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. 

17 January 2016

Fleur photos du Jour: Yellow Time!

Yellow is a fascinating colour in the spectrum. It can be soothing, cheery, brassy, over the top or just simply lovely. I remember the yellow kitchens of my childhood, where the paint was a lemon-pie yellow--ugh. Where I live now is painted all through in a soft yellow not unlike the colour of the sunflowers of this image, and it's calm but cheery. On sunny days, my place is warm and bright; on dull days like today (recuperating after the snowstorm of yesterday), it's still bright and cheering. 

This rudbeckia is a little harsher yellow, (I believe it's 'Prairie Sun') but it pops magnificently against the tangle of roses behind it. 

There has yet to be a yellow agastache developed that is hardy for my garden. Despite this, I faithfully buy them as annuals every year because I love all agastaches, their flowers and lemony scent, the way the pollinators flock to them. This is 'Summer Glow'. 

Nemesia is an annual that is growing in popularity every year, and I'm pleased to see that. Some cultivars are fragrant, like 'Opal Innocence', but this one is 'Sunsatia Mango' and I don't remember any fragrance, just floriferous enthusiasm. 

Some of the evening primroses (Oenothera) are quite brilliantly yellow, including this Missouri sundrop (O. missouriensis). It has large flowers that were a favourite of my beloved and much-missed mother. So they will always be in my garden. 

Of course there are a bajillion yellow daylilies, and they all have their charms. My personal favourite, however, comes from Canning Daylily Gardens, bred by the late Wayne Storrie. I know I've mentioned this plant before, called 'Pride of Canning'. It is vigourous and prolific, producing buds well into the fall; somewhere, I have a photo of it pushing buds with frost on them, taken in November of that year. I'll be able to split and share mine this year, the way it grew last year! 

Yellow is an important colour in wildflowers, too, and no less beloved because it's commonly seen in buttercups, dandelions and wild mustards. This plant is a cinquefoil, (potentilla) blooming in the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, one of my favourite places in Wolfville. I am not certain which species it is (I only took a closeup of the flower and not the whole plant) but it could be P. canadensis, the dwarf cinquefoil.

I love the blackberry lily (Belamcanda, which has apparently been reclassified as Iris domestica, which I don't much like). Normally, it's a cheery orange with red markings on it, but last year I got my hands on a new one 'Hello Yellow', which boasts cheery yellow flowers. IF it survives (I didn't plant it in the ideal location), I will move it to be with its common relative this spring, which has been vigourous and hardy.

It was a surprise some years ago to find out that we can grow Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) here in Nova Scotia without any problem. The display at the NSAC Rock Garden (which is now Dalhousie Agricultural Campus but I went to NSAC, dammit!) of various opuntia species is fantastic--with flowers in shades of yellow, pink, red, and probably more to come. I have only one--so far. My friend Rob of Baldwin's Nurseries in Falmouth is propagating a number and has them for sale. 

When we think of toad lilies (Tricyrtis) we generally think of flowers in shades of purple, white, pink, with spangles and speckles and splotches. Meet 'Golden Festival', which has yellow/purple flowers. It blooms earlier (in my garden) than do the cultivars like 'Taipei Silk' and 'Empress', by about a month. I find they want good drainage for overwinter, but give them that and they do well. 

To wrap up this week's yellow love-fest, one of the tree peonies in brilliant yellow. I have a yellow tree peony, but I moved it twice before landing here at my current abode, so it's been growing but not flowering. I'm hoping this will be the year for it to bloom, and join the other riot of peonies in my garden. 

That's it for this week. Tell me what some of your favourite yellow flowers are! 

09 January 2016

A new year...but no new resolutions!

Welcome to 2016! I realize it's over a week old already but life is busy for all of us and this is the first chance I had to collect up some thoughts and prepare to wake up the blog again. Life has changed and gotten even more busy in the past 18 months or so, and something had to give; so my free time shifted from writing posts about gardening to studying the art of photography a little more intensely. 

You will see some of the results of my explorations with photography in coming posts, and hopefully those posts will please you. They won't all be about gardening, although that will continue to be a vital part of this blog. One of the things I discovered last year was that learning to use my camera better meant learning to see differently; not just when studying plants, but when looking at the world around me--be it an old barn, a piece of rusting machinery, a waterfall, a beloved landmark. But there will still be plenty of plant photos, and plant talk. As time permits, of course.

Although I don't make resolutions, last year I decided that one of the ways I would help myself and others get through the winter--which as many of you know was the worst winter in much of Atlantic Canada, especially here in NS, in many, many years--was to post a daily meme of my own on my personal Facebook page, and (when I remembered) on my open Page as well. I call it my Fleur Photo du Jour, and of course it entails posting photos of various plants, especially flowering ones, every day through the winter and spring. I don't think I missed very many days, and some days I did multiples so it evened out. 

What was delightful was the number of messages and notes and comments I received from others, telling me how much those photos brightened their days. Which was, of course, the reason for posting them. It inspired some folks to try new or new-to-them plants in their gardens or in their homes, as we often had conversations about growing the particular plant. And others often shared their stories about a particular plant. Which is part of the bliss of gardening--sharing stories as much as we share plants and seeds. 

One thing I do plan to do more often this year is post reviews of books here on the blog. There are still a plethora of very fine gardening books coming out on a regular basis, and I've seen some of the new releases scheduled for this year and am excited about them--including at least one about pollinators. Regular readers know I was going on about pollinators long before it became trendy. And will continue to go on about them, too. 

While I'm not much of a traveller outside my own province, I did get out and about several times last summer--once to my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and once to Prince Edward Island and the Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec. While those weren't for gardening activities, they were both for Saltscapes-related projects, as so much of what I do is for Saltscapes, but there were glimpses of gardening in the trips, so they'll likely pop up here now and again. I visited some great gardens IN Nova Scotia last year, including the wonderful Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens (right when the rose garden was at its peak), and took part in the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale, too. 

I wish you all the very happiest of New Years, and here's to lots of great gardening adventures this year. I'll let e.e. cummings wrap this up for me with one of my favourite lines from his work:

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

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