Friday, November 14, 2014

Fall Highlights

Well, the first snow has fallen and winter has officially arrived! Here is a retrospective of some of this fall's highlights...


Calamint and Sedum are in full bloom on my front entry walk. Nepeta, Heuchera, Hellebores, and a golden Chamaecyparis provide foliage color contrasts as well.

Calamint, Sedum, Heuchera, Chamaecyparis
My Eglantyne rose continued to bloom well into the fall. It is a monster - I've attempted to strap it to an obelisk here, with perhaps limited success.

'Eglantyne' Rose
I planted some Fall crocus among the galium. Only a few came up, and the bloom was pretty but fleeting - I think they lasted only two or three days. Still, potentially worth it for the brief splash of color.

Fall crocus
My hardy chrysanthemums all miraculously survived last year's brutal winter! Here is 'Mary Stoker', which has a lovely butter yellow color but a somewhat tall, sparse habit. It tends to flop after a rain. I suppose I need to try cutting it back in mid-summer.

Chrysanthemum 'Mary Stoker'
Here is Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield Yellow', which despite the name is not yellow but a lovely peachy-apricot. I have it growing right next to 'Sheffield', a pink aster which blooms several weeks later.

Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield Yellow'
My tibetan clematis (Clematis tangutica) blooms throughout most of the summer and well into fall as well. I actually like it in fall best, since the mix of yellow bell-shaped flowers and crazy space poofs makes such a pleasing contrast. This is a very large clematis that is easy to care for and fills out nicely every year. Highly recommended if you have the space.

Clematis tangutica 'Bill MacKenzie'


My quince tree bore fruit for the first time this year! There were only five fruits - not a grand harvest, but still very exciting. It was just enough for one batch of quince cheese (a kind of jelly-like candy). Yum!

Quince 'Aromatnaya'
The sedum have now faded to a brick red color. Here they are with Japanese Anemone 'Alice', which is growing in a bit now and put on a grand show this year. Anemones are slow growers but get better year after year. I like 'Alice's big double blooms.

Sedum and Anemone 'Alice'
Many plants are starting to show bright fall color. Here is bright orange and scarlet Mukdenia rosii, a cute little woodland plant that is unfortunately rather pricey.

Mukdenia rossii
Platycodon (Balloon flower) has attractive yellow foliage in the fall. It makes a nice contrast with the deep blue of Aconitum. The Aconitum gets very tall and floppy, but I'm not sure if cutting back is effective with this plant.

Aconitum fischeri with Platycodon foliage
Belamcanda is sometimes called Blackberry lily because of its beautiful fall seedheads, which do almost look like blackberries. An attractive plant in all its stages - in flower, leaf, and seed.

Belamcanda chinensis with seedpods
Not all hostas develop fall color. Some just wither away and die one day with no apparent warning. But 'Blue Angel' always develops these lovely yellow rings that persist for weeks. A classic and one of my favorite hostas overall.

Hosta 'Blue Angel' displaying fall color
Most tree peonies do not have much in the way of fall color either. But some cultivars do - it depends. This one - a classic Chinese cultivar called 'Luoyang Hong' (Red of Luoyang) always develops lovely red splotches. This year they were particularly lovely!

Tree peony 'Luoyang Hong' - fall color

Of course no discussion of fall color is complete without one of these fellows - Amsonia hubrichtii. It truly glows in fall, and makes a lovely textural addition to the garden in other seasons.

Amsonia hubrichtii - fall color
Finally, I enjoyed this red-on-red combo: Chrysanthemum 'Glowing Ember', a very large and late blooming chrysanthemum, next to the brilliant purplish-ruby foliage of Physocarpus 'Coppertina' (Ninebark).

Chrysanthemum 'Glowing Ember' and Physocarpus 'Coppertina' in Fall

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

More Peonies

It's still peony time here as my mid and late-season herbaceous peonies are blooming!

Peony Bed in June

This is 'Vivid Rose', a big late season double pink. I just love its intense color and flower form. The blooms are quite heavy but it has pretty strong stems, so overall not as droopy as one might expect. Fragrance is sweet and strong.

Peony 'Vivid Rose'

My 'Myrtle Gentry' is a soft shell pink, also with enormous double blooms of a very soft texture. A bit more floppy than Vivid Rose, but holds up alright with support. This is their third year in my garden, so they are starting to bulk up and put on a nice show this year.

Peony 'Myrtle Gentry'

I also have an unkown inherited peony, a midseason soft double pink. It has a ring of creamy petals just above the guard petals. It is growing in almost complete shade and I'm amazed that the poor thing blooms at all. Not sure if I should move it or what. It is a sweet old-fashioned flower, but not as fine as some of the newer varieties available IMHO. It is at least 20 years old or more, planted by the original owners of the house.

Unknown midseason pink peony

Finally, I'm very excited that my intersectional hybrid peony 'Bartzella' is blooming this year for the first time! It has three big stunning blooms, a soft yellow with reddish interior streaks. This is its second year in my garden.

Intersectional Hybrid peony 'Bartzella'

The fragrance of 'Bartzella' is often described as "lemony" in garden books. I don't detect anything remotely similar to lemon, but it does have a soft fragrance that one might describe as herbal. Pleasant and unusual, though not really floral in character at all.

Peony 'Bartzella'

I thought I would like the yellow with the blue iris nearby, but it is the wrong yellow for that, so I will have to move things (the iris, not the peony!). I think it actually looks better with reds and oranges than blues. 'Bartzella' forms a very tidy rounded clump of foliage and looks great all season. In spring the foliage emerges a bronzey-olive. Fades in summer to a fine mid-green.

Peony 'Bartzella' - spring foliage, with tulips (early May)
Peony 'Bartzella' - clump of green foliage in late May
Intersectional hybrid peonies have foliage and flowers that look like tree peonies, but die back down to the ground in winter like herbaceous peonies. They used to be quite expensive, and new introductions still carry a high price in the first few years. But 'Bartzella' and some others are more widely available now, and the price is very reasonable. Well worth growing!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Late Spring Perennial Combos

A brief interlude from the peony avalanche... here is an assortment of pleasing combinations of perennials from throughout the garden in late May and early June.

Cotinus 'Velvet Cloak' with Euphorbia polychroma and the puffy seedpods of Pulsatilla vulgaris

I love the fabulous foliage of Cotinus 'Velvet Cloak' (Ok so this is technically a shrub...) with Euphorbia polychroma (Cushion Spurge).

Cotinus 'Velvet Cloak' with Euphorbia polychroma (Cushion Spurge)

The spurge looks splendid with anything strong enough to stand up to it - here with the strongly-colored magenta Geranium 'Patricia'. The spurge bracts are fading, while the geranium is just coming into bloom.

Euphorbia polychroma (Cushion spurge) with Geranium 'Patricia'

Ice-blue Amsonia hubrichtii (Bluestar) with bright magenta Geranium sanguineum (Bloody Cranesbill) 'Shepherd's Warning'. I imagine some might object to this rather odd color combo, but I love it. The neat dome of foliage in the background is calamint. The amsonia grows slowly - this is a young plant, still quite small.

Amsonia hubrichtii with Geranium sanguineum 'Shepherd's Warning'

Geraniums light up the garden in their subtle way in late May-June. Here is another: softest pink Geranium 'Biokovo' behind Sedum 'Autumn Fire'.

Sedum 'Autumn Fire' with Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' in late May
The intense magenta color of Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevan's Variety' might not work everywhere. But I do like it in the shady spot under a lilac, behind Thuja occidentalis 'Hetz Midget'. 

Thuja occidentalis 'Hetz Midget' with Geranium macrorrhizum (Bigroot Geranium) 'Bevan's Variety'
This is Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle), with as yet unopened buds, and one of my favorite geraniums: purple flowered 'Nimbus' with fine, cutleaf foliage.

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) with Geranium 'Nimbus'

 In my shade garden, little bluebells are blooming near the Ostrich Ferns. Some Galium odoratum are still in bloom at their feet.

Ostrich fern with Spanish bluebells and Galium odoratum
In this shady spot, blue phlox divaricata perfumes the air while tumbling through a male fern.

Phlox divaricata 'Blue Moon' with Male fern

Another effective shade garden combo is Carex 'Banana Boat' with a brown-burgandy Heuchera, such as this 'Melting Fire'. Nearby companions are Epimedium 'Amber Queen' and Hellebore 'Ivory Prince'.

Carex 'Banana Boat' with Heuchera 'Melting Fire'

A blue self-seeded Aquilegia (Columbine) complements the yellow leaves of this unknown hosta cultivar.

Blue columbine with yellow-edged hosta

Finally, here is a peony for you after all - I love how the hybrid 'Coral Sunset' looks with the blooms of Filipendula hexapetala (Meadowsweet) 'Flore Plena'. The pinky-peach of the meadowsweet buds match the faded color of the peony exactly.

Peony 'Coral Sunset' with Filipendula hexapetala (Meadowsweet) 'Flore Plena'

This year it rained heavily just as soon as this peony began blooming, so the blooms did not last as long as usual. The tall stems of the Meadowsweet also bent over awkwardly. I'm not sure how to support this plant - but it looks lovely at any angle.

Filipendula hexapetala (Meadowsweet) 'Flore Plena'

Here is the deep coral color of the peony before it faded in the rain:

Peony 'Coral Sunset' - newly opened flower

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tree Peony 'Toichi Ruby'

I encountered this incredibly beautiful tree peony on a recent visit to Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Tree peony 'Toichi Ruby'

This is a relatively recent introduction, hybridized by Toichi Domoto and Roy Klehm. The color is just fantastic, and the flower form and presentation on the bush are also excellent. (The color is coming out more pink in the pictures - in real life it appeared to be more of a delicious cherry-pop red.)

Tree peony 'Toichi Ruby'

It appears to be a very profuse bloomer. I'm not sure how old these plants are, but this section of Olbrich has only been installed in the last couple years, so they can't be at full maturity yet. I took about 3000 pictures of it. :-)

Tree peony 'Toichi Ruby'

As a bonus, they had a light but very beguiling sweet fragrance, reminiscent of old garden roses. Unusual for what seems to be a (typically scentless) Japanese type of tree peony! I wonder if it has some Chinese/rockii in its blood...

Tree peony 'Toichi Ruby'

By far my favorite tree peony in Olbrich's collection to date - they have several others (see my earlier post about them), most in various nauseating shades of mauve. With its strong bright color, 'Toichi Ruby' would have to be placed with care in the garden - but I'd personally be willing to banish anything that clashed to another part of the yard to accommodate this diva!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tree Peonies in Bloom

The tree peonies have been blooming throughout the past week! Tree peony season is my favorite time of the garden year.

Tree peonies in bloom

A bit later than usual this year, due to the cool spring I suppose. This is Luoyang Hong (Luoyang Red), a very reliable magenta tree peony.

Tree peony 'Luoyang Hong'

It is only 5-6 years old this year, but is blooming quite well for a young'un. I believe it had 7 flowers this year.

Tree peony 'Luoyang Hong'

I adore this white tree peony called Xiang Yu (Fragrant Jade). It is fragrant indeed - sweet and strong yet delicate in texture. It is the most fragrant tree peony I have ever encountered.

Tree peony 'Xiang Yu'

It is a tall, slender peony with large flowers that get tousled by the wind. It is 5-6 years old this year and had 7 blooms.

Tree peony 'Xiang Yu'

I love its striking red carpels and filaments.

Tree peony 'Xiang Yu'

My so-called "black" (really dark maroon-red) tree peony blooms a bit later than the other two in this area. It usually overlaps with them but starts in later. It has not yet opened all its blooms.

Tree peony 'Wu Jin Yao Hui'

The petals of this one have a unique shiny luster. It is difficult to photograph because the color is so dark. "Black" tree peonies are generally slow growing. This one is about 9 years old and has 10 flowers this year. It has an intriguing, musky-sweet fragrance, very "peony" like. This variety has some flowers at the top of the plant, but some buried inside the bush.

Tree peony 'Wu Jin Yao Hui' with Rue, Candytuft, and Lamb's Ears

I'm very excited that my new Rockii peony bloomed this year. This is its first spring in my garden, so it's a treat to have even one bloom.
Paeonia rockii 'Rock's Variety'

Rockii peonies can grow quite large and have many blooms. It has a pleasant, sweet fragrance (although not nearly as strong as Xiang Yu). Aren't those purple blotches fabulous?

Paeonia rockii 'Rock's Variety'

My one small disappointment is that my fifth tree peony (a coral-pink variety called Shan Hu Tai, or Coral Terrace) has no buds this year. Bummer! This is its second spring in my garden, and the plant is probably about 4 years old, so I was hoping for a sample flower. But this is not unusual for tree peonies - some do not bloom until they are 5-6 years old. The foliage looks healthy and the plant is growing well, so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed for next year...
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