Category Archives: Zone 8b

20 Oct

Beautiful Flowering Shrubs and Trees: Tamarix

Tamarix is a genus of flowering shrubs and trees from arid regions of Africa and Eurasia but widely spread in most parts of the world. Known for their feathery flowers, most species of Tamarix are grown as drought-tolerant ornamental plants in gardens and landscapes.

Tamarix shrub

Tamarix/ Image by Matthijs Quaijtaal (flickr)

Gardeners often plant these plants and ornamental shrubs in gardens or as shade trees in landscapes. Most species of Tamarix produce slender stem and branches that grow scale-like leaves. Major attraction of Tamarix is from spring to fall when these plants produce feathery flowers of pink or white color. These lovely flowers appear is dense masses at the tips of slender branches. When not in bloom, Tamarix server as good plants for hedges or screens.

Because of their ability to withstand long spells of drought, Tamarix are easy to maintain. They are grown from seeds and cuttings and thrive easily in saline soils. Most species of Tamarix would grow well under full sun and require moderate watering.

Popular species of Tamarix include:

Tamarix hispida, commonly known as Kashgar tamarisk, is known for its vigorous growth and beautiful pink flowers.

Tamarix ramosissima, usually described as Saltcedar, has shrubby growth. It can be grown in poor and saline soils. Under preferable conditions, this plants can become seriously invasive.

18 Oct

Growing Helianthus, the Sunflower, in Landscape and Gardens

Helianthus, commonly known as Sunflower, is a genus of lovely and prolific flowering plants. These lovely bloomers are easily grown in almost any soil and make excellent flowering plants in gardens and landscapes. Most species of Helianthus are annuals and perennials growing from 2 to 4 meters. Helianthus is typically characterized by stout, hairy and seldom branching stem. Each stem has a terminal flower head bearing showy and fairly large-sized flowers.

Helianthus annuus

Helianthus annuus/ Image by Margrit (flickr)

Because of their columnar growth, bright flowers, and easy maintenance, many species of Helianthus have become popular flowering plants in many parts of the world. These species vary in height, and size and color of the flower.

Popular garden species of Helianthus include:

Helianthus annuus or common Sunflower: This is a branching annual growing up to 3 meters. The plant is characterized by coarse leaves and large yellow flowers. The Spanish name ‘annuus’ is because of the movement of flower head along with the sun. It actually follow the sun each day, facing eastward in the morning, westward at sunset.

Helianthus tuberosus is another popular plant from this genus. Unlike its cousins, this lovely bloomer produces smaller flowers on delicate stems. The tubers are edible and are usually known as Jerusalem artichoke.

Helianthus tuberosus

Helianthus tuberosus/ Image by Kingsbrae Garden (flickr)

Helianthus decapetalus ‘Multiflorus’ is popular because of its tufted flowers. This perennial blooms in summer and bears golden-yellow flowers.

Other popular species include: H. salicifolius, H. divaricatus and Helianthus debilis.

Sunflower

Sunflower/ Image by Maja Dumat (flickr)

Most species of Helianthus easily grown in average, moist and well-drained soil under full sun. Propagation is done from seeds or divisions. Regular feeding and watering encourage prolific flowering.

10 Oct

Ensete ventricosum: The Abyssinian Banana

Today’s featured plant is Ensete ventricosum. It is a large, evergreen perennial plant known for its giant and lush green leaves. Commonly known as Ethiopian Banana, false banana or sometimes as Abyssinian Banana, Ensete ventricosum is widely grown as an ornamental plant for gardens and landscapes.

Ensete ventricosum

Ensete ventricosum/ Image by Gardening in a Minute (flickr)

Ensete ventricosum grows up to 6 meters and produces large banana-like leaf blades. The stout trunk of the plant is formed by overlapping leaf-bases. The ornamental value of Ensete ventricosum is because of the texture and lush green colors of the leaves. Leaves that usually up to 5 meters have smooth texture and a contrasting midrib of salmon color.

Because of the fast growth rate and easy maintenance in temperate climates, Ensete ventricosum is a favourite landscape plant among gardeners and horticulturists. Because of its big size, the plant requires plenty of room to grow to its full potential. A healthy and mature plant makes an excellent specimen that instantly grabs attention. Besides, its ornamental value, Ensete ventricosum is also grown as fodder plant in Africa.

Ensete ventricosum flowers once and then dies. The flower is actually a huge bunch of 2 to 3 meters that hangs like a pendant. The bunch consists of maroon bracts that surround the actual flower.

Ensete ventricosum can be grown easily from seeds. The plant requires generous watering, plenty of sunlight, and protection from heavy frost.

Another popular species in the genus of Ensete is Ensete maurelii (Red Abyssinian Banana). It is a beautiful ornamental plant that grows up to 10 – 20 feet produces beautiful foliage of green and maroon shades. Because of its relatively smaller size, Ensete maurelii can be grown in large containers too.

16 Aug

Euphorbia rigida: the Gopher Plant

Euphorbia rigida is a shrubby and evergreen, succulent from the Mediterranean climate. Known for its attractive spiral-forming foliage and ability to withstand drought, the plant makes a valuable addition to a rock garden.

Euphorbia rigida, the Gopher Plant

Euphorbia rigida, the Gopher Plant / Image by FarOutFlora.com

Commonly known as Gopher Plant, Euphorbia rigida forms clumps of upright ascending stems and grows up to 2 feet in height and 3 feet in width. The blue-green leaves of the plant form spiral formation around its stems that make this plant very attractive. Flowers of bright yellow color appear in spring followed by formation of seed pods. Gardeners usually prune spent flowers to prevent self-seeding. The plant itself can be pruned at the end of flowering season to prevent a leggy appearance.

Euphorbia rigida can be grown in raised beds, garden borders and rock gardens and as an excellent ground cover. It also performs well in containers and landscaping with other drought-tolerant plants.

Propagated from seeds or cuttings, Euphorbia rigida can be grown under prefer full sun to partial sun. The plant usually blooms well in rather poor or sandy soil.

Like other plants from Euphorbia family, the milky sap emitted by Euphorbia rigida can be toxic and may cause severe skin irritation.

14 Aug

Lovely Flowring tree Liriodendron tulipifera, the Tulip Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera, commonly known as Tulip Tree or sometimes as Yellow Poplar, is a tall and deciduous flowering tree from North America. Characterized by its height and beautiful flowers, Liriodendron tulipifera makes an excellent flowering tree for gardens and landscapes. With a rapid growth rate, the tree can gain the height of up to 150 feet or more in wild. However, it takes much time to reach that height (An old Tulip Tree in Queens area in New York measures 134 feet; it is said to be 400-450 years old and often described the oldest living thing in New York. The tree is named Queens Giant). In cultivation, it can grow as tall as 70 to 100 feet.

Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree)

Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree)/ Image by Tim Waters

Liriodendron tulipifera does not branch much and tends to form columnar growth which makes it a good source of fine-grained timber.

Like most plants in the Magnolia family, Liriodendron tulipifera is a valuable plant in horticulture. It has broad, glossy green leaves that turn to golden in autumn. Large tulip-like, cup-shaped flowers appear in spring to add to the grandeur of the tree. Flowers are predominantly greenish-yellow with dashes of red and orange.

Liriodendron tulipifera prefers bright sunlight, and a rich and moist soil. The tree can be propagated from seeds. Young plants should be grown under partial sun and later moved to direct sunlight. Young plants of Liriodendron tulipifera have deep and fleshy roots that are easily broken if handled roughly.