Thursday, September 22, 2016

Living and Lively Sculptures Grace Atlanta Botanical Garden

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is hosting a display of works by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly through October 30, and the double-wow vignette you shouldn't miss involves several of the glass pieces placed near a permanent live sculpture. The sculpture, brought to life with plants, is called the "Earth Goddess." It was created by Mosaiculture International for a two-year exhibit (from 2012-14) called Imaginary Worlds at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
The Earth Goddess is highlighted by glass works by artist Dale Chihuly.
Trumpet Flower Arbor
"In winter, the Earth Goddess is stripped of the annuals covering her, and she is covered in blue and white lights to become the Ice Goddess in our holiday light show," said Danny Flanders, Public Relations & Marketing Manager for Atlantic Botanical Garden. "Then the next spring, she is covered again with the planting medium and replanted with annuals."

A Trumpet Flower Arbor dangles from a circular metal structure built over a path to the Children's garden. It's the biggest departure from the artist's other works in the garden and was created in 1997.

I almost missed it, hidden in plain sight right above our heads. As much as Chihuly's art could possibly blend into the backdrop, I imagine Trumpet Flower Arbor is amazing when the sun is directly overhead.

Caramel and Red Fiori
One of my favorites, and an installation that refuses to be ignored, is Caramel and Red Fiori, consisting of upwardly undulating glass spikes. Each piece falls in a loose line among the garden beds surrounding the Great Lawn outside the conservatory.

Green Hornets and Water Drops
with Neomydium Reeds.
"Green Hornets and Water Drops" reminded me of Christmas ornaments, but the Neomydium Reeds just reminded me how great purple looks in a garden.

I'm sorry to say I didn't have much time to spend in the garden. It's only 30 acres--small by American public gardens' standards--but an hour and a half was definitely not enough.

I was ecstatic to stumble upon a dog made of grasses. The Shaggy Dog, which was part of the Imaginary Worlds exhibit, found a home in Atlanta when International Mosaiculture donated him to honor the garden's volunteers. According to Flanders, the volunteers planned to raise the necessary funds to "adopt" Shaggy because they'd grown so fond of him. I have too.

The Shaggy dog by Mosaiculture International.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Hummingbird Haven: You Can Grow That!

Who doesn't like hummingbirds? I can't get enough of them, with their unmistakable cackling buzz startles me every time I hear it.

It's a sign they're closing in on a nearby plant. I like to make sure I have a regular hummer smorgasbord so that they'll put my garden on their flight path.

According to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, hummingbirds are territorial. I actually knew that, and have seen two hummingbirds in my garden chasing each other around. But it's hard to consider something that weighs less than a nickel threatening.

Hummingbird love affair with Cuphea 'Vermillionaire.
The hummingbird "meat and potatoes" plant seems to be Cuphea 'Vermillionaire,' an unobtrusive tropical that asks for little in fertilizer or water. I actually wintered the plant over in the mudroom, which gets little light but seldom falls below 50 degrees F.

I have a plastic-coated metal panel as a support for my Monarda. Its horizontal wire has done double-duty as a perch for the hummingbirds. As I watched the two birds, I'd see one sitting on the wire near the Monarda while the other plied its favorite flowers for nectar.

The feeding bird must have kept his nemesis in view, because whenever the bird left his perch and headed for the flowers, a major set-to took place between the two aerialists.

Pentas is popular with hummingbirds, too.
I'm pretty sure I planted enough for everybody, but hummingbirds don't see it that way. It takes a lot of energy for these little guys to survive. They track nectar sources with even more determination than a sugar junkie prowls the cookie aisle at the supermarket.

I grow Pentas and Salvia, which seem to be special treats for the birds.
Agastache 'Blue Blazes' cavorts with Salvia 'Amistad'. 
Salvia 'Windwalker' is just getting started.
This year I added a few Agastaches, one of which hasn't stopped blooming since I planted it. Agastache 'Blue Blazes' looks great with Salvia 'Amistad', and the hummingbirds love it!

Salvia 'Windwalker' is new for me. I brought two plants home from Groovy Plants Ranch in Marengo, Ohio. 'Windwalker' is a cross between Salvia darcyi (Mexican sage) and S. microphylla (mountain sage). I planted them in May and they're just now ramping up for what I think will be a major bloom after flowering a little weakly through most of the summer. It is rated as hardy to Zone 5.

I've never used a hummingbird feeder. I guess I know myself well enough to realize I would be too lazy to clean it out every few days or even more often on really hot days. It's good to know hummingbirds don't turn up their cute little noses at actual plants in favor of plastic guides to sugar water.

So if you'd like to invite hummingbirds to your garden in a more natural and colorful way, know Salvia is easy and...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Plants That Thrive in a Zone 6 Jungle

Who would have thought the jungle weather would have continued so long? Out of the 30 days between July 16 and August 15, half (15) have reached 87 degrees or higher. Last year during the same time, there were eight days that reached 87 degrees or higher, and in 2014, there were only two days that hit the 87 degree mark.

During this time in my garden, some plants have been thriving, building up to blooming, or in general holding their own. Here are a few that have been thriving.

On July 27, the Pentas 'Graffiti Red Lace' was covered in blooms.
Jasminum floribundum
Plectranthus 'Golden Variegated' in shade.
Pelargonium 'Friesdorf' in partial shade.
A sampling of Eucomis, Tulbaghia, Eucalyptus, and Anigozanthus picked for a vase August 7.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Container Transitions: The Best Plants Win

Ptilotus 'Joey' is looking good in mid-June
For the brightest sun location on my patio, I chose a mix of two Ptilotus 'Joey, Eucalyptus 'Silver Drop', Pelargonium (annual geranium) 'Distinction', and three bulbs of Eucomis (pineapple lily) 'Katie', all of which I planted in a 14" diameter container.

From mid-May until the beginning of July, Ptilotus 'Joey' bloomed nonstop, its spiky flowers lasting for several days as the Eucalyptus wove through the two plants.

By July 4, 'Joey' was losing steam, but by now the Eucomis was ramping up for its bloom, which began in early August. Eucomis flowers are known to last at least five weeks, and annual geranium has no reason to quit, so this pot will provide color through the end of the season.

By July 4, 'Joey' was going into a fade.
By August 8, the Eucomis 'Katie' started their bloom along with
Pelargonium 'Distinction', while the Euclyptus plays on.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Humongous Plants: You Can Grow That!

Banana tops six feet by mid-July
If you chose to grow tropical plants this summer, your choice is paying off about now. It's not always the case in the southern Great Lakes region. I've been growing elephant ears for the past few years now, and this is the biggest they've ever gotten by this time of year.

Our banana has been taking care of itself in the garden, and except for a bout of Japanese beetles damaging one leaf, it's been the epitome of health.

I can't remember ever experiencing such a sustained period of high 80 degree temps and high 60 degree dewpoints. But I'll bet the jungle natives in my garden think they're in the tropics.
Colocasia 'Midori Sour' is the most bodacious of the bunch,
obliterating the other plants in the container.
Microsorum musifolium
I found lots of new (to me) tropical plants that are either threatening to take over my patio, and/or vying for inside status come October.

One that is small enough to make the cut is a fern called Microsorum musifolium, whose registered trade name is Crocodyllus (think Kleenex as the trade name for tissue).

Take a close look at the leaves of this beauty, and you'll see why it's been given the crocodile-esque moniker. I've been keeping it in pretty deep shade as it's still in its original pot and dries out quickly. But information online indicates it can take partial sun. (Sounds like a perfect houseplant.)
Piper auritum dominates a corner of this raised bed; its leaves help shade the crocodyllus fern.
A plant that would challenge even the largest indoor space is Piper auritum or root beer plant. In its home region, the huge leaves are used to flavor food. I just like the novelty. It's a shade-lover, but has been pushed to its tolerance limit with extra water. I've also discovered it to be a great umbrella--I placed some small pots beneath its big leaves to keep them from getting too much moisture and sun, and it performed beautifully.

When else could you grow such humongous plants but in the summer, especially if you live in an area where it freezes. For more ideas, tips and a celebration of growing things, head on over to a round-up of inspiration at You Can Grow That!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Plants that Love the Heat on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Cosmos 'Chocamocha' smells like hot chocolate.
It's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, when gardeners check in to let their fellow plantophiles know what's happening in their corner of the world. Here in northwest Indiana (just 30 miles east of Chicago), it's Hot!

Ugh! I don't like to complain, but ... Wait a minute! I LOVE to complain--about the weather at least. In fact, if it weren't for the weather, how in the world would gardeners start a conversation that leads into their own personal plant bragging rights? Right?

Okay, it's hot. And incredibly humid. And while I drip sweat without even moving, there are several plants that seem to thrive. After discovering the deep red Cosmos flower that actually smells like chocolate, I had to get one. I put Cosmos 'Chocamocha' in a container with other plants, and it began to open its chocolaty flowers a few weeks ago. It hasn't melted in the heat; instead it just smells like hot chocolate to me.
Begonia odorata white on the porch.

As delicate as they seem to be, Begonias can hold their own in the heat. One of my pots is beneath the eaves on our front porch. It contains Begonia odorata white and Begonia Shadow King 'Rose Frost'. The species odorata is supposed to have a scent, which I've not detected. Nonetheless, it's a gorgeous flower, with pinkish tones on the outside of each flower bud, and waxy petals of a white that practically glows, especially in shade. Longfield Gardens sent me three of these tubers to try; another plant is in a hanging basket and gets a tad more sun and exposure but is doing just as well as the protected plant.

Begonia odorata white is doing equally well in a mixed hanging planter.
It might not have blooms to offer, but Colocasia 'Midori Sour' has turned on its afterburners and rushed to sport sizable leaves that make great shade canopies for whatever grows below them.
Colocasia 'Midori Sour' has leaves that average nearly two feet long.
You don't have to plant heat-loving plants in your garden to have color throughout the summer. But it certainly can't hurt. I always like to head over to May Dreams Garden around the middle of each month to see what other gardeners are growing in their own hot gardens.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What's the Name of that Plant?

Plants are all identified at Sunrise Greenhouse, Grant Park, IL
I chose my first car because it was cute. Honestly--it was a lemon-yellow 1972 VW Beetle. Even the salesman tried to talk me out of it. "It's a repo," he told me, as if a 19 year-old would understand what that meant.

I learned the significance after I got home with my new car. There was a hole in the gas tank, which was located at the front of the car so that gasoline dripped on the floor beneath the dashboard.

Cute, huh?
There were other issues. The defroster didn't work, both headlights flickered, and the wires to the turn signals were crossed, confusing both me and anyone on the road who tried to guess which way I was going. I learned quickly the meaning and consequences of owning a repo.

Less expensive perhaps, but just as frustrating, is learning the limitations of anything else purchased solely for its cuteness quotient. I buy a lot of plants, many of which catch my eye with their unique beauty, and in some cases, their cuteness.

I make it a point to support independent garden centers, and have been buying quite a bit from mega-garden-centers within a two hour drive from my house. So far, these businesses have had a nice variety, carry plants you don't often see either at the big box stores or smaller garden centers, and (usually) good prices. One of my favorites for their prices and quality has been Sunrise Greenhouse in Grant Park, IL.

Another of my favorites is Vite Greenhouse in Niles, MI, which is currently running neck and neck with one other fairly close garden center, and vying for Michigan favorite.
River Street Flowerland

I fell so much in love with River Street Flowerland in Kalamazoo, Michigan that I visited it twice in one season, the second time with my equally plant-enamored neighbor, Lesley. Even though it was late June, we came close to filling my car. They had a sale on nearly all of their annuals, and I had a few dollars worth of coupons from my previous visit.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with the variety of plants and the prices. Until I picked up this little clay pot with no label.
Mystery plant turned out to be Ledebouria.
It was the only one left, and its price was steep, especially for an unidentified plant. I took it to the young lady at the register, who was about to tell me it was a houseplant. I said, "I'd really like to know what it is so that I can care for it properly." The girl at the register called another young lady who was caring for the plants. She didn't know but said she would ask. She eventually came back and told me it was a Squill.

The Squill ID at least pointed me in the right direction. I knew it was tropical, and that it was a bulb that is possibly in the Scilla family. I learned that it is a South African false scilla of the genus Ledebouria, that blooms in summer.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm extremely anal and organized when it comes to my plants. I keep a Word document on my computer with the names of all of the plants I buy, dating back to 1996. Sometimes, with just one name to go by, I find the exact plant either in a book or online in order to learn how to care for it and what to expect.
Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' has flowers that create a color echo of the tiny Viola below it.

My husband still laughs about an incident at a garden center when the cashier had the nerve to identify a potted mystery I wanted to purchase as a "houseplant." He said I gave her a look that could have curdled milk, before I told her I needed to know genus and species or I wouldn't buy it.

Labels don't have to be fancy.
I was pretty sure I knew what it was--a somewhat overbaked Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'. Its coloration was all wrong, owing, I guessed, to its placement in full sun. I wanted corroboration, though, to be sure I knew what I was getting. The cashier called over another young lady who seemed to know more. She doggedly traveled down the rows to find the answer, and finally located another one with a label, verifying its ID as 'Mona Lavender'.

No one argues that we should get what we pay for, but is it really too much to ask that we know what we pay for? In a world where it's vital to know the serial number of each tiny part of a phone or computer accessory, I wonder why we don't demand the name of the plant growing inside a pot at a garden center.

I keep hearing that Millenials don't care what a plant is called. They just buy it, take it home and incorporate it into their decor. But what if they want to buy another one? Or it dies and they want to replace it?

Finding unlabeled or mis-labeled plants is nothing new. It's not that big a deal if it's obviously a petunia or a pansy, but with the more unusual plants, there is more at stake--they're usually more pricey and harder to find.

Here's a label that does it all, including identifying the plant.
Anyone who somehow benefits from selling plants should also consider themselves to be in the education business, at least peripherally. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by the simple labeling of plants. How else can a satisfied plant buyer post a photo with the name of where it came from on their Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Snapchat pages?