28 Jun

Lovely Summer Bloomer: Agapanthus, the African Lily

Agapanthus flowers

Image by Samantha Schipani

If you are looking for something new to try for your summer garden, consider Agapanthus. Weather grown as a pot plant or grouped in a garden border, it looks striking with its ultra bright flowers that outshine most of the common bloomers.

Many varieties and cultivars of Agapanthus that are commercially available can be divided in two grouped: evergreen species that originate from milder climates of South Africa and deciduous Agapanthus that comes from colder regions. Growing condition of all varieties are generally similar – sunny exposure, well-drained soil, moderate watering, and protection from extreme cold.

Agapanthus can be propagate easily by division in spring and early summer, or after plants have finished flowering in early autumn. Mature plants tends to divide their bulbous roots; these should be split every three to four years. Agapanthus can also be propagated from seeds however young plant grown from seeds require frequent watering and protection from winter in their first year. Once established, they should be watered only when the soil in dry. Plants grown from seeds take two to three years to flower. Flowers of violet, white, or pink hues appear in summer.

If you growing Agapanthus in the garden, they can be combined easily with other plants in flowering beds. Agapanthus also make nice plants for garden borders. In winter, protect them by mulching with straw and sand. If your soil is water-logged, grow your Agapanthus in large pots and place them in brightly-lit spot where they are protected from frost. Plants grown in pots can be fertilized with a regular fertilizer in spring to encourage flowering. Because the roots system is vigorous, plants grown in pots should be divided every two years. If your plants are reluctant to bloom, move them to a sunnier spot.

African lily

Image by Michael Coghlan

Among many varieties and cultivars of Agapanthus, some outstanding varieties include: Agapanthus ‘Peter Pan’, ‘Tinkerbell’, ‘Northern Star’, Agapanthus inapertus ‘Midnight Cascade’, and Agapanthus ‘Snowstorm’.

Though it is not related to the Lily family, commercially Agapanthus is also known as Africa Lily or Lily of the Nile.

01 May

Lovely Accent Tree for Cold Climates: Larix decidua ‘Pendula’

Larix decidua 'Pendula'

Larix decidua ‘Pendula’/ Image by Kurt Andreas

The tree featured today is Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ – an excellent accent tree to grow in for year round interest. Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ or Weeping European larch, as is known commonly, offers many interesting features: soft, fresh green, needle like foliage that turns into golden yellow in autumn, interesting sculptural branch structure in winter when it sheds its foliage, and attractive, exfoliating, and nicely textured bark on the trunk.

Spring is the best time of the year to appreciate the beauty of this lovely tree. It is the time when nice green foliage covers pendulous branches of the tree. The pendulous branches of Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ form a nice mound of foliage in cascading fashion. Autumn changes the color of delicate foliage from green to golden yellow making the tree stand out from its neighbors.

Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ grows slowly but eventually makes a nice accent tree. The best time to plant it is spring or fall. Young plants can be started in containers but they would eventually need to be transferred into the ground. The best place to plant Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ in a garden is a sunny spot in a well-drained soil. The tree does not require frequent watering and should be irrigated only when the soil has dried completely. A mature tree of Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ can grow up to 12 feet in height.

If you like Larix decidua ‘Pendula’, you should also consider Taxodium distichum ‘Cascade Falls’.

18 Sep

Beautiful Winter Flowering Shrub: Hamamelis, the Witch Hazel

The name of the lovely plant in pictures is Hamamelis. It is commonly known as Witch Hazel.

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel / Image by Steven Severinghaus

Hamamelis

Hamamelis / Image by Dietmut Teijgeman-Hansen

Hamamelis or Witch Hazel is a deciduous shrub that sometimes grows into a small tree. The plant is characterized by twiggy branches, fall colors, and unusual flowers.

Hamamelis produces alternatively arranged leaves that change their colors from green to yellow, orange and red through spring, summer and winter. After the plant has shed all its leaves, flowers of spicy fragrance and multiple shades adorn its branches – a perfect shrub for winter gardens. The flowers are unique in their shape as they produce long crumpled and ribbon like petals along brown sepals. They are usually yellow, pink, scarlet or orange.

How to Grow Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel can be grown from cuttings however it is a bit difficult to root cuttings. Commercially it is propagated by grafting on Hamamelis virginiana. An established plant required slightly moist but well-drained soil in a partially shaded spot.

Popular cultivars include:

H. × intermedia ‘Diane’, H. × intermedia ‘Jelena’ and H. × intermedia ‘Pallida’.

08 Nov

Lovely Flowering Shrub for Garden Borders: Spiraea thunbergii

The plant featured today is Spiraea thunbergii. It is one of my favourite flowering shrubs because of its delicate spring flowers and interesting foliage. Spiraea thunbergii grows up to 5 feet as a dense, twiggy shrub and produces attractive narrow leaves. The beautiful foliage grows on wiry stems that densely branch out from the main stem of the plant. The interesting formation of leaves gets more beautiful in fall when the green color of leaves turns to golden-yellow to orange and bronze. The leaves fall of in winter and start sprouting again in early spring.

Spiraea thunbergii

Spiraea thunbergii / Image by Wikimedia Commons

Flowering starts in spring and last for many weeks. The white delicate flowers of Spiraea thunbergii form small clusters that cover the entire plant. Exposure to full sun encourages growth of flowers. Because of its interesting foliage, beautiful flowers and growing habits, Spiraea thunbergii makes an excellent border plant for gardens and landscapes.

Spiraea thunbergii can be easily grown in a slightly moist but well-drained soil. This lovely shrub loves sun but tolerates light shade. As with most plants in the Rose family, propagation of Spiraea thunbergii is done from layering or cuttings.

14 Aug

Lovely Flowring tree Liriodendron tulipifera, the Tulip Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera, commonly known as Tulip Tree or sometimes as Yellow Poplar, is a tall and deciduous flowering tree from North America. Characterized by its height and beautiful flowers, Liriodendron tulipifera makes an excellent flowering tree for gardens and landscapes. With a rapid growth rate, the tree can gain the height of up to 150 feet or more in wild. However, it takes much time to reach that height (An old Tulip Tree in Queens area in New York measures 134 feet; it is said to be 400-450 years old and often described the oldest living thing in New York. The tree is named Queens Giant). In cultivation, it can grow as tall as 70 to 100 feet.

Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree)

Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree)/ Image by Tim Waters

Like most plants in the Magnolia family, Liriodendron tulipifera is a valuable plant in horticulture. It has broad, glossy green leaves that turn to golden in autumn. Large tulip-like, cup-shaped flowers appear in spring to add to the grandeur of the tree. Flowers are predominantly greenish-yellow with dashes of red and orange. It does not branch much and tends to form columnar growth which makes it a good source of fine-grained timber.

How to Grow Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera prefers bright sunlight, and a rich and moist soil. The tree can be propagated from seeds. Young plants should be grown under partial sun and later moved to direct sunlight. Young plants have deep and fleshy roots that are easily broken if handled roughly.

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.

07 Feb

Symphoricarpos albus, the Snowberry Shrub

Symphoricarpos is a genus of deciduous shrubs known for their beautiful berry-like white fruit. Originally native to North America, these hardy shrubs can be grown in many different climatic conditions. Most species of Symphoricarpos prefer full to partial sun, average watering and almost any type of soil that does not retain water.

Symphoricarpos albus, Snowberry Shrub

Symphoricarpos albus/ Image via flickr

From more than 15 species, Symphoricarpos albus is the one that is widely known and cultivated for its beautiful foliage and white berry-like fruit. The plant grows up to 5 feet and spreads vigorously across 6 feet or more. Cultivated from seeds or suckers, Symphoricarpos albus best performs when grown in partial sun and pruned regularly.

The pinkish-white flowers of Symphoricarpos albus are quite insignificant but are followed by formation of large clusters of white berries in winter. These clusters of white berries add to the beauty of the plant in winter when it sheds most of its leaves.

Symphoricarpos albus is capable of resisting frost and survive long spells of winter. The plant can be used in hedges and borders as a low-maintenance shrub.

Common names of Symphoricarpos albus include Snowberry and Waxberry.

26 Oct

Unforgettably Fragrant and Lovely: Lonicera, the Honeysuckle

Lonicera is a wonderful genus of climbers, ground covers and shrubs grown for their foliage and fragrant flowers. The plants in the genus of Lonicera are usually known as Honeysuckles. The genus includes two major types of plants – bushes and climbers.

The bush type honeysuckles make decent shrubs that can be used for hedges or garden borders. The climber type honeysuckles are often grown against walls, pergolas or trellis. Both type of honeysuckles require proper pruning to keep them in good shape. Most honeysuckles would grow under bright sunlight and in a rich, moist but well-drained soil.

Honeysuckles make good ornamental plants in small gardens as well as landscape designs where they grow under little care and produce unforgettably fragrant flowers in spring.

Lonicera periclymenum, Honeysuckle

Lonicera periclymenum / Image by nicolas_gent (flickr)

Popular species of honeysuckle include:

Lonicera japonica (Japan honeysuckle) is an evergreen climber with white tubular flowers that appear in spring. A variegated variety Lonicera japonica ‘Variegata’ is also available for cultivation.

Lonicera caprifolium (Italian woodbine or goat-leaf honeysuckle) is a deciduous perennial that grows as vigorous climber (up to 8 meters). The plant produces abundance of strongly scented flowers of white and pink colors in midsummer.

Lonicera hildebrandiana (Giant honeysuckle) is an evergreen climber with large leaves and flowers. The flowers are yellow or orange that appear in spring.

Lonicera sempervirens is an excellent climber that produces decent foliage and tubular red flowers.

11 Jun

Pachypodium lamerei: The Madagascar Palm

Pachypodium is a genus of caudiciform succulents from the family of Plumeria. The plants in this genus are characterized by thick, succulent stems that are usually covered by long spines and crowned by lance-shaped leaves that are arranged in a circular fashion. Belonging to Africa and Madagascar, Pachypodium are quite hardy plants that can adapt to a variety of growing conditions in tropical and sub-tropical climates.

Pachypodium offers a variety of unusual yet attractive plants of different sizes (as small as a few inches and as tall as 4 meters or even more). Since these plants originate from hot and dry climates, they are a good choice for designing low maintenance landscapes such as rock gardens and xeriscapes where they can store sufficient amount of water in their succulents stems to survive long spells of drought. In fact, the name ‘Pachypodium’ (pachy- podium/thick-footed) is derived from their habit of forming thick and succulent stems.

From a number of commercially grown species, Pachypodium lamerei is the most popular and widely cultivated in landscapes and gardens. It is fairly easy to grown both indoors and outdoors where it receives sufficient exposure to sunlight and moderate water except in winter. It is cold sensitive and needs to be protected from frost, overwatering and freezing temperatures in winter.

Pachypodium lamerei, The Madagascar Palm
Pachypodium lamerei , Image by Axel Straub

Though it is not a palm but Pachypodium lamerei is commonly described as Madagascar Plam – may be for its rich green leaves that crown the tall succulent stem of the plant. These leaves usually pale out and fall in winter followed by new growth in spring. This is the time when the plant produces showy white or yellow fragrant flowers. However, it takes a lot of years (up to 10 years) to start blooming. At this stage, the plant reaches the height of 3 meters or more.

Pachypodium lamerei can be propagated from seeds, divisions or grafting. The plant prefers a regular but well-drained soil mix.

Other popular species include:

Pachypodium geayi: Similar to P. lamerei with thicker stems. Tends to branch out and grow up t0 m meters or more. White flowers often appear on branches.

Pachypodium horombense: Grows as a small succulent shrublet and produces a swollen tuberous stem with spiny branches each bearing a rosette of leaves. Average height is 1 meter. Flowers appear in early summer.

18 May

Lovely, Summer Flowering Shrub for Gardens: Weigela florida

Weigela is a small genus of deciduous and summer flowering shrubs from eastern Asia particularly from China and Korea . These hardy and easy-to-maintain shrubs makes excellent accent plants for gardens and landscapes because of their lovely foliage and flowers.

Most species of Weigela are frost hardy and can also withstand drought and heat, thus, making a good choice for garden hedges or mix borders. Propagated from cuttings, Weigela grows quite quickly and requires regular pruning after every flowering season. The plant usually has a long flowering season that starts in late spring and continues till the mid of summer. The flowers of white, pink or red colors are quite showy and attract birds and butterflies.

Weigela florida

Weigela florida

Ideal growing conditions for Weigela are a sunny or semi-shaded spot, well-drained soil, lightly alkaline medium, and average moisture.

One of the most popular species form the genus is Weigela florida that grows as a deciduous shrub of 1 to 3 meters. There are a lot of cultivars and verities of Weigela in cultivation, majorly grown for rich foliage. Popular varieties include:

Weigela florida ‘Candida’: Popular variety with bright-green leaves and beautiful white flowers.

W. florida ‘Polka’: Profuse bloomer with deep-pink flowers in spring and summer.

W. florida ‘Variegata’: Perhaps the most popular variety with compact and mound-forming habit; green leaves with white margins. Flowers are rose-pink.

W. florida ‘White Knight’: Compact shrub with white flowers throughout the summer.