28 Mar

Akebia quinata, the Chocolate Vine

Akebia quinata, popularly known as Chocolate Vine because of its brownish-purple flowers, is a beautiful climber for sunny or partially shaded spots in gardens. Native to the Far East, Akebia quinata grows as a quick climber and makes an excellent specimen for growing over pergolas or against walls where it produces abundance of fresh-green foliage. It can also be used as ground cover. The compound leaves of Akebia quinata are evergreen in tropical climates and semi-evergreen in colder areas.

Akebia quinata, the Chocolate Vine

Akebia quinata, the Chocolate Vine/ Image via flickr

Akebia quinata grows in a slightly moist soil under full or partial sun. The chocolaty flowers appear in spring or summer and emit exotic spicy fragrance with the hint of vanilla. Flowers last longer in warm and dry conditions. Flowering is followed by formation of long pulpy and edible fruits. However, it usually requires two plants of Akebia quinata to fertilize the flowers. The plant can be pruned back at the end of the flowering season. The fruit as well as the plant itself are used in traditional Chinese medicine for their diuretic properties.

Like most Akebias, Chocolate Vine can be grown from seeds sown in spring, or by layering long stems in winter.

27 Mar

Lovely spiral plant: Albuca spiralis ‘Frizzle Sizzle’

Today’s featured plant is Albuca spiralis – a really unusual, lovely and rare plant that is in my wish list for a long time. This small and unusual species is a bulbous plant from the family of Hyacinthaceae and is loved for its unusual spiral leaves that remind us of the Spiral Grass plant.

Albuca spiralis grows as a winter growing plant and produces wiry leaves that curl themselves into the shape of the corkscrew especially when grown in dry winters and provided with a sunny exposure – more sun, more curls. Flowers of Albuca spiralis are rather inconspicuous; the bell-shaped greenish-yellow flowers appear in late winter and continue to bloom till spring. As the summer sets in, the plant goes dormant. The spiral leaves disappear at this stage and the bulb shows no sign of life. At this time, the plant needs barely sufficient water.

Albuca spiralis

Albuca spiralis/ Image via plantfreak.wordpress.com

 

Watering can be started in early winter when the plant shows signs of life. Albuca spiralis can withstand light frost thus it can be grown in the ground in areas where winter is dry. In colder climates, Albuca spiralis can be grown in pots. The plant is fairly easy to grow as long as it is grown in a fast draining soil and protected from overwatering.

20 Mar

Lobularia maritima, the Sweet Alyssum

Sweet Alyssum is one of the favorite flowering plants among gardeners and landscape designers. This small plant with its tiny flowers is very useful in gardens and landscapes – it is a good filler plant under larger specimen landscape plants, it makes dense and flowery mats in landscapes, it also makes excellent border plants, Sweet Alyssum is an excellent container plant as well.

Sweet Alyssum, Lobularia maritima

Sweet Alyssum/ Image by Bill Bumgarner

Sweet Alyssum is a remarkable bloomer too; it flowers all through the spring and continues to bloom in summer. Because of its long flowering season and small size, Sweet Alyssum is often grown as a companion plant with other flowering plants.

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), once classified in the genus of Alyssum, is now placed in the genus of Lobularia but it is still known by its common name ‘Sweet Alyssum’ – ‘sweet’ is because of the sweet fragrance of its white or purple flowers.

Sweet Alyssum is quite easy to propagate. It is grown from seeds sown in early spring. The plant requires a loamy and well-drained soil under full to partial sun. With moderate watering and good exposure to sun, Sweet Alyssum grows quickly and starts blooming within a few weeks after germination. In its original Mediterranean climate, the plant grows as perennial, however in colder climates it is grown as an annual bloomer.

Besides the common variety, a number of cultivars of Sweet Alyssum are also available for cultivation. These include: ‘Snow Cloth’, ‘Oriental Nights’, ‘Snow Drift’ and the ‘Golf Series’.

15 Mar

Rebirth

What a lovely way to pay tributes to a building that had served and touched thousands of people in nine decades. The old Massachusetts Mental Health Center building was planned to be demolished to make way for the new facility. The artist Anna Schuleit was commissioned to make this memorial a good recognition of the historical importance of the building.

Tulips

Image (c) Anna Schuleit

Anna used nearly 28,000 potted flowers to fill all the corridors, stairwells, and offices. The public was then invited for a limited 4-day viewing as a time for needed reflection and rebirth. Lovely idea indeed!

Pink Heather

Image (c) Anna Schuleit

For more pictures, see the Bloom project on Anna Schuleit website.

13 Mar

Lovely Landscape Plant: Euphorbia lambii, the Tree Euphorbia

Euphorbia lambii – a lovely landscape tree with evergreen foliage and beautiful yellow blooms in spring. Actually a fast growing shrub, Euphorbia lambii is grown as a landscape specimen for its attractive evergreen foliage of lime-green color. The plant grows up to 6 feet and produces upright, succulent branches. Each branch is usually covered with thick foliage that makes it a nice plant for gardens and landscapes. The plant becomes even more attractive when yellow bracts appear from the center of thick foliage on each branch in spring.

Euphorbia lambii

Euphorbia lambii/ / Image by Brian Pettinger

Euphorbia lambii grows easily in tropical and sub-tropical climates. With low water requirements and ability to grow in almost any soil, it is a good candidate for xericapes. Euphorbia lambii is propagated from stem cuttings and can be grown under full sun. The only challenge is to protect it from long spells of frost and cold.

Because of its trunk and branching habit, Euphorbia lambii is commonly known as Tree Euphorbia.

12 Mar

Lovely Tropical Tree: Amherstia nobilis, the Pride of Burma

Quite hard to find on local nurseries, Amherstia nobilis is a lovely tropical tree known for its showy orchid-like flowers of crimson and red colors. It is a slow growing tree that grows up to 12 meters and produces beautiful foliage.

Amherstia nobilis, the Pride of Burma

Amherstia nobilis, the Pride of Burma/ Image by Jayesh Patil

Amherstia nobilis is native to tropical forests of Myanmar (Burma) from where it has been collected for cultivation. Because of obscure information about the origin of the plant, slow growth rate and difficulty of growing it from seed, Amherstia nobilis is not widely available for cultivation, thus limited to private collections and specialty growers (Kukiat’s Gardens has a nice collection of Amherstia nobilis). Anyways, the tree is worth growing in your garden as it produces beautiful furled foliage and a great profusion of large and showy flowers.

Flowers of Amherstia nobilis have shades of crimson, pink, red and yellow. These colorful flowers appear on drooping branches and create a spectacular show when in full bloom. This is the time when it attracts birds, butterflies and by-passers. In fact, it is rightly called Pride of Burma and sometimes Queen of Flowering Trees.

As Amherstia nobilis is strictly a tropical tree, it requires a lot of sun, moderate water and protection from long spells of frost and cold. The tree can grow in ordinary soil mix that provides good drainage.

11 Mar

Nicotiana mutabilis, the Flowering Tobacco

Nicotiana mutabilis, popularly known as Flowering Tobacco, is a delightful flowering annual that makes an excellent plant for containers as well as garden landscapes. This sun loving plant is an abundant bloomer that is often seen laden with flowers of white, purple and pink colors. The flowers of Nicotiana mutabilis appear as white trumpet-shaped blooms that fade into purple and then pink, thus giving the plant its name mutabilis, i.e., ‘changing’. These colorful and lovely flowers also make showy and delightful arrangements in a vase.

Nicotiana mutabilis, Flowering Tobacco

Nicotiana mutabilis, Flowering Tobacco / Image via flickr (FaroutFlora)

Nicotiana mutabilis is easily grown from seeds sown in spring. The plant prefers fertile and slightly moist but well-drained soil in a spot where it receives bright sunlight. Nicotiana mutabilis usually grows as a self-seeding plant that comes back every spring; deadhead the plant if you do not want it to grow again the next season.

Nicotiana mutabilis is attractive to birds and butterflies thus a good choice if you want to attract birds to your garden.

10 Mar

Lovely Bulbous Plants for Garden Landscape: Hyacinthoids

Hyacinthoids, sometimes referred as Endymion or Scilla, is a small genus of bulbous perennials popular for their bell-shaped fragrant flowers.

Native to northern Africa and parts of Africa, Hyacinthoids are low-growing bulbous plants that bloom profusely in spring. The bell-shaped flowers of blue or lavender color appear on a long stalk rising from each bulb. Because of their low-growing habit and abundant showy flowers, Hyacinthoids are well suited to garden borders, open woodlands or spots under large trees where they grow easily and form clumps.

Hyacinthoids, Bluebell

Hyacinthoids, Bluebell/ Image by Ed

Commonly grown species include:

Hyacinthoids hispanica: Also known as Spanish Bluebell, Hyacinthoids hispanica grows well in open woodlands where it tends to cover the ground rapidly. Flowers are blue, white or pink.

Hyacinthoides italica: Native to Europe, Hyacinthoides italica or Italian Bluebell is a smaller species that produces purple-blue flowers in spring. The star-like flowers are different from typical bell-shaped flowers of its genus.

05 Mar

Little, Lovely Myosotis: Forget-me-not

Myosotis or Forget-me-not, as it is commonly known, is a lovely and easy to grow spring bloomer. The genus comprises of more than one hundred annuals, biennials and perennials that mostly grow as low-growing plants that tend to form large mounds.

Usually growing under shade or partial sunlight, most species of Myosotis prefer damp and rich soil where they can be planted for abundance of small blue flowers in spring. Myosotis or Forget-me-nots are easily propagated from seed or division in late winter. These tender plants need to be protected from frost in winter and scorching heat in summer.

Myosotis, Forget-me-not

Myosotis, Forget-me-not/ Image by Maurizio Albissola

Myosotis can be grown in containers where they would spill out to become delicate and attractive plants or in mass plantation scheme where they will form large mounds. The small and pointed leaves of Forget-me-not somewhat look like ears of a mouse – thus giving them their Greek name Myosotis (mouse’s ears).

The name Forget-me-not also has an interesting story. The legend has it that when God gave names to all the flowers, the little Myosotis cried, “Forget me not, O Lord!” The God replied, “That is your name, forget-me-not”. Besides the myths, Myosotis has been a popular subject in history, folk literature, and modern day fiction because of its lovely flowers and attractive colors.