28 May

Carex eburnean: The Bristleleaf Sedge

Carex eburnean is a versatile plant. Commonly grown as a tough ground cover, this nice little plant performs very well under shade or sun and in moist as well as dry areas. You can grow it as a ground cover, companion plant in a rock garden or as alternative to ornamental grasses in Xeriscape. It can also be grown as a nice specimen plant in containers.

Image from Houzz.com

Carex eburnean or Bristleleaf sedge forms small mounds of needle-shaped tufted leaves. The plant can grow up to 8 inches and width. The soft tufted leaves of Carex eburnean hide a very hardy and adaptive plant that does not require much maintenance. Typically, it performs very well in a slightly moist but well-drained alkaline soil under partial shade. However in urban settings, Carex eburnean can adapt to different growing conditions. When grown in urban settings Carex eburnean can be used to fill spaces where most plants fail – under shady trees, lands that are not frequently irrigated, and soil that is too sandy to grow your favorite plants.

Flowers, though not prominent appear in spring followed by formation of small, fluffy seed heads. Carex eburnean is propagated from seeds and division of rootball from spring to autumn.

Common names of Carex eburnean are: Bristle-leaved sedge, Ebony sedge, and Ivory sedge.

18 May

Ornamental Grass for Containers: Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’

Ornamental grass for containers

Phalaris arundinace ‘Picta’ / Image by F. D. Richards

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ is a popular ornamental grass for growing in containers as well as in garden landscapes. This lovely grass is commonly known as Ribbon Grass because its green leaves and beautifully stripped in contrasting white or cream.

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ makes a nice choice when you want to cover slopes or empty spaces in your garden landscape. It spreads quick and easily when grown in a sunny spot and provided with moist soil. Therefore it makes a nice ornamental grass when grown around ponds or under shady trees (it grows slowly under shade).

Like most ornamental grasses, Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ can be easily divided from rhizomes. The best time of the year for planting ribbon grass is spring or fall when you can take out healthy rhizomes from the root zone and plant them in to the ground or containers. If you do not have plenty of space to accommodate this spreading grass, grow it in containers as evergreen ornamental plant. Otherwise invasive, ribbon grass is easy to maintain and control in containers. Usually a 5 gallon container is a good size. When allowed to grow freely in the ground, Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ can grow up to 3 feet in height and spread from 3 to 4 feet across. Be careful when you are planting ribbon grass with other plants because of its rapid spreading and sometimes invasive root system.

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ is a low-maintenance grass. It is generally a pest-free grass that requires regular watering and light pruning in midsummer to encourage fresh growth.

10 Apr

Winter Flowering Bush: Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’


Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ flowers / Image by Peter Stevens

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is an easy-to-grow, winter flowering bush known for its glorious pink flowers. When in full swing, you can spot this lovely bush laden with abundant of pink flowers that make it centre of attention in the garden.

Unlike other  Rhododendrons, ‘Christmas Cheer’ is a rather slow growing bush and can be grown in containers or gardens with limited space. The bush grows up to 4 feet in height and spreads 4 feet across. If you planning to grow this bush in the ground, select a spot where it gets sufficient room to grow and establish its shallow roots. When growing in containers, select a container that is as wide as the spread of the bush.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is usually grown for its winter flowers. The funnel-shaped flowers can be 2 inches across. These attractive pink flowers start blooming as early as in January and continue to bloom throughout the winter.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ can be grown from cuttings. The bush require a rich, slightly acidic and well-drained soil. Provide this lovely bush with sufficient light and regular watering.

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer'

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’/ Image by peganum

A mature specimen of Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is characterized by evergreen foliage of dark-green matt finish, medium height (up to 4 feet), and plenty of pink to pale-pink flowers growing through out the winter.

04 Mar

Spring Flowering Shrub: Loropetalum chinense

Loropetalum chinense

Loropetalum chinense / Image by tk78000u

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

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’.

14 Feb

Alliums: The Ornamental Onions

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.

Allium globemaster

Allium globemaster – Image by PKdon50 (flickr)

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.

Allium Purple Sensation

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ / Image by Farrukh

Allium caeruleum or ‘Blue Allium’ produces very attractive flowers of sky-blue color in spring and summer.

Allium schoenoprasum or Chives is a useful herb that produces nice pink flowers from mid to late spring.

Allium ‘Globemaster’ is a popular variety known for its huge flowers of purple color.

Allium ‘Millennium’ is a great bloomer for the late summer season. This variety is known for its long lasting lavender flowers.

Allium tuberosum or Garlic Chives are attractive border plant because of their delicate form and nice white flowers.

Allium aflatunense is known for its large and prominent pink-purple flowers that sit on tall flower stalks.

Other popular species are: Allium moly (Golden Garlic), A. cristophii (Stars of Persia) and Allium ‘Mount Everest’.


Blue Allium

Blue Allium / Image by Joe Shlabotnik