Thursday, September 28, 2006, really cool plant photo site

I ran across this great website with photos of about every plant you can name, that is if you have the latin name. Most of the plants have multiple and detailed photos so you can really get a good idea of how the plants look. Check out this great resource. This is a good one to bookmark.

If you look up Phacelia campanularia there are 5 photos of the plant and flowers.
First photo.
Second photo.
Third photo.
Fourth photo.
Fifth photo.
Or you could look up other varieties of Phacelia like P. congesta
Or, Phacelia tanacetifolia
Antonie van Den Bos has done a great job in photographing all the plants and flowers. A huge undertaking and work of love. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Squirrels chopping up oak tree

This year, one gray squirrel in particular but also a black one are cutting branch tips of our oak tree to get at the acorns. This has never happened previously so why the fevered activity now? I wonder if this will set the tree back some or if it will make it misshapened?

Are they expecting a severe winter or just some impatient/ambitious squirrels? Or maybe they've made a genetic leap in intelligence and are actively picking the acorns instead of waiting for the windfall nuts. I guess I should look on the bright side - I don't have to rake up all those leaves in a few months, only pick up a few pom-poms of branch tips!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Apple, oddity and clematis

The first and only apple this year from the 'opalescent' tree was looking quite ratty with blemish spots that were starting to rot and birds were also pecking it and making holes so even if the apple was not quite ripe I picked it. I was quite surprised that it took a hard tug to pick it-another indication that it wasn't ripe. I cut out all the bad spots and the flesh in some parts looked a little greenish but the apple was sweet with a mild tartness and the flesh had great density and crispness. Definitely a keeper but I'll have to thwart the birds from getting to the fruit.

We picked up the plant with yellow flowers at the local nursery because it looked odd and we like odd or oddities. It's been a good plant producing many blooms but I don't have any clue what the name of it is and don't know if it will survive the winter. I seems like it would be tender so I don't have much hope that it will make it through the winter but if I see it again I will definitely buy it again.

In spite of the previously posted Clematis panniculata's exuberant growth and flowering we have been failures at growing the more desirable? gaudy? members of the family. We've had only 3 blooms from the plant in the picture this year. 2 in the spring and 1 now. The vine is scraggly with a paucity of leaves. I read where Clematis likes a slightly alkaline soil so I added some lime and it apparently likes it's roots shaded so I mulched it heavily but to no avail. The plant has been in ground for 2 years and I've read where it take 2 to 3 years before the plant establishes itself so I'm hoping this is the case. In the meantime our neighbor across the street who doesn't garden much and ignores her Clematis, has a thriving plant covered with gorgeous dark purple flowers. Plants can be contrary sometimes.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Plant of the year? I don't think so.

Our local paper carried an article about a plant that is apparently sweeping the country. It's called Diamond Frost and related to the Chistmas poinsettia, only with many tiny white flowers. Diamond Frost is about 18" high and is drought tolerant, never stops blooming and resembles a cloud of white flowers. Being in the poinsettia family its probably not hardy but can be kept indoors and put out in Spring when the weather warms up.

The following groups have named it either best, excellent, top performer etc. Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Dallas Arboretum, Penn State U., North Carolina U., U. of Florida, OSU, Colorado St. U., Norfolk Botanical Garden, KSU, Oklahoma St. U., Auburn and Mississippi St. U., U of Georgia.

The article doesn't give the botanical name so I looked it up. It's a euphorbia (spurge) and hardy to 30 degrees fahrenheit (-1 degree C).

Not a particular beautiful plant in my opinion but if you want flowers for most of the growing season it may be a worthwhile plant. I haven't seen it in our local nurseries but it looks rather innocuous so I may have missed it. Has anyone grown this plant?

Here are three websites that gives more detailed info about the plant and some photos too.

Proven Winners website.

Cornell U. website.

P. Allen Smith's website.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Giant coneflower

Ever on the look out for unusual plants, I luckily happened on an out of season plant sale several years ago at a nursery that unfortunately sells only to landscapers now and was able to pick up some Rudbeckia maxima the giant coneflower for 50 cents each. There were about 5 left over by the time I got there and was about to buy them all but my dad who was along for the trip said "why are you buying those ugly, half dead things". So I bought only two which was a mistake for they turned out to be quite a wonderful tall element in a garden - I should never listen to someone else about plant choices/quantity and later since my wife and I liked it so much we bought more at another nursery for $12 each! My wife and I liked the unusual whitish green leaves and the 6-7 feet tall flower spike. It needs full sun though and unfortunately we don't have very much unshaded garden space anymore so the coneflower tends to fall over. It doesn't produce many blooms but that's ok as the flower is carried aloft proudly on the tall stem like a flag on a pole.

The goldfinches also like the seed so that's another bonus. Here's a website that gives a good description of the plant.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Clematis paniculata covered with flowers

We bought a Clematis paniculata syns. C. terniflora, C. dioscoreifolia, commonly known as sweet autumn clematis in a small pot with an eighteen inch trellis absolutely covered with flowers. We made the mistake of planting it next to our deck thinking it would climb the deck railing and we could have flowers right next to us while eating breakfast or dinner. Well it grew so vigorously that it climbed and twined all over the blueberry and juniper planted adjacent to it. The little eighteen inch plant turned into a monster 5 x 5 feet. We trimmed it back and relocated it next to an embankment by our swale where it had ample space to grow and it did. It climbed the 5 foot embankment and went up even further, halfway up the blue atlas cedar and spread 8 feet or more!

Wayside Gardens recommends pruning it back to 12" in the fall so that's what I'll do but what a vigorous grower and what a mass of vegetation I'll have to get rid of. It's lucky that the flowers are so pretty and it's good in hiding the rotting logs set into the embankment.

They say that it has a sweet smell but I can't detect any. This would be the perfect plant to cover any unslightly thing in your yard like old cars or scrap.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A moss to brighten a dark spot in the garden

We spotted this moss at our local nursery. Golden spikemoss, Selaginella kraussiana 'Aurea'. The unusual golden color was very attractive and we thought it would brighten our north facing, shaded dark spot next to the garage. We bought three and they've worked out quite well, growing in size and thriving without much care. I thought the moss would require frequent watering but even in our dry August it did not wilt nor showed any signs of stress. It's also hardy to zone 6 so I hope it will make it through winter unscathed.

I apologize for the unfocused photos.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A passel of mushrooms

I see quite a few mushrooms on the 1 mile dog walk. With all the rain we've had this is a good time to find them.

Here are some of the pictures I've taken on the walks and around the yard. The big ugly mass appeared on the woodchips we got at the community environmental center. We got the woodchips to spread in all the planting beds to keep the weeds in check. According to the guy on "you bet your garden" show on the radio we did a bad thing as the decaying woodchips actually take up nitrogen from the soil and make it unavailable to the plants. He also mentioned that all kinds of fungus grows on the woodchips and that you shouldn't put it next to your house or car-which we did-because there's a fungus called the artillery fungus which shoot spores all over your house/car leaving a mottled mess that's almost impossible to clean.

This is the first time I'm posting so many photos at once so we'll see how blogger manages this. As usual click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Have you ever tasted the fruit of the Kousa dogwood?

Both my wife and I noticed that birds are eating the fruit of the Kousa dogwood. The pretty fruit looks almost like a lichee nut with the same rough and scaly skin - the kousa's having much larger scales and more intense colors. I read somewhere that the fruit is edible so I tried it. The skin is quite soft unlike the lichee nut and the fruit is sweet without much taste though gritty. It's not bad but tough to get past the grittyness. I'm trying to remember but I think the cherimoya has the same grittyness that I don't care for. Try it...who knows you might like it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Heavenly scented tuberose

It took a long time but the tuberose [Polianthes tuberosa] we bought last winter is finally going to bloom. The first petal is unfurling and at this stage I can already smell its heady fragrance. We potted the tuber in early spring, set it out when the low temperatures were in the 50's. It took this long for it to set the flowers and bloom but well worth the wait. I don't remember the variety we bought but the buds are nicely blushed with pink.

Now I'm hoping we can save the bulb for next year. One of the bulb books said that it was almost impossible to have the bulb re-flower so it's easier and more reliable to purchase new bulbs. We'll give it a try anyway as an experiment. My botanic book also concurs with the bulb book saying "The clumps should be lifted annually and the large bulbs, which once they flower will not flower again, removed. Propagate from seed." I wonder if they form little offset bulblets? We'll see after the first frost.

Tuberose is native to Central America and is grown in all the temperate countries of the world. It is of the agave family. Here's a website that has a lot of information about the tuberose. And a site for growing them.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Effulgent anemones

Luckily the anemones are blooming now when not many perennials are flowering. The pink ones with elegant dark stems have been blooming for several weeks now and the much larger white ones are just starting. I don't know the cultivar but the pink is probably x hybrida. The white is a vigorous grower and spread quickly. It took over a small empty spot and quickly outgrew the small rhododendrons and azaleas. I dug it out thinking I removed them all but I guess not as several plants have come up again this year. I'll make peace with it as it is such a lovely flower and only try to keep it contained not eradicate it. And, it provides needed scarce food for the bumble bees.

I noticed too that some of the columbines (Aquilegia)as well as the delphiniums are starting to throw flower stalks so I we may have a colorful late summer. The columbines produced so many blooms this spring, I thought they would have exhausted themselves and was surprised to see many trying to bloom again.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I was too prideful of the hazel nut/filbert cross giving nuts for the first time. Our friend from the midwest who grew huge hazelnut shrubs stopped by for a visit and I was enthused about showing my little hazel with nuts. Well there were none to be seen. Our friend said the squirrels probably got them. I was astounded that they could find them but our friend said they probably check out all the shrubs periodically and took the nuts even if they were not ripe and stuck them in the ground somewhere. I guess that's the end of ever thinking we'll get to taste any filberts...ever..."pride goeth before the fall".

Well, the opalescent apple has also fruited for the first time - only one apple. So far without spraying the apple looks pretty good without too many blemishes or stings. I hope some darn bird or squirrel doesn't get it before I do.

and... here's a photo of the black Austrian pine in decline. I looks like it's stablized now with the cool wet weather so I hope it will live. We still have two months or so for it to grow so I'm hopeful.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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