Friday, April 27, 2012

First hummingbird

This morning as I was washing the breakfast dishes, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw the first hummingbird of the season. It was flying around the archway covered with the climbing rose "Blaze", yellow honeysuckle and a white clematis that I can't remember the name of. This photo was taken two weeks ago and the honeysuckle flowers had not fully opened yet. They are open now and the hummingbird was really enjoying them.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Peony "Top Brass"

Peony "Top Brass"

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jerusalem Sage

For me, some of the most rewarding plants are those that you don't know anything about when you put them in the ground and they end up being an unexpected stellar performer. These plants may come from friends or you might buy them on impulse at a nursery or gardening center. You plop them in the ground somewhere, forget about them (if you are like me) and lo and behold, they rise up and put their neighboring companions to shame. 

Case in point - Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa). I bought it years ago at a local plant sale when Margie Anderton told me I needed to have it in my garden. Margie is one of my gardening gurus so I trust her recommendations. She was right of course and Jerusalem Sage has become a favorite of mine and it gets better every year.

A native of the Mediterranean, it has many characteristics that prompt admiration. First, woolly, velvety leaves are silvery gray/green with white undersides. They appear on a robust, compact plant that gets much larger than what I had anticipated. I planted it in front of a border - big mistake - as this plant can get up to 4' x 4' according to descriptions. It would be better placed in the middle or back of a border. 

In early spring (April), fat flower buds appear in whorls up the stems which open to bright lemon-yellow flowers that usually last at least a month and appear throughout the summer. The fruit which appears afterward also last a long time. It is woody and can be trimmed back in spring after it flowers. I've never trimmed it although I am going to this year because it just keeps getting bigger.

Hardy to at least 20 degrees, it needs good drainage but otherwise minimal care. It is drought tolerant once established. This is a plant that does exceptionally well in California and dry, warm climates. In our garden, it gets complete shade from 1pm onward which does not diminish the bloom. In fact, plants in Alabama prefer a bit of shade to keep the yellow flowers from washing out. I've read that this plant reseeds easily although I've never seen this happen in the border (probably because of the crowded conditions).

There are other types of Phlomis available with slightly different characteristics including some that have purple flowers.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, April 20, 2012

Roses already!

"Buff Beauty" (left) and "Rambling Rector" (on pergola)

The roses are a month ahead this year. I'm in the process of doing an inventory of all our roses and I plan to share photos of all of them during the next month (if I can get them photographed!). At one time, we had around 130 - 150 roses but I don't think there are as many today. There is much more shade in the garden now and that takes a toll on the roses as well as other sun lovers. 

I am not liking this early season. I haven't even had a chance to get the weeding done before the roses bloomed. Maybe the temperatures will stay in the normal range and we will at least have a long blooming period.

A hybrid musk rose named "Moonlight"

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Getting tomatoes planted and buying new plants

A productive weekend. Our tomatoes and peppers are planted and I got about half of the containers planted. I found this plant at Lowe's. It is Jacob's Ladder "Touch of Class" (Polemonium reptans). I also bought Wallflower "Bowles Mauve" (Erysinum linifolium) for $1 on the sale rack at Home Depot. I have never grown wallflowers but I remember Elizabeth Lawrence praising them in one of her books.

Jacob's Ladder "Touch of Class" (Polemonium reptans)

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Show me the Money Plant

An old-fashioned biennial, Money Plant (Lunaria annua) is also known as Honesty and Silver Dollar Plant. Native to central and southern Europe, it was brought to the United States by the Pilgrims. The attractive purple (or white) flowers appear in early spring, from 1 - 3' feet tall. After flowering, the seedpods develop. They start out green and turn to silvery white or translucent orbs that resemble coins. The seeds inside can be dried or simply removed and scattered (nature will also do this for you as it is a notorious re-seeder.) They also are popular in dried flower arrangements. A member of the Mustard family, it is said that the white tapered roots can be eaten raw or boiled.

Easy to grow, just sprinkle seeds in the fall or early spring. It flowers the second year from seed and will probably re-seed for you. You can always scatter more seeds to assure successive flowers.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, April 6, 2012

Brent and Becky's Bulbs order

Getting plants in the mail is so much fun! My order from Brent and Becky's Bulbs arrived yesterday. Here is what I ordered:

Begonia Boliviensis 'Bertini'
Canna 'Stuttgart'
Canna 'Robert Kent'
Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'
Buddleia 'Evil Ways'
Zantedeschia 'Mango' (Calla Lily)

Now to figure out where everything is going!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, April 2, 2012

A beauty of a bush

Aptly named - Beauty Bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis) - I've always been puzzled as to why I never see it in nurseries or other gardens. This was one of the first shrubs planted in the garden so it has to be around 15 years old. 

The heat is ruining the blooms. The bottom photo is from last year when it was prettier.


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy