Friday, September 27, 2013

I know what you are, but where did you come from?


I wrote about finding a yellow orchid in my woods one April day years ago.  The story went that I had just been to Dr. Ferrol Sams' garden.  I was walking up my driveway, looking over into the ivy and wondering how I could make a path and plant some native flowers like Dr. Sams had done in his woods.  Something yellow caught my eye.  I went over, and there was an orchid, yellow with a salmon tinge.  The flowers going up the foot-high stem looked like miniatures of those orchids we used to get for the prom.

Long story short, one of my neighbors came over with a book about native orchids, but nothing matched.  I finally saw the flower in the Plant Delights catalog.  How had a Japanese orchid come to live in my woods in the midst of an acre of ivy?  I still don't know.

So, the other day, I was going out to throw away some limbs in my brush pile when I saw a green stalk coming out of the ground.  I don't think I would have been so surprised if it had been a red spider lily, since I do have some up at the little house.

But, I could tell this was going to be a yellow flower.  I was pretty sure it was a lycoris.  Today, I was able to get a better picture, and more buds were open.  Lycoris aurea, according to the Google images.

All well and good, but how did this lone flower come to be on the path to the brush pile?  I have a feeling I'll never know the answer.  Scott Mcmahan had these for sale at one time, but I think his were a lighter yellow.  I remember wanting to get some, but I never did.  I'm trying to think.  A few years back, I tried to grow a variegated English holly in about the same spot.  Could it have been embedded in that plant, which eventually froze?  Not likely.  But, a yellow lycoris, which is not that common, would not just decide to come live in my yard.

I did see on one of the pictures that it said it was "easy to grow".   I feel sure this is the case, since it just popped out of the ground and looks very happy.  The deer have ignored it, which is always a good thing.

I'll have to remember to notice if any strappy foliage comes up this winter and then disappears.  What a thrill to find an unexpected treasure.  The plant world is forever fascinating indeed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What can be done in late September?


Here in Georgia, leaves are beginning to fall - not the pretty colored ones, but the crispy brown ones, at least at my house.  I went to a home yesterday where the gardener depends on spring and summer flowers entirely.  There was very little green to back anything up.  Of course, things would have looked better if the owner had time to keep everything dead-headed, but that's hard to do this time of year when so many spent plants need attention.

The garden above is definitely high maintenance.  Boxwoods need to be clipped, and come autumn, the leaves have to be removed that have fallen. Pruning is a must, because the space is small, and good air circulation is a must.

I happened to catch this scene just after a garden helper had come.  There's not so much as a flower in sight, but the different textures and leaf sizes make it interesting.  The blue gate, too, adds some pizzazz.

This gardener has fun with her small backyard and is constantly moving and changing things around.  One thing that is constant is her use of boxwoods, hostas, ferns, cast iron plant and and various climbers.  She uses variegated plants to echo each other, like the variegated boxwood in the foreground and the gray and cream-edged pittosporum over to the left.

Every time I go to this garden, I get inspired and come away feeling like I want to copy everything she has done.  Maybe someday I'll have more time to devote to keeping such a garden.  This one gives the homeowner so much pleasure and fun and pride.  I'd like to have some of that myself.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Such little flowers, but so much fragrance


There are two reasons I like walking out of the door to my den today.  One, I have a new garden there that I would never have dreamed could be possible.  I think I wrote that I had three new iron arches in hopes of smothering them with climbing roses.

The arches have been in place since April when the roses arrived via mail, well UPS, I think.  Pretty soon afterwards, the deer let me know that the roses might not work.  But, I'm glad to report that on two of the heavy iron arches, the Confederate jasmine is growing beautifully.  In May, the fragrance was wonderful.

But one arch is up against a special tea olive.  If I were to get up out of my chair and open the French door next to my desk, I would be greeted by the heady fragrance of the plant pictured above.  I had thought it wasn't going to bloom this year.  There had been one open flower a couple of weeks ago, and I thought the shrub (now 10 feet tall, at least), had bloomed early and something had gotten to the flowers.

However, a couple of days ago, as if by magic, I looked, and there were hundreds of tiny orange buds. Now, on this day, a lot of the flowers are open.  In the mornings and evenings, you can even walk out of the front door and catch the lovely scent.

Erica Glasener, who was the host of A Gardener's Diary on Home & Garden Television, gave me the plant.  Shamefully, I let it live in a one-gallon pot for years.  Finally, the plant took root where it was sitting, and burst forth from its shackles to root in the ground.  I love its dark, evergreen leaves, so even if the bloom time is only a few short weeks, the plant itself is beautiful.

I now have two other white-flowering tea olives in different places.  I had given up on their blooming this year, but I need to check on them.  Maybe the buds have appeared along the stems, as well.

This is Osmanthus fragrans var. aurantiacus.  If you visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden at this time of the year, you'll catch its intoxicating perfume at the entrance.  The plant might be hard to find, but if you do run across it, you should definitely grab it.  I'm so grateful to Erica for this gift.  She's such a knowledgeable horticulturist and plantswoman.  And, now that I have the second part of the new garden (pictures will follow at some point), this fragrant tea olive looks even more beautiful and stately.

If you feel your garden is on the wane in September and October, you could add tea olives and Camellia sasanqua.  This latter plant I bring up, because the fall flowering evergreens are featured in the book I finally finished just this week.  Margaret Moseley's A Garden to Remember will be introduced at the American Hydrangea Society meeting on October 22, when the hard cover edition will be ready.  Margaret, who is 97, will be on hand to sign books.  That's the reason I've been AWOL on this blog, and I apologize.  It was a lot of work, but a real labor of love.  I am absolutely thrilled about this tribute to Margaret and her magical garden.  Much more later on this subject.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Our hydrangeas made it across the ocean


I hope it's okay that I am using this picture I found on Tara Dillard's blog.  Actually, I think it is a photograph from one of the blogs she follows.

On a cloudy day in early February 1966, I arrived in France for the first time.  It was the second semester of my junior year in college.  I was instantly hooked.  We went first to Paris, where I took a picture of a friend at the Palais de Chaillot overlooking the Eiffel Tower.  When our bus rolled into Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, I was taken aback.  The giant plane trees had been clipped back, with not a leaf in sight.  The next day the Mistral came down with a fury, making everything look gray and threatening.

But, when the sun came out again, I got used to the bare trees, which, of course, by the month of May had leafed out and shaded the wide Cours Mirabeau, the fountain-studded main street of Aix.

There is something about the aesthetics of the landscapes around the houses of Provence (not all, for sure) that appealed to me.  I liked the crunch of gravel and the way it came right up to the base of the walls, usually inside a courtyard.  The picture above has the idea, although there are foundation plantings around the door.

What struck me about this picture is that there are two American shrubs, which look totally in character for the scene.  One is Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake'.  It is mind-boggling that this plant came from one spindly, almost dead shrub discovered in northern Alabama.  Eddie Aldridge and his father, a nurseryman, made only a few cuttings of the the plant, which had double blooms, rather than the single ones you see on the bushes that cling to the cliffs around Birmingham.  It's amazing to me that the plant is growing happily here in a town in France.

The other is Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'.  A woman in Anna, Illinois, found big round blossoms on her wild hydrangea (I used to have these all over the woods, but the deer have mowed them down.  I haven't a one now, and the critters have decimated my Annabelles, as well).  From that one plant in the American heartland came all the Annabelles in the world.

It's striking that these two hydrangeas next to a door in France came very close to never seeing the light of day.  So many plants we cherish came from some anomaly on a single plant somewhere on this planet.  That is a daunting thought.  But, someone found them, and here they are.

I don't know where this picture was taken, but it does look like Provence.  I can see a white agapanthus on the right, and I know they thrive in the Mediterranean climate.

I am presently looking out at the Atlantic Ocean.  It's just amazing that these two very American plants made it all the way across and landed in this spot in France.  We are lucky that we have these hydrangeas, and so are the people who planted them next to their door so far away.