September 9, 2011

Smokeless tobacco, and it's pink

 I don't know where it came from, but I have two Tobacco plants blooming in the bed infront of the greenhouse, and they are surprisingly pretty, if not a little horsey and large. They may have arrived in a packet of seed I planted a few years ago of Nicotiana sylvestris, a more fragrant and more ornamental species of Nicotiana, but I am not sure. The cultivated tobacco known as Nicotiana tabacum is not a plant found in the wild, rather, it is believed to be a selected hybrid of Nicotiana sylvestris and N. tomentosiformis. Regardless of how these plants arrived in my garden, I am please with their show, and their strength - I forgot to stake them during last weeks hurricane, and they withstood the 50 MPH winds just fine.
It's tall, hairy stems and large sticky leaves are ornamental even without blossoms, but the flowers are a nice shade of pink and will bloom in my garden until the first frost. Self seeding might be a problem for some, so plant carefully.

September 5, 2011

Order These Fall-Blooming Bulbs Today

Colchicum autumnale var. alboplenum from White Flower Farm

Colchicum species - a last minute buy if you are lucky. For what ever reason, many of us wait until it is too late, and the window of opportunity for ordering these fall blooming bulbs is slim.

For many online retailers, it is too late to order Colchicum, but I still try, even last minute. Last night I scored a dozen white double Colchicum autumnale var. alboplenum, so I say - go try for even if the bulbs are sent in bud, they will survive to bloom even better next autumn.

There are a handful of Colchicum ( often called autumn-blooming crocus, but they are botanically not a crocus, yet to confuse new gardeners more, there are also, autumn blooming crocus. Both are valuable garden plants often over-looked by many gardeners.). This year, I ordered the hard to find white form of 'The Waterliliy' Colchicum, but there are many to choose from and although it is late to mail order, you may still try ( I ordered some last night).  So try something different, and, something that will be bloom in a few weeks, just be sure to plant your bulbs as soon as they arrive, if you order today from McClure & Zimmerman, Brent and Becky's or any other bulb merchant.  My bulbs of Colchicum Autumnale Var. Alboplenum will be planted on Margaret's grave as a nice reminder every September, but you might try finding a spot under a shrub or in a border where you can enjoy their surprise gift. Just note the Colchicum growth habit of foliage in the spring, which will go brown and die by the end of June, and remember where you planted them if you plant annuals or hosta, for you do want to leave room for their flowers in the fall.

Not often seen in gardens, Sternbergia lutea makes a great show, in containers or in a rock garden. Don't expect this sort of perfection as shown in the image above, it was clearly set-up as a Dutch promo shot, but in the garden, the clumps appear more like crocus, and really stand out in the autumn sunshine.
Sternbergia lutea

Sternbergia is perhaps the most overlooked of the fall bulbs commonly available. You will see them listed and fall yellow crocus or Sternbergia lutea, which essentially is a brilliant flowered crocus-like flower that many of us may overlook while flipping pages in a bulb catalog,  but mark my words, on a cool, sunny September afternoon when you see a clump in bloom in your garden, you will be thanking me. They are always impressive in bloom. I adore their waxy, yellow petals which always surprise me with their intensity. Sternbergia is  a bulb plant that you will greatly appreciate once you grow it.  Your neighbors will not have this one, so plant some near the entrance to your house. I grow mine in pots, so I can move them around for displays of fall-blooming bulbs. Again, order today, I am surprised that they are still shipping.

Fall Blooming Crocus.

Come on! Get on board with these guys, they are so worth it! Once you see a full clump of fall crocus, your garden will never be without them, and there are many species to choose from ( also, great in pots in you have a greenhouse, and if not, try potting up some just for fall container displays, and then plant in the ground after they bloom. A great way to enjoy Colchicum and fall-blooming crocus. Yes, Saffron is from a particular fall-blooming crocus ( Crocus speciosus). I am growing Crocus kotschyanus, Crocus medius, Crocus ochroleucus, Crocus pulchellus (honey scented from the Balkans), Crocus laevigatus fontenayi (from Greece,scented like Freesia and blooms in November - also for small pots perhaps for Thanksgiving porch display), various Crocus speciosus varieties ( there are many, depending on where you order them, but all are wonderful and are more hardy and cost-efficient if your want to grow a drift under a shrub near an entrance or in a bed. Lastly, I am ordering Crocus sativus, the saffron of trade which comes from the stigma.

September 3, 2011

Welcome, White Rain Lilies, Welcome.

Tis the season for Rain Lilies, Zephyranthes candida, one of those bulbs I cannot live without for its carefree surprise blooms in late summer, after heavy downpours or drenching hurricane rains. Actually, they are triggered more by temperature and day length, as well as late summer rains, like many bulbs that bloom in the autumn. Native to Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile it is also known as the Peruvian Swamp Lily, Zephyr flower or August lily.  With many other species and hybrids to choose from this is the easiest and more floriferous, I believe. Try some in a container that you can bring into a frost free garage or cellar for the winter if you are in Zone 6 or lower ( I toss my pots under the greenhouse bench where they spend the winter).  I do like the romance  and idea of a lily that blooms after a rainstorm. If ever I needed white peaceful flowers, it is right now. Welcome, Rain Lilies. Welcome.