10 Apr

Winter Flowering Bush: Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’

Rhododendron

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

07 Dec

Winter Flowering Shrub: Jasminum nudiflorum

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, Jasminum nudiflorum is considered a valuable shrub in colder regions.

Jasminum nudiflorum

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 Jasminum nudiflorum in a garden is a partially sunny location in a well-drained soil.

04 Nov

Ornamental Grass for Gardens and Landscapes: Festuca glauca

The plant featured today is Festuca glauca – a low maintenance and lovely ornamental grass. It is a semi-evergreen grass that forms tight mounds of silver-blue foliage. The needle-like foliage of Festuca glauca changes it colors from blue-green to silver-blue and from steel-blue to brown throughout the year. Because of its unusual texture and color of its foliage, and attractive tufted shape of the plant, Festuca glauca has become a popular grass for gardens and landscapes. It is often mass planted in rock gardens or mixed with succulents to form beautiful landscape designs.

Festuca glauca can also be grown in containers, garden borders or simply as a pot plant. The ornamental value of Festuca glauca is doubled by delicate inflorescence.

Festuca glauca requires a well-drained soil under partial sun. It has tremendous ability to survive long spells of drought. In colder climates, the foliage is usually cut back in harsh winter in order to get fresh foliage in spring.

Festuca glauca can grow up to 10 inches and is easily propagated from clumps divided from the mother plant. When grown in pots, it should be repotted every 3 to 4 years or transferred to ground permanently.

Popular varieties of Festuca glauca include: Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, Festuca glauca ‘Blue Glow’, and Festuca glauca ‘Blaufuchs’.