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.

20 Mar

Lobularia maritima, the Sweet Alyssum

Sweet Alyssum is one of the favorite flowering plants among gardeners and landscape designers. This small plant with its tiny flowers is very useful in gardens and landscapes – it is a good filler plant under larger specimen landscape plants, it makes dense and flowery mats in landscapes, it also makes excellent border plants, Sweet Alyssum is an excellent container plant as well.

Sweet Alyssum, Lobularia maritima

Sweet Alyssum/ Image by Bill Bumgarner

Sweet Alyssum is a remarkable bloomer too; it flowers all through the spring and continues to bloom in summer. Because of its long flowering season and small size, Sweet Alyssum is often grown as a companion plant with other flowering plants.

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), once classified in the genus of Alyssum, is now placed in the genus of Lobularia but it is still known by its common name ‘Sweet Alyssum’ – ‘sweet’ is because of the sweet fragrance of its white or purple flowers.

Sweet Alyssum is quite easy to propagate. It is grown from seeds sown in early spring. The plant requires a loamy and well-drained soil under full to partial sun. With moderate watering and good exposure to sun, Sweet Alyssum grows quickly and starts blooming within a few weeks after germination. In its original Mediterranean climate, the plant grows as perennial, however in colder climates it is grown as an annual bloomer.

Besides the common variety, a number of cultivars of Sweet Alyssum are also available for cultivation. These include: ‘Snow Cloth’, ‘Oriental Nights’, ‘Snow Drift’ and the ‘Golf Series’.

15 Mar

Rebirth

What a lovely way to pay tributes to a building that had served and touched thousands of people in nine decades. The old Massachusetts Mental Health Center building was planned to be demolished to make way for the new facility. The artist Anna Schuleit was commissioned to make this memorial a good recognition of the historical importance of the building.

Tulips

Image (c) Anna Schuleit

Anna used nearly 28,000 potted flowers to fill all the corridors, stairwells, and offices. The public was then invited for a limited 4-day viewing as a time for needed reflection and rebirth. Lovely idea indeed!

Pink Heather

Image (c) Anna Schuleit

For more pictures, see the Bloom project on Anna Schuleit website.

13 Mar

Lovely Landscape Plant: Euphorbia lambii, the Tree Euphorbia

Euphorbia lambii – a lovely landscape tree with evergreen foliage and beautiful yellow blooms in spring. Actually a fast growing shrub, Euphorbia lambii is grown as a landscape specimen for its attractive evergreen foliage of lime-green color. The plant grows up to 6 feet and produces upright, succulent branches. Each branch is usually covered with thick foliage that makes it a nice plant for gardens and landscapes. The plant becomes even more attractive when yellow bracts appear from the center of thick foliage on each branch in spring.

Euphorbia lambii

Euphorbia lambii/ / Image by Brian Pettinger

Euphorbia lambii grows easily in tropical and sub-tropical climates. With low water requirements and ability to grow in almost any soil, it is a good candidate for xericapes. Euphorbia lambii is propagated from stem cuttings and can be grown under full sun. The only challenge is to protect it from long spells of frost and cold.

Because of its trunk and branching habit, Euphorbia lambii is commonly known as Tree Euphorbia.