Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dutchman's Pipe

Do you need a fast-growing vine that will provide dense shade? When asked this, I always think about the Dutchman's Pipe (or Pipe Vine) but due to its tendency to invade I'm usually reluctant to mention it. There are hundreds of varieties of Aristolochia, some prettier and more interesting than others. The one I grow is Aristolochia Durior which is grown mainly for the leaves.

The word Aristolochia comes from the Greek - Aristos for "best" and lochia for "delivery." This refers to an ancient belief that the plants aided women in childbirth because the flowers resembled a human fetus in the womb. The flowers are pipe-shaped and appear in spring and are greenish-yellow in color (I don't have a photo of the flower but you can see on here). They are underneath the foliage though and are hardly noticeable. Indeed, the large 8-10 inch heart-shaped leaves are the standout feature on this vine.

This is a fast-growing deciduous vine and can easily attain 20-30 ft. in distance in one season. The twining vine is often used on porches and gazebos where shade is needed. It will thrive in ordinary well-drained soil in either sun or partial shade. A strong structure is needed to support it. It can be cut back in late winter or early spring.

This year, for the first time, I noticed a 2 inch fruit capsule. I'm not sure what one does with this!

Another interesting fact about Aristolochia (all types) is that it is host to the Pipevine Swallowtail, a beautiful black and blue butterfly. Right now the butterflies are all over our garden. I've seen more this year than ever before. I should have included a photo but the truth is I'm just too impatient to chase them around.

We chose this vine to cover a trellis that we built to shade a large window on the west side of our house. Dutchman's Pipe has delivered in that respect. There is a drawback to the vine - the roots spread like wildfire and I find it popping up all around the trellis. They are easy to pull up though and I don't consider it a major problem. The vine was planted about 8 years ago and I've never pruned it back although I do plan to do that next year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thank you Fay!

After months of frustration with no rain (and when there was rain, it always skipped our neighborhood), we finally got some relief yesterday. The rains from Fay arrived around noon and it rained non-stop until late in the night. Fortunately we didn't get any severe storms with the rain although there were tornado warnings and watches in south Alabama. I walked around the garden briefly this morning and didn't see any limbs or debris, just soggy leaves everywhere.

So how much did we get? I'm not sure because I need a good rain gauge. I got a nice fancy one for Christmas last year with a copper tube that floats up as water fills it, but as Leslie Jordan says in 'Sordid Lives', "It ain't a working!" The weird thing is I can't seem to find a plain old rain gauge anywhere, not even at Wal-Mart. I did see one at Lowe's but it also has a thermometer attached to it. I never expected that finding a good one would be so difficult. So I guess I'm gonna have to shop online to find one. Right now we are just thankful that we got some much needed rain and can take a break from all that watering.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Taking advantage of the plant sales

This is what happens when you go to Lowe's on a Saturday morning in mid-August. They were practically giving things away. I came home with my truck loaded and spent less than $50. A pyramid trellis was marked down to $19.95 (from $69!) and the plants were either 99 cents or $1.99. Rudbeckia, coneflowers, barberry "Crimson Pygmy", hyssop and Loropetalum "Pixie" were among my finds. Most of the plants are in pretty good condition too. I felt like a kid in a candy store!

Friday, August 15, 2008

August bloom day

August in Alabama is usually not fit for man nor beast but this past week has actually been cooler and the humidity is down. This is my last week off before heading back to work next week and I've got a lot done in the garden this week. Here is what is blooming in the garden -

Double Rose of Sharon

We got a little rain on Tuesday and the Rain Lilies burst into bloom

PeeGee Hydrangea

Pineapple Lily

Rudbeckia loves the August heat. I just bought some more plants this week -

Obidient Plant

The rest of the blooms this month come from container plants -


Crown of Thorns

Fan Flower

Ornamental Pepper

Be sure to visit Carol's May Dreams blog to get links to other gardeners blooms this month!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

There are nekkid ladies in my garden!

No, there is no debauchery or ribald action going on in the garden, it is just the Lycoris squamigera blooming. I don't know all the scientific names of plants but this one is one of my favorites because I love the way it rolls off your tongue. As much as I like to say it though, the common name, "Naked Ladies," is much more fun and amusing. Actually, this plant has a host of common names - Surprise Lily, Resurrection Lily, Magic Lily, Mystery Lily and the list goes on. Elizabeth Lawrence refers to them as "Hall's Amaryllis," a name which I never hear today. I've always heard them called "Naked Ladies" because the flowers appear on tall stalks with no foliage underneath.

It would be interesting to see time-lapse photography of this plant blooming because they suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere in late July and early August. The blooms last for several weeks and if you want to transplant them, it is wise to mark the area because after the blooms go, the plant does a disappearing act until long strap-like leaves appear in late fall and last until early summer when they too go dormant. There is no action after that until the violet tinged pink flowers make a "surprise" appearance in late summer.

A favorite of florists, these cold hardy bulbs (to zone 5) are very easy to grow in any average, well-drained soil. I've seen them thrive in very poor soils. They should be planted in the fall at 5-6 inches deep and mulched during the winter. Full sun or partial shade is fine. They spread rapidly and are easily dug and transplanted or shared with friends.

Don't confuse Lycoris squamigera with Lycoris radiata (aka Hurricane Lily or Spider Lily) which appear in the fall and have bright red flowers. But that is another post for a later date.

For an amusing story about Naked Ladies, visit Jeff's blog at Transitional Gardener and read about his childhood memory of this plant.