Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not Buying a Plant Because of Its Flowers?....pshaw!

My first, but hopefully, not my last Dahlia.

I read a recent blog posting on GardenRant that linked to a list of garden "hard truths" and one of the truths sort of bugged me, stuck in my craw, if you will.

"Flowers, from a design standpoint, are non-essential--throw pillow equivalents. It’s foliage that makes the garden. Or, as a former Sunset garden writer once put it, 'Buying a plant for its flowers is like choosing a wife for her bonnet.' "

I have heard this advice/truth before and its always bothered me. It seems to me that it seems to imply that "real" gardeners don't care about flowers, short-lived and fragile -- they just take away from the true stars of the garden -- the foliage. I know there are Hosta collectors out there, and people go ape for rare types of conifers, but I couldn't imagine a garden that didn't have flowers. I can imagine visiting such a garden once, but not returning to it. So in defense of the lowly flower, I will supply these photos as a rejection of this "hard truth."

I supposed the foliage is lovely on these California Poppies and Nigella damascena, but I wouldn't have planted the seeds if they didn't have these delicate and delightful flowers

My new favorite rose is this Belinda's Dream. It reblooms, it smells nice. I can offer no comment on its foliage.

This Carefree Spririt Rose is all about the flowers, contantly, non-stop. I supposed you could argue that the rose is great not because of its flowers, but because it is drought tolerant and disease resistant, but I think the flowers are really nice.

This Strawberry Candy Daylily is a repeat bloomer and drought tolerant, but I just think its pretty.

My floribunda rose, "Sun flare" does has terrific foliage, but I certainly wouldn't care about it, if it didn't have the most lovely yellow buds throughout the summer.

Two of my favorite plants, Lavender (Munstead variety) and Yarrow (Achillea). Both have that gray, spidery foliage that is popular these days, but I love the combination of the flowers, the soft purple spikes with the contrasting white umbrels.

Everyone seems to be putting down the lowly Rudbeckia (brown-eyed Susan), but it blooms for over a month, is drought tolerant, and the yellow contrasts with almost everything in my pink and purple garden, especially this Flowercarpet rose (a line of roses I am totally in love with).

I think the Rudbeckia also works well with my Rubrum Lily, which has the most wonderful scent, and blooms for quite a while.

I did buy this Caryopteris divaricata for its foliage, but I love how it provides a framework for the Cosmos to weave through. So I do admit readily, there are qualities to plants besides their flowers you should absolutely consider, like drought-tolerance, length of bloom, disease resistance, and whether a plant's form/foliage/color will complement its plant neighbors. Considering how a plant will look after its lost is flowers, perhaps should be emphasized more, but buying a plant just for its foliage seems to be missing the point a bit.


List of Plants:
Purple Dahlia
Nigella damascena (Love-in-a-Mist)
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Rosa 'Belinda's Dream'
Rosa 'Sun flare'
Rosa 'Carefree Spirit'
Rosa 'Flowercarpet Pink Supreme'
Caryopteris divaricata 'Snow Fairy'
Lilium speciosum Rubrum (Red Species Lily, Rubrum Lily)
Cosmos bipinnatus (Cosmos, Mexican Aster)
Rudbeckia fulgida (Brown-eyed Susan)
Hemerocallis 'Strawberry Candy' (Daylily)
Lavender angustifolia 'Munstead' (English Lavender)
Achillea sibirica (Siberian Yarrow)

Friday, August 14, 2009

No Blight...Yet

As many New Englanders already know, this has been a terrible year for tomatoes; endless rain, overcast days, cool nights, and a horrible strain of late blight that came early. So far, knock on wood, my tomatoes seem OK. I started some from seed (determinate/bush variety) and bought some seedlings (indeterminate/vining). Both kinds seem blight free.


I'm a little more worried about the cucumbers, which do seem to have developed a mildew. I got several beautiful cukes early this year, but the newer flowers and fruits seem to be blackening.

Today was pretty sunny, so things seem better, but I'm still not convinced about this whole veggie thing. It's just too stressful! But the tomatoes are pretty much better than anything the grocery has to offer...and Basil is about the easiest thing to grow and tastes good in everything (now that I've figured out that they need to be harvested constantly for best growth), and I'm not a big cucumber eater, but they were really crispy.

So I'm thinking next year, I'm going to look for cucumber and tomato varieties that are resistant to the more common fungi. I suppose this means I'm going to keep "farming.'


P.S. Garden Rant already did a piece on late blight, so here's their much more informed take on the topic.

List of Links
Cornell U, Agric Dept: Late Blight on tomato
Salem News: Late blight hits farm tomatoes
Garden Rant: Some thoughts on late blight

Friday, August 7, 2009

My Garden in August

Despite all the rain, or perhaps because of it, the garden is looking particularly floriferous (is that a word?) and abundant these days. I'm sure it won't last too much longer, so I captured a few moments of the garden at its summer peak.

Here's the front-left:


My son made me buy this Dahlia plant when I was browsing the seed aisle -- his instructions were, "I want the big one." He rarely shows an interest in what I plant, so I went along with him. I dubiously planted the tuber in the Spring and pretty much forgot about it, until I noticed this lovely flower this week. What a surprise! Now I'm totally in love with Dahlia's and can't wait to try some more.

Another happy surprise was the Nigella damascena (Love-in-a-Mist). I sprinkled some seeds this Spring, and hoped for the best. It's now growing around my Belinda's Dream Rose, and I just love it. You can't tell from the pictures, but the Nigella petals actually turn a lovely periwinkle blue as they ripen.

Here's the Nigella in close-up. Isn't the common name perfect?


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Late Afternoon in July

Yesterday was a truly memorably beautiful day; no clouds (a rarity this summer), no mugginess, and gentle sea breezes. After a perfect beach day, I took a survey of the garden and was happy with a few things I found.

Like my bush tomatoes are starting to ripen:

And the bush cukes are just going nuts. They don't seem to mind the wet weather:

Many of my flowers are really peaking or beginning their decline, but there were a few standouts.

Like these hemerocallis (daylily) that I saved from the %50-off rack at Home Depot:

Or this Belinda's Dream Rose that I ordered from Antique Rose Emporium -- it's supposed to be just about the perfect rose (its an Earthkind rose -- drought and disease resistant, and a repeat bloomer, with the classic, cupped bloom form). I planted it this June, and its beginning its second bloom of the summer.

Many of my hydrangeas are beginning to decline, but are still lovely. Like this Nikko Blue Hydrangea that I feel is making a nice pairing with my variegated dogwood (Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo').

I got this Alpenglow Hydrangea last year, a sale item from Bluestone Perennials. It came in a 4-inch pot and is now about 2ft x 2ft. I love how the electric pink has mellowed to a softer, mauvey pink.

I caught Auggie, frequently known as the Devil Dog, taking a breather under my Japanese Dappled Willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro-nishiki' ). Belying his nature, he looks rather sweet and cuddly.