07 February 2016

The green, green fleurs of home

I've been trying to remember when my fascination with green flowers began. It's a very polarizing colour, in that people either love it in flowers, or they don't. Some don't think there is enough contrast between the green of the flowers and that of the foliage. To which I say: there are myriad different greens, and enough of these varieties have contrasting colours in them to make them even more striking. But each to their own. 

The above is a Cymbidium orchid at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, part of the KC Irving Science Centre at Acadia University in Wolfville. This is a reminder that the annual orchid show will be held on Saturday, February 20, 1030am-4 pm at the Centre. You should visit. 

Some flowers listed as green will have white, pink, or other hue in them as well. This is an Acanthus (Bear's Britches), with a lot of green in the flowers as they begin. Gradually they flush with more rose to them, but the green remains, at least in the plant I trialed last year. I'm hopeful it will overwinter, as the man I purchased it from said it's more reliably hardy here than others. We'll see! 

This tall phlox is called 'Jade', although it might more accurately be named Jade Tips. I really like it and keep it in my garden, along with 'Sherbet Cocktail', which has pink, green and white in its flowers, because both bloom very well for me and have shown no signs of reversion. 

Amaryllis. I love them in any colour, including the so-called 'common' orange, white and red varieties. But this is 'Papillon' and really, really rocks my world with its striking green-and-red flowers. Anyone who has grown this variety tends to cherish and keep it indefinitely. 

I know I've waxed on about Astrantia in the past but if you've not begun growing this perennial, we need to have a talk. It's been one of my top ten perennial choices since I first discovered it, and continues to stay there. Masterwort, as it is commonly called, is related to sea holly and carrots (same family, Apiaceae, aka the dill family). Flowers feature a ruffled, papery bract around them which holds its colour for a long time. Florists apparently love to use masterworts, but my main reason for loving them is their irresistible nature--pollinators adore them. My friend Lloyd Mapplebeck of Hillendale Perennials loves this perennial too, and carries several varieties. Most of them come in shades of red or pink, but there are several that are white, and have enough green in their flowers to be included in this post. 

 Another of my top ten perennials is Eryngium, or sea holly. Most of them have highly showy cones of petite flowers surrounded by a spiky, ruffled bract, and most are blue; but many of them start out green and flush to blue as the flowers get mature. This variety, Miss Wilmott's Ghost, has very large flowerheads, and the flowers gradually turn silvery green to silver before fading to tan shades once it has finished blooming. Oh, how I love it! 
One of the absolute greenest of green flowers is 'Francesca' primula, which I finally got my eager hands on several years ago. The sunny yellow centres of the flowers just causes the green to look even fresher and more delicious, and I have mine planted near pulmonaria and brunnera, so the lacy blue flowers and silvery foliage makes an extra effective backdrop. I have another green primula, an auricula variety called 'Green Meadow', which I bought from Wrightmans Alpines last year when they were at the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale in Annapolis Royal, and which I absolutely adore. Primulas could become an obsession for me...

Primula 'Green Meadow'. Isn't it a dandy?

My fondness for coneflowers is also very well known, and I was so very pleased when the first green cone varieties, 'Jade' and 'Green Envy' appeared on the scene. Both of those pale, however, in comparison to 'Green Jewel' which is a more compact variety than some but so very, very green. Those dazzling centre cones hold their colour for a very long time, and the flowers are also fragrant, so the pollinators also adore it. 

When I moved to a smaller place several years ago, I knew I'd have to scale down the garden and thus also the number and size of shrubs I added. So I was very, very happy when 'Little Lime' hydrangea appeared on the scene. It's a smaller version of my beloved 'Limelight', which gets quite large, and its flowers are delicately green, flushing to a bit of rose and then tan as they age. Happily, I cut down an annoying poplar last summer so I've decided I CAN also have 'Limelight', as it will grow quickly quite large and provide some shade for a part of the garden that is missing shade in the heat of the afternoons. 

I don't focus much on annuals in this post although there are a few great green-flowered varieties, like Bells of Ireland, and some of the petunia cultivars that are green-and-fuchsia/pink. But my favourite annual with green blooms is Nicotiana langsdorfii, which has many sprays of petite green trumpet-shaped flowers and is quietly showy--if that makes sense. 

The snow melted so much this past week that my hellebores emerged from hiding and were showing buds--so I quickly mulched them with evergreen boughs to lull them back to sleep. This hellebore variety, 'Silver Lace', has green flowers with silvery-green foliage, and is very attractive. 

And to conclude this ode to green flowers, a green cymbidium similar to the one I showed at the beginning of this post. That one, however, belonged to someone else. This one is MINE, all mine. 

So, where do you fall in the green flower fan club? Adore or abhor?  

31 January 2016

When colour descriptions fail, make up your own: Porange!

Flower colours sometimes defy easy description. Some plants have blooms that start one shade then turn to another, or varieties that come in numerous different shades, or that have multiple hues in the same bloom. Shades of pink, orange, and red. So I simply call them Porange, or Poranged, depending on what colours are in the flowers. When the language fails you, make up your own words, right? 
Echinaceas are in my top five perennials, and always have been, but ever since the newer shades of yellow, orange, red, green came into being, I've really embraced them. I'm not sure how many different cultivars I have now, but quite a few, both doubles and singles, in every shade conceivable. Some of them, like 'Hot Papaya', really do change colours as the flowers mature, and epitomize the Porange colour. 

Normally, I am not a fan of bidens--the common one is a shade of yellow that doesn't really work for me, even though there are other flowers in a similar shade that do. But last spring, Proven Winners sent me some new annuals to trial, including Bidens Campfire 'Fireburst'. I am a fan! It has bronzy dark green foliage and flowers that epitomize Poranged: they have pink, orange, red and a little yellow thrown in for good measure, and the flowers change colour as they mature. It also bloomed its face off all season long, until I finally consigned its containers to the compost heap in early November. You can bet I will plant it again this spring.

 I do confess to having bougainvillea envy, because I have never tried to grow one, both because they get quite large and also because they are apparently toxic to cats. While my cats seem to have a sense about what not to bother, I don't like to take chances. Just LOOK at this, though--the flowers are luminescent shades of pink and orange together in this cultivar.
Of equally delightful colouring are some of the coreopsis varieties. Many of them are still that school-bus yellow that isn't all that, at least in my colour preferences, but there have been many new colour breakthroughs in recent years. Some of them aren't reliably hardy here in my zone, but if they bloom their faces off all season long, I'm of the opinion that they are worth planting if they're reasonably priced. I only put Coreopsis 'Red Chiffon' in last season, so I don't know yet if it's hardy or not. We'll see come spring! 

Digiplexis burst on the scene locally last year, and very glad we were that it did! This is a cross between the Canary Island foxglove (Isoplexis) and our good old stalwart Digitalis purpurea, producing flowers that have a slightly different shape and come in some glorious shades. This one is 'Illumination Flame'. It's not hardy here but it flowered really well so I will likely plant it again this spring. 
 I love tulips in pretty much any shade and form except common red and yellow--and I'll take those in winter as cut flowers! But my favourites are a tie between the viridiflora, the green-flowered tulips, and the parrots, which have flouncy, frilled petals in gorgeous shades. Of all the parrots, I think Apricot Parrot is my favourite, changing shades of pink-orange-apricot as it does--and with touches of green in the flowers, how could I resist? You'll see this photo again a little further down.
 Although these particular nasturtiums and geranium might not really be Porange, taken all together they are. I don't care if nasturtiums and zonal geraniums, better called pelargoniums, are considered common. I love them in all their happy shades.
Although I'm fond of all poppies, the Icelandics are a favourite because they bloom like mad maniacs all summer long--and generally self sow a few of themselves for next year. I hope this one does, because it was simply stunning. It was a little hard to capture its gorgeous shades, but those crumpled-silk petals? Irresistible! 

My friend Allan Banks of Harbour Breezes Dallies and Japanese Iris in Jeddore, NS, paid me an enormous complement two years ago, by registering a daylily in my name. He also named one for my buddy and fellow plant nut Rob Baldwin of Baldwin's Nurseries, too. Both of them have shades of Porange in them. (Mine is better because it also has a green throat, and I love that in daylilies. Hee hee. )

To wrap up...a photo that only contains one porange flower, but is special in other ways. Yesterday, it was four years since my beloved husband passed away. I shared this collage and post on my personal Facebook page, and I'll share it here: 

When we got together, he didn't know a lot about flowers by name, but he learned and had his favourites. So here is a bouquet of them, and for those who have missed my Lowell-stories, 
He loved sunflowers, and I still smile thinking of him making up stories/poems about this huge one outside our bathroom window. He really, really liked tulips and poppies but he invariably called the poppies tulips and the tulips, poppies. And would laugh in that huge joyful way about it.
He was fascinated by my orchids, especially the green paphiopedilum I had with its china, alien beauty. He was afraid to touch it--he did have a knack for breaking things like pottery, so he would come in the office and look at it then look at me and shut his eyes and say, "not touching!" (he did the same thing with my Nova Scotia Crystal single malt glasses, too!)
In the late winter/early spring, he would burst in the house and though he could never remember the name 'hepatica' he would remember it had something to do with liver and he'd announce "that liver-flower is in bloom already!"
But his favourite was the wild red trillium, which he rescued some of from a woodlot nearby and helped me plant in our garden. And in the spring of an evening, we'd go down to the woods and we'd count how many trillium were in flower. He would get so excited and he'd call them 'he' or 'she' as in, 'he's going to have quite a few blossoms in a couple days," or, 'she's growing well but she's not going to flower this year.'
I miss him. With every breath I take. But "and now I'm left without, but you're here within."

24 January 2016

Love is Blue...Flowers

Of all the colours of flowers out there, the ones that make me the happiest are always some shade of true blue. I say true blue because so many flowers that are described as being blue have actually some tint of purple to them. But there are all kinds of plants with flowers in shades of blue from pale to deep cobalt blue. This week's Fleurs du Jour celebrate those true blue delights. To lead off, one of the many members of the Borage family that boasts blue flowers, in this case, the actual herb borage itself. (With some sort of pollinating fly/bee mimic hanging from one flower.)

Of course, one of the showiest of perennials, regardless of colour, is the delphinium. I love its tall, elegant spikes of flowers, even if their bloom tends to correspond with the annual peony and delphinium wind and rainstorms! I like to plant my delphinium near something like a sturdy shrub to help prop them up without a lot of stakes...

Another answer to stake-avoidance is to plant the dwarf Chinese delphinium cultivars, which aren't as stately but tend to flower quite profusely. My biggest problem with these is that they don't live as long for me as do the standard varieties, but I love them anyway.

 Some years ago, I got an agapanthus, aka lily of the Nile, from a now-closed nursery. I have two different varieties now--this one, with its delft blue and white flowers, reminiscent of the lovely striped squill (Puschkinia) that blooms in spring. I've divided and shared this agapanthus with a number of friends--it rests in my basement all winter, and in spring comes up to spend the summer outside, charming pollinators and people alike.

 You can see the purple creeping into the blue florets of this 'Twist and Shout' lace cap hydrangea, but the predominant colour stays blue in my garden. I love the elegant look of lace cap hydrangeas, more so than mop head forms, and the fertile, less showy flowers attract pollinators, too.

Everyone has their top-ten perennial species that they can't be without, don't they? Sea holly (Eryngium) is one of mine: long blooming, pollinator-attracting, and many different species and cultivars to choose from. This is 'Big Blue' which has large cone-shaped flowers surrounded by metallic blue, ruffled bracts. It adds great texture to any perennial planting. 

While I still grow a few blue poppies (Meconopsis), they drive many gardeners to distraction with their diva-like behaviour. For a truly blue, and less troublesome, perennial, try Gentiana (gentians) instead. Their flowers are gorgeous, many with striped buds that open to cobalt or gentian-blue flowers, and with a little planning, you can have species that bloom in mid to late spring, summer, and well into autumn. I think I have...ten or so different species now. My fondness for collection cultivars and species of a particular genus never changes!

 Pulmonaria is another of my top-ten perennials, and warrants an entire post a little later this year. Whether you call them lungwort, Bethlehem sage, lords and ladies, William and Mary, or by some other name, these borage relatives are fabulous. They bloom early in the spring--some of them are hardly out of the ground before they're in bloom--they have silver-splashed or spangled markings on their foliage, and their pink buds open to blue flowers. Some few varieties have white or red or rosy pink flowers, but the blue ones are my favourites.

To wind up this ode to blues, let's have one of the annual salvias. 'Black and Blue' is well named for its black stems and buds and its cool blue flowers. It also has fresh bright green foliage. I've been growing it for years, and while it pouts in the spring if the temperatures are too cool, once it settles in it blooms all summer and well into autumn. I especially love blue flowers in late summer when so many others flowers are int he red, gold, copper and orange colour palette. 

Hopefully you're inspired to add some blue to your garden colour scheme, if you haven't already! Tell me about your favourite 'true blues' in the comments below. 

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