28 Mar

Akebia quinata, the Chocolate Vine

Akebia quinata, popularly known as Chocolate Vine because of its brownish-purple flowers, is a beautiful climber for sunny or partially shaded spots in gardens. Native to the Far East, Akebia quinata grows as a quick climber and makes an excellent specimen for growing over pergolas or against walls where it produces abundance of fresh-green foliage. It can also be used as ground cover. The compound leaves of Akebia quinata are evergreen in tropical climates and semi-evergreen in colder areas.

Akebia quinata, the Chocolate Vine

Akebia quinata, the Chocolate Vine/ Image via flickr

Akebia quinata grows in a slightly moist soil under full or partial sun. The chocolaty flowers appear in spring or summer and emit exotic spicy fragrance with the hint of vanilla. Flowers last longer in warm and dry conditions. Flowering is followed by formation of long pulpy and edible fruits. However, it usually requires two plants of Akebia quinata to fertilize the flowers. The plant can be pruned back at the end of the flowering season. The fruit as well as the plant itself are used in traditional Chinese medicine for their diuretic properties.

Like most Akebias, Chocolate Vine can be grown from seeds sown in spring, or by layering long stems in winter.

27 Mar

Lovely spiral plant: Albuca spiralis ‘Frizzle Sizzle’

Today’s featured plant is Albuca spiralis – a really unusual, lovely and rare plant that is in my wish list for a long time. This small and unusual species is a bulbous plant from the family of Hyacinthaceae and is loved for its unusual spiral leaves that remind us of the Spiral Grass plant.

Albuca spiralis grows as a winter growing plant and produces wiry leaves that curl themselves into the shape of the corkscrew especially when grown in dry winters and provided with a sunny exposure – more sun, more curls. Flowers of Albuca spiralis are rather inconspicuous; the bell-shaped greenish-yellow flowers appear in late winter and continue to bloom till spring. As the summer sets in, the plant goes dormant. The spiral leaves disappear at this stage and the bulb shows no sign of life. At this time, the plant needs barely sufficient water.

Albuca spiralis

Albuca spiralis/ Image via plantfreak.wordpress.com

 

Watering can be started in early winter when the plant shows signs of life. Albuca spiralis can withstand light frost thus it can be grown in the ground in areas where winter is dry. In colder climates, Albuca spiralis can be grown in pots. The plant is fairly easy to grow as long as it is grown in a fast draining soil and protected from overwatering.

10 Mar

Lovely Bulbous Plants for Garden Landscape: Hyacinthoids

Hyacinthoids, sometimes referred as Endymion or Scilla, is a small genus of bulbous perennials popular for their bell-shaped fragrant flowers.

Native to northern Africa and parts of Africa, Hyacinthoids are low-growing bulbous plants that bloom profusely in spring. The bell-shaped flowers of blue or lavender color appear on a long stalk rising from each bulb. Because of their low-growing habit and abundant showy flowers, Hyacinthoids are well suited to garden borders, open woodlands or spots under large trees where they grow easily and form clumps.

Hyacinthoids, Bluebell

Hyacinthoids, Bluebell/ Image by Ed

Commonly grown species include:

Hyacinthoids hispanica: Also known as Spanish Bluebell, Hyacinthoids hispanica grows well in open woodlands where it tends to cover the ground rapidly. Flowers are blue, white or pink.

Hyacinthoides italica: Native to Europe, Hyacinthoides italica or Italian Bluebell is a smaller species that produces purple-blue flowers in spring. The star-like flowers are different from typical bell-shaped flowers of its genus.

05 Mar

Little, Lovely Myosotis: Forget-me-not

Myosotis or Forget-me-not, as it is commonly known, is a lovely and easy to grow spring bloomer. The genus comprises of more than one hundred annuals, biennials and perennials that mostly grow as low-growing plants that tend to form large mounds.

Usually growing under shade or partial sunlight, most species of Myosotis prefer damp and rich soil where they can be planted for abundance of small blue flowers in spring. Myosotis or Forget-me-nots are easily propagated from seed or division in late winter. These tender plants need to be protected from frost in winter and scorching heat in summer.

Myosotis, Forget-me-not

Myosotis, Forget-me-not/ Image by Maurizio Albissola

Myosotis can be grown in containers where they would spill out to become delicate and attractive plants or in mass plantation scheme where they will form large mounds. The small and pointed leaves of Forget-me-not somewhat look like ears of a mouse – thus giving them their Greek name Myosotis (mouse’s ears).

The name Forget-me-not also has an interesting story. The legend has it that when God gave names to all the flowers, the little Myosotis cried, “Forget me not, O Lord!” The God replied, “That is your name, forget-me-not”. Besides the myths, Myosotis has been a popular subject in history, folk literature, and modern day fiction because of its lovely flowers and attractive colors.

02 Mar

Santolina chamaecyparissus: the Cotton Lavender

Santolina is a genus of dwarf and evergreen shrubs known for their aromatic summer flowers. Originally native to the Mediterranean climate, most species of Santolina can be grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Among many cultivate species; S. chamaecyparissus is more popular because of its attractive silvery foliage and button-like yellow flowers. The plant is commonly known as Cotton Lavender or Ground Cypress.

Santolina chamaecyparissus

Santolina chamaecyparissus/ Image by Manel (flickr)

Santolina chamaecyparissus is an easy-to-grow plant that prefers in hot, sunny, and well-drained sites. The plant grows as a dwarf (up to 1 to 1.5 feet high) and dense shrub ideally suited to small dividers or hedges in landscape designs schemes. Santolina chamaecyparissus performs well in sandy and loamy soil with average watering. Generally, it is a low-maintenance plant that should be trimmed after each flowering season to keep it compact and in good shape.