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.

03 Mar

Linum grandiflorum, the Scarlet Flax

Finally the spring has almost set in as the early spring bloomers are spreading their colors all around the town – especially the Scarlet Flax. It is blooming wildly and endlessly everywhere to celebrate early spring.

Linum grandiflorum, Scarlet Flax

Linum grandiflorum

Linum grandiflorum (Buy seeds online) or Scarlet Flax as it is commonly known is originally native to North Africa and parts of Europe and Asia where it grows as a drought-tolerant annual. The plant grows under sunny exposure and produces erect branches (up to 18 inches) with waxy-green leaves. The leaves provide a nice background to spectacular scarlet flowers of the plant.

How to Grow Linum grandiflorum

Linum grandiflorum can be grown in almost any soil that provides good drainage. The plant does well in containers as well as in the ground where it tends to form large mounds of elegant branches. The plant starts producing flowers in early spring. At this time, large mounds of the plant produce small scarlet flowers in abundance. The catchy colors of the flowers and dense branches of waxy-green leaves make it an excellent choice for garden borders or as nice filler for empty landscape spaces. It can also be mixed with larkspur, cosmos and other spring bloomers to create a dramatic effect.

Linum grandiflorum is easily propagated from seeds and does not require much care. Other names of the plant are Red Flax and Flowering Flax.

01 Dec

Lovely and Fragrant Flowering Shrub: Murraya paniculata

Murraya is a small genus of flowering shrubs and small trees from south Asia especially from subtropical plains of Pakistan and India. Several species of Murraya are grown as houseplants and shrubs because of their beautiful foliage and sturdy structure that makes then useful for creating hedges and screens.

The most popular species is Murraya paniculata. It is a fast growing shrub that often grows in to a small tree up to 3 meters or more. Locally it is known as Kamini and grown for lovely foliage and flowers. The glossy, white flowers of Murraya paniculata are strongly fragrant. The plant produces abundance of small and white flowers that add to the beauty of fresh green foliage and spread their fragrance all around. The flowers are followed by formation of small, oval fruits of red or orange color. The fruit serves as food for many birds.

Murraya paniculata, Kamini flower

Murraya paniculata/ Image by Tim Waters

Murraya paniculata has been acclimatized in many parts of the world where it grows in tropical and subtropical plains. The plant requires bright sunlight, regular watering and occasional pruning. It is quite easy to prune and train in to favorite shapes and topiary designs.

Murraya paniculata can be propagated from seeds or cuttings. Other popular names are Chinese box and Orange Jasmine.

17 Nov

D is for Delphinium

Delphinium is a genus of wonderful annuals and perennials known for their colorful and attractive flowers that grow abundantly on long stalks. Native to temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, Delphinium are easy to grow and manage. Most species grow tall with stalks full of flowers though some low-growing species are also available. Taller species are prefect for growing in the background of flower beds or landscape.

Delphinium is know traditionally for its showy flowers of strong blue or purple color, however a large number of hybridized Delphiniums have also been produced in recent years. The hybridized Delphinium produce flowers in all shades of white, blue, mauve, red and yellow.

Delphinium flowers

Delphinium/ Image by hello-julie(flickr)

Popular in traditional gardens, Delphinium has been extensively hybridized to produce long-lasting cut flowers. Some popular hybrids of Delphinium include: ‘Atlantis’, ‘Blue Dawn’, ‘Elizabeth Cook’, ‘Oliver’, ‘Summerfield Miranda’, and ‘Sungleam’.

Delphinium requires fertile and slightly soil but well-drained soil under the bright sun. The plants can be propagated from seeds as well as divisions. The flower stalks should be provided firm support of staking when the stalks reach 10 inches or more. Delphiniums can be cut back to the ground after the end of flowering season in order to encourage better growth for the next flowering season.

28 Oct

Lovely Flowering Shrub: Hypericum, the Rose of Sharon

Hypericum is a large genus of flowering shrubs, ground covers and annuals with a worldwide distribution. Known for their ornamental flowers and foliage, most species of Hypericum are frost-resistant plants that can be grown in landscapes as border plants or ground covers. Most species of Hypericum can be grown in shaded or semi-shaded areas of the garden where they bloom profusely in spring or summer. The flowers are bright yellow or golden. A number of hybrids have been produced for their horticultural use.
Hypericum x hidcote

Hypericum x hidcote/ Image by M. Martin Vicente

Among many useful flowering shrubs and ground covers, my personal favorite is Hypericum calycinum which is a vigorous growing plant. Usually grown as ground cover or small shrub, this lovely bloomer produces bright yellow flowers in summer. The flowers are chactrized by a mass of showy stamens that make this flower look quite unusual. H. calycinum prefers bright sunlight and moderate watering. The plant is commonly known as Rose of Sharon.
Other popular species of Hypericum include: H. perforatum (it is a popular homeopathic remedy for relieving pain and depression), H. uralum, H. pulchrum, Hypericum olympicum and Hypericum hidcote (St. John’s wort).
20 Oct

Lovely Border Plants: Clarkia, the Satin Flower

Clarkia is a small genus of lovely annuals usually grown as border plants for showy flowers. Native to North America, the genus of Clarkia consists of quick growing plants that grow up to 1 to 2 meters in flower borders or large containers. These plants are easily grown from seeds and require a fertile and well-drained soil under bright sunlight.

Though most Clarkias are hardy annuals but they should be protected from long spells of drought and cold. Most plants of Clarkia are eager bloomer and produce abundance of shiny purple, pink, mauve or salmon flowers in summer. The beautiful flowers of Clarkia grow on tall spikes with single or double flowers that can be used as cut flower for floral arrangements.

Clarkia concinna

Clarkia concinna/ Image by James Gaither

Common name of Clarkia is Satin flower. Popular species include: Clarkia bottae, C. williamsonii, C. breweri, and Clarkia concinna.

30 Sep

Ricinus communis, Castor Oil Plant for Gardens and Landscapes

Ricinus communis, commonly known as castor oil plant, is an interesting foliage plant for warm climates where it grows as a small tree (up to 5 to 10 meters). Castor oil plant is usually grown as specimen plant in landscapes for its striking foliage. In the growing season, the plant can be seen covered with new foliage of purplish-red color in contrast with older deep green color. The flowers are insignificant but the seeds pods are quite showy and colorful.

Ricinus communis, the Castor Oil Plant

Ricinus communis, the Castor Oil Plant/ Image by Katja Schulz

Ricinus communis originally belongs to warmer climates of Africa and the Indian sub-continent, however, it is grown is many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. Though it makes a good plant for horticulture, Ricinus communis is an important medicinal plant as well. The seeds of Ricinus communis are source of castor oil which is widely used for many commercial purposes. It is used in preparation of fine quality lubricant for automobiles and other machinery. Castor oil extracted from the seeds of Ricinus communis is also used in manufacturing of paints, cosmetics and soap industry.

Ricinus communis is a fast growing plant for warmer climates. In horticulture, various cultivars are grown as ornamental plants. Some of the popular verities of castor oil plants include: Ricinus communis ‘Red spire’ (red stem and bronze foliage), ‘Impala’ (reddish foliage), and Ricinus communis ‘Gibsonii’ (reddish foliage and pinkish seed pods).

12 Sep

Little, Lovely, and Plentiful Bloomer: Diascia, the Twinspur

Diascia is a small genus of low-growing annuals and perennials that bloom in all shades of peach, pink, mauve, magenta and purple. Most species are excellent bloomers that give stunning display of colorful flowers in spring and summer. These small ornamentals are perfect choice for containers, window boxes, borders and rockeries for their small size and prolific flowering.

Diascia Flowers

Diascia Flowers/ Image by Clive Reid

Most species of Diascia are low-growing and sprawling plants that are perfect for filling empty spaces in gardens, landscapes, containers or windows. These small plants bear small, oval leaves of dark green colors. The unusual flowers have two horns or spurs below them that give them their common name ‘Twinspur’.

Originally native to South Africa, Diascias are grown in many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world where they grow under full to partial sun. These small ornamentals are usually grown from seeds and used as container plants for summer flowering. Most species of Diascia prefer regular watering and a slightly acidic and well-drained soil.

Popular species of Diascia include:

Diascia integerrima (Pink Adobe) – A small perennial (up to 450 mm) with pink flowers that bloom almost through the warm months.

Diascia ‘Sun Chimes Coral’ – A popular variety growing up to 1.5 feet with attractive coral-pink flowers.

Diascia ‘Whisper White’ – Another popular hybrid with pure white flowers.

Diascia ‘Dew Drops’ – A popular variety among horticulturists; produces beautiful white flowers with a yellow center.

Diascia varieties

Colorful Diascias/ Image by Alwyn Ladell

12 Aug

Lovely Flowers of Helichrysum

Helichrysum is a large genus of flowering perennials, annuals, and shrubs with worldwide distribution in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Africa, and Europe. The genus is known for its glossy and papery flowers that come in almost all shades of yellow, orange, red, and pink including many double and single flowering varieties.

The genus of Helichrysum offers a wide range of ground covers, dwarf bloomers, and lovely shrubs that can be grown in flower beds, garden borders, rock gardens, containers as well as window gardens. These lovely bloomers require sunny exposure, loamy and sandy soil and average watering. In fact, Helichrysums can withstand drought and poor soil conditions thus making themselves a popular choice for gardeners.

Helichrysum acuminatum

Helichrysum acuminatum, Image by Michel Dignand

Because of diverse growing habit and variation in foliage and flowers, many members of the Helichrysum genus have been reclassified in smaller genera such as the Everlastings (Xerochrysum, Coronidium, Antennaria etc.).

The genus of Helichrysum is primarily popular for its showy and long lasting flowers. These flowers are often preserved as used in dry flower arrangements. Some of the species, especially Helichrysum italicum, are a source of essential oils that are valuable for their restorative properties, and medicinal uses in chest complaints, colic, fever, internal sores, coughs, colds, headaches, and skin treatment. The oil extracted from Helichrysum italicum is particularly used in aromatherapy.

Popular species of Helichrysum include:

Helichrysum petiolare – Shrubby plant with silvery foliage spreading up to 2 meters and producing ivory white flowers in summer.

Helichrysum bracteatum – Commercially known as Everlasting and grown as popular houseplant; several varities of H. bracteatum grow as small annuals and produce flowers of orange, red, pink, yellow and white color in summer.

Helichrysum splendidum – Produces dense foliage of silver-grey color and grows as erect shrubby perennial.