February 11, 2012

For the love of Pinterest

Here is an arrangement for all of my fabulous followers who so kindly invited me to Pinterest. Thanks so much! So for you, I made this - A selection of heart-shaped leaves and petals from my greenhouse on an cold, overcast and snowy, winter day outside of Boston. 

  1. Cyclamen graecum leaf, on reverse side
  2. Clivia x Interspecific  - cross between C. miniata and C. caulescens ( three color versions shown), all from Mr. Nakamura in Japan.
  3. Hardenbergia violacea - old fashioned greenhouse vine, a winter-bloomer for cold greenhouses from Australia with brilliant blue-violet pea-like flowers in wintertime.
  4. A petal from a variegated Camellia.
  5. Muscari macrocarpum 'Golden Fragrance' - a fragrant, chartreuse Muscari, or grape hyacinth.
  6. Cyclamen hederifolium 'Silver Ghost' - a cyclamen with an all silver leaf.
  7. Westringia rosemarifolia - it looks like Rosemary, but it's not. Easy-to-train as topiary or as a clipped dome-shaped greenhouse shrub.
  8. Stenomesson piercii - a rare Equadorian bulb, with greenish-yellow bell shaped blossoms.
  9. Camellia - a rose form
  10. Cyclamen hederifolium - the ivy-leaved Cyclamen.
  11. Cyclamen graecum  (with a camellia sasanqua petal on it) two, heart shaped objects, the cyclamen leaf has a burgundy back-side, so I displayed it upside down.
  12. Camellia japnica 'Lipstick' - an anemone-flowered form.
  13. Rhododendron - Vireya 'Valentines day', a tropical rhododendron from Borneo
  14. Nerine undulata - a pink, graceful species of Nerine, a tiny bulb in the Amaryllis family, which is easier to grow than other species, and a winter-bloomer.

February 9, 2012


Some of the best coral easy-to-grow flowers that I can recommend are ( top left, clockwise) Dahlia 'Beach Bum', Dahlia 'Coral Gypsy', Zinnia Benary's Giant Salmon Rose, Sweet Pea 'Valerie Harrod', Zinnia 'Dreamland Coral' and Diascia 'Coral Belle'.

The wedding and design blogs are obsessed with coral and poppy colors, Pinterest ( will someone please invite me?!) has hundreds of pins just based on coral and poppy, but what are the best. most growable flowers that fit in this palette? My designer friends ask me more about what coral colored flowers they can grow than most anything else, so I thought that I might as well share my thoughts, concerns, as well as some suggestions about what plants are truly growable, and which ones to forget.
New Diascia varieties come in the perfect shade of coral. Not great cut flowers, they are great for early spring plantings in the ground, or in containers.

Plant and seed catalogs can be very misleading, and unless you have grown most every plant, more often than not, new gardeners are disappointed in the results they get when the order plants based off nothing more than a photo in a catalog, or a post on a wedding blog. The truth is, choosing flowering plants simply based on color choice is very challenging, so I will share what I know, as well as some expertise on color, from my perspective as both a graphic designer, and, as a gardener who has some experience.
Slightly more challenging to grow - (Clockwise) Peony 'Coral Charm', Peony, 'Coral Magic', Sweet Pea 'Mollie Rilestone', Echinacea ' Coral Reef', Larkspur ' Sublime Salmon', Papaver Oriental Poppy 'Salmon'.

Recent color trends are showing a lot of coral and poppy, both in fashion and in the cut-flower trade. I just want to be a voice of reality here - these are not common colors in the floral world, at least as growable annuals and perennials, and, especially as home-grown cut flowers.

Here are the facts to note:  Professional cut-flower growers are fast, as are plant breeders, and some very nice coral cut flowers have been introduced for greenhouse culture, but few of us can grow coral Gerbera or salmon and peach roses. Also, you must think about timing. I tried to group my suggestions buy season, since many people might order randomly from a wide variety of catalogs, not realizing that peony will bloom only for a single week in early June, and a salmon rose may only bloom for a single week in early July. Then, of course, there are Dahlias and Zinnias which bloom at the end of summer, and sweet peas in June and July, so imagining arrangements with roses, peonies, dahlias and sweet peas all together is completely unrealistic, so try to plan your cut flowers by flowering season.
Dahlias, in late summer from my garden in years past. I love combining coral tones with magenta, it allows me to have many options, rather than growing an odd and impractical blend that one often sees with dahlias, of yellow, white, primrose, red, rust and orange. Choosing a more attractive palette makes all the difference.Try pairing these with burgundy colored foliage.

If you are growing Salmon and Coral colored flowers, you will need this precise shade of periwinkle, which I can only find in one variety of an imported Spencer variety of Sweet Pea, called 'Bristol'. Want to grow them? Check out Tony's site called Tony The Gardener for a step-by-step method that not only produced lots of cut flowers, it also looks great in the garden - order your seeds now- this color is sublime!

Coral and poppy colors flowers do look best when paired with darker tones of pink, deep magenta tones and periwinkle, so you may want to plan on planting some complimentary colors like this, as well as lime colored foliage.

Here are my best recommendations for salmon, poppy and coral colored flowers. You will notice that poppies are not included ( except the one photo of an oriental poppy, which too, I would not suggest as an option since all poppies make horrible cut flowers, lasting only a day when cut in water. Save them for the garden.

The newer Diascia varieties are some of the greatest coral colored plants, and they can be cut for small vases, but generally, they are only good as bedding plants in the early spring. Diascia are fine choices for cool-season gardens in California, or in the greenhouse - in the north, look for them in March and plant out early like pansies, and then toss them when the weather becomes hot. Two good ones are available mail order from Joy Creek Nurseries, named Coral Belle and Coral Rose. Park Seed company offers a zinnia called Dreamland, and one selection is coral, although the photo does not do it justice, believe me, it's pretty close to coral - on the darkish reddish toned side of coral but it enhances arrangements. True coral is such a difficult color to achieve. Zinnia Benary's Giant is available at many seed sources, try Sunrise seeds or Harris Seeds. This is one of the finest bright coral colored flowers for mid to late summer bouquets. Try Benary's Giant Salmon Rose as a nice color to accompany the brighter coral colors.

Zinnias and Dahlias

Of all of the flowers that are easy to grow, which come in coral, Dahlias and Zinnias offer the most value, for not only are they easy to grow, and provide you with lots of flowers, they produce flowers for a long period of time, whereas flowers like Peonies only bloom for a week or two. Swan Island Dahlias offers a tremendous variety of Dahlias ( it's where I order mine from), and you can easily assemble a collection based on a few tones of color.
Dahlias come in many coral colors, many of which look best when combined with a blend of pink and magenta tones, and violet color varieties. These, which I grew three years ago, so how effective a simple restrained color palette can be.

All of these are terrific for mid to late summer bloom ( except the peony varieties)

Dahlias - Coral Gypsy, Tempest, Beach Bum
Zinnia - Benary's Giant Coral
Zinnia - Benary's Giant Salmon Rose
Zinnia - Dreamland Coral
Echinacea 'Coral Reef' PPAF available at good nurseries
Peony - Coral Charm from Klem's Song Sparrow Nursery
Peony - Coral Magic also from Klem's Song Sparrow Nursery


All of these are June and early July flowering plants.

Sweet Peas - Valerie Harrod - Order from England, at Owls Acre Sweet Peas
Diascia ( not for cut flower, only for beds) Coral Belle, and Coral Rose. Buy as started plants in spring.
Clarkia elegans - 'Apple Blossom' from Thompson & Morgan - Sow where it will grow, thin, do not transplant. Cool Growing.
Larkspur - Sublime Salmon available as a single color from Johnny's Selected Seeds Sow where it is to grow and do not transplant.
Sweet Pea Mollie Rilestone from Thompson & Morgan
Poppies, try Papaver somniverum as an annual ( sow where it is to grow) or plant long-lived Oriental Poppies in coral colors.

Almost impossible to grow unless you live in northern California or Oregon - ( or England) is Clarkia elegans, one of the most delightful coral colored flowers. Cool growing, never wanting to go over 55 deg. F, sow where it will grow, and do not transplant it since it must form a tap root. These look like tissue paper flowers.

February 7, 2012

A Clivia cross marks mid-season


Known as Clivia Interspecific Group, these crosses between two species of the common houseplant clivia, are often crosses between an autumn blooming species such as C. caulescens, and a spring blooming species, like C. miniata. The autumn blooming species have pendant, slender blossoms with greenish tips to the petals, and the spring blooming C. miniata, which we are all familar with, have larger, wide blossoms. These crosses have a little of both, and are variable. Look for them at plant collector sales, or cross your own ( it's not that hard, and the berries are easy to clean and plant, since the seed is large, looking very much like a macadamia nut).

Clivia are long-lasting, sturdy house plants, and they bloom indoors if you can provide them with a cool, bright room where the daylight will trigger bud formation ( meaning - no lamps near by, nor street lights - these are plants that need to experience the natural progression of day length in the spring, or the shorter day length in autumn). Allowing them to go dry all winter, is incorrect, and will not stimulate these South African plants to bloom. What triggers them is temperature shifts from day to night, and day length. It's the only way that they will know that it is spring, or autumn ( or mid-winter, as in this case!).