Tag Archives: hummingbird plant

Smitten by Solomon’s Seal

Polygonatum x hybridum 'Striatum'

Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Striatum’

Unfurling

Other forms….Unfurling

Dancing

Dancing

polygonatum_flowers_web

Dangling

Just a few images to share….loving the various species and  forms in the genus Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal).  We currently have about 15 selections, ranging in size from tiny 6″ Polygonatum humile to  6′ selections of P. biflorum. and are always seeking out more.

quick facts: Solomon Seals is in the family Asparagaceae. Most forms are hardy in zones 5-8, (a few in zones 3 & 4). They slowly spread by jointed rhizomes, and enjoy well drained soil in partial to full shade. Long lived and almost indestructible, Solomon’s Seal is one of those plants that holds its good looks with little care all season.

Digiplexis x ‘Illumination Flame’

digiplexus

Sometimes amazing things happen when you cross similar plants from different regions: Digitalis (European Foxglove) and Isoplexis (Canary Island Foxglove. The result: beautiful perpetual blooming 3′ spires of tubular flowers, which are colored sunset coral in bud and then open, exposing yellow throats with hints of apple green. This particular selection, ‘Flame’, is the first of the Illumination series introduced by Charles Valin which won the prestigious award of Best in Show at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2012.

Last year we grew Digiplexis ‘Flame’ in a large pot. It began to bloom in early June and carried on for months, well into September. The blossoms are sterile, which tricks the plants to be constantly in flower.  We brought the container into the cool greenhouse to winter over and it’s back up and about to start the show all over again. This year we’ve also planted it in our garden beds for the constant color it provides. We envision it as the vertical complement to Dahlias and Summer Phlox in a sunny, enriched , well drained border which gets an average amount of irrigation. I can attest that the hummingbirds were regular visitors, as were bees and butterflies, and I suspect it is deer resistant as well.

Because Digiplexis inherited its hardiness genes from its Canary Island parent, it will only winter over outdoors in zones 8-10, (although one of our customers bragged to me the other day that hers wintered over outdoors in a protected spot in zone 7).  Dig  up the roots after the first frost, as you would a Dahlia and store in a cool spot that stays above freezing for the winter. Gardeners in warmer winter climates don’t have to worry about this, and I can only imagine the display in their garden year after year!

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Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’

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Let us reacquaint you with an underutilized evergreen plant for cold climates.

Bold, colorful, architectural evergreen foliage. Dramatic creamy nodding lily flowers in early summer. Deer and rabbit resistant, it grows in poor and dry soils, and is perfectly hardy in zones 4-9. Why oh why don’t more landscapers and gardeners plant Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’?

Yucca ‘Color Guard’ provides northern gardeners with a brightly colored vertical accent for mixed border plantings. Plants attain a foliage height of  24″, and when ‘Color Guard’ chooses to bloom, those creamy white lilies are held on 4-5′ tall towering stalks. Hummingbirds almost swoon over the plants in pour garden. We have it planted in a hot dry bed, with Acanthus hungaricus, Crambe maritima   Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and dwarf evergreens.

acanthus.yucca

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Salvia splendens ‘Van Houttei’

salviavan

Salvia splendens ‘Van Houttei’

Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are getting excited. It is August and the Scarlet Sage are beginning to bloom.

Tall Scarlet Sage is a form of Salvia splendens but should not be confused with the short bedding plants that are popular annuals sold in 6 packs. Native to tropical Brazil, this Dutch selection was named for the nurseryman Louis Benoit Van Houtte, known also as the father of Belgium horticulture. Leafy plants grow 3-4’’ tall and display dark red flowers accented with deeper red calyces from mid August to frost.

S. splendens ‘Van houttei’ enjoys a rich yet well drained soil in full sun or partial shade but requires adequate watering during dry spells. It is a tender perennial and will suffer when temperatures go below freezing. (hardy to zone 10). Plants will need to be dug and wintered over in a frost free area for the winter if grown in colder climates. For fresh stock, propagate by cuttings taken on new growth in the spring.

Only a couple of years ago this form of Salvia splendens had almost disappeared from cultivation after having been rediscovered twenty years ago. We forgot to save a stock plant a few years back, and this form does not come true from seed. At first we thought we could obtain new plants from other growers but to our dismay the only forms of tall Scarlet Sage being sold were impostors. The ordered plants would turn out to be either the orange red ‘’Faye Chapelle’’ or the red/purple form known as ‘’Paul’’. Both are good plants but they lack the beautiful coloring and looser form of the true ‘Van houttei’.  We were able to beg some cuttings off a gardener in western MA who had kept stock from plants he had saved for years. We now have a healthy supply and will be sure to take measures so we don’t lose it again.

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Dwarf Kniphofia

Kniphofia 'Creamsicle'

Kniphofia ‘Creamsicle’

One look at Kniphofia and you might be able to guess its native habitat is Africa.  Commonly called Torch Lilies, or Red Hot Pokers if you prefer, this member of Xanthorrhoeaceae family (not Liliacea, the Lily family) forms upright grass like foliage clumps from which rise spires of beautiful multi-toned tubular flowers beloved by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. There are over 70 species, some of which are not hardy in northern climates. Most species bloom during northern hemisphere summers, but there are a few forms that will bloom when summer arrives in S. Africa, that is to say, December.

Recently Terra Nova Nurseries introduced a line of dwarf hybrid Kniphofia which they affectionately called the Popsicle Series. These dwarf selections have foliage that grows 12-15″” tall, with flower stems reaching 18-24″” depending on the cultivar. Blooming begins in mid July (for us), with flowering stalks continue to emerge right through September. We planted a half dozen of the form ‘‘Creamsicle’‘ last summer,  with its bright to pastel yellow orange coloring and they wintered over well, so this year we tried 2 new selections… ‘’Orange Vanilla Popsicle’, with a toffee orange to cream tones and ‘‘Pineapple Popsicle’ with a tart pastel lemon to chartreuse coloring.

Plant Kniphofia in a soil with good winter drainage and in full sun. It provides a 2’ exclamation point to beds when used in small groups, or would be stunning used en masse in a larger setting. Kniphofia is a great companion to Euphorbia such as ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and almost any Sedum. It can be sited in the foreground of a mixed shrub border…we have it coming up through a sea of steel blue Shore Juniper.

One more thing you might appreciate: deer do not like it!

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Kniphofia 'Pineapple Popsicle'

Kniphofia ‘Pineapple Popsicle’

Kniphofia 'Orange Vanilla Popsicle'

Kniphofia ‘Orange Vanilla Popsicle’

Gladiolus dalenii ‘Boone’

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You won’t think funeral parlors when you see this lovely species of Hardy Gladiolus. That’s right……I said hardy. For the past 6 years ‘Gladiolus dalenii ‘Boone’ has not only wintered over, (including our recent epic one)  but has multiplied, producing many bulb offsets in one of our raised planting beds. Elegant 3′ stems display apricot yellow blossoms which make lovely cut flowers in early-mid summer. It thrives in full sun and for the record, I will state it is hardy in zones 6-9 when grown in a soil that is well drained in winter. Incorporate a few shovels of sand into your soil when planting. For insurance it would be a good idea to lay a protective mulch of sterile hay or evergreen boughs in the colder parts of zone 6.

In cold climates (zones 1-5) you could easily lift the bulbs for winter storage and keep in a cool dry space that stays above freezing. Gladilolus dalenii ‘Boone’ can easily be grown from seed, and we have noticed some variation in color from seedlings…ranching from the softest of yellows to slightly deeper pale oranges, sometimes with darker orange highlights.

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Growing Acanthus

I wasn’t hallucinating, but to this day I still wonder about an incident, which occurred more than a dozen years ago.

It was a hot summer afternoon in mid July. I was alone at the nursery, watering, when an elderly woman appeared out of no where.  I always keep my ears perked for cars pulling into the gravel driveway, but had not heard a thing. The woman , in a very aristocratic tone, asked me if I grew Acanthus. I chuckled and said that we had tried but it had been a disappointment, struggling to emerge each year, only sending up a leaf or two.

She suggested I grow it in a hot sunny spot , and be patient. I thanked her for her advice, and continued watering while she seemed to browse. Less than a minute later I looked up to see if she had questions or needed help, and she was nowhere to be seen. Even a spry teenager would have had to bolt to reach the exit in such short a time.  I walked up to the driveway to the road but there was no one and no car in sight. Hmmm…..

A few months later, an autumn storm felled a large tree. The following year, a patch of robust Acanthus foliage emerged in a spot now baked from the hot sun; the felled tree had shaded the spot more than we thought. By late June we were seeing our first blossoms. I now think of that mysterious woman and her advice whenever the Acanthus come into bloom.

The Acanthus are putting on a great show right now with bold dark green leaves and sturdy 3? spires of hooded lavender flowers. They are loving the hot spot by our stone wall  This show will carry on into late July. We?ll deadhead the spent flowers, so the foliage will continue to look good for the remainder of the season.

Some info for northern gardeners. The hardiest species are Acanthus spinosus and Acanthus hungaricus, hardy to -10 degrees. (zone 6a) The two are often confused, but upon close observation spinosus will display a more sharply serrated leaf with spiny tips. There is also another hardy selection, ‘Morning Candle’, which is a hybrid of A. hungaricus x A. mollis, and offers the hardiness of the former, but with white hooded flowers. Acanthus spread by creeping rootstock, and even bits of roots left in the soil will regenerate into new plants over time. A mass display of Acanthus is an impressive sight.

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Gentiana ‘True Blue’ PPAF

Blue. Not only blue, but ‘True Blue’… that is the name hybridizer Darrell Probst chose for his selection of this long blooming Gentian.

Here?s been our experience. This is the third year ?True Blue? has spent in our garden, and it seems quite happy where we planted it: at the top of a stone retaining wall, in well drained rich soil, in a partly sunny spot (4-6 hours a day).  Gentiana ‘True Blue’ begins to bloom by mid July and carries on through the summer heat into September. Our plants have only have grown to 12-15″ in height, although all the literature suggests it can grow to 2′ or more.  Darrell suggests that we plant this Gentian in a more fertile soil to attain full height, and I”m ready to find a few more spots in the garden that will accommodate this lovely specimen.The 2″ chalice shaped flowers face upward, catching the morning dew.

Hardiness range is USDA zones 3-8. Darrell shared in the comments box that the parents of this hybrid are of Japanese or Korean ancestry, perhaps G. makinoi, and not from more fussy alpine regions. All the more encouragement you need.

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Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’

Bush clover in blossom waves
without spilling
a drop of dew
—- Matsuo Basho

If you had to choose one plant to fill your late summer garden, you might consider the lovely Japanese Bush Clover, Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’. This selection was discovered by the accomplished plantsman, Bill Frederick, at Gibraltar, one of the duPont family estates in Wilmington, Delaware.  We have to admit ‘Gibraltar’ is a big show-off, quickly growing to 5-6′ tall and in just a few years occupying an 8-10 sq. ft. area quite easily. It loves a sunny spot and is hardy in zones 5-9.

 Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’ is in the legume family, and this means it does not require a rich soil, but prefers one that is a lean and well drained. To manage its size and form, you should cut the woody stalks hard to the ground in early spring. This may seem alarming at first, but Bush Clover blooms on new growth and  the full height will be attained by mid summer. A bevy of cascading branches adorned by an abundance of purple pink pea blossoms will add eye catching color from late August through September.

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Planting Containers for Late Summer into Autumn

Late Summer Planter

As the end of August approaches, summer containers may be in need of renewal. Save the fall mums and pumpkins for October and November. There are dozens of cool season container plants, including small shrubs, perennials as well as “fall annuals” that will put on a show for the next 6-8 weeks, at least.

A few tips about late season plantings: If your original planting included strong foliage plants that are still looking fine, leave them and pull out the sad looking offenders. Add some fresh soil in the pockets. Select some new plant material to replenish the bare spots. If starting a new combination, consider this. Plant growth is slowing down, due to fewer hours of daylight, so plant more densely than you would in early summer. Give a feeding or 2 of Dynagro, or other liquid fertilizer.

Here’s an example of great late season ensemble. This combination has been a favorite for years, and works well in an 18-20″ pot. For height we?ve used Purple Fountain Grass Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’, and added a pair of Cuphea ‘David Verity’, a hummingbird magnet, with its tubular orange flowers and handsome foliage that takes on burgundy tones in cool temperatures. A robust Heuchera ‘Caramel’ adds weight, a dark leaved ornamental pepper adds fun, and ‘Dreamsicle’ Calibrachoa cascades over the pots for dramatic effect.