Friday, May 31, 2013

Chinese Indigo, a truly carefree plant


Chinese Indigo (Indigofera amblyantha) is one of my favorite plants. It is truly a low maintenance plant and it grows in one of the most difficult areas of the garden. A large grove of huge hackberry trees sits behind the garage and this area has proven to be a challenge. The soil is very dry and the addition of raised beds hasn't exactly been successful. 

The Indigo bush, however, sits happily on a raised berm where it endures drought, heavy shade and neglect. The pale lilac to rose pink blooms appear in May and stay on the bush for a long time (months it seems). I had read that indigofera is a spreading plant but that is not the case here. It forms a 3-4 ft. tall plant with equal width and doesn't wander. 

You will find different types of indigofera on the market. There are lower, spreading types (Indigofera kirilowii and Indigofera decora) that I have not tried growing. All of these types are commonly referred to as "Chinese Indigo" and grow in similar conditions. 

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wordless Wednesday


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, May 24, 2013

Peonies and such

Peony "Sorbet"

So many blooms, so little time to photograph! I was walking around the garden yesterday experimenting with making a video with my camera and realized that May is almost gone. It has been a wonderfully mild Spring with abundant rainfall but the season has went by in a flash. I was disheartened yesterday to see that the roses were almost gone. Despite the wonderful weather, it seems like they haven't lasted as long as they normally do. Maybe I've been so busy, I just haven't had time to enjoy them.

Here are some other blooms that I meant to post for Blogger's Bloom Day and never got around to it.

Peony "Krinkled White"

Louisiana Iris

Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa)


Baptisia "Purple Smoke"
Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

More roses

I promise to have photos of other plants besides roses before the week is out!

This is the David Austin rose "Pat Austin" - beautiful salmon color but the blooms always nod and you have to knell down to see them.
"Marchesa Boccella" - my favorite rose name.
"Marjorie Fair" - a "Top 10" rose for sure. Always excellent!
"Marjorie Fair" is also known as "Red Ballerina". It is related to "Ballerina" but I find that "Marjorie Fair"  isn't as prone to blackspot.
This photo of "Marjorie Fair" was taken last year.
Another David Austin rose that performs really well in our garden is "The Pilgrim". This one needs some room to grow and it can be used as a climber.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Dawn - the perfect rose?


Is there such a thing as a perfect rose? Perfect blooms, most definitely but what about the plant itself? Over the years I've grown a lot of roses and while there are a handful that I would rate a "10", the majority are finicky (blackspot anyone?)  and require retirement time on your hands to keep them looking good. I gave up on hybrid tea roses long ago. The roses in our garden are now mostly older varieties and they must survive on their own with no chemicals or else they get the shovel prune heave-ho.

Roses have a reputation for being sun-loving but I can attest that you can grow them in quite a bit of shade. Hybrid musk roses as a group do great in our garden with a minimal 4-5 hours of sun. There are other type roses that also perform well. One of the most shade tolerant is "New Dawn". There are two of these roses growing along the fence line that borders the street on the north side of the house. They are heavily shaded by trees at the front of the house. The sun doesn't hit this area until very late in the afternoon when it begins to descend in the west. A few hours of direct sunlight and they bloom prolifically.

"New Dawn" has iron-clad hardiness (to zone 5), beautiful glossy green leaves and exceptional pale pink blossoms. Disease resistance is excellent. "New Dawn" roses can be grown as either a shrub or a climbing rose. We also have one growing on our pergola but it has to compete with other roses and doesn't put on the show like the ones along the fence.

If "New Dawn" has any faults, I would venture to say that it isn't an easy rose to work with because of its extreme thorny nature. Best to just plant it where it can do its thing and steer clear.

This rose is a sport of "Dr. Van Fleet" which looks identical but "New Dawn" has the advantage of repeat blooms, although the showing is not as dramatic as it is now.


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, May 17, 2013

May Roses


Now is the time to see our garden. The roses have just started to bloom and "Rambling Rector", the monster rose that covers most of the pergola is phenomenal. The fragrance in the garden is wonderful. The confederate jasmine on the patio, the roses and the privet perfume the air. I love this time of year.

One of the rose highlights every year is "Veilchenblau", one of the most beautiful roses in my opinion. Looking through the pergola, it covers the archway in the distance.
"Veilchenblau" has just started to bloom - by next week you will barely
see the foliage, just a blanket of flowers.

Roses "Veilchenblau" and "Mutabalis"

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

Other roses on the pergola - "Francois Juranville", "Russell's Cottage Rose"

Miniature rose "Gourmet Popcorn" and Salvia "Hot Lips"

"Russell's Cottage Rose"

"Russell's Cottage Rose"

"Peggy Martin"


"Gartendirektor Otto Linne"

"Nearly Wild"

"Nearly Wild"


"Madame Plantier"
Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A visit to John's Native Gardens


On Saturday, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take a trip to Scottsboro, Alabama (about 2 hours away) to visit John's Native Gardens. Eve at Sunny Side Up had written to me and suggested this garden for an article. The garden features native azaleas and rhododendrons so I knew I needed to get on the ball to get the required photos. Despite leaving in a heavy drizzle and even some brief downpours, the weather in Scottsboro was dry and perfect. It turned out to be a wonderful trip. Not only were the gardens fantastic but we also received a warm welcome from LaRue Anderson, the garden owner, and fellow blogger Eve, who also made the trip over from her hometown about 20 minutes away.

LaRue's husband John started the garden in the late 80s. He died in 2000 and LaRue has continued maintaining the gardens as well as opening an on-site nursery. John Anderson was first interested in native azaleas and rhododendrons. He later became interested in Japanese Maples and conifers. The garden sits on a hillside with expansive views of lush plantings and an enormous pond that the Anderson's dug when they first moved in. The wooded hillside is dotted with rhododendrons and azaleas that thrive under a canopy of pine trees.
Plantings near the house are composed in island beds. This bed near the garage features Japanese Maples, roses and evergreen shrubs. A paperbark maple (right) grows in the background.

Beautiful rock walls showcase the borders filled with perennials like peony and iris.


The charming porch is surrounded by ferns and potted plants. LaRue has a great collection of birdhouses and garden ornaments.
Asian Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Goshiki Kazura).
I've never seen one so healthy and lush as this one.
Iris fulva (Copper Iris)
A few years ago, a tornado did some major damage (see the website for photos). One of the casualities was this cedar tree. LaRaue saved the trunk and displays bird houses on it. It is covered with Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).
Japanese Maple "Crimson Queen"
Japanese Maple "Skeeters Broom"
Japanese Maple "Viridis"
One of the largest Japanese Maples on the property (I didn't get the name).
Five-Leaf Akebia (Chocolate Vine) (Akebia quinata),
one of my favorite vines, grows on a tree trunk
next to a pink azalea.
Inside the carport that frames a stunning view.
Another awesome view behind the house. An immense Cork Screw Willow
Salix matsudana) can be seen in the background.
Approaching the woodland garden. Cucumber Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata)
We missed the native azalea display but the rhododendrons were putting on a show.
A beautifully shaped specimen.
Rhododendron "Cynthia"
One last glimpse at the gorgeous color of the Japanese Maples.
The Japanese Maple in the foreground is growing in a pot.
If memory serves me correctly, this is "Dancing Girl".

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy