Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Perennial Plant of the Year

The National Garden Bureau announced that butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, is the 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year, chosen by the Perennial Plant Association. What a great pick! Butterfly weed is a North American native, a butterfly magnet, and host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars. I love its distinctive flower formation: five petals that hang down, and five upright curved petals called hoods, each with one horn. It comes in orange, red or yellow. As you can see, mine is orange.

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly weed  has no serious insect or disease problems. (Mine tends to attract an orange colored aphid with no notable effect.) Deer usually avoid it even though it has very little poisonous sap found in other members of Apocynaceae -- the milkweed family. This long-lived perennial, thrives in full sun and average to dry soil. I have the perfect spot ...

I created a small pollinator garden with liatris Liatris spicata 'Kobold'; purple cone flower Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'; phlox Phlox paniculata 'David'; cleome Cleome hassleriana 'Rose Queen' (a self-seeding annual);  and, of course, butterfly weed.  As you can see below, butterfly weed and a few purple cone flowers are the first to bloom.

The orange flowers of butterfly weed bloom before other perennials in my garden.
The pollinator garden in full bloom.

Monarch butterflies love both milkweed and butterfly weed. I grow them in several spots in my gardens.

Milkweed Asclepias incarnata
"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly. "One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower." -- Hans Christian Anderson

Amaryllis Update

Amaryllis 'Ferrari' displayed eight gorgeous flowers on two stalks. When the flowers faded I cut off the stalks. A third one has a bud that is ready to open, so I placed the plant back in the south-facing window with 'Clown' and 'Picottee.' Clown has a bud but Picottee looks somewhat stunted. 

Left to right: 'Ferrari', 'Clown' and 'Picottee'
Bud on Ferrari's third stalk.

I'll keep you posted.

The Great Backyard Bird Count
February 17-20, 2017

It is nearly time for the 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count when birdwatchers all over the wold document the number and species of birds that visit their backyards. I look forward to this event every year. Go to the GBBC website for instructions and a toolkit. I hope you decide to participate this year -- put the dates on your calendar. Here are some of the birds in my backyard today ...

Black-eyed Junco
Female Cardinal

I hope 2017 has started well for you.

Pamela x

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Thursday, December 29, 2016


I purchased three amaryllis bulbs for forcing this year. 'Ferrari' opened its first flower on Christmas Day and now has at least six blooms on its two stalks. A third stalk and bud are emerging, promising blooms into February. 'Ferrari' is Holland's finest strain of amaryllis, in my view. My other two amaryllis are slower to develop: 'Clown' has two stalks and will flower next, but 'Picottee' is behind with just one bud. 'Ferrari's' revved up bright red petals, however, make up for any shortcomings in the others.

Amaryllis Hippeastrum 'Ferrari'
'Ferrari' bloomed in time for the holidays

I purchased my three amaryllis online from my favorite nursery, White Flower Farm. You may remember I visited there in July; I blogged about the trip here. I pot my amaryllis bulbs individually in 6-7" pots using a well-drained potting mix. I add water to the mix and stir until it is moist but not soggy. I fill each pot about half full, set the bulb on top and fill in with additional mix. A third of the bulb should be exposed and the top of the mix should be 1/2" below the rim to allow for watering. Firm the mix and water lightly. White Flower Farm provides a layer of decorative Spanish moss to finish off.

Place the pot where the temperature remains above 60 degrees F. Water only when the top inch of the mix is dry or the bulb may rot. Growth usually begins in 2-8 weeks. When growth begins the plants need ample sunshine so I place them in a south-facing window.

In the picture below, you can see how each amaryllis has developed so far:

Left to right 'Picottee', 'Ferrari' and 'Clown.'

I place my amaryllis in a south-facing window until they bloom.

As I don't have blooms on 'Picottee' and 'Clown' I am using the illustrations from the White Flower Farm catalog. Can't wait until mine look like this:

Amaryllis Hippeastrum 'Clown' -- photo White Flower Farm
Amaryllis Hippeastrum 'Picottee' -- Photo White Flower Farm

Once my amaryllis blooms, I take it out of the sunlight and put it in a cooler spot, so the flowers will last longer. My dining-room table is a good place.
Once they bloom, place them away from direct sunlight

I hope to keep my amaryllis for blooming next year. I'll explain how I do it in a future posting.

Did you force bulbs for the holidays?  For tips about forcing amaryllis, hyacinths, paperwhites, daffodils and other bulbs, click on this link to read my article in the Pocono Record newspaper.
Wishing all my gardening friends a happy and healthy 2017,
Pamela x

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Longwood Christmas: The Ultimate Winter Wonderland

We began our Christmas holiday celebrations with a visit to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA where more than half a million lights, beautifully decorated Christmas trees, spectacular fountain shows and 'Victorian' carolers made the night memorable for H.H and me. We strolled through the grounds marveling at the miles of lights illuminating the trees. Our first stop was the open air theater where colorful fountains danced to holiday music with 750 jets of water. But it was a cold night so we were glad to spend most of our visit in Longwood's four acre heated conservatory where 16,000 seasonal plants flourish. Take a tour with us:

I liked the white lights better than the colored ones on the outside trees
A grand piano filled with lights inside the conservatory
The succulent tree was my favorite
Succulents included Aloe, Echevena, Sedum and Kalanchoe
Living wreath of Kalanchoe and spleenwort ferns

The conservatory displayed many out-of-season blossoms ...

Clockwise from top: Hydrangea, roses and orchid

                                                   ... as well as seasonal ones such as amaryllis and poinsettia.

I loved this unusual red and green combination:

From top: Swiss chard, curly parsley and sweet alyssum
The children's Christmas trees

Another favorite of mine was a tree dressed in blues, purples, oranges, yellows and reds. I liked it because the colors were reflected in the plantings at its base.

Plantings reflect the colors of the tree decorations.
Stunning silver and white display

I wish I could show you the waterfalls and various water features in the conservatory, but my poor skills with an iPhone camera didn't do them justice. I especially liked the Cascade Garden with its sheets of water cascading down 'earthen' walls.

Back outside it was colder than ever, so we went to the restaurant for hot chocolate before walking to the Peirce-du Pont House. On the way we were glad to come across one of three fire pits where we could linger to warm ourselves. In the Peirce-du Pont house we greatly enjoyed the 'Victorian' carolers.  Their angelic voices put me in the Christmas mood more than any other event up to that moment.

Our final stop was the Garden Railway. We visited it other years with our grandchildren, but not after dark when it is truly enchanting.

The Garden Railway

We left Longwood Gardens cold but happy, spending the night in a hotel before returning home where our own Christmas tree and holiday decorations greeted us.

Our 2016 Christmas tree
Some of our decorations.

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas,
Pamela x

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