

Good times!

Besides the typical plant vendors, there will be people selling bulbs, soaps and cosmetics, food, art, crafts, books, garden decorations and antiques.

I'm particularly excited to see:
 A complete list of vendors is available here: http://www.baltimoreherbfestival.com/vendors.htm.

There will also be speakers, bands, and exhibitors at the festival.  Admission is $5 for adults and children 12 and under are free.  (If you're planning on bringing your kids, there's a miniature train that gives rides to children just outside the festival entrance -- not really gardening-related, but still pretty cool.)

May 28, 2011 - 10am-3pm
Held in Leakin Park
1900 Eagle Drive
Baltimore, MD  21207

Monday, May 23, 2011

Look what I found: Hellebore xhybridus

Hellebores, or Lenten Roses, are quite trendy these days.  I'm not sure if it's because they were named perennial plant of the year in 2005, because "winter interest" has become such a focus in garden design, or because these wonderful plants are finally getting their due.  You might not be able to find them at Home Depot, but most specialty garden centers or perennial catalogs will have them (and the varieties available are spectacular).

In my experience, hellebores will grow about 1.5 feet tall and about 1.5 feet wide.  They are one of the first plants to bloom in the garden, starting in February or March and lasting until June.  Flower colors range from white, through pinks and purples, all the way to black.  Most blooms are tinged with green or have freckles.  Since the nodding blossoms face down it can be difficult to fully appreciate them.  Many people cut the flowers and float them in bowls of water.

Hellebores are very easy to grow and do not required extra coddling or watering.  Mine have always seemed to thrive on neglect.  Once the plants are done blooming, their leathery, evergreen leaves add texture to the garden throughout the fall and winter.  I trim the most battered leaves back in the early spring, but you don't have to.  At the old house, I had a couple of Lenten Roses in a fairly sunny foundation bed.  Now, I have a grove of them deep in the woods.  They didn't seem to mind the sun, but most sources agree they do better in partial or full shade.  It doesn't seem like the deer bother them at all, which is great.

You might be wondering why I'm posting about these plants now instead of earlier in the year.  There are a few reasons:
  1. I didn't have a blog when they first started blooming
  2. I knew they'd be blooming for a while, so I wasn't in a rush to post about them
  3. I'm most excited about seed pods forming in the center of the flowers
Seriously - when they first started blooming, I was excited, but now I check them at least three times a week to see whether the seeds are getting close to being mature.  As soon as those seed pods turn brown, I'll be able to collect the seeds.  I'll direct sow some in the woods and try to grow the rest indoors over the winter.

Other efforts to expand the Hellebore grove include ordering two Lenten roses from Bluestone: Ivory Prince and a double flowered variety.  I also purchased three hellebore foetidus (Stinking Hellebores) at the William Paca House plant sale.  Stinking hellebores don't really smell bad unless you crush their leaves.  They're a little bigger than the hybrid hellebores and have really interesting lacy foliage.  Their flowers are typically smaller than regular hellebores and are usually chartreuse green.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

First the bad news...

Today has been a good news/bad news kind of day.  When people ask if you want to hear good news first or bad news first what do you choose?  I always choose bad news because I want to get it out of the way, then the good news can cheer me up.

Bad news: something is chewing up the strawberries.
Good news: It hasn't bothered the limes that are right next to the strawberries.
Bad news: The vast amount of rain we've had lately has pretty much ruined all of the seeds I had started in kcups.

Good news: The seeds I direct-sowed are doing well and I was even able to harvest some radishes.
Bad news: This is the fifth plant I've found dug up in the past two weeks. 
Good news: The Bluestone Perennials clearance sale started today and I stocked up on critter resistant plants
I hope you had a good news/good news kind of day!

Friday, May 20, 2011

A plant I fancy: Origanum 'Kent Beauty'

Scientific name: Origanum 'Kent Beauty'
Common name(s): Oregano, marjoram (?)
Height x Width: 6-12" x 9-12"
Growth rate: Grows well, but not invasive
Hardiness: Zones 6-9, may not winter over in cooler zones
Soil: Prefers well-drained soil, do not over water
Light: Full sun to partial shade
This ornamental oregano is a hybrid of O. rotundifolium x O. scabrum.  It is not suitable for culinary use, rather it is grown for its cascading foliage and long-lasting bracts which change from green to lavender to pink.
Reasons I like it:
  • I love the trailing habit of this plant
  • It's fairly unique - the bracts are different and I haven't seen it all over the place
  • It should be deer resistant...that's becoming more of a necessity
Where would I put it?
  • On the deck in a planter or hanging basket
  • In the mailbox or driveway bed
  • (My options for sun are pretty limited)
I've had my eye on 'Kent Beauty' for a couple of years now.  I should have gotten it while I lived at the old house -- the yard there was much better suited for a plant that needs full sun and well drained soil.
I guess I've had my fill of shade plants for now, because I've decided to give this plant a try.  Some of the reviews online claimed it did not do well in areas with high humidity and others claimed it did not overwinter in cooler climates.  I look forward to trying it out and reporting back.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Look what I found: Kalmia latifolia

As I was taking pictures for Bloom Day, I noticed interesting looking buds on a handful of shrubs in the woods.  It's my much longed for mountain laurel!  For some reason, even though I had researched this plant extensively when I was planning the "woodland" garden at the old house, I didn't recognize them in the new yard.  I was expecting them to be more bushy and round like a rhododendron.  My mountain laurels seem like waifs compared to my rhodies.  They're contorted little trees that lean and twist upon themselves.
These are deep in the woods, past the end of the forest path, almost to the ravine.  The only things back there are a pile of pavers from the previous owners and my composter.  I didn't really think anything interesting could grow in the deep shade back there, but I'm glad to be wrong.
Possible dwarf form?  Definitely cultivated.
 There's also a smaller, redder, cultivated form in the backyard along the fence line.

It's quite charming and doesn't seem to be affected by the leaf spot plaguing its wild counterparts in the woods.

From what I can tell, this is Phyllosticta kalmicola, or Kalmia leaf spot.  It's a fungus that causes unsightly spots, but no real harm to the plant.  Plants in moist (check), heavy shade (check) are more susceptible.  I'm just going to keep an eye on the spots for now rather than spray.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Favorites: Bluestone Perennials

Did you guys notice my new header?  Isn't it awesome?  My coworker, Nate, made it for me.  He doesn't currently have a blog, but you can see some more of his design work on his wife's blog: Rumspring Forever.

For my birthday, my completely awesome sister got me a gift certificate to one of my favorite online nurseries, Bluestone Perennials.  Just to make sure it's clear, I'm not affiliated with them in any way and am not receiving any compensation from them for writing this.

Bluestone Perennials is based out of Madison, Ohio.  They one of the top 30 rated companies at Dave's Garden, and are in the Top 5 rated companies for both Perennials and Ornamental Trees and Shrubs.  This is one of my favorite catalogs -- every year, I use it as a reference to help plan out what I want to do for the year.  Their website is also easy to navigate and provides clear pictures and valuable information for each plant.

They have a really wide selection of perennials, but there are also some plants in which they specialize (Mums, astilbe, clematis, and hosta, just to name a few).  They also offer shrubs, grasses, and bulbs.  I've gotten shrubs from them before, and they did well, but were very small.  You might remember I'm not a huge fan of grasses, but if I do pick up some hakonechloa it will probably be from here.  As far as bulbs go, I've never gotten bulbs from here before and I probably won't in the future (I have another favorite bulb company that I'll spotlight at a later date).

Most of their plants are offered for sale in groups of three.  The Bluestone philosophy is that planting in threes helps garden design.  The downside of this philosophy is that the plants they sell are smaller than you might be expecting.  The three-pack plants are grown in 2.35" x 2.2" x 2.75" deep containers and are 6 - 12 months old.  Some plants are offered in a single larger pot as well - these are grown in 3.5" x 3.5" x 5" deep containers and are 12 - 16 months old.  More details about the different plant sizes can be found on Bluestone's FAQ page.

I personally prefer to pay less for three smaller perennials -- after all, they'll grow, right?

Compared to my local nurseries, Bluestone has great prices, but they also usually have an annual sale the week before Memorial day where all remaining plants are marked 50% off.  In fact, they have frequent specials throughout the year - right now there are about 270 items that are 50% off.  Finally, with every catalog and order, you get a series of coupons that are usually good for up to a year.

Most of the complaints on the Dave's Garden website relate to the shipping method (in pots with packing peanuts) or plant size.  I haven't had issue with either, but it looks like if you notify them about a plant that has died in shipping, they'll replace it without hassle.  It also looks like they'll be changing their shipping method sometime this fall.  In the past, they offered recycling credits if you sent the packing peanuts back to them -- it looks like they're trying to be even more earth friendly...I look forward to seeing what they've come up with.

I've ordered from Bluestone Perennials every year for at least four years.  I've always been happy with their plants and service and I can't wait to use my gift certificate.  (Thanks, again, Sarah!). 

Do you have any favorite online nurseries?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Look what I found: Allium bulgaricum

(Edited to add: it looks like the botanical name has changed and this is now Nectaroscordum siculum var. bulgaricum.)

Also known as Sicilian Honey Lily or Mediterranean Bells.

As this was coming up, I thought it was an Allium of some sort, but I was expecting one of the purple pom-pom types.  I really enjoy the purple pom-poms, but I think this is even better.  There are three total, but only two have blooms.  The delicate combination of pinky-mauve and green on the flowers reminds me of my favorite Lenten rose.

Unfortunately, these plants are in a bed that will soon be gone.  It looks like the bed was originally shade plants and bulbs in between two trees.  Before we moved in, one of those trees was removed (although some of the stump still remains), which made the bed a lot more sunny.  I'm not sure if some plants died in the sun or were damaged when the tree was removed, but when we bought the house, it was obvious that some annuals were plunked down so the spot wasn't just bare mulch. 

The remaining tree is dying so we'll have to have it removed.  Instead of putting a new sun bed in the same spot, I think we're just going to try to grow grass*.  We've dug up most of what was in there (ferns, vinca major, bugleweed, and a tiny azalea).  I'll need to remember to dig up these bulbs as soon they're done blooming.  There are some other bulbs that came up earlier in the spring (galanthus and scilla) that I need to pull up as well.

I just need to figure out where to put them...

*I know - we're awful people.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bloom Day - May 2011

It's my first official Bloom Day!  For those of you not "in the know", Bloom Day is the brain child of Carol from May Dreams Gardens.  On the fifteenth of each month, garden bloggers across the country post pictures of what is in bloom in their garden.

Upper Row: Salvia, Knockout Rose, Dianthus
Middle Row: Viburnum, Geranium, Centaura
Bottom Row: Nodding allium, the last rhododendron, and Dogwood 'Kousa'
I'm still surprised every single day in the garden. The centaura is growing from within a clump of holly and the nodding allium is in a bed that will soon be gone (mental note: dig it up and buy some more).  I also found two types of oxalis and a wild rose, but the pictures didn't do them justice.  I know posts like yesterday's make it seem like gardening and blogging about gardening is a chore, but I really am enjoying it...both the gardening and the blogging.

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Garden Parts: The Deck

It's a rainy day, which really isn't fair.  I had a long week and was hoping for a few nice hours in the garden this morning.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better -- it will be my first official bloom day and I want to get some nice shots of the garden.

Since it's too muddy to tromp about in the yard today, I decided to focus on the deck.  It's part of the garden, after all, and ours has quite a bit going on.

And right here is where I realize I don't have much to say about the deck....the plan is pretty self-explanatory.  

Top row: Lime tree and strawberry pot, herbs and tomatoes, annuals in a deck planter
Middle row: hanging basket, peas and carrots from seed, radishes from seed
Bottom row: palm trees, kcups with seedlings, 
more annuals in another deck planter
And here are the pictures, which are terrible since it's so gray out today.  I tried to jazz them up a little by putting them in a fancy collage.  Did it help?

I'm not sure how all of this stuff is going to hold up over the summer.  In the past, I haven't had much luck with containers (mainly because I forgot to water them and the plants ended up dying).  However, this deck is right outside our family room and we use it more than we ever used our old patio.

I guess I'll see how this year goes.  If tomatoes get enough sun to grow well on our deck and if we keep up with watering, I'll see if hubby can somehow route a hose up there.  If the annuals in the deck planters do well, I'll get a couple more deck planters next year and try growing some herbs in them.

What do you have growing on your deck/patio?  Do your plants die in the middle of summer like mine usually do?

Friday, May 13, 2011

A plant I fancy: Hakonechloa macra

'Aureloa' habit - Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Scientific name: Hakonechloa macra
Common name(s): Japanese Forest Grass
Height x Width: 24" x 24"
Growth rate: Seems to be slow growing, although may differ depending on variety/conditions
Hardiness: Zones 5-9
Soil: Prefers moist, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter
Light: Partial shade

'Aureloa' detail - Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

Reasons I like it:
  • Does well in the shade
  • Has a selection of varieties with different color options and variegation, everything from white to gold to pink
  • Fairly unique - I haven't seen it all over the place
Where would I put it?
  • On the west side of the house (Chimney Bed)
  • On a slope in the woods
  • On the slope under red maple
'Stripe it Rich' detail - Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

I'm not a grass lover.  I always skip that section in catalogs and really have never paid much attention to it in the garden.  However, I'm willing to give Hakonechloa macra a try.  It seems to have a long season and be fairly low maintenance and it really seems like more of a foliage plant than a grass.

The variety 'Aureola' was the perennial plant of the year for 2009 and the publicity sheet (can you believe a plant has a publicity sheet?) mentions quite a few shade plants that combine well with Hakonechloa macra.  These plants include: hosta, heuchera (especially those with purple foliage), tiarella, astible, epimedium, wild ginger, bleeding heart and ladies mantle.

Do you have any Japanese Forest grass?  Would you recommend it for a shady slope?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Look what I found: Iris germanica 'Dover Beach' (?)

I have a feeling that all of my plant identifications from here on out will include question marks.  For the most part, I can tell the family and species of plants, but once you get down to varieties, I'm lost.

Bloom detail
 I knew this was an Iris germanica, also known as a bearded iris.  Other than weeds and vines, there were two plants growing in the backyard of the old house when we moved in: a clump of struggling purple bearded iris and a wild red rose.  I began a program of dividing and thinning the iris and before I knew it, they were thriving everywhere.  I started trading with some friends and neighbors, and soon I had six different types.  I've grown to love bearded iris.  They're not native, they're ridiculously gaudy and they have a limited bloom period, but for some reason, they hold a special place in my heart.

I hadn't tried to identify bearded iris before, I just called them by the color of their bloom.  I didn't even know the correct terminology for the parts of the flower.  The three upright petals are called standards and the three drooping petals are called falls.  The fuzzy thing that resembles a chenille pipe cleaner is the beard.

For some reason, I always thought the largest "fall" was the beard.  I guess you learn something new everyday, huh?

I did a search for a iris that had the following characteristics:
  • Early bloomer
  • Tall
  • Fragrant
  • Ruffled
  • White Standards
  • Blue/Purple Falls
  • White Beard
The only result that looked anything like my iris was 'Dover Beach'.  I'm not especially convinced -- mine seems to have more ruffles and might be a little more blue.  Like the many other plants I'm on the fence about, I guess I'll have to keep my eyes open.

Do you have a favorite bearded iris?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Favorites: Knopp's Farm

Not this past weekend, but the weekend before, we took a quick trip over to Knopp's Farm in Severn.  It's just down the road from Papa John's and in many ways, the farms are quite similar.  They both sell plants in the spring and produce in the summer.  They're both family owned.  You'd think that I would only need to visit one of them, but every year, I always end up going to both and buying plants from both.

Knopp's farm is a little smaller and, in my opinion, has more of a personal touch.  I get a chance to talk to whoever is working to get an idea about how the business is going for the year.  The day we visited was quite rainy but there were still a handful of crazy dedicated gardeners out looking for plants.  As we checked out, the man at the register explained how much a rainy day sets them back.  As long as it was sunny for Mother's Day weekend, he said they'd be fine.  I'm glad they got the good weather they were hoping for.

I got a handful of annuals: some potato vine, some coleus, and a couple of six-packs of celosia and ageratum for our deck planters.  I also got two exotic geraniums - I'm a sucker for foliage and these had the most gorgeous tricolor variegation I've seen.

The main reason I always visit Knopp's Farm is their affordable selection of shade perennials.  Six inch pots cost only $5.00 and are extremely vigorous.  I've had really good luck with their perennials in the past and last weekend I got three heucheras, three foxgloves, and the husband picked out one hosta...

...which was chomped on by a deer as soon as we got it home.

If you're in the local area and have never been to Knopp's, I highly recommend you give them a visit.  They're just off of New Cut road, on Old Oak road in Severn.  There are signs on either side of Old Oak road, so it's pretty easy to find.

If you're not in the area, I found a great interview online with Mr. "Bunk" Knopp on a blog relating to Eastern Market in DC.  It paints a vivid picture of the life of a Maryland farmer and makes me proud to support my local farmers in some small part.

565 Old Oak Road
Severn,  MD  21144
(410) 969-3620

9:00am - 6:00pm daily

Monday, May 9, 2011

Look what I found: Salvia nemerosa 'Carradonna' (?)

I found two possible Salvia nemerosa plants in the mailbox bed.  Now that the azaleas are losing their flowers, the tall purple spikes of flowers are very welcome.  The plants are about 18 inches tall with a 12 inch spread.

I thought they might be 'May Night' since it started blooming pretty early for a salvia, but the leaves seem different.  The stems on my plants are a very noticeable purple, which pointed me in the direction of 'Carradonna'.  However, 'Carradonna' isn't supposed to bloom until June.  I guess I'll learn more about it as the summer goes on -- if it reblooms, then I have more evidence for 'Carradonna'.  If it doesn't flop during our typical humid summer, that could be evidence against 'Carradonna'.  Stay tuned!  (I can tell you're on the edge of your seats).

What do you think?  Does this salvia look familiar to you?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

My Mother's Day "gift"
I had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend.  On Saturday morning, I met my parents at the William Paca House plant sale and got a whole trunk full of plants.  Afterwards, my dear husband dropped our daughter off at his mom's house for a sleepover and went out to watch the Derby.  I was able to plan and dig to my heart's delight, and for once, everything got planted.  It was nice to actually do some gardening instead of just typing about gardening. 

I had the best of both worlds on Sunday because I got to sleep in and then I got to go pick up our daughter.  She has been a handful lately, but I couldn't imagine the day without her.  We enjoyed some quiet time in my parents' garden, hit the grocery store, and headed home. 

My mother is also a gardener.  It's something we've been able to share, even during my admittedly horrible teenage years.  She taught me everything I know and it seems everytime I'm in a garden I think about her in some way.  I'm sure I always will.

Thank you, Mom, for loving me no matter what, for preparing me for the world, and for sticking with me even while I was pushing you away.  Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A plant I fancy: Oxydendrum arboreum

*Updated to ensure pictures are properly credited
Scientific name: Oxydendrum arboreum
Common name(s): Sourwood, sorrel tree
Height x Width: 25-30' x 20'
Growth rate: slow
Hardiness: Zones 5-9
Soil: Prefers acidic, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter
Light: Full sun to partial shade

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
 Reasons I like it:
  • It's a native plant and although it normally appears in more mountainous areas, sourwood is local to Maryland
  • It provides multi-season interest with flowers midsummer, bright red foliage in the fall, and interesting fruit capsules and bark during winter
  • It has a fairly narrow canopy

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
 Where would I put it?
In the front yard, either in the island or along the left property line

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

I've been considering a combination of serviceberries and a redbud for the front yard island bed, but now I'm leaning towards a sourwood instead of the redbud.  It's a more slow-growing tree, so it probably wouldn't outgrow the space any time soon.  Furthermore, it has a much more narrow canopy, so it wouldn't shade out all of the grass my husband is working so diligently to grow.  Finally, it's a little more unique and a little less showy than a redbud. 

We have so many other flowering shrubs in the front yard, a redbud that flowers pinkish purple at the exact same time wouldn't make as much of an impact as a tree that blooms when everything has finished and then has really brilliant fall color.  Since it has similar soil preferences to azaleas, it should do well in a bed with them.  I've also see the suggestion to plant it with pieris japonica and lily of the valley which would echo the delicate urn-shaped flowers. 

Although it is a native tree, I can't remember ever seeing it and I'm not even sure it's available in the local nurseries.  Have you ever see a sourwood tree?  How do you think it holds up against a redbud?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Garden Parts: The Driveway

This bed is on the opposite side of the driveway from the mailbox bed.  It's a quite a jumble of plants and weeds.

I would like to make this bed match the mailbox bed as much as possible.  One thing I like about it is that it has the bright red azalea, which is also in the mailbox bed and on the far corner of our front yard.  I think those three azaleas help show the boundaries of our front yard and unify three seperate areas.  Another great thing about this bed is it doesn't look quite so dead over the winter because of all the evergreen shrubs.

Right now, the bed features a mugo pine and a bird's nest spruce up front, which I plan on keeping and trimming.  There's another unidentified evergreen shrub which I'll keep, a clump of volunteer holly I will probably pull up, and a fairly stunted nandina .  As far as perennials go, there are some fall chrysanthemums practically underneath the Mugo Pine (I'll try to move these), there are some plants that look like they could be daylillies, and there's  a cluster of Sedum.  In addition to the large red azalea, I found a tiny pink azalea (basically one stick, three leaves, and one flower).  There are also a lot of weeds, saplings, and debris that need to be cleaned up.

A tree growing through an azalea.
Since the mailbox bed is not going to be designed until next year, I guess I'll focus on weeding in this bed for now.  Next year, I'll edge it with whatever perennials are used in the mailbox bed.  I'm especially leaning towards monarda, perovskia, bearded iris, shasta daisies, lavender, rosemary, creeping phlox and thyme.  If I end up using nandina behind the mailbox, I'll probably mirror that in this bed as well.