01 April 2015

Those rare blue flowers



For those of you wondering where I've gotten to...I'm here, and I'm fine, just really, really busy as we get ready for our 10th anniversary Saltscapes Expo. Lots to tell you about while we're also still waiting for the 87 feet of snow that fell in the past two months to melt, but for now, a blast from the past....


We all know that in flowers, blue is the rarest colour. Which means some of us go koo koo for cocapuffs over it. Quite a few of us, actually. That number would include me, of course. From the glorious of the difficult, divaesque, but oh-so-beautiful blue poppy...


To the stately cobalt splendor of blue delphinium...

And even the dainty, delicate, spring chorus of scilla drive mere mortals to frenzies of bountiful blue blossom blissdom.

Well, you know how plant breeders are. They're never content to rest on their laurels, and they've been at work developing some more blue flowers for us to enjoy. The following stealthy, shaky, grainy photos are of a few cultivars that your intrepid correspondent risked life and limb to get photos of for your viewing enjoyment.

For those who are thwarted by growing blue poppies, perhaps you'd like to try this dandy geum, 'Til I'm Blue Cooky'. I think it would work particularly well, like most geums, in full sun with well-drained soil. 

We're always taught that hemerocallis come in every conceivable shade except black and true blue. Well, we can cross the latter off the list with 'Crazy Iovanni', which to the best of my understanding was created by genetical manipulation, introducing the DNA from the blue April Fish into one of the showier of yellow daylilies, 'Fools' Gold.' I wasn't able to ascertain, from my lofty perch in a truffula tree, whether the foliage of this new hemerocallis was evergreen or not.

Ah yes, the blue rose. We've all heard about how some things are as 'rare as blue roses.' Well, once again, the GMO wizards have been at it, splicing some DNA from that blue delphinium with multiple excited protons from the Large Hadron Collider, and zapping them into a pimpernelifolia rose. Meet 'Harison's Blue.'

And apparently pollen from the bluebanded bee, when stolen from a blue Eryngium planum and dipped onto a double white coneflower, yields this blue eyed beauty, 'April BlueNose.' Because I was in deep ninjacover while clambering around in trees, I couldn't hear the breeder say when any of these blue beauties would be released, but I suspect it will be probably around June 31st of next year. 

Whew. It's sooooo good to be out of March, isn't it? 

28 December 2014

End of year roundup--favourites and more

Slightly belated Christmas greetings to all--we had not a drop of snow in Nova Scotia, and in fact had record breaking mild temperatures and torrential rains this year. It made travel easy, and we spent a very happy Christmas day with family. Since then I've been on an actual time-off from work, allowing myself a few days of just doing whatever I want, which has mostly been playing with photography, sorting through my image libraries, reading, and catching up with people I care about. 

We often have end-of-year retrospectives on many topics, including, of course, on gardening. I decided to do one primarily because most of my favourite plants this year, with one or two exceptions, have been around for a while and still remain some of my favourites. 

Let's start with the photo above, which is mostly of Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit'. There is a double flowered form in the background so that's why I say mostly. Otherwise, all those blossoms in the foreground, the orange, the yellow, the deep red-pink, are all from Cheyenne Spirit plants. These were planted in 2013, sailed through the winter, and bloomed their faces off this season, in these and other hues. I like them so much I bought several more, and now have no less than 8 different hues from the one cultivar. The only drawback, of course, is that you have to wait until they flower if you have a specific colour in mind. Hardy and vigourous and highly recommended. 

15 December 2014

Gold foliage for brighter gardens

Hello, fellow gardeners! Where have I been, you ask? Well, it's been a busy, busy few months, with lots of projects on the go. Now, with only 10 days til Christmas, the main deadlines are under control so I can do some catchup tasks, including updating my neglected blog. It's like that for gardeners, though, so often: during the main gardening months we're outside in our gardens, planting, weeding, harvesting, puttering, designing. Now that frost has come and things have stopped growing and we've gotten our bulbs planted (yes! I did! Before December, even!) we turn to the season of indoor gardening, which includes, of course, planning for next year.

When I was a plant science student at the Agricultural College, to see yellow in foliage often suggested a nutrient deficiency or other problem. It took me a long time to embrace the colour gold, or cream, or yellow, in ornamental plants, but here's what turned the tide for me:
Hostas. Of course it would be hostas, with their splendid foliage that utilizes only a few colours--cream, green, yellow, blue--in such dramatic ways. I love the flowers of hostas, too, but the fresh, perfect foliage is what really does it for me. They are calming plants with their tidy clumps of leaves (especially if they're slug-resistant or you've done battle to keep slugs at bay), and if you have a shady spot, they really brighten it up. It's true that deer adore hostas so if you live in an area where deer are a problem, you may have to opt for hostas only in containers out of reach of hungry bambis. 

Pretty much any plant with gold foliage is best suited for a partially shaded site; from a practical point of view, many need some protection from full sun sites because their foliage will otherwise burn. The golden colour just glows in a shaded garden, as demonstrated with this 'Dickson's Gold' campanula. 
Many gold-foliaged plants include the name 'aurea' in their botanical or cultivar names. This is a golden form of meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria 'Aurea'), which does well in dappled shade in my garden.

Because I went to the Agricultural College where the school colours were blue and gold, I do have a particular fondness for that colour combination (even when the blue is more lavender, but you get the point). This is creeping speedwell Veronica prostata 'Aztec Gold', which has been a good performer for me.
 This is the spiderwort Tradescantia 'Blue and Gold', also sometimes also called 'Sweet Kate'. It was one of the first replacement plants I purchased to put in my new garden because I so love it.
And this is Brunnera 'Diane's Gold'. I had it for several years but didn't take it with me when I left my former home, and haven't sourced it again. I miss it, as it did very well under the azalea where it was planted.
Plants that are bombastic or invasive in one area of the country (and beyond) are not necessarily so in other areas. This is Tansy 'Isla Gold', a golden leafed form of the common wildflower tansy. It is a vigourous grower but easy to control, and it's deer resistant to boot. Some like to dry the flowers to use in arrangements and wreaths. 

Sometimes, new cultivars of a perennial or shrub fail to perform up to a gardener's standards, and disappear quietly from catalogues after a couple of years. I was initially suspicious of 'Eos' geum, but it has done very well for me--I had it in my previous garden and planted it again last year in my new yard, and it grew beautifully. The bright orange flowers contrast fantastically with the gold-green foliage.
I really like weigelas, although I have yet to add any here in my new garden. When I do add one next year, it will be this golden-leafed form, 'Rubidor', which I had in the past and absolutely loved. You'll also find several other cultivars available, including 'Jean's Gold' and 'Ghost', depending on where you live, and where your nurseries source their plants.
To wrap up this post on gold foliage, I leave you with one of my favourite trees: Metasequoia 'Ogon', aka 'Gold Rush', the golden dawn redwood. The dawn redwood is a star in my books in its normal, green foliaged form, but this one leaves me breathless at its beauty. It absolutely glows, and it can take full sun, to boot.

Where do you fall on the spectrum with golden leafed plants? Love or not?

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