01 Aug

V is for Verbena

The letter ‘V’ reminds me of two things – Vendetta and Verbena. I love both: Vendetta for its dramatic and thought-provoking effect, and Verbena for its small fragrant flowers.

Verbena (Buy seeds online) is a genus of small annual and perennial shrubs from tropical parts of the Americas. These lovely plants are known for their colorful and long lasting flowers.

Verbena are multi-purpose plants – the low-growing and sprawling varieties can be used as ground covers whereas the compact varieties can be grown in flower beds or containers. Flowers in most species of are fragrant and have a variety of colors ranging from red, pink, purple, lavender, white and mauve. Most varieties produces groups of rounded heads each containing dozens of small fragrant flowers.

Verbena rigida

Verbena rigida/ Image by Arthur Chapman

How to Grow Verbena

Verbenas can be propagated easily from divisions or seeds. Some varieties are self-seeding. Most species of Verbena would happily grow in an ordinary soil under bright sunlight.

Among many hybrids, popular species of Verbena include: Verbena canadensis, and V. peruviana.

31 Jul

Lovely Flowering Shrub for Sandy Soil: Lechenaultia biloba

Lechenaultia biloba is an Australian native plant where it is grown for its brilliant and colorful flowers. Though not found in common cultivation, the plant makes an excellent choice for rock gardens and landscape designs in sandy soil.

Lechenaultia biloba

Lechenaultia biloba/ Image by Margaret Donald

As an ornamental plant, Lechenaultia biloba offers attractive flowers of blue, yellow, red and orange colors. Since it comes from Western Australia, the plant is quite capable of enduring spells of drought and neglect.

Gardeners can use Lechenaultia biloba  as an ornamental dwarf shrub that can be easily pruned to keep it in shape. It makes an excellent choice for growing in containers or along pathways.

When not in bloom, Lechenaultia biloba looks attractive because of its grey-green fleshy leaves. The plant can be propagated from cuttings. For successful cultivation, it should be provided with bright sunlight and moderate watering in a well-drained soil.

Lechenaultia biloba is commonly known as Blue Lechenaultia.

31 Jul

Beautiful Shade Tree for Tropical Climate: Smodingium argutum

If you are looking for an easy-to-grow and maintain shade tree for tropical climate, consider Smodingium argutum. It is an attractive foliage tree with splash of fresh green leaves with fine cuts. Similar to Rhus, in appearance and habits, Smodingium argutum makes an excellent tree for small as well as large landscapes. The plant usually grows quickly when grown tropical climates where it only requires moderate watering and bright sunlight.

Smodingium argutum is commonly known as African poison ivy, because of the poisonous milky sap that emits from its damaged trunk or branches.

Smodingium argutum

Smodingium argutum

The foliage of Smodingium argutum changes interesting colors in autumn and turns fresh green in spring and summer. Though not conspicuous, spray of creamy-green flowers appears in summer.

Smodingium argutum can be grown in a well-drained soil and requires care in initial years. Mature plants can survive a variety of weather conditions and growing conditions. However, size of the plant may vary diversely according to the growing conditions. You may find Smodingium argutum growing as a shrub or as a tree as tall as 5 meters.

Smodingium argutum originally belongs to South Africa from where it has spread to many tropical climates across the globe.

19 Jun

Lovely Summer Bloomer for Cold Climates: Phygelius

Phygelius is a small genus of ornamental bloomers from South Africa. These cold hardy plants make excellent border plants that grow up to 1 meter and produce and produce long spikes of fuchsia-like flowers. They can also be grown in large pots and hanging baskets in semi-shaded or sunny spots.

Phygelius

Phygelius/ Image by faroutflora.com

Phygelius are grown as evergreen shrubs or as perennials in colder climates for their ability to produce abundance of tubular flowers that usually appear in summer and stay for a long time. Flowers are orange or red.

In their natural habitat, Phygelius grow in shade near water. Therefore, they prefer slightly moist and semi-shaded spots.

Though only two species, P. capensis and P.aequalis, are found in nature, a number of interesting cultivars and hybrids of Phygelius are commercially sold. The popular varieties include:

Phygelius x rectus ‘African Queen’, Phygelius x rectus ‘Sunshine’, and Phygelius x rectus ‘Salmon Leap’. These varieties are usually easy to grow when grown in a slightly moist and fertile soil.

18 Jun

Hardy and Lovely Bloomers for Sandy Soil: Lewisia

Lewisia is a genus of hardy perennials from the alpine climate western North America. These lovely bloomers make excellent plants for rock gardens, borders, and container gardening. Most species of Lewisia are low-growing, sometimes dwarf, perennials that produce spectacular and considerably larger flowers for their size.

The genus of Lewisia is characterized by hardy plants that produce small rosettes of succulent leaves and very showy flowers white, pink, purple, mauve, yellow, and cream colors. Flowers appear in early summer or late spring.

Lewisias can be grown under bright sunlight in a sandy and porous soil that guarantees perfect drainage. Though slow-growing, most species of Lewisia are low-maintenance plants that withstand drought and neglect.

Lewisia

Lewisia in a rock garden/ Image by dan.kristiansen

Popular species include:

Lewisia cotyledon forms evergreen succulent rosette and produce flowers of orange, pink, white or yellow colors.

Lewisia glandulosa is a deciduous plant that produces a rosette of narrow leaves and bears small flowers of white or pink shades.

Lewisia x pygmaea is a dwarf and deciduous perennial that produces lovely pink flowers in spring.

Lewisias can be grow easily in moderately fertile, neutral to acid, and well-drained soil under full sun or light shade.

17 Jun

Lovely Winter Flowering Plants for Gardens: Chasmanthe

Chasmanthe is a small genus of winter flowering plants from the family of Iris mainly from South Africa. These winter-growing plants are known for their attractive flowers of red, orange and yellow flowers that grow along a tall stalk, which makes these lovely plants stand out from their neighbors.

Chasmanthes are propagated from corms and produce sword-like leaves that grow up to 1 meter. Most species form small colonies that require bright sunlight and a moist soil. Colonies of Chasmanthe can be planted in landscapes, garden borders or in the background of flowering beds where both the foliage and flowers make an excellent show.

Chasmanthe aethiopica

Chasmanthe aethiopica/ Image by faroutflora.com

Popular species of Chasmanthe include:

Chasmanthe floribunda grows up to 1.5 meters and produces brilliant orange-red flowers in winter or spring.

Chasmanthe floribunda var. duckittii is an easy-to-grow variety with lovely yellow flowers.

Chasmanthe bicolor has small growth and produces scarlet flowers in midwinter or spring.

Chasmanthe aethiopica or Cobra Lily grows up to 1.5 feet and bears prominent deep-orange flowers on tall spikes.

21 May

Brunfelsia pauciflora: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Brunfelsia is a small genus of flowering shrubs and small trees native to tropical climates of the Americas. The plants in this genus are known for their exotic flowers. Most plants in the genus of Brunfelsia are evergreen and drought tolerant.

Brunfelsias make good specimen plants in sunny or partially shaded parts of the garden where they can grow up to 4 meters and produce abundance of colorful flowers that exude sweet fragrance. Among many popular species, Brunfelsia pauciflora and its various hybrids are perhaps the most common and widely cultivated plants.

Brunfelsia pauciflora

Brunfelsia pauciflora / Image by Tony Rodd

Brunfelsia pauciflora grows as an evergreen shrub that can gain the height of 4 meters. The plant is known for its scented and colorful flowers that change their hues from violet-mauve to pale-mauve and then white on successive days. Thus giving the plant its common name – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Other popular species include: B. grandiflora, Brunfelsia australis, Brunfelsia isola (Lady of the Night), and B. nitida (Raintree). Most of these species can be easily propagated from hardwood cuttings and grown in a shaded or sunny spot where they are protected from heavy frost.

14 May

Artocarpus heterophyllus: the Jackfruit tree

Artocarpus heterophyllus or the Jackfruit tree, as it is popularly known, is an evergreen tree from tropical lowlands and rainforests of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is also grown in some parts of Africa, and the Americas for its foliage and fruit.

The jackfruit has a special significance in the history, culture, flora and lifestyle of the Southeastern countries of Asia where it is known by many names including Katthal, Pila and Panos. The tree has been grown in this region for several hundred years as an excellent source of food and timber. Even today, it is an important part of the local flora mainly because of its edible fruit which is one of the biggest tree-borne fruits. The round or oblong fruit grown on trunks and weights as heavy as 36 kg. Typically, the fruit has green skin dotted with small spikes. Inside the fruit is found jelly-like pulp that tastes like banana, apple and pineapple.

Jackfruit Tree, Artocarpus heterophyllus

Jackfruit Tree/ Image via flickr

The fruit is consumed ripe or unripe and eaten raw or cooked in several traditional recipes. Besides its fruit, the jackfruit tree is a good source of timber that is used in the manufacturing of furniture and other wooden items. The timber, when seasoned and polished, gives a rich mahogany-like look. Flowers of the jackfruit tree are quite unusual in shape. Both male and female flowers appear on the same tree in early spring.

Artocarpus heterophyllus grows into a large tree and produces dense foliage thus making it a good shade tree. Usually it prefers a rich soil under bright sunlight. In native rainforest, the jackfruit grows quickly to form a sturdy structure.

11 May

Small and Lovely Shrub for Landscapes: Pelargonium trifidum

Pelargonium trifidum is a small sprawling shrub from a large genus of tropical flowering plants, Pelargonium. The plant is known for its beautiful white and maroon flowers that often bloom in late summer.

Pelargonium trifidum

Pelargonium trifidum/ Image by Alan Gregg

Pelargonium trifidum is rather low-growing shrub with sprawling branches and brittle stems. The leaves are succulent and aromatic. When provided with proper support of a tree or fence, the plant can grow up to 1 meter.

Because of its growing habit, Pelargonium trifidum makes a good choice for growing in garden border or under the trees where its gets bright sunlight. As far as it is provided with moderate water and exposure to the sun, Pelargonium trifidum is quite easy to grow and maintain.

Pelargonium trifidum can be propagated from seeds in late summer or from softwood cutting any time of the year.

22 Apr

Lovely Tropical Climber: Ipomoea quamoclit

Ipomoea quamoclit, commonly known as Cypress Vine, is a delicate and fast-growing climber from the family of morning glory. Characterized by delicate, finely cut foliage and lovely scarlet flowers, Cypress Vine makes a good climber for growing against fences and trellises.

Ipomoea quamoclit,  Cypress Vine

Ipomoea quamoclit, Cypress Vine/ Image via flickr

Usually grown as an annual bloomer, this twining vine grows quite fast and grows up to 6 meters and produces smooth-textures foliage. Flowers of pink, red or scarlet colors appear in early summer. The fern-like foliage and small attractive flowers give a tremendous look to the plant. When in bloom, Ipomoea quamoclit attracts bees, birds and butterflies.

Ipomoea quamoclit has many common names including Cardinal Climber, Star Glory, Cypress Vine and Indian Pink.

Ipomoea quamoclit prefers partial to full sun and slightly moist soil all the time. The plant seeds itself freely and can become invasive in some climates.