Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chrysanthemum Chorus

In an effort to add more flower power to my fall garden, I added several new hardy chrysanthemum varieties last year.

Chrysanthemum 'Glowing Ember'

These are all (*supposedly*) true perennial chrysanthemum types that really are winter hardy and will return for many years. Of course we have to take any claims about chrysanthemums with a grain (or bucket) of salt, so we'll see.

Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield'

In this, their first year of bloom, all were small and sparse, but they flowered nicely and did liven up the fall.

Chrysanthemum 'Glowing Ember' with foliage of Ninebark 'Coppertina' behind

Of course, I could also add some fall asters. I do love the flowers - especially the blues! But I have a zero tolerance policy for yucky mildewy foliage, and am also not thrilled with the idea of digging and dividing those suckers every other year. Hopefully the hardy chrysanths will fill the gap.

Chrysanthemum 'Mammoth Lavender'

I was mightily impressed by 'Mammoth Lavender', which, despite not being the 'Mammoth Coral' that I had actually ordered, had REALLY huge flowers and bloomed profusely for what seemed like forever, from early September to late October! It was truly a stunner in the garden. Now watch this be the one that doesn't pull through the winter...

Chrysanthemum 'Mary Stoker'. Foliage of tree peony, iris cristata, and geranium wlassovianum behind.

I planted 'Mary Stoker' here next to the geranium wlassovianum, because I thought its butter yellow blooms would look ravishing next to the blue/purple geranium. Naturally, the geranium was all bloomed out by the time Mary got going in late September. HOWEVER, the yellow flowers with red geranium foliage actually ended up being a more pleasing color combo than the one I had planned.

Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield'

Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield Yellow'

The coral-pink 'Sheffield' was planted two seasons ago, but since I thought it hadn't returned last year, I "replaced" it with its cousin 'Sheffield Yellow' (which is really more of a peach) in the same spot. It turned out both plants were alive and kicking, and ended up growing all tiggledy-piggledy on top of one another. I'm going to have to move one (if I can separate them!) - ack, how to decide. Both bloomed from late September into October last year.

Chrysanthemum 'Glowing Ember' and Ninebark 'Coppertina'

Finally, last to bloom for me (in mid-November last year - although it was a warm, late Autumn) was 'Glowing Ember'.  It had very lovely dark buds of an unusual deep coral red color, followed by oddly shaped rusty peach blooms. I liked it with the deep red-burgundy of the nearby ninebark. If both of these fill out in the future, the effect should be lovely.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Clematis Status

It's late March and there is still plenty of snow on the ground which is taking its SWEET time to melt. I'm suffering from a bad case of spring fever, and no way to scratch the garden itch yet. I'll try to tide myself over here with some catch-up posts from last season.

I've been slowly adding to my clematis collection, and very pleased with how the plants are progressing so far. Two of my two-year olds shot up tall and bloomed profusely last year:

Etoile Violette - this is a VERY dark purple. Perhaps too dark - the color recedes too much for my taste in the garden, especially against the brown fence :-( However, it is a healthy viticella type and a robust grower.

Clematis 'Etoile Violette'

In its second year in my garden it grew to the top of the privacy fence and began swirling around the corner a bit. My hope is to eventually train it laterally in a big swathe heading in both directions at the top. (And maybe I should paint the fence a lighter color to make the flower color stand out more??)

Clematis 'Etoile Violette'

Mrs. Robert Brydon is an herbaceous, non-climbing type of clematis with unusual large leaves. This past year it grew quite big - not so much tall as wide and bushy - but I managed to harness it to this trellis and lash it to the railing of my deck. I must have gone through several balls of twine to keep this baby in place.

Chunky leaves of clematis 'Mrs. Robert Brydon' beginning to climb the trellis in June

By late August it was absolutely covered in small, starry blue flowers and buzzing with bees. I really liked the effect, although it was a bit of work to keep tying the stems up higher and higher. This plant definitely would prefer to sprawl downwards. But in the end we could see the grand floral display from both the upper and lower levels of the deck, so it does work well in this spot for us.

Clematis 'Mrs. Robert Brydon'. You can see the twine in this picture!

My other viticella hybrid, Blekitny Aniol, increased somewhat in size this past year (its second year in my garden as well), but still seems tentative about its new home.

Clematis 'Blekitny Aniol', with lilies and a sea of rhubarb at its feet

Part of the problem may be that the squirrels have taken to using its trellis as a ladder, and sometimes accidentally break stems in their vigorous scrambling. Still, I do like the soft lavender color of the flowers and am hoping this year will see a burst of energy from this one. This one and Etoile Violette both bloom at the end of June into early July in my garden.

Clematis 'Blekitny Aniol' (Blue Angel)

The surprise clematis hit of the season was the clematis tangutica 'Bill MacKenzie'. Since it was newly planted in the spring, I did not expect it to do much or to really bloom at all. This clematis knocked my out of the park by growing up to the top of the privacy fence and then continuing along in an attractive horizontal sweep.

Clematis tangutica  'Bill MacKenzie'

It was absolutely covered in small, cheery yellow lanterns from September until October, gradually followed by fabulous, Dr. Seuss-like poofballs (seedheads). The foliage has an narrow, ferny elegance which nicely complements the blooms.

Clematis tangutica 'Bill MacKenzie'

The seedheads persisted through the winter and made a great contribution to the winter landscape. This plant supposedly gets very large - up to 20 feet or so. I am hoping it will eventually wind its way horizontally along the top of my fence. The birds seems to really enjoy this clematis - the seeds must be tasty snacks.

Clematis tangutica 'Bill MacKenzie' - seedpods in winter

My other newly-planted clematis, Cardinal Wyszynski, did not bloom in its first year (not surprisingly). I have plans to add more clematis near some of my larger roses and other shrubs, once I've given them a bit more of a head start. There are so many varieties to choose from, it's going to be hard!
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