09 Jul

Colorful Ground Cover with Lovely Flowers: Polygonum capitatum

Polygonum is a large genus of very versatile and multipurpose plants. The genus includes several climbers, ground covers, aquatics, and small perennials and annuals that can be grown quickly and easily. Most species of Polygonum are low-growing plants that produce colorful foliage and delicate flowers of various colors.

Propagated from seeds or cuttings, Polygonums are popular urban plants. They can be grown as ornamental houseplants or attractive foliage and landscape plants. Several species of Polygonum are commercially available as ground covers or border plants. These are usually sold under their common name Knotweed. My favorite is Polygonum capitatum. It is a small and low-growing ground cover that produces attractive green foliage that turns reddish, pink or bronze when grown under bright sunlight. Flowers grow in small heads of tiny pink flowers in spring, summer and autumn.

Polygonum capitatum

Polygonum capitatum, Knotweed, Image by Christian Defferrard

Polygonum capitatum grows in a regular soil and requires moderate watering under full or partial sun.

20 Jun

Fancy and Flowery: Scilla

Scilla is a genus of low-growing and bulbous perennials that make excellent container or border plants. Most plants form this genus come from summer rainfall regions of Europe, South Africa and Asia. Though, not common in cultivation, Scilla are nice and easy-to-grow plants that produce clumps of lovely blue or purple flowers in spring.

Scilla flowers

Scilla flowers growing in a landscape, Image by Roger Bruce

Being low-growing plants, Scilla can be grown as border plants, or to fill empty spaces in landscapes and flower beds where they can grow up to 3 feet.  Most species of Scilla grown under partial sun and prefer slightly moist but rich, loamy soil. Late summer or early autumn is the best time to plant bulbs. Young plants produce fresh foliage in winter and spring. Pale blue or purple flowers appear in spring but they do not last long.

Popular species of Scilla include: Schilla peruviana, S.madeirensis, S. greillhuberi, and Scilla messeniaca.

18 Jun

Lovely, Hardy, Musky and Delightful: Muscari armeniacum

Muscari is a genus of bulbous plants from Europe and the Mediterranean regions and are known for their spectacular flowers and delightful musky fragrance. These lovely bloomers do not require much care, in fact, they would do well even when neglected, and grow in almost anywhere in a garden. Most species can be grown in beds, containers, rock gardens, borders or even in mass plantation schemes where they would grow in clusters and produce prolific flowers of purple-blue or white color.

Muscari armeniacum

Muscari armeniacum, Image by Kai Yan, Joseph Wong

Small Muscari flowers grow in clusters on short stalks (up to 10 inches) in spring and emit musky fragrance thus justifying its name – Muscari (derived from Greek word moschos, meaning ‘musk’). These thick clusters of purple flowers often look like bunches of grapes, that is why, these plants are commonly described as Grape Hycinths. The lovely flowers of Muscari are often seen in the background of dark-green foliage that only dies in summer followed by new growth of fresh-green leaves.

Muscari are very easy to grow – they only need full to partial sun, and a rich, moist but well-drained soil. The bulbs can be planted in containers or beds in late summer. For best results, bulbs should be sown in groups or clusters. These clustered plants would produce abundance of flowers that emit delightful fragrance and attract bees and butterflies. For added effects, companion plants like Alyssum, Forsythia, Iris or Narcissus can be grown with Muscari.

Popular species of Muscari include Muscari armeniacum and M. botryoides.

15 Jun

Lovely Lilac

Syringa is a genus of deciduous and woody shrubs known for their beautiful fragrant flowers and ability to survive cold and temperate climates. Native to Asia, Europe and South Africa, many varieties and hybrids of Syringa are grown worldwide as ornamental plants in gardens and landscapes.

The most common of all species is Syringa vulgaris which grows as a woody shrub up to 5 meters and produces fragrant lilac flowers in spring or early summer. However, a number of other cultivars and hybrids are grown commercially and described generally as Lilac. Some popular hybrids are Charles Joy Lilac, Sensation Lilac, Miss Kim, and Angel White Lilac.

Lilac, Flowering Shrub

Syringa / Lilac Flowers, Image by Nick Wolfe

Most of these verities grow into large bushes reaching 5 meters or more and require regular pruning after every flowering season. These bushy plants can be propagated easily from cuttings. Though the genus is known for lilac flowers, however, new verities produce flowers in all shades of lavender, dark purple, blue, pink and white.

Lilacs can be grown under full or partial sun in a fertile, slightly alkaline, and well-drained soil. Avoid over watering and feed them with some lime and well-rotted manure when flowering ends. Start each flowering season with application of a fresh layer of compost (in early spring) under the plant to controls weeds and retain moisture.

11 Jun

Lovely Ground Cover for Coastal Climates: Armeria maritima

Armeria maritima is a compact, low-growing plant, which is known for its prolific and long-lasting spring flowers. The plant is commonly known as Thrift or Sea Pink – the latter is perhaps the more appropriate name for this lovely plant because of its ability to produce large clumps of grassy growth which is topped with vigorous pink flowering – thus making a ‘sea’ of pink flowers in its native habitat.

Armeria maritima, Sea Pink, Thrift

Armeria maritima, Image by Randi Hausken

Though the plant belongs to the coast lines of Northern Hemisphere, especially Europe but it has been grown successfully in many parts of the world as an excellent ground cover. The plant can grow in almost all types of soils with good drainage and under bright sunny exposure. In fact, Armeria maritime can grow quite easily in poor soil conditions and spots where very few plants would survive.

As a compact and low-growing plant, Armeria maritime is a good choice for edging, border fronts, rock gardens or wall pockets. The plant requires moderate watering and can be grown easily from seeds. Flowers are useful for both ornamental as well as cut-flower arrangements.