Showing posts with label Plant Collections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Plant Collections. Show all posts

June 17, 2013

Pelargoniums, and a new potting bench

Pelargonium oblongatum, another precious summer dormant species of pelargonium ( geranium), that blooms while dormant, and without any leaves. I am really starting to collect more of these amazing species from South Africa, my collection just can't be large enough! It spends its life under glass, in a pot set on a bed of sand.
An inexpensive Ikea purchase is transformed into a potting bench. It probably won't last long outdoors, but as we have a new floor installed into the studio, this piece was destined for the dumpster, but now has a second life outdoors. 
I've been wanting to place a simple potting bench outside of the greenhouse, not for potting plants, as I have a large proper potting bench inside the greenhouse, but just some shelves where I can store tools, and mostly to use for preparing watering cans with fertilizer. A task that always breaks my back, as I am often mixing solutions for bulbs or containers, and bending over with the hose. This little bench, a prop we bought a few years ago for a display I designed for the New England Spring Flower Show for only a couple of hundred of dollars, as it looked a bit like a Japanese-influenced potting-type bench, we've been keeping it in the studio where it just collected junk. Now, at least it has a purpose. Not designed for outdoor use, it will probably only last a few years with our weather, but it's better than throwing it into the dumpster.

June in the formal garden. There is a gap in bloom this year, and few vegetables as the puppies are also kept on this side of the yard. Everything is looking a little shaggy, as the boxwoods and bay laurels still need to be trimmed, but that won't happen until late June, when I return from my trip to San Francisco. For now, I am lucky that it looks half-way decent. It looks much better in this picture than it really does, believe me.

The bench gives me a place to store some plants away from the dogs such as this Deuterocohnia brevifolia, a bromeliad that looks more like a cacti than a pineapple relative - they form perfect mounds when grown in containers. Yes, those
are Devil's Tongue Arum in the back. I am having a second childhood!

Pelargonium dichonrifolium ( or P. exhibens). Help! One of my summer dormant species that spends its entire life under glass, in a sand bed.

Pelargonium sidoides,  a great container plant for decks and terraces ( I keep thinking of the specimens I saw in the South African garden at the Denver Botanic Garden's last summer. This plant, I planted in a large urn.

Just to confuse you, this is a true Geranium, not a pelargoinium. The giant of all geraniums, G. maderense spp. alba is a common cottage garden plant in northern California, but most everywhere else, it is a rarely seen Mediterranean gem, making a magnificent potted plant, and if you are lucky to get a pot of this giant to bloom, even better. This one self seeded into a number of my container plants which spend the winter in the greenhouse.

June 5, 2013

Inspired by Artisional Iris

The fields at Joe Pye Weed's Garden show off some of the incredible and talented breeding results performed by
passionate life-long iris breeders Jan Sacks and Marty Schafer in Carlisle, MA.

Today. I want to talk about my favorite group of iris, those known as Siberian Iris, and for that, I am visiting a friends Siberian Iris breeding farm, to show you not only some amazing new colors and forms, but to help rally more interest in this overlooked group of Iris.

First, some Iris 101 - Everyone can close their eyes and visualize what an Iris looks like, but this massive genus ( with 300 plus species) can make a new gardener feel over-whelmed, and an experienced gardener, well, overwhelmed too. Without getting too geeky on you - if you are interested in growing iris,my executive brief for you  would simplify the top line groups - you know, those that grow from bulbs vs roots, vs rhizomes.  If you prefer to generalize, which can be easy in a huge genus where close-ups of each flower may all look at first, to be similar, I would organize all the different types of iris into 6 buckets. 

Bearded Iris - those flouncy huge Iris which gardeners either adore, or hate - you know, those with thick rhizomes that look like ginger roots. Your grandmother grew these...

Siberian Iris, with grassy foliage, hardy as and oak tree yet harder to find, and yeah, your grandmother grew these too, usually purple, often surrounding a gazing ball...

The Japanese Iris, - unless your granny was a serious gardener, most likely, you've only seen these painted on Japanese screens at a museum. Lovely, but a bit more demanding.

Florist Iris - you know, Dutch Iris - those blueish-violet ones you get at the florist, often as tight buds, but the flowers last for a few days. 

Louisiana Iris - Iris that I cannot grow, but similar to Japanese Iris for more southern gardeners

Rock Garden Iris - here I included dwarf, bulbous ones, or those dwarf species that grow from creeping Rhizomes

Collector Iris  hard to grow Alpine House forms - from the Middle East and Turkey - Aril's. Junos and the like 

A ginger colored seedling - expands the color range of Siberian Iris

This sorting is rough, and not anything like the way the American Iris Society organizes groups, but it helps me think about what I can and cannot grow. One needs to be realistic with a plant family such as iris, as someone walking into a nursery asking for and iris plant, could be thinking about any one of these. The AIS divides first all iris as bearded or non bearded, and then includes species as a group, but truth be told, there are species in all of these groups ( species, meaning how that particular iris appears as a wildflower where it is native).

Siberian Iris a known for being long-lived and floriferous. Making them ideal candidates for perennial borders.

More advanced gardeners divide Iris by HOW they grow. Like... Rhizomes, clumping roots, bulbs or just roots.For more info, check out the American Iris Society site. There you can lose yourself in the acronyms ( SDB - Standard Dwarf Bearded. MDB - Miniature Dwarf Bearded, what iris don't have beards, why an iris would ever want a beard, etc. Knock yourself out, but I'll be thrilled if you just takeaway that there are many types of iris', and that you have a rough idea about what iris group you are talking about the next time you go to a nursery - this is important, and each type requires a different cultural treatment. Also, if you are looking for cut-flower iris, know that the bulbous types sometimes last longer than a day, but that most flowers only last a few hours to a day. Just important FYI if you pin these to Pinterest, hoping to get some for a wedding.

The breeding fields at Joe Pye Weed's Garden are jam packed full of incredible, new iris varieties. Each one gets a different colored flag, unidentifing whether the seedling is worthy of the compost pile, or for additional breeding.

Without writing an essay about the broad and diverse word of Irids, I really just wanted to talk a but about some fine garden iris - particularly, those known as Siberian Iris'. These are clump forming, often long-lived iris' that seem to be overlooked by many contemporary gardeners, and I really don't know why. I could guess that first, there are few if any commercial growers growing them anymore, so the distribution channels are dry, or I could guess ( rightly, so) that there are few breeders dedicated to advancing this group, so the public as well as buyers at wholesale nurseries over-look them, or I could guess that perhaps people associate Siberian Iris with the few, antique cultivars that most every gardener has seen - a very 'wild' looking, purple strain with rather unremarkable flowers - yeah, the one your grandmother grew that was passed on to you.

Gentle grey tints, and mustard gold colors are emerging as hot trend colors with Siberian Iris. Few flowers can offer this palette.

My friend Jess admires the Siberian Iris' big cousin the German Bearded Iris, which is more common, but often
plagued by more disease and the need for constant care.

Jess responded " But with all of these amazing colors, like custard yellow, butterscotch, mustard gold and those gray ones, they would be so hot right now at hip nurseries like Terrain..why arent' they being sold there?" "good question" I added. Yet, I knew the answer was clear. Plants developed for large retail distribution must meet specific criteria to even be considered worthy of micro-propigation, let along the years of field testing required for a large Dutch corporation or an American distributor to even think about marketing a plant variety to the masses. I am not being critical here, as shelf height, performance under the stressful conditions of black plastic nursery containers, and long shelf life are essential for big box stores if they are ever going to purchase a truck full of a particular, over performing plant which is also well behaved.

" But why don't we see these colors at nurseries then?" Jess asked.
Jan knew the answer " Because it takes at least ten years for one of our selections to even make it to a wholesale grower. Breeding iris is not difficult, but it does take time. A couple or three years for seedlings to grow before they even think about blooming, then at least 5 years of perfomance in our field, where we evaluate each seedling looking at a variety of traits, be it a new color, a better color, flower form, height, either tall, or short. Quantity of flowers produced, branching or not, resistance to diseases and pests..." and the list went on. " If you are buying a Siberian Iris at a nursery today, you are most likely buying a variety that was hot in the 1970's or 1980's". 

I love the new brown tints, as well as the golden mustard colors when combined with berry tones.

I would add that if you get one from a friend or family member ( as these are on the short-list for pass-along plants), then you are most likely getting a default form from the early part of the 20th Century or late 19th Century - a time when the Siberian Iris was common as a perennial plant, encircling bird baths, lining walks ( as it can be divided annually), or engulfing a gazing ball. Siberian Iris however are worth re-discovering, as they offer some of the finest characteristics that most other iris cannot compete with - over performance. It's easy to fall in love with those giant, flouncy German Bearded Iris' that smell like grape jam, and look as if they were constructed from delicate tissue paper and hand painted in bright, watercolor type tints, but the lesser known Siberian Iris has one thing over its fancier cousin - it gets better with each year, rather than requiring annual division of fans. 

All from the same seed pod, one of the skills needed by any plant breeder is the ability to edit
offspring. Just look at the variety here, and imagine how you would choose the best? Would your
criteria include height? Fragrance? Amount of buds or flowers? Color? Awesomeness?

The Siberian Iris' offer something year round in the garden, so I feel that they are far superior. Their grassy blades of erect foliage along always looks nice, adding a well needed vertical texture in the perennial bed, the flowers of course, are produced in abundance, whereas the German Bearded Iris in all of it's forms, only offers a few flowers during its short season. Siberian Iris' also have artful seedpods, which can be left on the plant for winter interest, or picked for dried arrangements. The only problem I know with Siberian Iris is that they are difficult to find - which just may be the first thing I address when that big company calls me someday for me to put together my ultimate curated set of top 10 plants that I will market under my own brand ( heh heh). Until then, you now know that these amazing plants exist, and you know where to find some of the newest varieties - Jan and Marty's Joe Pye Weed's garden.

Soft pinks and mauves have yet to win awards with Siberian Iris ( just check the RBG awards list - where seletions from 20 years ago only feature purple and one yellow variety). Clearly, there is something far more interesting and important
happening with the Siberian Iris - so who is going to move to exploit this trend?

Asclepias incarnata, one of our native mildweeds, stems are pinned to a sweet pea fence, so that the Baltimore Orioles can use the dried bard to make their long, stocking-like nests.

As soon as we walked down the sloping hill in Jan and Marty's back yard, we could hear both Baltimore Orioles and Rose Breasted Grosbeaks - two of our most colorful summer migratory songbirds, and both have a similar song which is so appealing. Jan pointed out that these Orioles seem to  return each year, and that this year they have at least 3 nesting pairs on their property. It's easy to see why they return, which their large pond off to the side, where they draw their irrigation water, and towering white and red oak trees that Orioles prefer, the location already has much to offer, but Jan shared a secret which I found fascinating - a few years ago Jan and Marty discovered that their Baltimore Orioles had very specific nest building resources on their property -  they discovered that they prefer to use the peeling, white bark on the perennial weed Asclepias incarnata which they used to pull in after frost in their large cutting garden, but now, they allow it to not only remain all winter, they actually cut the stems and clamp them to their pea fencing, as the Orioles continue to pull the 12 inch strips of strong, stringy bark, so nesting couples are so territorial, that they won't allow the other nesting pairs to harvest their cache, leaving Jan and Marty to cut string and yarn, which they leave on their porch roof, which the other orioles use.

On the left, a Baltimore Oriole nest constructed with the bark of Asclepias incarnata, a native milkweed which
has long, stringy fiberous bark when allowed to dry in the field through a winter.

These reminded me of epaulet's on a British Captain's jacket, but then again, how many iris are named after that? Jess asked Jan how they name their plants, and she responded with "Many of the names come from country dances as we used to be folk dancers".  

The breeders weren't keen on this color and form, but I lust for it!

With such a color palette available, I would hope that those of us who care about such things, will help promote these iris in our own gardens.

February 24, 2013

My Lachenalia Bacchanalia

Lachenalia, or Cape Hyacinths are like visual candy.  These I  photographed these today a faceplate of a book from the late 1800's  that I found while cleaning in the attic.  Seems like a perfect match with these
 treasures -  South African bulb flowers which once were standard fare in winter bulb displays in
conservatory collections  in the 18th and 19th century, and now rarely found.

As many of you know already, I am gaga about Lachenalia - the rarely grown South African bulb genus that make me love winter even more ( yeah, remember - I am a winter lover!). They are quite growable, and I feel that they are as easy as paperwhite narcissus, as long as you keep them cool, which for many of use with old houses, is not that difficult in the winter. An icy, drafty windowsill that is sunny in the winter can be their perfect location.

On this snowy day (snowy weekend, actually) there are currently eight pots in bloom in the cold greenhouse, so I thought I might pick a few to share with you. It's easy to see that they are cousins of our common spring bulb, the hyacinth, but sadly, aside from a few, these have no scent.

Lachenalia aloides var. aloides, a few bulbs that I started from seed five years ago, and a pot which I thoroughly neglect. Still, each year, it decides to produce these amazing flowers. Who could ever hate these?

By far the most commonly found Lachenalia for home growers are those classified under the species aloides. Lachenalia alpides have the showiest blossoms, some with three or four colors each, and others with only a single color ( like yellow in L. aloides 'nelsonii'). There is even a greenish teal colored species with striking dark, speckled foliage, ( my specimen pot will bloom in a few more weeks). The term 'aloides' comes from Aloe, for the blossoms appear very aloe-like, not that they could ever be confused with the many aloe species which are also South African, these bulbs are low growing, with spotted foliage and brilliant when in bloom.

The plant window(the one above my kitchen sink), currently has a display with three types of Lachenalia, and a fragrant Daphne odora brought indoors for the weekend so that we can enjoy the scent.

Lachenalia are by no means new, and many of these same species were grown under glass in the 18th century after being introduced by ships returning from the Cape of Africa with one account listed as 1652 ( the Dutch East Indian Company) but the earliest account of plants being grown in England in 1752.( Lachenalia orchioides). In the United States, I have a book from 1805 which lists nearly a dozen species available for cold glass houses. For whatever reason, the genus remains rare in the trade, but one can easily find bulbs ( and seed) every autumn, with a simple Google search.

These are easy bulbs to grow, the greatest challenge may just be finding some.  I seem to post a Lachenalia post a few times of year - seach this site for more articles, and look for bulbs of any type in bulb catalogs. Just remember - they are not hardy, meaning that they cannot freeze, so they are best as house plant bulbs where winters are fierce. Grow them in pots in fast-draining soil, and plan on potting bulbs in the late summerif you live in the north.  Water them in before weather becomes cold, and bring them indoors before frost. Plants will start growth shortly after, and can be grown quite well on cold windowsills, unheated porches that remain unfrozen, in cold, sunny greenhouses, or in the winter garden if you live in California.

Bulbs can be lifted once they go dormant in the spring to avoid summer wetness ( which they cannot handle) or, if you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, allow the pots to go bone dry during their dormant period, which lasts from June until early September. I urge anyone reading to go and try a pot of lachenalia next autumn, they are delightful, and they make winter oh so bearable.

February 11, 2013

My African Violet Makeover

I am on a top secret mission to make the African Violet cool again. Wait, was it ever cool?
It's time to rediscover exhibition African Violets - they make regular old store bought AV's
virtually boring. Get ready to be blown away, or at the very least, inspired.
In a secret room, on the second floor of my house, I keep a secret collection of plants under artificial lights. No, it's not pot. (It's probably a good thing as I get panic attacks if I smoke pot - just sayin'). In my secret room I grow African Violets. Lots of them. I think I've become African Violet crazy, ordering more and more each week.  I love African Violets. There. I said it. Hold the old lady jokes ( nothing against old ladies), but come on.....African Violets? Dude!

Sure, I drive a big-ass truck. Yes, I am covered in tattoo's and, yep - I have killed a turkey with my bare hands ( well, I took the picture), but I can't seem to help myself when autumn comes around, and it's time to begin thinking about gardening indoors, under lights, precisely where African Violets come into the picture. I am on a mission this year to make the African Violet ........cool.

New varieties have speckled flowers, ruffled petals and leaves, or fancy variegated leaves.

It will be a long task, for I must first navigate through cliche, redesign the iconic African Violet pot ( ugh- really? Mauve plastic?) and I will work of making the use of the color lavender illegal on every African Violet website, plant label and book. The African Violet is in need of a makeover - not the plant itself, for it seems to have everything going for it - for it's easy to grow, low cost of entry, for event the finest varieties sell for less than a Grande espresso at Starbucks, and they are highly collectable - the barrier must exist somewhere withing the name ( African Violet = Cat Lady), or the display limitations ( doilies, antimacassars and tea cups anyone?). My point it, if we all treated African Violets for what they are - the highly fascinating high-alpine tropical genus of Saintpaulia species from East African Mountains, we all might think of them a little differently. Don't believe me? Then read this great post by National Geographic blogger  Digital Nomad as he discovers the world of wild African Violets.

Kings Ransom, a new variety carried by Lyndon Lyon Greenhouses.

I myself have a long history with the genus Saintpaulia, having passed in and out of passions with this genus over my life. I cultivated plants on windowsills in high school, perfomed studies with the genus in college, and at least two times in the 30 years since graduating college, I tried collecting a few. I think I just never had the patience to keep them long enough, and justified saving deep African Violet immersion for my retirement years, when I can really appreciate their nuances - oh geesh - see? Maybe this is a sign! Early retirement on the doorstep and now, the genus Saintpaulia. I've finally figured it out!

Some African Violets one will never find at a Supermarket are selections like this one. 'Rob's Delicious' is a
semi-mini with incredible sunny, variegated fuzzy leaves.

The genus Saintpaula is small, with only  5 or 6 species - all native to south central Tanzania ( yes, African Violets are indeed from Africa, which at first, even surprised me). As I am unofficially taking the role this year of honorary African Violet Evangelist, I think it's time you too rediscover the poor, neglected common African Violet. But before we all jump off of the gesneriad cliff, a few things to note.  First, African Violets are not true violets ( the genus viola). It drives me NUTTY when people tell me that their mother grows 'violets' whenever I write about true violets ( as in 'scented sweet Viola odorata). Afriican Violets, I mean Saintpaulia are tropical-alpine plants,  found in the mountains, in cloud mists, and they are not even remotely related to any true violet.

Cosmic Blast, a variety from Lyndon Lyon Greenhouses, a specialist grower

An entire group of hybrids have pinkish variegation, and wait until you see the spotted flowers. Exhibition
varieties are so superior to commercial varieties, that once you see them, you may never think about
African Violets in quite the same way again.

Taxonomists have placed Saintpaulia firmly into the foundation of the plant family known as Gesneriadaceae - the gesneriads. Youv'ew heard of them by other names.  Gloxinia ( siningia), the Cape Primrose ( Streptocarpus or 'Strep's', as the collectors call them  and the many, many other genus within this fascinating plant family.  The Gesneriad Society itself is a serious group of plant collectors - perhaps even too serious for me, up there with the Orchid people, but I've found that although the fine, serious Gesneriad collectors are serious, the African Violet collectors remain isolated, often holding their own shows, and trading plants on-line. Clearly, the African Violet collectors are a different breed. Sort of like comfort food chefs, amongst gourmet chefs. Serious, but in their own friendly way. A secret club ( just search on eBay for African Violet leaves), and you will see what I mean.

Easy to grow, African Violets don't demand much - basically, they enjoy the same temperature we enjoy - near 70º F
I keep mine under artificial lights ( check out the Artichoke seedlings, which enjoy the warmth indoors)

This past autumn, I purchased about 30 plants from Rob's Violets, and from some collectors on eBay. African Violets can be found in most garden centers, nurseries and even in your local super market - but these are common varieties - I wanted the collector forms. New crosses, new selections, new or unusual colors and forms - types that one would never find unless one attended an African Violet show. My plants arrived small ( as they tend to come), as they were propagated recently, but this weekend, as I carefully repotted them from their tiny Dixie cups and recycled take out containers in which home collectors propagated them in, and placed them into 4 inch pots, I am starting to see why these new and rarer selections are so beautiful. They foliage, which can be variegated or tinted, ruffled or pink dappled with green, is beautiful, and they have yet to bloom.

A page from the site Lyndon Lyon, a fine breeder, grower and seller of choice African violets.
"These ain't your grandmother's African Violets"

One can grow African Violets indoors ( not in a greenhouse), for they love the same temperatures that we do - hovering around 70 degrees. There is no trick to success, other than to avoid direct sun in the spring and summer, and to keep the plants constantly moist ( never wet) and never dry, not an easy task to achieve, as one may think - especially in the winter. Many home growers create elaborate wicking devices with twine, yard, thread and vessels of water. I tried this, but I have resorted to judicious watering with a long-tipped funnel watering can, as any cold water splashed onto the leaves, will spot. But don't be afraid of getting water onto the leaves, I give my plants a warm ( tepid) rinse each week in the kitchen sink, just after I pour the tea, plate the biscuits and feed saucers of warms milk to my 12 cats....ahem.

There is so much to write about African Violets, but I will save details about the many new types and floral forms for a later post, but just to entice you - the selection is enourmous- there are miniatures which are teensy, there are new Russian varieties that are spectacular, striped forms, some with flower so large they can be measured in inches, there are some mutated from radiation, there are amazing variegated leaf forms with leaf colors that are pink, yellow and white,  and there are even new yellow flowered varieties - or at least, yellow enough to be considered.......um, yellowish?  For more information, visit the African Violet Society website.

January 21, 2013

January Greenhouse Tour

Sunday I spent much of my afternoon making labels for my cyclamen collection. The second from the right is really
Cyclamen africanum, and not C. hederifolium. The two are always difficult to identify.

I spent the weekend working in the greenhouse, which just meant that I watered, sowed seeds, fertilized the Nerine and Cyclamen - which is when I noticed that many of the cyclamen did not have labels. Labeling Cyclamen is one of those tasks that I usually remember to do in mid July when I am repotting the collection, which doesn't really help. I can identify many just by looking at their tuber (bulb), but I still cannot properly ID them by leaf pattern. So as I had the label maker out in the greenhouse already, I thought that I would take an extra hour and label all of the cyclamen pots. This way I can tell which ones to keep ( the silver and arrowhead shaped forms) and which ones to relocate outdoors. Of course, you all know me... this lead to me puttering with other things...

December 11, 2012

Chinese Collections Bloom under Glass

Camellia 'Kitty', one of the earliest of the winter camellias to bloom in my greenhouse. On a cold, rainy day, it brightens up a shady bench.
 I finally could not escape the nasty chest cold virus that has been going around, so obviously, I have not been blogging nor taking photos since last weekend. Today, I was able to sneak out a bit in the afternoon to fill the bird feeders and to water the greenhouse a bit, and to grab a lemon or two for my tea ( oh God, I'm starting to sound old!), and I was surprised that on these - the shortest days of the year, there is much in bloom under glass.

A majority of the blooming shrubs and plants right now are Chinese, where the South African spring blooming ( fall blooming here) plants have begun to wind down, there is a break when most of what is in bloom is Asian. Camellia, Asian primula, citrus seed to dominate.  I am always struck at how many plants I now associate with specific seasons, in much the same way that one associates Lilacs with April or Trillium with May, I associate Chinese Primroses with December and January, or Camellias with January and February. These repeat visitors are like old friends, like any other garden plant, but only with us for a brief week or two on the gardening calendar.

Primula forbessii is one of two known annual species of Primrose native to Yunnan and northern Burma. Monocarpic yet sometimes self-seeding in the same pot, the species is closely related to P. malacoides, the once popular Fairy Primrose which was so common in cool greenhouses at the turn of the last century.

I've been primula species - deficient this past year, just out of lazyness, and not from a lack of seed, for as any visitor knows, our cheese drawer in the fridge is jam packed with primula seed! I did sow a few trays of pots this autumn, which I will bring back into the greenhouse around Christmas to germinate, and I am ordering some newly collected species to sow from Jelitto ( since they are pre-chilled) and some from the finest source of hybrid primula - Barnahaven Primroses in France, but I fear that the only primrose that I will have in bloom this winter is this P. forbessii ( and maybe a few P. obconica that I was able to carry through the summer heat).
In a few weeks, this pot of Primula forbessii will be in full bloom. First flowered in England in 1891 in the alpine house at Kew, today it can only be found in the greenhouses and collections of plant collectors, as it requires annual seeding and demands a cool, moist environment. I was lucky that my plant self seeded last spring.

My Meyer Lemon crop was small this year ( I really think that I need to get a few more trees in the greenhouse). With only about 25 lemons, I still should have enough to last for tea through most of the winter, but not enough for Lemon curd or Lemon Merengue Pie this year.

The tiniest citrus in the greenhouse is this pea sized kumquat, Fortunella hindsii. Virtually doll-house sized oranges.
This Kumquat, or Fortunella  species is rarely seen today, but it is a common plant in Hong Kong ( it's the one you see outside the windows when taking the train to the top of Victoria Mountain and often called the "Hong Kong Kumquat.) In China it has been pickled ( but then, what hasn't), and preserved, but with pea-sized fruit, it's more of an ornamental - a thorny one - than anything else. Each fruit holds a single or pair of large seeds.

July 29, 2012

My 'Oh So Fancy' Weeds. That's Right, Weeds.

Plantago barbata - a toothed slender leaved plantain from Chile, growing in an alpine trough.

Plantago major 'Variegata'. The variegated form of our common lawn weed, the common plantain.

My friend Glen Lord, a plantsman from central Massachusetts who lives not far from me, shared some seed and seedling of variegated weeds. He goes in for such things, anything variegated, odd dwarfy things, and weeds that are interested, such as these common plantains in mutated forms. Glen also loves dandelions, the red leaved ones, variegated ones, and he even entered one as a bonsai in the New England Spring Flower show...and won! Sure, Glen is also a very talented bonsai master, as well as a knowledgable horticulturist, but I have to admit, these weeds he gave me are pretty interesting.

Plantago major 'rubra' or 'rubrifolia', a red leaved species which get's brighter if grown in full sunshine
 With the intense heat and heavy rains over the past weekend, it seems all I've been doing is weeding, weeding and weeding. Crab grass seems to grow 12 inches after just one thunderstorm, but these plantains from the other side of the tracks are helping me feel a little differently about some weeds.

Plantago major 'rolularis',  a plantain with green produces these odd rosettes. Amazing, right?

This rosette form is like a green auricula primrose.
Plantago major 'rosularis'
Plantago major ' Frills' As fine as any alpine plant, growing in one of our small troughs on the deck

Phytolacca americana -"Variegata' a variegated Pokeweed - I dare not plant these in the garden, but in the greenhouse, they are OK.
The green flowered Nicotiana, N. langdorfii, is a weed that I don't mind seeding around here and there. It's not really a weed, but it does survive our winters, emerging in the warmer crevices in the bluestone walk. 

This Nicotiana plant came up in between the bricks, and although I know that I need to pull it as it is the common tobacco. I am impressed with its size. I have two nicotiana species that self seed around the greenhouse, and this is one I do not want, where the green flowered N. langdorfii I love, and try to keep those seedlings everywhere.

I did find this variegated ( or virused?) Oxalis while weeding the tomatoes today! I know, it's probably just a virus but I  left it anyway.

And just in case you are wondering if I have regular weeds........