Thursday, December 21, 2017

May, A Month of Revival

May brings so much action in the garden as the pace of spring quickens.

This arisaema species came to me from our friends in town but I am not sure what species it is and I don't they remember either.  I think it could be A. japonicum or amurense, but if an arisaema expert (I know you are out there) reads this perhaps I can get the correct identification.  It is a good doer in that it is permanent and multiplies into a nice clump.  It flowers the first week of May which is early since others like A. consanguineum arent even sprouting yet. Typical red berries are produced later in the year, each "berry" containing a single seed within.   Arisaema is one of several "collectable" genera which has a devoted fan club.   Some of the species aren't always reliable, skipping a year of growth or disappearing altogether, A. sikokianum being one of those.   Others such as Arisaema consanguineum are easy to raise from seed and fairly permanent in the garden if the tubers are planted deep in decent soil.  For many arisaemas it is best to raise the seedlings in pots and keep the small tubers dry and cool in their pot for the first year then plant out the tubers in their second spring before they grow.  Larger tubers can be planted deeper which is desirable as some species do not like deep freezing.  However this one is an easy grower, and our native Jack In The Pulpit, A. triphyllum, don't seem to need special treatment.

 Tall dark stalks with reddish flowers of Polygonatum kingianum rise from the ground, later on they will bend in an almost vine like way.  Since I have only one clone of this species thus far I dont ever seem to get berries which are often as attractive or more so than the flowers of many in this genus.  With time the rhizomes branch and spread out slowly.   The dead woody trunk nearby is one of two common lilacs that I killed off to make room for more choice plants in this garden.  I keep one lilac (Syringa vulgaris) on another side of the property on one of the borders simply because I like the fragrant flowers which come later in the month.  But in the garden S. vulgaris suckers and needs much maintenance to keep it in good blooming condition and to not let it overrun its neighbors.

Stout stems and dark clustered leaves signal the emergence of lilies.  In this area I have mainly Orientpet lilies, particularly Scheherarzade which I transplanted from the old house. Lilies here need to be sprayed with a systemic insecticide upon emergence and maybe one more time before flowering to kill lily beetles which would otherwise devour the plant.  These bright red beetles resemble an elongated ladybug without spots.  They are an invasive species from Europe that destroys any lily or fritillary that they find.  The adults eat foliage, lay orange eggs on the undersides of the leaves, then the hideous slug like larvae hatch out and do even more damage.  The larvae cover themselves in their own feces to make them even more disgusting.  I tried the hand pick and squash approach, but in my experience it is not efficient at killing them before they do a lot of damage.  Imidicloprid or any other systemic insecticide does the job far more thoroughly.  The grass, Andropogon eucomis, which is sprouting is a species from South Africa where it grows in moist highveld in summer rainfall areas.  Its rhizomes go deep enough for it to survive without winter protection but cold winters will kill sections of it.  But some pieces always survive and grow and after a mild winter like the past one every piece survives.  It is wandering more than I like so I have been removing some of it so it doesnt swamp smaller plants.  The white fluffy seedheads are modestly attractive as is the bold foliage but I wouldn't recommend it for a small garden.
Helichrysum basalticum (at least that is what I think it is) has done superbly in the "crevice garden".  My original seed grown plants flowered in the garden their second year then died after making seeds.  Seedlings came up in the patio crevices and there they do much better and do not die after flowering.  Some have returned in the garden where they were first planted, a few years after they were last there so I think the seeds have the ability to remain dormant for a few years if they so desire.  But if seed is sown most comes up fairly quickly as with most helichrysums.  The velvety silver leaves are reason enough to grow it but later on the bright yellow flowers add even more interest.
I have many kniphofia species in the gardens and they are quite hardy here.  Only a few benefit from added protection in fall.  This one is fully hardy and may be K. porphyrantha but I am not sure.  Kniphofia is a confusing genus and wild collected seeds don't come from plants with name tags so even the identifications that I do get with the seeds can be suspect.  They also hybridize even in the wild so that adds to the confusion.  Regardless I have a thing for these majestic plants, and from the first week of May till the first hard frost there will always be kniphofias in bloom somewhere in the house gardens.  This one is early to flower and will often reflower later on in the summer.   Over time the kniphofias begin to form clumps.  In early spring the tattered foliage of some species is best cut off, a chore to be sure but such is a gardener's work.
Calycanthus floridus begins to bloom with its spicy sweet scented flowers.  I grew this from NARGS leftover seeds.  Many people balk at the idea of growing shrubs or trees from seed but it really is not that hard.  Some bushes like this one can flower in three or four years from seed so extreme patience isn't needed to see good results.  Buying woody plants is often a costly proposition and most folks around here hire "landscapers" (the term is in quotes for a reason) who plant too many bushes and trees too close together so they look sort of okay right away.  It doesn't take long for the bushes and trees to grow into each other and become a tangled mess.  No imagination and a poor selection of common and sometimes weedy plants is what the homeowners end up with.  They also tend to plant tough but invasive species such as burning bush (Euonymous alata) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergiana) which then invade nearby woodlands.  I have eradicated both of these from this property.
Meanwhile in one garden with a fair amount of shade Delphinium tricorne blooms.  This is a tiny species which is an ephemeral woodland plant of rich forests in the eastern US.  Normally blue, this one is more of a white with an icy blue tint. It will disappear soon after flowering.
I got some arilbred iris through the Arilbred Iris Society a couple of years ago and this spring several of them flowered. They are a class of iris that are crosses between some hard to grow desert species and the much easier to grow bearded iris.  I gave them well drained spots in soil amended with coarse sand and they did well.  One disappointment was that some plants showed mottling in the flowers and foliage which appeared to be virus infection, these I removed and destroyed.  I also was able to set seeds on a couple of them to grow more of my own.  The flowers are works of art with colorful blotches and veining.  I have not seen them around here but perhaps they are more commonly grown  in the drier western states where they should do well.   If not they should be.

On May 12 I took this photo of a tree peony I grew from seed with its first flower.  Not too bad I have to say, and it should grow larger with more flowers each year.  The flowers are short lived but beautiful enough to have inspired all manner of art in China and Japan where they are treasured.   Peony seeds are large and easy to plant but patience is required as they usually grow a root if kept fairly warm and moist, then they need about 3 months of cold to be able to grow a shoot.  So if planted in summer in the ground nothing will be seen above ground till the following spring, and sometimes one waits longer than that.  The seeds can also be put in moist sphagnum in small ziplock bags and after roots show, the bags can be put in the refrigerator to simulate winter (not the freezer, that will kill the seeds), then they should either be forming shoots or will do so after they are exposed to room temperatures.  Once the sprouts start, the seeds can be teased apart from the moss and planted in pots or directly into the ground.  First flowers on herbaceous peonies will take 3 or 4 years and usually 4 or more for woody peony species and hybrids.
A mild winter and a bit of protection from the coldest weather allowed this Gazania krebiana to survive.  It may be "Tanager" which is just a selection of a particularly cold hardy form from the interior Cape of South Africa where frost is common in winter or might be from wild collected seed, I have lost track of which. The flowers are usually orange and can be variable often with attractive dark markings.   Like all gazanias, its bright flowers open only in sunshine.  Two seed grown plants are required to get fertile seeds as all gazanias are self sterile.
Delosperma congestum in in full bloom by the first week of May.  It is the hardiest of the South African ice plants.  There is a white form, White Nugget, which I also have. It is among the slowest growing of the delospermas so ideal for rock gardens and trough gardens.   It needs a well drained spot in good sun and can be increased by seed which it obligingly sets.
More delospermas are coming into bloom as May advances.  I have a few different species that are in the shocking pink/magenta range and I find it hard to differentiate among them.  Some bloom mainly in spring, others will flower off and on all summer.  They are also self sowing so more appear and I would hardly be surprised if some hybridization is going on.  Most of my delospermas were started from seeds from the exchanges and also from the last time I went out to Denver and stayed at Panayoti's house.  He let me gather any delosperma seeds I could find in his amazing rock garden and also at DBG.    I cleaned them and gave him back some and and also sent many into the seed exchanges that year.  Delospermas are easy to raise from seed and many will flower their first year. I find it best to plant them in soil amended with coarse sand for drainage.  They don't like soils high in organic matter nor extreme cold and wet as the same time nor hot rainy weather in summer.   Extreme cold/wet can cause dieback but any piece that survives grows fast the next year, whereas prolonged heat and rain together are worse since a mold can attack and kill them.   If the mold appears (its obvious) it is best to remove affected parts and douse the spot with a fungicidal drench.
Delosperma sp "Firespinner" is an unidentified/unpublished species from the highlands of the eastern Cape of South Africa.  Panayoti brought back some from Kirstenbosch near Cape Town, as I recall, where it never blooms because it doesn't get cold enough there, but it has been an outstanding success in Denver and many other places.  It grows well here given the same conditions that suit most delospermas.   Its biggest fault is that it only blooms once but it is glorious at that time.  An occasional flower may appear later on, and it can be propagated by seed or cuttings.
Constantly keeping the mammalian critters at bay makes plants that don't appeal to rodents (including the super destructive large hooved kind) more valuable than ever.   Anything in the genus Allium tends to not have pest problems and they are generally easy to grow.  This is a hybrid or selection of Allium karatarviense from Brent and Beckys that is larger in all parts than the standard species.  Like the more common form it is reliable if planted in full sun.
Delosperma nubigenum is the yellow one below, it runs and does most of its blooming now.  The magenta one is another one from seed, perhaps a dwarf form of cooperi or one of the plants that goes under the name D ashtonii.
Or perhaps this is D. ashtonii, it has smaller flowers and pretty much blooms only at this time but it is a sheet of flowers and is a bit lower growing and has smaller leaves than the previous one shown of a slightly lighter version of this color.
A tiny dianthus, Dianthus arpandianus var pumilus, resembles a green pincushion studded with little pink stars.  I got this as a rooted cutting from our friends in town.  It is a perfect rock garden plant but is easy so far, I just need to make sure nothing tries to grow too close to it to prevent it getting overrun by faster growing things.
Catananche caespitosa comes into bloom, its a small thing from Wrightman Alpines I picked up a couple of years ago at the Stonecrop Alpine sale.
Aethionema grandiflorum came from our friends Alex and Lyn Kenner's garden.  I think it is in the nature of most gardeners to pass plants back and forth, enriching both gardens in the process. This is a rather pleasant plant with a neat habit and good pink flowers borne in abundance in May.  It will reseed but not so much as to ever want to be rid of it.   Even when the flowers are gone the narrow blue green leaves are appealing to the eye.
Papaver rhoeas, the Shirley Poppy, seeds everywhere by now and I let some of them bloom in the patio garden before I pull them up so they don't overrun smaller things that, unlike them, really need to grow in the crevices to do well.   All these poppies need is a place without too much competition and a lot of sun, and decent drainage.  They reseed and come up every year in various colors though the reds tend to dominate after a while.  So its a good idea to rouge out most of the red ones before seeding and plant new seeds sometimes of the strains like Angel's Choir that contain a lot of pastel colors to keep a variety of colors in the population.
Meanwhile at school the Melianthus villosus is resprouting.  It has lived by this wall of the building for many years.  It has flowered only once, but it was a real oddity, big green flowers that dripped black nectar.   The students like it because the leaves smell like peanut butter.
Pelargonium luridum has also done well for years in this protected spot by the building and will flower later on.  I am growing more clones of this species in pots with the eventual aim of trying some at home where a thick winter mulch to prevent deep freezing around the tuberous roots should suffice to allow them to live outdoors here. 
The same wall allows me to grow Amaryllis belladonna, a winter growing bulb but here its leaves are burnt back by severe frost and emerge in spring to grow out until late June or July, then die back.  I get one or two of them to flower in this spot each year in August.   This fall I got several big bulbs from a grower out in California and put some in front of our house but covered them with a wood chip mulch to help them get through winter.   It will be interesting to see how they do away from a wall, I do know the bulbs cannot be planted very deep so they need cover to prevent deep soil freezing.
Also at school the lovely Oenothera berlanderi "Siskiyou" is coming into bloom.  I would bring some home but for its wandering ways, it does like to spread far and fast if it is happy.  It likes dry sunny spots with little competition and it finds what it wants here.
Bearded Iris are beginning to bloom, I have one variety here that was inherited and I got rid of most of it, but I added some from my sister in North Carolina who inherited a lot of them with her house.  She had them thinned, then pulled up some and left them in a plastic garbage can that leaked for months.  The rhizomes were still in good condition when I visited one spring so I took some and planted them and these are the results.   I also have more that I got as a mixture of named varieties from Wild Iris Rows and I am very pleased with what has bloomed so far.

Papaver orientale, the Oriental Poppy, begins its brief but spectacular show in the front gardens.  I grew some from seed and moved them to the front.  They make deep roots which invariably break but can grow back if one doesnt get it all out. Root sections can also be used to propagate them.  The large bristly foliage is unpalatable to all critters and will disappear in the heat of summer, only to reemerge with cooler weather.
I picked up this plant of Silene asterias from Annies in California.  I have sprouted seeds before that turned out to be something else but this is the real deal.  A rather nice and easy plant so far.

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