Brunia is a small genus of flowering shrubs known for their unusual flowers. These evergreen shrubs can grow upright up to 2 meters and produce dark-green foliage that resembles the foliage of a pine tree. Tiny silvery-white or pink flowers appear in tight and fluffy pompom-like flower heads. Attractive flowers heads of Brunia are produced from autumn to winter in abundance making them stand out in a garden. Tiny flowers start blooming after the first winter rain.
Brunia is usually a slow growing shrub that requires bright sunlight and moderate watering in a well-drained soil. Most species of Brunia are sensitive to frost and require protection from long spell of frost and cold. You can propagate Brunia from cuttings planted in autumn or spring. You can also grow Brunia from seeds planted in autumn. Brunia makes a nice plant for filling empty spaces in landscapes. Flowers are usually used in fresh and dry flower arrangements.
Popular species of Brunia include Brunia nodiflora (known for its pink flower heads), Brunia stokoei (velvety red flowers), Brunia albiflora (white flowers), and B. neglecta (silvery-white flower heads).
Hellebore is a small genus of winter-hardy perennials. They are loved by gardeners for their ability to grow in shady spots and produce flowers in late winter when very few plants can bloom. The flowers are actually colorful sepals that assume the shape of star-shaped flowers. These attractive ‘flowers’ bloom in various shades of purple, white, yellow, pink and red. These lovely flowers can last for two to three months thus making these plants a good choice for late winter or early spring interest.
Hellebores can be grown easily from divisions. They prefer a rich and well-drained soil in a shady or partially sunny spot. Avoid over-watering and water only when the soil is dry. Most Hellebores are not fussy about growing conditions and can be easily mixed with common ground covers and evergreen plants in a garden bed. Mature plants will only require occasional cleaning up of withered leaves. A general purpose fertilizer can be applied to encourage healthier blooms to plants grown in containers.
Popular varieties of Hellebore include:
Helleborus x ericsmithii `Pirouette’ (rose flowers), Helleborus x ericsmithii `Ruby Glow’ (rose-pink flowers, Helleborus x ericsmithii `Winter Sunshine’ (cream flowers), Helleborus atrorubens (dark violet flowers), and Helleborus x ballardiae (burgundy flowers).
Hellebores are also sold as Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose.
Lotus berthelotii is an evergreen bloomer and is usually used as a ground cover in garden beds and borders or as an attractive hanging plant. The plant is known for its sickle-shaped red flowers with a prominent ‘beak’. The unusual shape of flowers give the plant its common name, Parrot’s Beak. These lovely flowers appear in clusters on trailing stems. The red flowers mature to turn in to orange-red blooms.
Lotus berthelotii is characterized by soft needle-like foliage that varies in color from light green to blue-green and silver. The bright flowers of Lotus berthelotii nicely contrast with the foliage and give a rich and delicate look to the plant. Long, trailing stems of Lotus berthelotii make it a nice plant for hanging baskets. The trailing stems can grow up to 10 inches. Prune stems ends to encourage branching.
Lotus berthelotii is usually grown from stem cuttings or seeds though the plants grown from seeds take some time to start blooming. Lotus berthelotii prefers a well-drained soil and partially sunny spot in summer. When grown indoors, place it near a sun-lit window where the plant gets 6 to 8 hours of direct or indirect light. When grown outdoors, Lotus berthelotii should be protected from cold winter by moving it to a greenhouse.
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.
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.
Tecomanthe is a small genus of tropical creepers and climbers known for their exotic flowers. Though hard to find, growing a Tecomanthe is rewarding. These fast growing vines grow up to 5 meters with their twinning stem that grows around anything that supports it making it a good choice for growing around pergolas and trellis.
The plant in picture is Tecomanthe venusta. It is a fast growing evergreen vine that produces waxy lush-green leaves that make it an attractive plant even when it is not blooming. Flowers appear in clusters. Each cluster contains multiple trumpet-shaped flowers in spring. Flowers of Tecomanthe venusta are usually rose or mauve waxy petals.
In its natural habitat, Tecomanthe venusta grows in tropical regions therefore it requires warm and moist conditions to thrive when grown in gardens. The plant benefits from rich but well-drained soil in a spot where it receives bright but indirect sunlight. Tecomanthe venusta is sensitive to frost and long spells of cold and should be grown under cover in colder climates. Tecomanthe venusta can be propagated from cuttings and seeds though the plants grown from seeds take 5 years or more to start blooming.
Tecomanthe venusta is commonly known as Forest Bell Creeper or New Guinea Trumpet Vine.
Loropetalum chinense is an evergreen shrub from the family of Witch Hazel. It is also known as Chinese fringe-flowers because of its fringe-like flowers that appear in spring and summer.
Loropetalum chinense is grown for its colorful foliage and prominent but unusual flowers. Commonly available species include a green-leafed variety that produced white flowers and burgundy-leafed variety that bears pink blossoms. Loropetalum chinense is a low-maintenance plant that does not require much attention. All it needs is a rich but slightly acidic soil, moderate watering and protection from extreme cold. Generally it would grow well in USDA zone 7 – 10. In colder climates, Loropetalum chinense should be moved to a greenhouse or provided with an indoor spot where it receives sufficient sunlight and hydrated only when the soil is completely dry.
Chinese fringe-flowers / Image by Scott Zona
Gardeners and horticulturist use Loropetalum chinense as a colorful hedge that produces abundance of nice and colorful foliage. It can also be used to build privacy screen or to fill empty spots in large landscapes. With proper pruning, Loropetalum chinense can be grown into a small ornamental tree.
Flowering season begins as early as mid-March and lasts till summer. During this season, you can see Loropetalum chinense laden with eye-catching flowers that appear in small clusters. Each flower consists of ribbon-like, wavy petals that give it an unusual formation.
Besides popular green and burgundy-leafed varieties, a number of cultivars are easily available in market. These cultivars vary in flower size, and colors of leaves and flowers. Commonly grown cultivars of Loropetalum chinense include:
Loropetalum chinense ‘Blush’, L. chinense ‘Purple Diamond’, ‘Burgundy’, ‘Little Rose Dawn’ and Loropetalum chinense ‘Carolina Moonlight’.
Alliums, commonly known as Ornamental Onions, are popular perennials among gardeners because of their graceful flowers and ability to grow in many different conditions. Most Alliums are characterized by their tall flower stalks (up to 3 feet) that stand like sentries with big, round flower heads (up to 5 inches). Their prominent flower heads make Alliums very useful for providing a nice and attractive background to low-growing bloomers in flower beds.
Growing Alliums should not be a big challenge even for beginners. They are drought-tolerant, resistant to pests, and low on maintenance. They also come in a wide range of variety in terms of heights, blooming period, and form and color of flowers. Alliums are grown from bulbs planted in the fall. Bulbs should be planted at a depth of four times the diameters of bulb. Alliums generally prefer a rich and well-drained soil under sunny conditions. If you are growing them in poor soil, feed them with a general fertilizer in early spring or top up the soil with a layer of compost [Also read: How to prepare your own compost].
Most varieties start blooming from late summer to early summer. Flowers, especially of late blooming verities, last longer. Both fresh and dry flowers make excellent addition to flower arrangements. As end of season approaches, leaves start straggling and should be cut back, if required. Once flowering is over, bulbs can be lifted and stored for the next harvest.
Popular varieties of Allium include:
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ produces large (3 inches or more) purple flowers on tall (up to 3 feet) stalks.
Orchids are usually considered to be difficult plants to grow for beginners but Dendrobium is an exception. Dendrobium is one of the largest groups of the Orchid family and it offers a number of lovely species that are fairly easy to grow.
Dendrobiums come from a variety of climatic conditions – from Australian deserts to cold Himalayas and from the Pacific islands to warm tropics. Therefore, it is not hard to find a Dendrobium that thrives in your climate.
Generally, Dendrobiums prefer bright light, a well-drained media and plenty of fresh air to grow. Most species will grow nicely at temperatures ranging from 18 C to 25 C provided that they get adequate light and water. They can be grown as potted plants in windows sill or in hanging baskets near a sunny window. When grown outdoors, protect them from direct sunlight and humid conditions.
Dendrobium nobile / Image by José Pestana
Dendrobiums need a well-drained media that does not retain too much water and allow the plant to develop its tender roots. A mixture of perlite, coconut fiber and clay aggregate is ideal for most species of Dendrobium. When watering, allow plenty of water to run through this media, wait for the residual water to drip and then allow it to dry up before next watering. Dendrobium are hungry plants and should be fed with general fertilizer during the growing season – usually in spring.
Dendrobiums are not only easy to grow but also one of the prolific bloomers too. Some species bloom more frequently than commonly known orchids. Some species such as Dendrobium nobile produce flowers that lasts for many months.
Jasminum nudiflorum is a beautiful flowering shrub originating from northern parts of China but easily propagated in USD zones 6a to 9b. The shrub is commonly known as Winter Jasmine because of its attractive yellow flowers that bloom in winter when very few plants bloom so profusely. For this reason, it is considered a valuable shrub in colder regions.
Jasminum nudiflorum / Image by enbodenumer (flickr)
Jasminum nudiflorum produces arching branches with dark-green leaves and makes an excellent plant for growing against walls or arching over a trellis or pergolas. It is propagated from cuttings taken in summer and benefits from regular pruning.
The best spot to grow Winter Jasmine in a garden is a partially sunny location in a well-drained soil.
While the fall season has come and most trees are turning their royal green attire in to a cover of orange, red and yellow. It is time to enjoy beautiful show of fall-blooming Colchicum.
Colchicum / Meadow saffron / Image by ukgardenphotos (flickr)
Colchicum is a genus of fall blooming bulbs known for their lovely white, pink, and purple flowers that appear in the months when very few plants bloom.
Usually known as Autumn crocus or Meadow saffron, Colchicum is a low growing plant that sprouts from small bulbs and produces small stems (10 to 15 cm high) terminated by a star-shaped flower. Since it does not produce any foliage, the plant is also described as naked lily.
Fall flowering Colchicum / Autumn crocus/ Image by Manuel Martin Vicente
How to Grow Colchicum
Colchicums make excellent plants for cold climates where they can be grown in a rich and slightly moist soil. Most species benefit from partial sunlight and occasional feeding. The bulbs can be planted in late summer. Bulbs divided rapidly and can be separated and stored for planting next year.