28 Aug 2014

PP: Plant Pontificating - Strobilanthes attenuata 'Purpurea'

 Are you like me, and I don't mean in the way some of you are thinking! What I mean has more to do with the fact that when I discover a 'new and exciting plant' - and here I refer to new and exciting for ME - I have an overwhelming desire to shout it from the mountain tops [of which I am not sure that we have any here in Ontario] so that everyone else can hear what it is I am pontificating about. 

 I wait for the last week of August every year with bated breath, knowing that barring some sort of freak anomaly, I will be blessed with masses of steely purple blue, ram horn shaped flowers that absolutely cover the tops of what has quickly become one of my favourite late Summer stars - Strobilanthes attenuata 'Purpurea.' I don't think there is anything about this plant that I do not like.... okay, well maybe the fact that it wants to flower inside of a week - less time if there is torrential rain and wind! There are hundreds of flowers this year - the ground beneath it is like a magical tapestry of blue-purple! An interesting aside is that these are the flowers that are used to create indigo dye!

 As you can see from this photo, when it is happily located, it can form a rather substantial sized clump of what are relatively woody stems [at ground level] that rise to almost 2m in height. I love its foliage. Light to almost lime green in some cases, each elongated heart shaped leaf is lightly serrated along its edge, giving it an almost rippled appearance. Mine has never been bothered with insects that want to munch on its sublime foliage, and as I mentioned earlier, if given the space, it creates a wonderful presence in the sunnier border here at Teza's Garden. Its stems are square in appearance, causing me to wonder if it might be a distant relation of Salvia or Nepeta. There is no apparent fragrance associated with this statuesque beauty.

He is fully hardy here in my Zone 5a garden where he is cut back to the ground in late fall' and given a healthy amendment of Compost Plus in the Spring. There is a lot of confusion around this plant, hindered by the fact that most people are familiar with the tropical/annual species that is also known as 'Persian Shield.' I literally have to walk people to it to get them to understand that it is unlike its lesser annual cousin. Websites that refer to it as a perennial claim that it requires zone 6 or above, but take it from me, mine gets to special TLC outside of what I mention above, and he is getting taller and spreading with every passing year. I was somewhat worried with the harsh winter we just had, but it seems that he is bigger, healthier and more robust than ever. I only know of one vendor that supplies this charmer here in Ontario [LH] but hope to divide my plant next year and offer him for sale for my fellow rare and unusual connoisseurs. 

26 Aug 2014

Thursday Garden Review: That Once In A Lifetime Week in the Garden!

So thought I would mix things up a bit. Joy insists that her meme can be about 'anything garden related,' and as such. I have decided to look back in time to a magical week back in June, 2013, when I was blessed with one of gardening's rarest and most treasured sights!

 As Joy can tell you, I am somewhat smitten, beholden, obsessed, enamoured with the colour blue! The REAL blue that is! Do not try and foist off a mauve-purple-blue... no no no, that will not do. It has to be the true, either crystalline shimmering icy blue, or the bright summer sky blue, or, and truly, I am not overtly particular, it can be the deep rich blue you only find with Gentiana, but for the love of Mother Nature, make it BLUE! And thus begins a week in which I was gifted with what many of us consider to be the bluest of blue...... that of course being the beguiling Meconopsis, also known as the temperamental blue Himalayan poppy! I knew within my heart of hearts when I noticed three buds in the waning days of May that I might - if Mother Nature would deem it so - bear witness to the first of these beguiling yet frustrating beauties right here in Teza's Garden. Its one thing to stumble across one on the internet, or in a book, but believe you me, it is something else entirely when you can actually reach out and gently caress the slightly unfurled bud!

Most, but not all within the genus, and more so with the blue flowering species, are notoriously and frustratingly said to be monocarpic, meaning that they will flower and die. If you're lucky, the plant will set viable seed before hurling itself off of the green mortal coil. They also tend to despise hot, humid weather, much happier in areas where cool, moist conditions are prevalent throughout the summer. Having said such, its a rare treat to find them outside of the coastal regions of Canada. Those who have borne witness [Larry, Jodi, Pat, Inge] to their intoxicating beauty are usually the first to try and dissuade someone like myself from 'having your heart broken!' Problem is, blue is my signature colour in the garden, and having already mastered Corydalis and a slew of Gentiana, there really wasn't much left to challenge me...... except the elusive, Holy-Grail Meconopsis.

Blue is my signature colour for many reasons aside of it being my favourite colour, but when stripped to the most honest reason, it is because it will forever be associated with my late Grandmother, whose eyes were a magical blue. My Father and I have both been blessed with a similar hue, but hers were like no other blue I have ever come across. When both she and my Father passed within four months of one another, I was more than determined to add as many blue flowering plants to my garden repertoire as was possible, and of course, I started with this one! 'Cory' and my Gentiana were all thriving happily. so now it was time to up the ante! He unfurled his first flower on what would have been my Father's birthday, and was still blooming [three flowers in all] on the ninth of June, which was my Grandmother's birthday, and continued on well past the eleventh, which marked what I will always consider to be the 'once in a lifetime' week in the garden. Sadly, true to its frustrating nature, he did not make a return engagement this year, nor did he set seed, but for me, one who is always looking for a new challenge, I think I can set back and rest on my laurels for a while! Its even better having a visual testament of such moments. The remainder of the post still comes nowhere close to capturing their jaw dropping, stunning beauty! 

This will be the last posting, as, with life scurrying around us all, Joy has closed her meme. Its still a great blog to visit, so pop over and see what's new in Kingston!

Thursday Garden Review: Foliage - Shady Characters

 It would appear that the adage, 'time flies when you're having fun,' should be applied to this weekly meme! Joy is one of my earliest [if not the very first] readers of my blog, and through the years we have pontificated and likewise commiserated over our gardens: 'What is that crazy tall Thalictrum?' to 'How do you keep track of all of those Heuchera?' and lets not forget those damned masked vermin that took a liking to her property, but lets not dilly dally on that debacle fear we jinx her luck of late!

This week, [yes Joy, we've been at it for a month now! YAY!!] I want to talk about some of my most favourite shade loving foliage plants. When you garden in predominant shade, you get used to the idea that flowers will be fleeting, and as is the case with my garden, they are very late to appear, aside of the early blooming ephemerals! For me personally, there is nothing as important as bold, dramatic, unusual foliage when you are creating a shade garden. The photo above shows one of my favourite planting combinations that includes Acanthus hungaricus, Diphylleia cymosa, Syneilesis aconitifolia and Fallopia japonica 'Milk Boy.' Each can be considered a showcase plant in and of itself, but when placed within close proximity to one another - even I have to admit the results are nothing less than dramatic!

Syneilesis aconitifolia is also known as 'shredded umbrella' - which is perhaps a perfect moniker for a plant that emerges from the ground resembling an army of diminutive, tomentose, shredded umbrellas. As he matures, his sublimely serrated foliage expands, creating the perfect textural contrast for the more ubiquitous Hosta. I admit to loving him most when he is covered in soft, downy silver hairs in the week that he makes his appearance known!

Diphylleia cymosa is a North American native that is vastly under-used and under-appreciated in shade garden designs - perhaps due to the fact that I have only stumbled across two garden nurseries that stock him! Large, dramatically bold palmate shaped foliage can rise to 1m, whose stems are topped with wiry red pedicels that bear the most luxurious blue fruit in the Fall.

Last week I discussed the merits of Acanthus hungaricus so I will cut short its description. Fallopia japonica 'Milk Boy' aka Persicaria variegata 'Compactum' is one of my Top ten plants. He emerges in the Spring a delightful coral colour, and in a matter of months is 1m tall and wide. His pink, cream/white and green heart shaped splashed foliage is held on the stem by sublime ruby pedicels! The combination of these elements is best appreciated up close and personal. There are those who want to lump it in with the more rambunctious 'knotweeds', but for me, my two clumps have behaved most admirably. In fact I find myself adding more if only to introduce a pop of brightness to a darkened section of the garden! 

My beloved Arisaema species are also legendary for their unusual foliage. Whereas our native species sports the trypical trifoliate leaf structure, some of the more unusual Asian species offer whorled, ripped foliage, sometimes upping the ante to include a shimmering pewter inlay to each leaflet. Yes, indeed I do pontificate at great lengths about Arisaema consanguineum 'Perfect Wave' - a selection that found its way home with me from Lost Horizons, as did almost every plant that I speak of in this post!

The photo above offers a better visual of both Diphylleia cymosa, with its dramatically bold, palmate foliage that towers over most everything else in the border located between the houses. He is early to emerge, and can fall victim to slugs so it is best to protect him early! The photo below shows that army of diminutive shredded umbrellas - my beloved Syneilesis aconitifolia. I was thrilled to be able to offer it on the benches of Cedar Spring Nursery this past Spring, and will hopefully have more on the benches next year! 

I truly am a 'shady character' at heart as this post can attest to. I love stumbling across a border that is void of flowers - for some, like myself they act as a distraction from the mind boggling textures and shades of green that, when positioned just so, create something that is equally as enticing as a drift of flowers. At least this is what I tell myself every day when I pass by my garden of shady characters!