29 Mar

Lovely Flowering Plants for Container Gardening: Mimulus, the Monkey Flower

Mimulus or Monkey Flower is a genus of free flowering annuals, perennials and shrubs and is popular for its ornamental flowers. Most species of Mimulus are sun loving plants that grow in a moist soil and produce abundance of flowers in spring.

Besides a few plants that grow as evergreen shrubs, Mimulus usually perform well when grown in containers. However, plants growing in containers should be provided with ample exposure to sunlight and plenty of water. Grow them in a regular soil mix and provide with general fertilizer for prolific flowering season. To keep the plants in good shape, prune back overgrowth of plants after flowering season ends.

Mimulus Barbatus, the Monkey Flower

Mimulus Barbatus, Image by Patrick Alexander

Some popular species of Mimulus include:

Mimulus sanguines: Evergreen shrub (up to 5 feet) with deep orange flowers that appear year round in warmer climates.

Mimulus aurantiacus: Evergreen and bushy growth (up to 5 feet), flowers are light orange or pale yellow; prefers direr growing environment.

Mimulus cardinalus: Perennial plant growing up to 3 feet, produces red flowers.

Mimulus guttatus: Prefers wet or waterside spots, produces bright yellow flowers with red throat.

22 Mar

Lychnis coronaria, the Rose Campion

Rose campion or Campion (Lychnis coronaria) is an excellent border plant for its beautiful silvery leaves that make a nice background for prominent scarlet or magenta flowers that appear in summer. Native to temperate regions of Asia and Europe, Campion grows in a well-drained soil under sunny exposure and moderate watering.

Lychnis coronaria, Image by M. Fletcher

Lychnis coronaria, the rose campion

Like most species of Lychnis, Rose Campion grows as clump-forming and hardy perennial. It can grow is almost any soil and spread quickly to cover empty spaces; this makes it a good border plant for beginners. It is a self-seeding plant and blooms until late summer.

Other popular species from this genus are Lychnis chalcedonica. and L. viscaria.

16 Mar

7 Delightful and Fragrant Flowers to Grow in Your Garden

1. Garden Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Valeriana officinalis is an evergreen, perennial shrub that grows up to 1.5 meters and produces flowers of pink, white or lavender flowers in summer. Commonly known as Garden Valerian, this lovely bloomer produces strongly fragrant white flowers so much so that a single flower head is sufficient to flower the whole yard. It is an easy to grow plant and thrives in almost any soil type, and prefers bright sunlight and moderate watering. (Zone 4a – 9b)

Valeriana Officinalis, Garden Valerian

Valeriana Officinalis, Image by Willie Angus

2. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

Perovskia atriplicifolia or Russian Sage, is a herbaceous perennial plant from central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Normally growing as upright plant, Russian Sage grows up to 1.5 m and produces aromatic leaves that smell like lavender when brushed or crushed. Russian Sage is a good plant for landscapes as well as small gardens where it grows as drought, salt and cold tolerant plant. (Zone 5a – 9b)

3. Petunia Spp.

Petunia is easy to grow and low maintenance plant. Known for a large variety of colorful and fragrant flowers, Petunia can grow in many different conditions and a variety of places including hanging baskets, flower beds, and window boxes. Traditional white and purple varieties are best known for their fragrance. (Zone 8a – 11)

4. Woodland Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris)

Nicotiana sylvestris is a night blooming plant from the family of tobacco plant. The plant produces sprays of lovely white flowers that appear in summer and early autumn. Flowers open by day and emit intoxicating smell at night.  When in full flower, each head is quite startling and resembles a graceful explosion. Commonly known as Woodland Tobacco, Nicotiana sylvestris grows as self-seeding plant, prefers well-drained but slightly moist soil under full to partial sun. (Zone 10a – 11)

5. Stock (Matthiola incana)

Widely grown and known for its sweet fragrant flowers, Matthiola incana is a good choice for flower beds, borders and window gardens. It is quite easy to grow and start flowering within two months of germination. Commonly known as Stock, Matthiola incana makes a good cut flower for bouquets for its showy and fragrant flowers. Matthiola prefers bright sun with moist but well-drained soil. It can be propagated easily from seeds sown in spring for good summer flowering. (Zone 7a – 10)

Matthiola Incana/ Stock

Matthiola Incana, Image by douneika (flickr)

6. Night Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum)

Widely known as Night Blooming Jasmine, Cestrum nocturnum is a flowering shrub of tropical and sub-tropical regions. It is also known as Lady of the Night or Queen of the Night for its intoxicating fragrance that spreads all around in hot summer nights. The plant produces small and white flowers by the beginning and the end of summer. (Zone 8b – 11)

7. Pelargonium

Pelargoniums are easy to grow bloomers that offer a large variety of colors and fragrances. They can grow in almost any soil type and require a light loamy soil under bright sunlight. Most varieties of Pelargoniums emit nice citrus or fruity scents. Some of these species are grown commercially for the production of perfumes and some are used as flavoring agents in desserts and teas. (Zone 9a – 11)

Pelargonium Flowers

Pelargonium Flowers

I could not resist adding Rangoon Creeper to this list. It is my ‘favorite forever’. Quisqualis indica or Rangoon Creeper is a prolific bloomer and a fast growing vine. When in bloom, it is loaded with large tufts of white, pink and bright red flowers that spread intoxicating fragrance and attract bees and butterflies.

13 Mar

Hardy Ornamental Plant for Sunny Spots: Potentilla Fruticosa

Potentilla is a large genus of flowering shrubs from the family of rose. Most of the plants from this genus are small leafy shrubs that make good choice for mixed borders or as hardy ornamentals. Native to the northern hemisphere, Potentilla can be found in Asia, North America and Europe where they grow as prolific bloomers.

Potentilla Fructicosa, 'Gold Finger'

Potentilla Fructicosa, 'Gold Finger', Image by Manuel Martín Vicente

Potentillas are generally grown as hardy ornamentals for their colorful and showy summer flowers of white, yellow, pink, red and golden colors. A number of cultivars are also grown commercially. Some of these grow quite well in cooler climates.

Among popular species of Potentilla, P. fruticosa is grown widely for its flowers and described as ‘Golden Finger’. It is characterized by dense growth of foliage, and showy yellow flowers. Like other species in the genus, Potentilla fruticosa can be propagated easily from seeds. It prefers a regular soil mix, moderate watering and a sunny spot.

If you are looking for a hardy ornamental for filling empty spaces and some nice flowering, Potentilla fruticosa should be in your list.

07 Mar

Aucuba japonica Variegata: The Gold Dust Plant

Gold Dust Plant (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’) is an evergreen ornamental shrub from temperate regions of Asia. Known for its glossy-green foliage with bright-yellow spots and ornamental berries, the Gold Dust plant is just perfect plant for beginners. It is quite easy to maintain and grows almost in any climate and condition. Good for container as well as garden landscape, Gold Dust plant grows up to 3 meters and produces dense foliage. It can tolerate drought and survive is spots where sunlight does not penetrate well. Thus, it can easily fill in dark and tough spaces in your garden.

Aucuba Japonica, The Gold Dust Plant

Aucuba japonica 'Variegata', Image by Kaustav Bhattacharya

Gold Dust plant originally belongs to a family of shrubs and small trees. Like Gold Dust, almost all species of this genus are easily propagated from cuttings. These ornamental plants are usually pruned and shaped for using as border plants, hedges, ornamental pot plants or even as colorful topiary shapes.

Gold Dust plant (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’) is a cultivar of Aucuba japonica. It is best grown in a well-drained and rich soil. The plant prefers regular watering and produce quite insignificant flowers; female plants produce ornamental berries.

05 Mar

Agave Attenuata, The Foxtail Plant

Agave attenuata is an excellent specimen plant for ornamental and landscaping purposes. Unlike other species of Agave, this beautiful Agave does not have sharp teeth or terminal spines on its leaves, instead its leaves are softer and more succulent. A healthy Agave attenuata would usually grow as tall as 4 to 5 feet and produce broad and fresh-green leaves (50-70 cm long and 12-16 cm large) that spread up to 4 feet. Mature plants have stout and curved stem, thus giving the plant its common name ‘foxtail’.

Agave attenuata comes from the plateau of central Mexico and thus requires similar growing conditions. It prefers lightly moist and loamy soil thought it can grow in poor soil and withstand drought. Protect this agave from direct scorching sunlight in summer and from long spells of frost and freeze.

Agave Attenuata, The Foxtail Plant

Foxtail, Image by Forest Starr and Kim Starr

The plant produces beautiful inflorescence of white or cream color on a long stalk in spring followed by bulk of seed pods or small plantlets. The stalk is often drooping with flowers, that is why, the plant is also called Swan’s Neck Agave. Agave attenuata can be grown easily from these seeds, plantlets, or suckers.

Foxtail or Agave attenuata makes an excellent plant for both landscapes and containers.

04 Mar

9 Ornamental Grasses for Your Garden Landscape Design

Ornamental grasses are my favorite landscape design elements because of the variety of color, texture and dramatic effect that grasses can add. They can be used for many purposes as well: as groundcovers, as design elements, as companion plants, as specimen plants or even as decorative hedges in gardens. The best part of growing ornamental grasses is low-maintenance as most grasses are not fussy about soil or moisture. Hence, native ornamental grasses make a good choice if you are planning a low-maintenance garden.

Since grasses do not have special requirements, you can select from a broad range of species and varieties, however, best results are achieved only if you select the right type of grass for your needs. Some grasses tend to grow taller whereas some species are really low-growing grasses. Some would form very dense clumps, and some would form large mounds. Some grasses are slow-growing and vertical growth habit, and some ornamental grasses spread horizontally as ground covers or grass-carpets.

If you are designing a rock garden, you can select from a variety of grasses that would grow in rock pocket. Similarly, if you are planning some unique style of hedge, screen or divider in your garden, you can grow taller grasses with vertical growth habit.

Besides the color, texture and size, you should also consider the spot that you selected for growing grasses. Generally a sunny spot is good for growing ornamental grasses.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus'

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’


How to Grow Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses can withstand periods of drought easily, however, young plants should be provided with sufficient water regularly until they establish themselves. Growth can be encouraged by mulching. Use general purpose fertilizer only when new growth starts. As far as propagation is concerned, most grasses can be propagated from divisions. Generally, spring is good time to divide grasses. For healthy foliage and inflorescence, make sure that your grasses receive good exposure of sunlight.

Some grasses have razor-sharp ‘leaves’; handle them with care to avoid cuts.

Popular species of ornamental grasses include:

1. Arundinaria disticha

Grows as evergreen dwarf foliage plant. Leaves are bright-green with a tinge of purple. Provide average water and bright sunlight. (Zone 6a – 9b)

2. Arundo danox (Spanish reed)

Grows as tall (up to 6 meters), leafy-clumps in tropical climates. Characterized by broad marginal leaves, this perennial grass produces feathery inflorescence in autumn. (Zone 6a – 10b)

3. Miscanthus sinensis

Tall grass (up to 3 meters), makes nice accent plant and grows easily with no special requirements. Flowers grow as white, feathery heads. It is also used in dried arrangements. (Zone 5a – 9b)

Chinese Silver Grass

Chinese Silver Grass, Image via Wikipedia

4. Bambusa glaucescens (Hedge bamboo)

Excellent choice for hedging, this evergreen plant produces large dense clumps of graceful foliage. It is fast-growing plan and can be propagated easily from division. (Zone 9a – 11)

5. Cortaderia selloana (Pampas Grass)

Large ornamental grass with feathery inflorescence, Pampas Grass is good choice for hedges. (Zone 7a – 10b)

6. Nassella tenuissima (Silky Thread Grass)

Good for both garden landscapes and containers, this beautiful plant produces erect clumps of leafy growth. (Zone 7a – 10b)

7. Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass)

Producing dense clumps of blue-green leafy growth with semi-evergreen habit, this plant can be grown in direct sunlight as well as under light shade. (Zone 4a – 9 b)

Blue Oat Grass

Blue Oat Grass, Image by Josh Jackson

8. Pennisetum alopecuroides (Fountain Grass)

Mound forming grass with fresh-green foliage, this plant produces delicate and beautiful white inflorescence. (Zone 5b – 9b)

Fountain Grass

Image by Allan Hack

9. Spartina pectinata (Cord Grass)

Preferring moist soil, this beautiful plant offers decent growth along  borders and pathways. (Zone 4a – 9b)

Useful Resources:

Book: The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses: Sedges, Rushes, Restios, Cat-Tails and Selected Bamboos by Rick Darke

Eragrostis elliotii (Blue Love Grass) – 1000 seeds

Pink Pampas Grass – 200 seeds

Uncinia rubra – 50 seeds

Artificial Grasses:

While ornamental grasses will look great in your garden, if you are opting for an easier to maintain solution you might also want to consider investing in a really good quality artificial lawn available from suppliers like greatgrass.co. These days, artificial grass looks just as life-like as real grass and with a minimal amount of upkeep, it can be great value for money.