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Daylily and Cold-Frame Annuals

July has brought rain and cooler weather than June. The daylilies are blooming in full force, but many blooms are damaged by the storms. I have been hybridizing daily and have pods setting fairly well.

Daylily ‘Amazing Artistry’ (Brooker 2006) is a tetraploid that has a purple eye that occasionally shows patterning.

I added daylily ‘Ivory Finesse’ (Carpenter 2007) to the garden last year. It has a very creamy color that has diamond dusting. It has opened well in our cool mornings and after rain storms.

Daylily ‘Pink Cathedral’ (Story 2013) is also new to my garden. It has a clear pink color and a huge bloom. And the ruffled edge is beautifully thick.

Daylily ‘Floating Away’ (Salter-E 2014) is a miniature daylily, with a bloom measuring only 2.75 inches across. Mine hasn’t shown the patterning present in the registration photos yet, but this is its first bloom.

Most of my sweet peas have not been true to variety, but they are blooming well (despite the heat wave we had a few weeks ago). I planted the seeds indoors mid-January in deep 4-inch pots. They were transplanted outside on March 26th. They perform well in cool weather, but our Ohio springs are often too short for mine to achieve good growth/bloom if not planted out very early. I usually watch the 10-day forecast all spring and plant them as soon as no days below 26 degrees Fahrenheit are listed. I usually start hardening them off before these warmer temps are reached so that they can be planted out quickly. If after hardening off and planting the temps go below 26 degrees Fahrenheit, I apply row cover or bed sheets to protect them from the freeze. This is the second year this method has been successful for me.

Sweet Pea ‘Blue Shift’ being visited by a bee. Based on its size and large mandibles, I believe this bee is the Giant Resin Bee. This sweet pea starts a red-purple color and turns a vibrant blue as it ages.

Sweet Pea ‘Prima Ballerina’ is supposed to be a shorter variety, but I’m glad that it wasn’t. This sweet pea is gorgeous, I love the blend of pink and purple. And the fragrance of the sweet pea patch is to die for.

My Valentine’s day present was a cold frame/miniature green house for starting early annuals. I sowed Bells-of-Ireland, Calendula, Love-in-a-Mist, Larkspur, Peony Poppies, and Scabiosa directly into the frame. The larkspur, despite cold-wet stratification in my fridge, did not germinate well. I think I planted them a bit too late, though (3/26/17). I will try to remember to plant seed this fall to achieve natural stratification. Below are the pictures of the finished structure on the bed as well as blooms from this week.

Nigella beginning to flower in the cold frame (July 8).

This is the first year I’ve attempted growing Nigella and I love it for arranging already. The airy foliage is great for a fine filler and the blooms are gorgeous as they begin to color up.

Poppy ‘Candy Floss’ is a new variety to me and the blooms, though short-lived, do not disappoint. They are growing a bit too tall for my cold frame. The plan was to remove the cold frame in the summer, but we removed the front doors instead. With the doors removed it provides some helpful shade from the hot afternoon sun without overheating the annuals.

As for the rest of the garden, most of the Asiatic lilies have finished and the Oriental lilies and trumpet lilies are beginning to bloom. The bee balm, garden phlox, coreopsis, and yarrow are starting to bloom as well.

Lilium ‘Muscadet’ has been in my garden for a number of years and has divided to make a small clump. It has a delicate, but exotic coloration.

Daylilies and Summer Blooms

Summer has gotten off to an interesting start. June was rather dry and given the lack of rain last year, the early daylilies were off to a slow start. The sweet peas and other spring annuals nearly burnt out before blooming as June was also quite warm. We have finally had cooler weather (some almost too cold for the daylilies to open) and more rain so the plants are taking off.

An Ohio native, Penstemon hirsutus, with Yarrow and Allium christophii behind. This penstemon can grow in sun, part shade, or shade, but prefers well drained soils. Its blooms are a beautiful blend of white, cream, pink, and lavender. I can’t wait for it to get larger as these blooms will blend very well in my arrangements. 

The bachelor’s buttons are spreading vigorously, but most of mine are white with a pale blue center. Below is one of the dark blues.

Blue bachelor’s button with the variegated foliage of Phlox ‘Shockwave’.

The Echinacea are all doing well this year, even some I bought from the clearance rack last fall that had only a few leaves. I’m not sure why the hybrids had previously been so challenging for me to overwinter, but I have half a dozen varieties of double Echinacea that return year after year.

Echinacea ‘Supreme Cantaloupe’ is a vigorous grower with beautiful, creamsicle colored flowers.

The daylilies are finally taking off after some delay due to the weather. I am hybridizing again this year and I have the best seed set when crossing in the early morning (between 6 and 8 AM) with fresh pollen. There are methods of freezing pollen, but I was not very successful with them. Usually there are so many blooms in one day that it is fairly easy for me to make crosses I like without saving much pollen.

I am focusing on diploid and miniature hybridization, but have made a few tetraploid crosses as well (aiming for teeth). I especially love the fragrant diploids. From last year, I started about 200 seedlings with two-thirds being from my own crosses. Right now my seedling beds hold about 100 seedlings in total and most haven’t bloomed yet. Despite the lack of room, I am still having trouble culling any seedlings as it has taken so long for me to grow them. Hopefully it will get easier as the next seedlings start to bloom.

I did have a large loss of seedlings from last year. Many of the seedlings died of rot due to standing water over the winter (they were in pots in trays). This year I am trying a well-draining mix and no tray for overwintering (for those that won’t be in the ground due to space limitations). The mix I’ve started making is approximately 1/2 fine pine bark, 1/4 perlite, and 1/4 rabbit droppings. The seedlings that have been transplanted to this mix from the potting soil are already growing much more vigorously.

Below are some of the registered daylilies I keep in the garden, most of which I will use for hybridizing.

Daylily ‘Blue-Capped Cordon-Bleu’ (Lambertson 2011) is a diploid with a light blue eye. I have a few seedlings blooming from it already which are fragrant and patterned. 

Daylily ‘What to Wear in Versailles’ (Faulkner 2011) is a diploid daylily with light patterning in the eye and lots of diamond dusting. I have started seedlings from WTWIV this year. 

Daylily ‘Brown Exotica’ (Gossard 2004) is a diploid with a unique brown coloration. Behind is chocolate Eupatorium.

Daylily ‘Written in Red’ (Story 2005) is new to the garden this year. It is a miniature diploid daylily.

Daylily ‘Purple Maze’ (Morss 2003) is a tetraploid that flowered for the first time this year. It had a rough start in shipment, arriving with white foliage, and then was eaten by rabbits last spring. It has made up for the lag in bloom with extra scapes this year.

Below are some arrangements from June, focusing on the color purple. The sweet peas I grew this year were not true to variety, so they are not labeled.

Shasta daisy ‘Ice Star’, Molucella, Monarda punctata (Ohio native), snapdragon ‘Potomac Lavender’, Scabiosa ‘Isaac House White’, sweet peas, larkspur ‘Misty Lavender’, with lavender hosta blooms in a white hobnail vase. Except for the shasta daisy and Monarda, everything has been grown from seed.

Closeup of Monarda punctata in the arrangement pictured above. You can see from the closeup where the common name, Dotted Horsemint, came from with the speckled flowers. 

Rose ‘Lavender Veranda’, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, sweet peas, Phlox ‘Intensia Blueberry’, ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’, Aquilegia canadensis foliage, Japanese painted fern, and grape vines in a mercury glass vase. 

Tulips, Shade Perennials, and Poppy Preview

Many of my lovely pink tulips from last year did not return this spring, but I did add a number of bulbs last fall that have welcomed me with blooms this spring. One of the few that returned was an unnamed, lavender fringed tulip. I cut them immediately to prevent scorching as we had eighty degree weather at peak bloom time. As such, most of my mid season tulips only lasted a few days. Another tulip that returned, albeit sparingly, was ‘Sanne’. A favorite new addition is the double tulip ‘Horizon’, but I will have to sift a bit harder to find a nice picture of it.

Lavender fringed tulip returned this year. Cut quickly to prevent fading in a hot spell.

I planted a few parrot tulips this year and most are still coming into bloom. The first two to bloom were ‘Red Madonna’ pictured below. The blooms are absolutely huge and became increasingly gorgeous every day.

Tulip ‘Red Madonna’ at opening pictured with Sweet Woodruff, Lily-of-the-Valley, and Hosta ‘Frances Williams’.

 

A few days later ‘Red Madonna’ has become fuller and more vibrant. 

An accidental color combination that glowed in the gloomy spring weather; yellow triumph tulip with variegated phlox ‘Shockwave’.

This spring has been quite variable, though that does seem to be an Ohio spring trend. We have gone from 87 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of days. While the warm spell was upon us, quite a few butterflies could be seen already, especially the Red Admirals and Cabbage Whites.

Leucojum aestivum with cabbage white and Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ behind.  

Spring is the shade garden’s best season. The ephemerals are blooming and the hostas have not been faded by the sun. Though they lack flowers now, the lime and yellow hostas are breathtaking in the spring.

Hosta ‘Remember Me’ next to blue-eyed grass.  ‘Remember Me’, a sport of ‘June’, is very bright and stays short in stature. The much taller Hosta ‘Frances Williams’ can be seen in the background and has a complimentary yellow edge. 

Japanese Painted Fern with Pulmonaria ‘Diana Clare’ and Hosta ‘El Nino’ behind. This fern was planted four years ago and was thought to be dead. It surprised me by breaking ground last year and is doing quite well now. However, it is at the back of the garden and could be admired better if transplanted.  

My seed grown Oriental poppies look healthy. They were started indoors in peat pots last spring and transplanted into the garden. Poppies are well known for despising transplant, hence the use of peat pots. These gently transplanted poppies are growing more vigorously that the larger pink Oriental poppy that I had purchased last year. The other advantage of starting these from seeds is that I could get a wider array of colors (if the seed packet is to be believed at least). Fingers crossed for some pink and plum colored plants!

Another nice surprise is how large my Oriental poppies returned this spring. These were grown from seed last spring and have become mature plants. I look forward to them blooming this summer and am hopeful that there will truly be mixed colors (not just red or orange). 

Blooms from July and August to Brighten Your November

The academic year started before I could hit submit on this post and now, suddenly, it is November. Sigh. But we still haven’t gotten any freezing weather. I have pictures to sift through of the fall bouquets, but not as many as I would like. The dahlias, as has become typical for me, have not produced well. I haven’t gotten any flowers off of some of varieties.  With their love for water, they loathed our dry summer. Last year it was too wet, this year it was too dry. I will be digging them this weekend, it seems. Maybe next year will be the year of the dahlia.

Despite the sad fall show, we did have a long season for daylilies. My first daylily bloomed the last week of may and the last one ended in mid-August. I will need to expand my collection of late bloomers as their bright faces really make the frustrations of gardening in the July heat worthwhile. Here are a few of the varieties that I had blooming this year.

Daylily 'Blue Beetle' Gossard 2010. Doubles on rebloom scapes, but I'm not sure if it reblooms here (zone 5/6). I did not have rebloom scapes last year.

Daylily ‘Blue Beetle’ (Gossard 2010) has so much going on with its combination of cream, purple, blue, and green. I especially love the bright green throat that extends up into the eye. It doubles on rebloom scapes, but I’m not sure if it will rebloom here (zone 5/6); I did not have rebloom scapes last year.

Daylily 'Michigan Nikki' Hansen-D. 2010.

Daylily ‘Michigan Nikki’ (Hansen-D. 2010) was posted on a blog I follow, A Girl and Her Garden, and, to me, is not quite like any other daylily. I love the form, ruffles, and bright shade of pink ‘Michigan Nikki’ shows off.

Daylily 'Amazing Artistry' Brooker-G. 2006. Not registered to rebloom, but mine is sending up more scapes before it has finished blooming on the existing scapes.

Daylily ‘Amazing Artistry’ (Brooker-G. 2006) is not registered to rebloom, but mine is sending up more scapes before it has finished blooming on the existing stems. Not the best form, but the dark eye does stand out.

Daylily 'Casa Des Juan' Peat 2006. Short scapes mean this plant should be moved forward in the bed to enjoy the blooms. This one occasionally suffers from rain damage.

Daylily ‘Casa Des Juan’ (Peat 2006) has short scapes this year which mean it should be moved forward in the bed to enjoy the blooms. This bloom occasionally suffered from rain damage this summer.

Daylily 'Digital Imagery' has a very velvety appearance that is hard to capture with a camera. In addition, the eye gets some patterning.

Daylily ‘Digital Imagery’ (Slanec-Woodhall 2008) has a very velvety appearance that is hard to capture with a camera. In addition, the eye gets some subtle patterning.

Often daylily flower color changes throughout the day. Below are two pictures showing the color of a daylily, ‘Picasso’s Paint Brush’ from morning and evening. As you can see, it starts as a deeper red-purple color in the morning and fades to a pink by mid-day. Color changing is being used in hybridizing now to increase a flower’s interest (one of the most notable being ‘Pigment of Imagination’).

Daylily Picasso's Paint Brush

Daylily Picasso's Paint Brush

Daylily ‘Picasso’s Paint Brush’ (Faulkner 2011) at two different times of day, 9 AM (top) and 7 PM (bottom). The pattern varies from day to day as well (these pictures are from two different days), but the background color seems to change pretty consistently.

Not many of the annuals performed well this summer. I did have success with the annual Scabiosa ‘Fata Morgana’ as well as a few of my cactus-flowered zinnias.

Scabiosa 'Fata Morgana' seed grown from Floret's garden shop.

Scabiosa ‘Fata Morgana’ flowers (a bit blurry because they blow quite a bit in the wind). These were seed grown from Floret’s garden shop.

It seems like my Echinacea curse has been lifted! All of my transplants survived the winter and bloomed well this summer. I am very excited because the doubles are to die for. I recently added a scraggly Echinacea ‘Cherry Fluff’ and am hopeful that she will survive the winter as the coloration is gorgeous.

 

I had put off buying Echinacea 'Supreme Cantaloupe' for a few years as I haven't always had good luck with the double Echinaceas surviving. It has done quite well and is now a healthy clump despite being grown in partial shade.

I had put off buying Echinacea ‘Supreme Cantaloupe’ for a few years as I haven’t always had good luck with the double Echinaceas surviving. It has done quite well, though, and is a healthy clump after only a year in the garden, despite being grown in partial shade.

Echinacea 'Butterfly Kisses'

Echinacea ‘Butterfly Kisses’ also clumped nicely in its first year and it experiences more shade than ‘Supreme Cantaloupe’. I’m not sure what issue I have had with Echinacea in the past, as these two haven’t received any special care.

The Oriental lilies flowered well this year, too, after experiencing some nutrient deficiency in the spring. I added some soil acidifier as I believe the symptoms were iron deficiency from a need for lower pH. They eventually greened up and bloomed on time.

Lilium 'Soft Music'

Lilium ‘Soft Music’ was newly planted as bulbs last fall. They are very pretty and fragrant!

Lilium 'Muscadet'

Lilium ‘Muscadet’ has been in the ground for a few years. It is slowly beginning to clump, but became quite chlorotic this spring. Oriental lilies like their soil on the acidic side and our soil is quite alkaline which can cause nutrient deficiencies. I added some aluminum sulfate and they have returned to a healthier green (you can still see some yellowing on the leaves in the picture).

Lilium Broken Heart

Lilium ‘Broken Heart’ didn’t double last year, but came back, a bit late, with vigor this spring.

The glads I saved from last year had huge bulbs and flowered fairly well. These were from blue and pink mixes bought in a bag at the store. I keep meaning to label each to plant them by color, but never remember when they are in bloom.

 

Gladiolus from a mix of pink glads I bought last year. I dug them in the fall and replanted this spring. However, we had quite a mild winter and there are lots of bulblets growing from where they were planted last year.

Gladiolus from a mix of pink glads I bought last year. I dug them in the fall and replanted the fist sized corms this spring. However, we had quite a mild winter and there are lots of bulblets growing from where they were planted last year.

 

This gladiolus came from a blue mix that I planted in my front yard this spring. Seven of the forty corms have bloomed so far and only one has been a shade of blue. Sigh.

This gladiolus came from a blue mix that I planted in my front yard this spring. Seven of the forty corms have bloomed so far and only one has been a shade of blue. Sigh.

The window boxes did pretty well all summer until I lost my patience for watering. The reservoirs really helped, but by August they needed watered every 3-4 days and I just don’t have the patience for dragging hoses around.

These window boxes were my Valentine's day present.

These window boxes were built for my Valentine’s day present. They were made to be self-watering and have a much greater soil volume than my old coco liner window boxes. It has made a huge difference in upkeep and performance. I only have to water every 3-7 days depending on temperature. Petunia ‘Moonlight Madness’, ‘Misty Lilac’, and ‘Shock Wave Denim’ with Marigold ‘Vanilla’, Verbena ‘Silver Magic’, Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’, and lime licorice plant.

And to finish off, here is a mid-summer bouquet in bright colors. Atypical for my pastel preferences, but I thought it turned out nicely.

Orange and yellow arrangement.

Orange and yellow arrangement with orange Asiatic lilies, Asclepias tuberosa, Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’, and Heliopsis with foliage of Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’ and Caryopteris ‘Lil’ Miss Sunshine’.

 

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Mid-June Perennials and Daylilies

June has become quite dry. We just had our first rain in at least three weeks. Luckily, the irrigation system has managed to pull everything through until we had a break in the weather. There is a drastic difference in growth of plants that are in reach of the misters and those that fall beyond. I am already tired of spot watering with the hose and it isn’t even July.

Astrantia 'Ruby Cloud' with Solomon's seal 'Byakko' and Pulmonaria.

Astrantia ‘Ruby Cloud’ with Solomon’s seal ‘Byakko’ and Pulmonaria. Both the Astrantia and the Solomon’s seal were planted this spring. Neither has noticed the drought as they are close to irrigation misters.

Hostas 'Blue Ivory' and 'Blue Mouse Ears' with a bit of Brunnera 'Jack Frost'.

Hostas ‘Blue Ivory’ and ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ with a bit of Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’. Both of these hostas were added two years ago. ‘Blue Ivory’ is much slower and lower growing than expected, but it is a gorgeous plant with its wide white edges and blue centers.

Double shasta daisy 'Ice Star' with veronica.

Double shasta daisy ‘Ice Star’ with veronica. I’ve noticed a number of double daisies being sold at garden centers this year, but I think this selection is the prettiest. The pure white puffs glow from across the yard.

We have a number of daylily cultivars flowering already, though July is usually the peak bloom period here in zone 5/6. I pollinate the flowers every morning, but am quickly becoming overwhelmed by blooms every morning as the mid-season cultivars begin to open.

Daylily 'Buddy's Betsy'. Not my favorite colors, but this cultivar is early blooming. I had my first bloom on May 30th in Zone 5/6, a full month before most other cultivars begin to bloom here.

Daylily ‘Buddy’s Betsy’ (Hall-J. 2013). I do prefer pastels and cool colors, but this cultivar is early blooming which overcomes any issue I have with the bold tone. The first flower opened on May 30th in my zone 5/6 garden, a full month before most other cultivars begin blooming here. The flower looks like velvet, but I am unable to capture that quality with my camera.

Daylily 'Viva Pinata'

Daylily ‘Viva Pinata’ (Gossard 2007) was my second cultivar to bloom, only a week behind ‘Buddy’s Betsy’, though it is registered as a mid-season bloomer. It has large blooms and looks great in my jewel-toned garden.

Daylily 'Satellite Dreams'

This is my first year with blooms on daylily ‘Satellite Dreams’ (DeVito 2011) and I am not disappointed. The eye is huge and has a slight blue-purple tint to its registration promises, especially in shady, early morning conditions. The flower is also fairly large and very flat. It has survived two winters here, though this past winter was quite mild.

My first daylily seedlings have begun to bloom! I was actually hoping that there would be some very hideous seedlings that I could start plucking quickly out of the beds to make room for the next round of daylily babies, but it is already difficult to part with a few (and they aren’t really show-stoppers, but maybe they could make a nice second generation?). Below I have included pictures of both parents and the seedlings so far (five have bloomed). I think it is interesting to see how each parent contributes to the offspring and also to see the variability (or lack thereof) among the offspring. Again, this is my first batch of daylily babies, so I can’t say much about how representative this cross will be. If you are interested in seeing a similar posting showing daylily seedlings, visit this link from Oak Forest Technology Solution.

The parents were ‘Blue-Capped Cordon-Bleu’ and ‘Siloam Double Classic’ and the cross was made in 2014. My hybridizing goal was to produce some blue-eyed and patterned doubles with medium to large blooms (it seems like there are a lot of smaller blue-eyed dips). I will probably need to back cross for the possibility of doubles, but now I’m leaning more towards single patterns (it takes about two years from seed to first flower, and my tastes have changed). My options were also pretty limited at the time of pollination as I was just beginning my collection of daylilies.

Daylily 'Blue-Capped Cordon-Bleu'

The pod parent of my first seedlings is daylily ‘Blue-Capped Cordon-Bleu’ (Lambertson 2011). In my garden, it performs a bit differently than described in its registration. First, mine often has larger flowers (probably around six inches rather than four) and has a much more pink tone than the registration photo. It is also reported, by the hybridizer, to be pollen infertile, but I often get pollen (see the picture) and I believe I have seedlings from pods that it made (I have lost track of my seedlings from two years ago… maybe the pollen production is temperature dependent as this plant was hybridized in Florida?). Its high bud count means that this plant flowers for a very long time, it is one of my earliest and latest blooming plants). Unfortunately, it has short scapes this year (we have had some weird temps, so maybe this isn’t normal) and, as a result, I often miss the blooms.

Siloam Double Classic

Throwback picture of the pollen parent, daylily ‘Siloam Double Classic’. This is an older cultivar (1985). It is a pretty plant, but it lacks some of the more desirable characteristics that have been bred into newer cultivars, namely bud count and scape (flowering stem) branching. These traits can increase bloom time and surely the bloom time on this plant never seems to last long.

A major goal in daylily hybridizing, aside from making beautiful flowers, is producing healthy plants that bloom for a long time. If you read the American Hemerocallis Society registration information for different cultivars, bloom season, bud count, and scape branches are all reported. Much of this information was not documented for earlier registrations (like ‘Siloam Double Classic’ from 1985). The importance of each of these traits is that they can increase flowering period (and display quality).

The ways that I am familiar with for increasing flowering time include breeding a plant that:

1.) blooms earlier or later than the average daylily (peak season in our zone is early July),

2.) reblooms (this consists of sending up additional scapes after the initial display), and

3.) produces many buds (only a few open every day meaning that it takes a longer time for all of them to flower).

The first method will increase display time for all daylilies in your garden, but not necessarily for the cultivar you produce. The second method is not always ideal for northern gardeners as rebloom scapes may take longer to develop than the growing season will allow. Therefore, I (should) aim to produce more buds (…but, as a newbie hybridizer, I am still mesmerized by flower color…). Branching of scapes can allow you to both fit more buds on a scape and can also help a display to look better by spacing out the blooms. From what I have read, most other hybridizers consider a bud count of 20+ to be ideal for registration. Looking at newer introductions, scape branching of 3+ seems good. A unique plant may be registered with less buds or branches, but you can always try using low count seedlings as parents in combination with plants that have better bud or scape count to produce a more refined generation (or that is the hope).

Therefore, rather than judging each seedling by color alone, characteristics like overall plant health, bud count, and number of branches are important considerations when deciding which plants to breed and which seedlings to register. Now, these characteristics can vary quite a bit depending on growing conditions (you could imagine that a lot of nutrients and water could mean more buds or branches; temperature could impact how flowers open; shade could impact bloom size and scape height). Growing seedlings in a variety of conditions could help you understand what is typical performance for that plant, but truthfully that is beyond my skill level at this point.

Anyways, here are the five seedlings that came from the above cross.

20160622_085834 20160622_085823 20160624_081440 20160624_121928 20160624_121947

 

I think it makes sense to mention that my seedling bed is pretty neglected. As you can probably tell from the photos, most of the bed is in shade and this persists for the better part of the day. This will influence bloom appearance in the photos, but also how well blooms hold up in the heat (they might do worse when moved). It could also impact bud count and scape height. Also, this bed is not irrigated, rarely fertilized, and we have had no rain for three weeks. My bud counts are very low (under 12 for all seedlings, even for different crosses), but I don’t yet know what contribution the poverty of this bed has contributed to these low counts. Therefore, I will be keeping any seedlings that look promising for at least another year (despite wanting the space) to see if their bud counts improve with age and with better conditions (hopefully we won’t have another drought during scape development).

The first two seedlings are nearly identical, though the first flower has a rounder form very much like ‘Siloam Double Classic’ while the other has a more pointed appearance, akin to the pod parent (‘Blue-Capped Cordon-Bleu’). I really dislike both of these plants. The colors are not interesting or unique, even to someone who loooooves pink. They have nothing particularly interesting to contribute to daylily hybridization. If they doubled on later blooms, that wouldn’t improve them. They were the first seedlings that I have wanted to cull (I have a couple of spider-y seedlings out of purchased seeds that I am on the fence about).

The third seedling is even worse with its pink-mauve indecision. I would get a better picture of it, but it has gotten even more hideous after the afternoon heat.

The last two seedlings are my favorites. One is a clear cream with a lavender-pink eye. The eye has gotten a bit more depth on its second bloom, fading from a dark to lighter lavender as you look into the throat. This seedling opens well even on cool mornings, unlike the pod parent which often curls.  It is fragrant and has three-way branching which I think is pretty promising for my first generation of seedlings. The last seedling has a lot of interest, but it resists opening on cool mornings. The eye has some complexity; there is some speckling coming from the throat and a dark outline on its edge. It is also fragrant and looks like it may have a branch on future scapes. I think both of these are worth keeping to breed with based on their colors, patterns, and fragrance. I’m not sure I’d register either (I don’t feel that they are particularly unique), but we will wait to see how they improve over the season and into next year.

arrangement

And because we need a bit of a closing, I have also included an arrangement which includes astilbe ‘Younique Silvery Pink’, yarrow ‘Appleblossom’, veronica, and ageratum as well as bachelor buttons ‘Classic Romantic’, sweet pea ‘Oban Bay’, snapdragon ‘Potomac Lavender’, and bells of Ireland that I grew from seed.

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Aquilegia, Alliums, Arrangements, and Alliteration

I considered attempting to write this entire post as an alliteration, but have since decided that would be too time consuming so the title will have to appease you for now. Late spring perennials are blooming and early summer perennials are making buds. I find myself short on patience for the blooms to come. My window boxes have just been planted (time and weather have not allowed an earlier planting), but they are HUGE boxes with lots of room for water, soil, and roots. I’m hoping this will reward me with a beautiful display of flowers and reduced watering effort. The coco fiber window boxes I had been using needed watered at least twice every day in summer and the plants still sulked (especially with last year’s wet early summer which killed or seriously maimed some of my drought tolerant annuals like the Callibrachoas that I loved so much the year before).

Anyways, onto the main topic of this post: Aquilegia. Commonly known as columbine, Aquilegia are short-lived perennials that come in a myriad of colors and forms. Their hanging flowers are attractive to hummingbirds, but their foliage attracts leaf mining insects which can, unfortunately, make them look quite unkempt. These plants reseed readily, but not too aggressively, in my experience. There are some very beautiful species as well as cultivars, of which I grow a few. If you are interested in growing alpine plants, there are some adorable species of alpine-dwelling Aquilegia as well (look up Aquilegia scopulorum!). Below are a few of my Aquilegia, some of which I have grown from seed (indoors and through winter-sowing), but others were purchased as plants and have begun to reseed themselves.

Aquilegia 'Tower Light Blue' in some light shade with a lime hosta.

Aquilegia ‘Tower Light Blue’ in some light shade with a lime hosta. I really love this color; it is such a soft, light blue. The flowers seem to be less unruly than some of my other cultivars, which gives the entire plant a somewhat formal appearance.

Aquilegia 'Pink Petticoat' grown from seed last year.

Aquilegia ‘Pink Petticoat’ was also grown from seed last year. These were quite floriferous this year and, like ‘Tower Light Blue’ have a more upright or formal growth habit.

Aquilegia 'Dorothy Rose' also grown from seed last year. Not quite the color that I expected, but the green shading is really lovely. They may change color as they age, reducing the green and increasing the coloration, as 'Tower Light Blue' has.

These are seed grown Aquilegia that were labeled as ‘Dorothy Rose’. Not quite the color that I expected, maybe they are actually ‘Tower Pink’? Either way, the green shading is really lovely. They may change color as they age, reducing the green and increasing the coloration, as ‘Tower Light Blue’ has.

Aquilegia alpina has deep blue flowers and reseeds readily. This species flowered about a week later than the others and, while the columbine cultivars have blown their petals, this plant is still blooming.

Aquilegia alpina has deep purple flowers and reseeds readily. This species flowered about a week later than the others and, while the columbine cultivars have recently blown their petals to reveal seed heads, this plant is still blooming.

Aquilegia canadensis, our native columbine, reseeds readily and should attract hummingbirds.

Aquilegia canadensis, our native columbine, has a more free-flowing habit. The flowering stems are also less compact than the cultivars above.

Pink Aquilegia that hitched a ride into the garden with a mini iris. Very pretty and very big, the mini iris is very visible under the base of this plant.

This pink Aquilegia hitched a ride into the garden with a mini iris. It is very pretty and very big, the mini iris is barely visible under the base of this plant. While I’m not sure of a similar cultivar, it does have a much wider growth habit than any of the previously mentioned plants and the flowers blow readily in the breeze. We have seen hummingbirds visit it this spring.

Next year, I should have a few more varieties of columbine to show off and possibly seedlings from this year’s flowers. As I believe I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the key to good germination in the Aquilegia shown here (save A. alpina, which I haven’t grown from seed successfully, yet) is giving the seeds a cold-wet stratification for a few weeks.

A new addition, miniature hosta 'Green Eyes' is an adorable delight. I was avoiding lime for this section of the garden, but this little hosta was too cute.

A new addition, miniature hosta ‘Green Eyes’ is an adorable delight. I was avoiding lime for this section of the garden, but this little hosta was too cute. I paired it with another hosta, ‘Twist of Lime’, which is its inverse, a darker green edged in lime. I will post many pictures once they fill in. I believe both varieties are known to spread quickly.

I recently added a number of hosta and other perennials (including a fern leaf peony that I am very excited to grow!) from a local society sale. They had quite the selection and, as always, I underestimated my budget. I will know for next year. Even better, they had a wide array of miniature hosta which can easily be tucked into the ever-shrinking empty spaces.

Iris 'Tennessee Gentleman' was a new addition from the plant sale. I'm hoping to rebuild my iris collection as many of mine seemed to have failed from rot last year (I'm unsure if it was due to the wet summer or bacterial infection).

Iris ‘Tennessee Gentleman’ was a new addition from the plant sale. I’m hoping to rebuild my iris collection as many of my bearded iris seemed to have failed from rot last year (I’m unsure if it was due to the wet summer or bacterial infection).

Hosta 'Whirlwind' has upright foliage with very dramatic central variegation. I love the various shades of green combined in this hosta. Shown here with foliage of daylilies and Asiatic lilies.

Hosta ‘Whirlwind’ has upright foliage with very dramatic central variegation. I love the shades of green that are combined in this hosta, from deep forest green to a light, creamy avocado. Shown here with foliage of daylilies and Asiatic lilies.

This is the fifth year that I will be gardening here. The gardens are starting to fill in despite my meddling, but there are a few empty spaces at the backs of the beds. I am in desperate need of some very tall perennials or shrubs. I think this results from shopping too frequently at big box stores (especially their clearance) which tend to carry shorter varieties of plants. I have repeatedly bought cultivars of tall species that have been short selections (I must remember to read plant tags carefully!). The result is a reverse mullet, a lush foreground and sparse background. Cut-leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), an aggressively spreading native plant, has filled in one shady corner. I’m hoping my Joe Pye weed and Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) will help as well. I am attempting to start some cup plant from seed, but none have sprouted yet, I will save their flat and see if they sprout next winter.

My back garden is filling in nicely, but there are still a few spots to fill. I have trouble deciding what to plant here. It is part sun/shade, but receives hot afternoon sun. Daylilies, lilies, coreopsis, shasta daisy, and yarrow have proved to thrive here. I have recently added a hosta as well as tall garden phlox this year. Hopefully it will be brimming with color in the next few weeks.

My back garden is filling in nicely, but there are still a few spots to fill. I have trouble deciding what to plant here as it is part sun/shade, but receives hot, afternoon sun as opposed to cool, morning sun. Daylilies, lilies, coreopsis, shasta daisy, and yarrow have proved to perform well here. I have recently added lady’s mantle, variegated lily-of-the valley, and hosta to the foreground as well as tall garden phlox, veronica, and Heliopsis in the mid/background. Hopefully it will be brimming with color in June.

And a few surprises that didn’t fit into the alliteration: we have hardy orchids flowering! Below are two of the species that we grow in the ground. Some of the others are planted in a free draining mix so that we can provide better winter and garden pest protection (also because I’m not allowed to dig within a foot radius from them and that is just too difficult for my meddling trowel).

Cypripedium reginae

Cypripedium reginae, a native, terrestrial orchid, was planted last year as a bare root plant. It is planted in dappled shade, but can handle sun. It prefers nutrient rich, moist soil that is slightly acidic (though ours is pretty alkaline, so maybe it isn’t that picky). I’m told by my S.O. (he does the orchids, I just get scolded when I accidentally weed, plant, step, or breathe too close to them) that it should be one of the easiest Cypripedium species to grow. Usually blooms with a single flower per spike, but we ended up with twins.

Bletilla striata

Bletilla striata is another hardy terrestrial orchid. It is hardy to zone 6, so requires some winter protection here. This is its third year in the garden and first time flowering since planting. It was planted with two growths, but decreased to one in the second year (may have been due to harsh winter conditions or transplant). It has increased to its original size this year. It did undergo some frost damage to the newly emerging leaf tips, but that didn’t stop it from flowering on both growths. Flowers are more saturated with color in person.

As mentioned previously, the gardens are beginning to come into bloom. This means I am able to bring some in the house and below are a few of the arrangements. I think my skills are slowly improving, but it also helps to have more plants in flower. I think my biggest flaw in arranging is a lack of foliage or filler. It is so easy to buy and commit garden space towards the show-stopping blooms rather than the fine-flowering fillers and foliage plants. It seems that tree and shrub foliage is a preferred filler for many of my favorite arrangements, but I do not have many shrubs in the garden (we don’t have much room). Of those that I do have, many are still too small to sacrifice branches.

Arrangement

Arrangement in plum with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, Hellebore ‘Pink Frost’, Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’, and dark leaved Heuchera.

Arrangement

Arrangement in lilac with Centaurea, lilac (my only bloom this year), unknown shrub rose, strawberry flowers, Solomon’s seal, and leaves of hosta ‘Golden Tiara’.

Arrangement in shades of purple.

Arrangement in shades of purple. My first bloom on rose ‘Poseidon’ in the foreground and a bloom from rose ‘Lavender Veranda’ on the right surrounded by ‘Vintage Lilac’ and single lavender ‘Ten Weeks Bouquet’ stocks, dark purple spikes of Salvia, bachelor buttons, single light pink peonies, and budded feverfew as a filler. This arrangement smells divine, though the feverfew is a bit overpowering. The stocks were grown from seed indoors and planted out in early spring. Bachelor buttons and feverfew grew as volunteers in the garden. 

You will probably notice a lot of purple this year. It seems to be a new favorite color of mine. We have had our wretched orange roof replaced with a much more aesthetically pleasing brown-gray one. This means I have removed many of the sunset shades from the front yard and replaced them with purple. It is such a more pleasing color and the shades blend so well together that it seems like every arrangement, in the home or in the garden, is gorgeous.

 

 

A Long, Cool Spring

While we had a quick start to the season, it has slowed immensely with a few weeks of cool weather. The result was a very long show of tulips followed by quite a gap in flowering for my mid- and late- spring perennials. First, I have included two arrangements from earlier this spring.

The daffodils have been finished for a few weeks now. Pictured here are 'Pink Charm' and 'Salome'. Salome has the more tubular trumpet, here. Salome also opened more of a yellow-orange blend, fading to peach.

The daffodils have been finished for a few weeks now. Pictured here are ‘Pink Charm’ and ‘Salome’. ‘Salome’ has the more tubular trumpet and only fades to peach-pink after opening with a brighter, yellow-orange blend.

Red Spring Arrangement

Arrangement of red tulips and foliage. Unfortunately, the only identity I am aware of is that of the red and white tulip, ‘Carnaval de Rio’, below.

The shade gardens are those with the best show at this time. In these gardens, I have bleeding hearts, lily-of-the-valley, sweet woodruff, mayapples, Solomon’s seal, Pulmonaria, Brunnera, Trillium, and Aquilegia. Many of these blooms are coming to an end, being followed, ever so slowly, by iris and peonies. The stocks are beginning to bolt and my sweet peas are doing very well, for once. It helps to have a long spring, even though the delay in perennials has been frustrating. In addition, I even have a scape on two of my daylily cultivars!

The bleeding heart is blooming spectacularly this year. I had thought its blooms had been damaged by our late frost, but it has over a dozen flowering stems! In the background is sunlit foliage of lily-of-the-valley.

The bleeding heart is blooming spectacularly this year. I had thought its blooms had been damaged by our late frost, but it has over a dozen flowering stems! In the background is sunlit foliage of lily-of-the-valley.

I did some rearranging in my variegated shade garden and below is a fragment of the result. I’ve decided it was a bit too spaced out, so here I have crammed some of the clumps together and added a beautifully variegated Solomon’s seal, ‘Byakko’. I really should let alone, but we have had such perfect weather for transplanting (cool, overcast, and raining) that I couldn’t resist.

I did some rearranging in my shade garden and this is a fragment of the result.

Pictured here are Pulmonaria on the left (the tag has been lost, but a similar selection would be ‘Mrs. Moon’) with Heuchera in the foreground (again, I don’t know the variety, but a similar one would be ‘Tiramisu’ or ‘Delta Dawn’), Trollius ‘New Moon’ on the right, and Solomon’s seal ‘Byakko’ in the center.

Solomon's seal 'Byakko'. Because it is so gorgeous, I have added a closeup. It was a new addition this weekend on a spontaneous plant shopping excursion to stave off the near freezing morning weather.

A closeup of Solomon’s seal ‘Byakko’ because it is so gorgeous and my garden-scale photography skills do not do it justice. It was a new addition this weekend after a spontaneous plant shopping excursion to stave off the near freezing morning weather. It looks really nice with the white and green hosta, ‘Night Before Christmas’, in the background. While the high amount of white is really the major draw, the red stems also have grand appeal.

I started a number of columbine varieities last year, including ‘Pink Petticoats’, ‘Tower Light Blue’, ‘Swan Pink and Yellow’, and ‘Dorothy Rose’. Two sources of seeds that I used were Summerhill Seeds and Swallowtail Garden Seeds. Aquilegia can be a bit of a challenge to germinate, at least for me. They require a cold period, usually for at least 3-4 weeks, in order to germinate well. Two approaches that I’ve used are storing them with some moist perlite in the fridge or winter sowing them using the pop bottle greenhouse method discussed previously. Unfortunately, my ‘Swan Pink and Yellow’ columbine were smothered by my wild strawberry patch (while they make a pretty ground cover IMO and the spring bees like them, they are too vigorous for establishing slow-growing transplants). Luckily, the seeds have kept well (we store our seeds in dry, paper packets in our fridge for long-term viability) so I have another batch in pop bottles this year that are ready to be planted out. The variety ‘Tower Light Blue’, pictured below, and ‘Pink Petticoats’ have opened the earliest for me, flowering synchronously with my wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). I have seed grown ‘Dorothy Rose’ beginning to color up now and a store bought Aquilegia alpina (really deep blue/purple flowers) sending up stems. Some varieties, including A. alpina, have already produced seedlings from last year’s flowers. I assume that means you could direct sow seeds in the fall, but I am always so hesitant for this method (I almost weeded a bunch of the seedlings this spring). Hopefully these seedlings will mean a lasting supply of gorgeous blooms since columbine are often short-lived. I also hope that the space between their bloom periods will mean minimal cross-pollination.

This columbine is one I started from seed last year. The variety is called 'Tower Light Blue' and the color is just gorgeous, especially with the green buds.

This columbine was started from seed last year. The variety is called ‘Tower Light Blue’ and the color is just gorgeous, especially in combination with its green buds. Plants are fairly small this year, probably due to the competition with tree roots. If they had more stems, they would make a gorgeous cut flower. As is, I think they look better in the garden.

My tree peony survived some heavy snow on tender new leaves and young buds. And it has finally opened its two blooms today. Here with a visiting fly.

My tree peony, ‘Hanakisoi’, survived some heavy snow on tender new leaves and young buds. And it has finally opened its two blooms today. Here with a visiting fly.

The tree peony has been much more vigorous than I anticipated. It had been pretty crispy in early fall and became bent by heavy snowfall in April, but it has returned magnificently. It does have some sprouts from the root graft, an herbaceous peony. I stacked some mulch about four inches high above its base to reduce the rootstock’s vigor, but some stems are still poking through. Based on my understanding, the goal in growing grafted tree peonies is for the rootstock to slowly become depleted as the tree peony establishes its own roots. I will probably be lifting it in the fall to remove some of the herbaceous peony’s tissue. I found the following blog informative for caring, dividing, and replanting tree peonies: Cricket Hill Garden.

And another photo of tree peony 'Hanakisoi' to show the full bloom.

And another photo of tree peony ‘Hanakisoi’ to show the full bloom.

Until next time, happy gardening!

Flowers After a Late Frost

We are having a somewhat temperamental spring after our mild winter. A few days of snow and a hard frost in April were followed by days that climbed to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It seems to have settled now, cooling off a bit and warming slowly. My sweet peas and stocks made it through the freeze while planted in the ground. They were protected, however, with a few layers of row cover or a few bed sheets. Hopefully this spring will continue warm slowly so these cold-loving annuals bloom well.

While snow in April is not uncommon here in Ohio, it was a surprise this winter which has been extremely mild. Definitely put a damper on garden activities for a few days.

While snow in April is not uncommon here in Ohio, it was a surprise this winter due to the previously mild weather. Definitely put a damper on garden activities for a few days.

But after the snow, we have been rewarded with many blooms. Only a few tulip buds that had already opened suffered any floral damage. Unfortunately, though, only a few of my ‘Apricot Beauty’ tulips have reappeared. I’m wondering if the irrigation system kept the soil too wet for them over the summer. I did add a number of new bulbs this fall, though.

Tulip 'Claudia' with sweet woodruff and Solomon's seal. These tulips are really glowing in the shade garden and look especially good here with the lime foliage. I wish the hostas were open with them as the lime foliage would really make them pop!

Tulip ‘Claudia’ with sweet woodruff and Solomon’s seal. These tulips are really glowing in the shade garden and look especially good here with the lime foliage. I wish the hostas were open with them as the large lime leaves would really make the colors pop!

 

This tulip came in a mixture labeled 'triumph tulips'. It is gorgeous, and if it has a name, I would guess it to be 'Gavota'. Quite a unique color combination and surely not one I am used to selecting. Seen here with the bronzed, new growth of an herbaceous peony.

The tulip above came in a mixture labeled ‘triumph tulips’. It is gorgeous, and if it has a name, I would guess it to be ‘Gavota’. A unique color combination with velvety substance that I am enjoying despite it being a color I wouldn’t usually select. Seen here with the bronzed, new growth of an herbaceous peony.

The following tulips, from a fringed mix, are some of my favorite new bulbs this year. Others, like ‘Peace Flame’, which was advertised as a peach and yellow striped tulip, but turned out a solid, medium purplish pink, have yet to impress (wrong variety, maybe? Or will improve their color improve with age?).

These tulips came in a mix of fringed tulips, picked up courtesy of my S.O.'s layover in Amsterdam. I was very surprised that many of the fringed tulips are doubles.

These tulips came in a mix of fringed tulips, picked up courtesy of my S.O.’s layover in Amsterdam. I was surprised that nearly half of these fringed tulips are also doubles.

These Muscari were newly planted this fall. The mix included the typical blue, a light blue, and one that is a shaded, deep blue. V

These Muscari were newly planted this fall from a mix that included the typical blue, a light blue, and one that is a shaded, deep blue. I really love them, though they don’t compliment the bright orange tulips that are nearby. Shown here, they are with a newly planted, variegated lavender, ‘Platinum Blonde’. I’ve been growing it indoors for a few weeks (it was bought at a grocery store), but you can see that the new growth is starting to show some stronger variegation now that it is in full sun.

The perennials are flourishing. Most of my lilies have broken ground (except one of my favorites, ‘Tiny Todd’ which had been dug into by nesting rabbits that also destroyed a bit of the irrigation system) and most have new growths. My tree peony has a pair of buds which have withstood the weight of snow and freezing weather with grace. I have overwintered my first delphinium, which is exciting. I think the biggest issue I’ve had with them was late season planting (they like cooler weather) and establishment before the summer heat. The irrigation system and some light shade probably helped. I already added a few more. We held our breath briefly for the Bletilla striata after the April frost as its new growth showed a lot of damage, but it has survived. Maybe there I will be able to photograph some blooms from it this year.

Pulmonaria is an early bloomer with nice foliage that enjoys the shade. In the background are a Heuchera and a variegated Brunnera.

Pulmonaria is an early bloomer with nice foliage that enjoys the shade. In the background are a Heuchera and a variegated Brunnera.  The variegated Brunnera has been taken over by some reverted growths which I pruned out today. I have attempted to replant the growths that I pruned out, but I wasn’t very successful in removing them with roots intact.

Most of my roses have survived another winter without protection (mostly due to gardening burnout in fall). I think I lost one of the two ‘Sweet Drift’ roses that were planted last fall. It had survived the winter, but the new growth froze in the April frost. It also had some roots exposed due to heaving which couldn’t have helped. The rose ‘Frau Karl Drushki’ has survived, but is still sulking as a spindly growth. Likewise,  the hybrid tea rose ‘New Day’ has barely returned for the second year in a row, despite thick canes. It has been pretty sickly since I planted it, disease ridden and poor winter hardiness. Given my lack of space, these two may be shovel pruned (I’ve never had the heart for it, but they are just such poor performers). ‘America’ is a bit sulky as well, but it may have been the particular plant I added which had poor canes to begin with. I hope that this will be the year where it begins to take off. I may replace this one as the coral blooms are so pretty!

Lilium 'Scarlet Delight' has been busy dividing. I am most impressed by the largest growth which is maybe the thickest stem I've ever seen on any lily.

Lilium ‘Scarlet Delight’ has been busy dividing. I am most impressed by the largest growth which is the thickest stem I’ve ever seen on any lily.

Well, not much was in bloom that matches well, but I put this together to enjoy between weeding. Included are narcissus, Pulmonaria, Leucojum, and Tulip 'Daydream'. There is some bronze foliage as well, but I'm not sure what it is.

Well, not much matches right now, but I put this together to enjoy between all of the planting and weeding. Included are Narcissus, Pulmonaria, Leucojum, and Tulip ‘Daydream’. There is some bronze foliage as well, but I’m not sure what it is.

Next on my list is to plant out some of my annuals. My wintersown Digitalis, poppies, Aquilegia, hollyhock, and scabiosa are growing and some of these will need transplanted soon (the Bachelor Buttons are already in as they were quite large). I have yet to see any larkspur seedlings which is frustrating because I planted seed from multiple sources.

What will be blooming next includes Alliums, stocks, and woodland ephemerals. I’m hoping that the Bleeding Heart will bloom this year as its buds appeared damaged by the April frost, but have resumed development recently. It has a number of flowering stems and should be quite impressive if it does bloom!

Stocks love cool weather and require temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit in order to induce flowering. They can tolerate light frosts (and some brief, heavier frosts while covered IME). Here, April 15th would usually be a good planting date. I risked them going in the last week of March. With protection, they made it through a few cold nights.

Stocks love cool weather and require temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit in order to induce flowering. They can tolerate light frosts (and some brief, heavier frosts while covered IME). Here, I would guess that April 15th should be a good planting date, but I risked planting them during the last week of March. With protection, they made it through a few cold (even down to 21 degrees Fahrenheit) nights.

Awaiting Spring with Seedlings and Flowers

This post serves as a holistic update of the past month and a half. I haven’t felt like there was much to update, but I guess there was much more than I expected. I’m hoping things will liven up even more in the coming month as spring bulbs are sprouting everywhere!

Sweet Everlasting is an Ohio native perennial that has foliage that smells of maple syrup. The flowers are small and white.

Sweet Everlasting is an Ohio native perennial that has foliage that smells of maple syrup. The flowers are small and white. I think the leftover seed heads are attractive as well.

We have had a mild winter and are probably 2-3 weeks ahead of a normal year. Many perennials are breaking ground and the roses are budding. My tree peony is alive, which is the grandest relief as it looked crispy in August and they are a bit pricey. The only remaining worry is for the Echinaceas of which I added a few cultivars (which, in my experience, are not always so hardy) and transplanted a few of my favorites (E. pallida ‘Hula Dancer’) to more favorable spots. No signs of life on them yet, but they may be later to sprout if I remember correctly. Hopefully those that have broken dormancy will not suffer from some light frosts to come.

My mums have overwintered well. This is their second winter. This clump did especially well last year, but another clump died back to a single stem (probably due to drying out)

My mums have overwintered well for their second year. This clump did especially well last year, but another clump died back to a single stem (probably due to neglect/drying out before planting). However, even that single stem has overwintered. I’m not sure that hardy mums are especially difficulty to grow, I just tend to forget to plant them in the ground and/or water them after displaying them in the fall.

I have sown a number of seeds via the winter sowing method described previously; including poppies (Oriental, Icelandic, and Peony), foxglove (mostly cultivars), sweet peas, bachelor buttons, hollyhocks, larkspur, Scabiosa (annual and perennial), Nictoiana, and columbine. Of these, the bachelor buttons have germinated the soonest, on February 26th, followed by the poppies on March 10th. I also have some hollyhocks, Digitalis, and Scabiosa as of this week. Hopefully the rest will follow!

My winter sowing bottles. I keep them confined by rocks and planters to prevent toppling in the wind.

My winter sowing bottles. I keep them confined by rocks and planters to prevent toppling in the wind.

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Bachelor button seedlings were the first to sprout in my pop bottle greenhouses, germinating outside in late February.

In addition to winter sowing, I have started seedlings inside as well. We have snapdragons, sweet peas, and stocks as usual. These were started soonest as the prefer cool weather. The sweet peas have been planted out already as the next two weeks seems to be free of hard frost. The snapdragons will be hardened off in the next week or two.

Stocks love cool weather, but aren't so fond of freezing. They have a spicy fragrance and make great cut flowers. They are growing incredibly fast under four T5 fluorescent bulbs.

Stocks love cool weather, but aren’t so fond of freezing. They have a spicy fragrance and make great cut flowers. They are growing incredibly fast under four T5 fluorescent bulbs. In front are some freshly pinched snapdragons. I am trying some new varieties this year including some of the Chantilly and Potomac series.

I have also started some new-to-me seedlings starting: Blue laceflower (mixed colors), Scabiosa ‘Fata Morgana’, Icelandic Poppy, Cerinthe, and Cup and Saucer Vine. Blue laceflower sounded tricky to germinate, they required surface planting with darkness. However, they germinated fine (I scattered them all in a four inch pot and covered with a paper bag prior to germination) and have been slowly growing true leaves. They are a bit leggy though, I suspect I need to change my lights, these are probably two year old T12 fluorescent tubes. I am so forgetful with changing out bulbs.

Blue Laceflowers with true leaves. These were germinated in the dark and gently transplanted to pots. They have deep taproots, so I have tried peat pots for less root disturbance. I probably should have used bigger pots though as their roots were already an inch deep a day after germination.

Blue Laceflowers with true leaves. These were germinated in the dark and gently transplanted to pots. They have deep taproots, so I have tried peat pots for less root disturbance at final transplant. I probably should have used bigger pots, though, as their roots were already an inch deep a day after germination. I suggest transplanting them as soon as possible because of this. Others suggest direct sowing.

The Scabiosa germinated extremely easily as did the Icelandic poppies, but the poppies aren’t putting on size very quickly. I am struggling with the Cerinthe. I only had a single seed germinate and it is very leggy (probably also the bulbs). It is also showing some browning to the leaves. I’m wondering if it would do better in a cooler room and/or needs the seed coat to be scarified (the seed coat seems pretty thick). The Cup and Saucer vine had a low germination rate, but the plant I have looks great. We also had a surprise Pelargonium seedling that I am growing out. I may have to try ordering some in the future as they seem quite a breeze to grow.

A little Pelargonium germinated by accident and is being grown out for fun.

A little Pelargonium germinated by accident and is being grown out for fun.

I've read that Pelargoniums are slow to grow from seed. This is the seedling from above, one month later and in a two inch pot. It seems very happy.

I’ve read that Pelargoniums are slow to grow from seed. This is the seedling from above, one month later and in a two inch pot. It seems very happy.

My Nicotiana ‘Antique Lime’ and Digitalis ‘Dalmatian Peach’ seeds have failed to germinate this year. The seeds are a few years old and are pelleted. I’m not sure if the issue has been the age of seed. However, 2-3 years is not that old for seeds, especially when we store them in the fridge. I was wondering if it was my soil mix which seemed heavy for germination, but I haven’t had luck with them after switching mixes either. I have given up on the Digitalis for now as I have plenty of other plants to grow in the peach tones. I have bought some Nicotiana langsdorffii to replace the Antique Limes as they are more available in stores and I’ve expired my patience for shipping seeds. Also, I really want some green flowers!

Outside, some of the early spring bulbs are blooming, some have even finished their show. Next up will be the hyacinths, their flower buds have already broken ground. Hopefully we will have tulips, though the rabbits have finally discovered that they can eat plants in my yard and tulip or daylily foliage has been their favorite. I spread bone meal onto my bulbs earlier than normal in hopes that it would deter them (I had read somewhere that they don’t like the smell). It hasn’t seemed to work so far, but it is also hard to tell what damage is new.

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I almost forgot that I had snowdrops until I cleared some brush this spring. Here they are flowering away in early March.

Crocus 'Cream Beauty' in snow. This is their second year flowering and there are oh so many more buds! I'm wondering if they already need divided!

Crocus ‘Cream Beauty’ in snow. This is their second year flowering and there are oh so many more buds! I’m wondering if they already need divided…

The African violets have been flowering non-stop and I have been rewarded with some Episcia flowers. Episcias are a relative of African violets grown for their foliage. They prefer a similar watering regimen to their cousins, but prefer slightly higher humidity. As such, I plant them in glass bowls and they seem to love it. They spread quickly by stolons, like strawberries, and are grown mostly for foliage, but also have adorable flowers.

Episcia 'Silver Skies' is a smaller growing variety, the leaves are about 2-3 inches long and only an inch wide. This plant has taken over its 12 inch bowl in a matter of months. You can easily divide them by cutting the stolons of rooted growths.

Episcia ‘Silver Skies’ is a smaller growing variety, the leaves are about 2-3 inches long and only an inch wide. This plant has taken over its 12 inch bowl in a matter of months. You can easily divide them by cutting the stolons of rooted growths.

African Violet 'Irish Flirt' is a miniature violet with white and green flowers. Foliage is standard, but the flowers are so numerous that you wouldn't notice the plain foliage.

African Violet ‘Irish Flirt’ is a miniature violet with standard foliage and many green flowers. And is festively timing its flowering.

Looking forward, the next group of seeds will be planted in a few weeks, especially those that prefer warmer weather. And if the weather continues to be mild, my next post will hopefully include a spring bouquet.

Another Glimpse at the Houseplant Collection

This winter has been quite the gardening tease. It has remained warm and rained often which gets my hopes up for spring before winter has even arrived. I have started tuber orders and received some seeds already. Last year’s seedlings were a lot of work and the garden has even less room this upcoming year. However, the lists I’ve come up with are as long as ever.

I have been checking on my dahlia tubers frequently as they seemed to be quite unhealthy at digging this year, covered in white fuzz of some sort (a fungus?). I had a number of varieties fail as we had such a wet spring and summer; the plants rotted in the ground. However, the tubers that survived to digging are still looking plump and healthy. After washing them, I had dipped each in a fungicide. I have no idea if this treatment made a difference, but it was worth saving a few of my favorite varieties. Hopefully we will have a better season for them next year!

As I haven’t yet planted any seeds, we only have a few houseplants to fawn over. The violets have needed a lot of cleaning up this fall and have responded well with healthy looking leaves and many flowers. In addition, we have made space for the orchid collection by building another enclosed plant stand (that brings us to five plant stands total, two enclosed for orchids) that we proceeded to fill in a few minutes. However, we should have some room for additional acquisitions this spring!

Optimara 'Little Oneida' is my newest acquisition. You can easily find these varieties at some garden centers supplied by Optimara (and even at Lowe's).

African violet ‘Optimara Little Oneida’ is my newest acquisition. You can sometimes find named varieties at some garden centers supplied by Optimara (and even at Lowe’s). This plant is on the smaller side, but Optimara has many standards as well.

African Violet 'Rob's Itchy Britches' is a beautiful miniature with fantasy markings. The variegated leaves are an added bonus.

African Violet ‘Rob’s Itchy Britches’ is a beautiful miniature with fantasy markings on the petals. The variegated leaves are an added bonus.

African Violet 'Kentucky Baby Sister'. This is my smallest violet. Here, it is shown in the same size pot as 'Rob's Itchy Britches', above. The leaves are each the size of a fingernail. Quite an adorable specimen!

African Violet ‘Kentucky Baby Sister’. This is my smallest violet. Here, it is shown in the same size pot as ‘Rob’s Itchy Britches’, above. The leaves are each the size of a fingernail which makes it quite an adorable specimen!

African Violet 'Easter Angel'. This is a standard variety with well behaved, variegated foliage. The flowers are single to semi-double with a blush pink center and green edge. It is another favorite variety.

African Violet ‘Easter Angel’. This is a standard variety with well behaved, variegated foliage. The flowers are single to semi-double with a blush pink center and green edge. It is another favorite variety.

African Violet 'Buckeye Seductress'. This variety has very flat, variegated foliage. It grows very orderly and can get quite a bouquet of blooms though it only shows a single bloom at the moment.

African Violet ‘Buckeye Seductress’. This variety has orderly, flat, variegated foliage. It can display quite a bouquet of blooms though it only shows a single bloom at the moment.

African Violet 'Sky Diver'. This is a variety that I've grown from leaves. I neglected the leaves for almost a year, but they still managed to produce a few plantlets. It is amazing that I have gotten this plant to bloom at all. It is a blue-purple streaked with white and yellow. I'm hoping the yellow will intensify with age as it is pretty subtle so far.

African Violet ‘Sky Diver’. This is a variety that I’ve grown from leaves. In fact, I neglected the leaves for almost a year, but they still managed to produce a few plantlets! It is amazing that I have gotten this plant to bloom at all. ‘Sky Diver’ has blue-purple flowers streaked with white and yellow with plain green foliage. I’m hoping the yellow will intensify with age as it is pretty subtle so far.

Phalaenopsis amabilis is one of our most reliably flowering orchids. We usually begin to see more of our Phalaenopsis species flowering at this time, but we have yet to have a cold snap to induce flowering.

Phalaenopsis amabilis is one of our most reliably flowering orchids, it blooms every winter. We usually begin to see more of our Phalaenopsis spp. flowering at this time, but the lack of a cold snap outside has prevented flowering. Which is a simple way of saying that our energy saving habits in winter haven’t made a difference in the house’s temperature this year.

We received a number of growths from this plant last winter. It was only labeled as an Oncidium species so we are still working out an identification. The growths are small, only a few inches tall each, which has made it a nice plant to grow.

We received a number of growths from this plant last winter. It was only labeled as a species of Oncidium so we are still working out an identification. The growths are small, only a few inches tall each, which has made it a nice plant to grow. This isn’t one of our focal genera, so we are *trying* to keep the odds and ends varieties compact (it isn’t really working so well, though).

Paphiopedilum spicerianum flower as viewed through the orchid collection. Unlike the orchids above, this plant is terrestrial.

Paphiopedilum spicerianum flower as viewed through the orchid collection. Unlike the orchids above, this plant is terrestrial; it grows in the ground as opposed to growing on other plants and relying mostly on air for moisture. This is the second bloom we’ve gotten in the year and a half it has been in the collection. It is a native plant of Assam (India).

Tillandsia, unknown. If I had to guess, I would say this is Tillandsia abdita, but this plant came with no label. It really is gorgeous, though. The leaves are intensely red as shown here. Hopefully it will flower and make a few pups.

Tillandsia, unknown. If I had to guess, I would say this is Tillandsia abdita, but this plant came with no label. It really is gorgeous, though. The leaves are intensely red as shown here. Hopefully it will flower and make a few pups.