Sunday, May 17, 2009

Surprise Return Engagements

I love the surprises that emerge in the spring garden - those plants that I thought I'd said a last goodbye to with the first frost but nonetheless come peeking out of the ground in the spring. We had a weird winter here with too many freezing temps and lots of wind to stir that cold air up. My expectations for winter survivors were pretty low so I was shocked to see these emerge: angelonia augustifolia (maybe AngelMist Plum), a red penta, two acalypha wilkesiana, acalypha pendula, and a caladium. These are all "maybes" in Mt. Pleasant so after a mild winter I would have expected them to survive. But this year, not so much. All of them were in a very exposed, very windy corner of my yard with no overhead protection, no special mulching, no advantage working in their favor.

Being the obsessed gardener that I am, I'm now hovering over them and can't wait to see how quickly they grow. And I'm also on the lookout for other survivors. It is all part of what makes gardening so much fun, isn't it?

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Lowly Azalea

My mother always said that the problem with a lot of Charleston gardeners is that they just stick a slew of azaleas and a handful of camellias in the yard and call it a garden. There truly is an azalea overload around here and hence I vowed to never plant an azalea...way too common for me, I thought. Leave azaleas to the "garden variety gardeners".

Ha, ha, and ha again. It turns out, I'm no more immune to azaleas than the next person. They are just too beautiful and too easy. As spring rolls in, I find myself in the garden centers drooling over all those luscious colors and wanting to take every one home. So I've put myself on an azalea "diet" but when I first saw Elsie Lee, I couldn't resist. This has got to be the most feminine of azaleas: the flowers are ruffled, double, and the color is an absolutely ethereal shade of orchid. Very girly.

My Elsie Lee's started blooming about a week ago and are in full bloom now. I can't wait till they've gained a bit of stature and make a real statement in my frontyard.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jump Down, Pick a Bale of Cotton

I'm not a fan of winter. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it is a necessity but it curtails the bloomy goings on in my yard and I just can't get beyond a bit of resentment over that. So I take it out on my yard and ignore it for a couple of months. The problem with petulantly turning my back on the garden all winter is that Mother Nature takes up the gardening chores in my absence and we have quite different taste and styles. She tends to like Florida Betony and Chickweed. Me, not so much.

But in anticipation of our average last-frost date just around the corner, I've emerged from semi- hibernation, rubbed my eyes a few times, eaten a few honey-soaked biscuits and marvelled at what a speedy gardener Mother Nature is. The weeds are thick. Some of them I know I will have to spray with herbicide but others I'm trying to handpull and it is overwhelming!

Overwhelming, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Being a bit of history geek and a born southerner, looking at all those weeds made me think of the old song "Jump Down, Pick a Bale of Cotton" (to see a vido of folk musician Lead Belly performing the song click and that made me think of all the agricultural workers, past and present, black and white and every other color, here and abroad, who've picked bales/buckets/pallets of cotton/whatever day in and day out for years under a hot sun and with meager rations for meager compensation if any.

Yikes, what a wimp I am!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Elephants of Winter

It has been awhile since I have written anything- holidays and computer problems are my excuse. But now it is a new year so lets start with a bang of a plant. This hunk of a plant is called Farfugium japonicum 'Giganteum' or F.reniforme , either way it is one spectacular plant.

It has just finished blooming after a two month season but even without the 30" high yellow daisies the plant is still striking. The foliage is 2' tall, shiny and so large it looks tropical. Those big leaves demand shade and a good supply of water as they will wilt even in winter. Keep the hose handy!

The plant can be divided every spring and soon you too will have a herd of elephants in your garden. They call attention when massed better then any plant in the garden so use them with care. They can easily create a visual barrier that can act like a hedge and hide smaller plants. Plant them so they lead the eye into the distance.

The herd pictured started as one plant six years ago and with careful dividing has grown into a mass of twenty-five plants. Start your herd today!