Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

Charles Darwin said:  ”It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”    Hydrangea paniculata ‘Renhy’ or Vanilla Strawberry is a beautiful new variety with change.  It can take full sun and reaches a height of 6-7 feet and width of 4-5 feet.  A deciduous shrub (one that loses it’s leaves in the winter) it can take more cold than we can, winter hardy to -30 degrees F, good in zones 4-8.  The best part about this shrub is the change.  The long clusters of flowers start out creamy white, slowly fade to pink and then end with a cheery strawberry red.

I never understand why some people shop for plants that are ever green.  Something that never changes.  A shrub that will remain the same size and shape and color forever and a day.  One might as well build a wall, or a birdhouse, or park a car to block the view.  Plants are living things and their beauty is how they change through time.  The evolution of plants in our own backyards is what makes them fun.  The small surprising changes that occur day to day are a delight.  The transformation of color is amazing.  The growth of a single leaf reminds me  of the efficiency of photosynthesis.  Changing light into energy.  Imagine the energy it takes to grow a full size gunnera leaf or for a douglas fir to reach maturity and tower over our houses.  Plants are cool! (brief pause while I smile and daydream about all of my favorites, there are so many!) Now I’ve lost track of this essay… hydrangeas?

Flower color is an interesting phenomenon in hydrangeas.  For Hydrangea macrophylla, such as mophead hydrangeas, the flower color will vary between pink and blue depending on the acidity of the soil.  Flowers will be blue in acid soils because the plant is able to absorb aluminum sulfate, the essential element in flower color.  In basic or alkaline soils, aluminum sulfate is not accessible to the plant, and it blooms pink.  Most of the hydrangeas in our Northwest neighborhoods are blooming blue, what does that tell you about our soil type?  Hydrangea paniculata (which includes the Vanilla Strawberry variety) are white flowering, not dependent on soil pH for color.  They can change from white to pink to red, but this happens in the fall when temperatures begin to drop.

The root word of hydrangea means water and these plants do not like to dry out.  When it’s hot and they lack water, they can wilt quickly, but recover just as fast when given a drink.  Most hydrangeas are winter hardy in our area, the exception being the evergreen species.

Here I will simplify the mysteries of pruning.  Macrophylla—no!   Paniculata—yes!   H. macrophylla produces flowers on 2nd year growth, so pruning is not necessary, and may actually prevent blooming the following year.  However, each year a few stems may be cut almost to the ground to renew the plant.  The opposite is true with H. paniculata, such as Vanilla Strawberry, which creates flowers on new growth.  Cut back in early spring (like roses) to two or three buds.  This will produce bigger blooms.

And now, one of my favorite quotes from the book Encyclopedia of Hydrangeas by Van Gelderen and Van Gelderen (which has been my #1 resource for this article).  About dried flowers:  ”The best time for cutting the flowers for drying can be heard as well as seen.  You look at the flower color, and you listen to the flower when you gently squeeze it.  If the flower has turned brown, you are too late, and if you do not hear a rustling sound when you squeeze it, you are too early.  Make sure that you are not observed by other people when you press your ear to the flower and squeeze it, for people will make fun of you.”   Written simply and matter-of-factly.  I love the secret life of the hydrangea enthusiast.  Enjoy these delicious, deciduous shrubs!

Fall color

Fall color

Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangea with new blossoms

My Vanilla Strawberry with new blossoms

Written by Elaine Sawyer July 2010
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Daphne Summer Ice by Lindsey

I thought someone would of written a review of this plant by now since it has to be the employee favorite! Daphne Summer Ice is a semi evergreen shrub with variegated leaves. It blooms off and on through out the year. Mine usually starts blooming in early spring. And since it is a daphne, the flowers smell fantastic. Not as strong as a Daphne odora, but is still super fragrant. A web search will say they get to be 3-4 feet tall and wide. It likes sun to part shade.

I have had this shrub for about 5 years. Its first 2 years with me were spent in its pot, where it bloomed sporadically through out the whole year, but never really gained much in size. It stayed small, about 2 feet tall and 1 1/2 feet wide. Finally, I decided to plant in some dirt at my mom’s house. I put it in full sun and even gets reflected light and heat because it is by the side of the house. This plant went crazy! After 1 year, Summer Ice had more than tripled in size! It now is 4 1/2 feet tall and as wide. This is an awesome plant! Its pretty with its variegated leaves and lacy type foliage and the flowers are even better. The perfect place for this plant is in sun to part shade, in well drained soil. The soil is important because if it doesn’t drain well, the plant will slowly die, branch by branch. And you want Summer Ice to have as many branches as possible because more branches mean more flowers!

The one I planted at my mom’s is now too big of a plant to dig up and plant in my new yard. And since she now apparently thinks its hers, I bought a new Summer Ice. It will be planted in full sun against a fence. I’m giving it lots of space so it can become the flower covered, beautiful shrub that my first one was.

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Fruit Trees

Gray Barn Green Thumb Guide

Apple Trees

  • Akane Attractive red ‘lunch box’ apple, dessert quality, excellent tart, sprightly flavor.  Ripens late August to September.
  • Braeburn Medium size golden red apple.  Excellent flavor, matures late, keeps well.
  • Chehalis Large yellow-green, mild sweet flavor, juicy and crisp eating apple.  Resists scab.  Ripens mid-September to Early October.
  • Fuji Sweet tart flavor, yellowish apple with orange-red blush stripes.
  • Gala Bright scarlet stripe over yellow.  Excellent quality.  Mildew resistant.
  • Golden Sentinal Large yellow fruit, ripens mid-September.  Good eating and baking.  Upright narrow growth 8-12 feet.
  • Granny Smith Large green apple, tart.  Late maturing.
  • Gravenstein Red striped over deep yellow, firm, juicy, crisp, excellent flavor.  All time favorite.  Ripens early Fall.  Not a reliable pollinator.
  • Honeycrisp Big red apple, crisp, juicy.  Keeps well.  Ripens late September.
  • Jonagold Red striped over yellow background.  Good dessert and canning apple.  Ripens late October.
  • Liberty Red, crisp and juicy.  Disease resistant variety.  Ripens October.
  • Pink Lady Large crisp, sweet, tart apple.  Pink blush, yellow skin. Early bloom.
  • Red Mactintosh Medium to large bright red apple with white, tender flesh. Ripe fall.
  • Scarlet Sentinal Large yellow with red blush.  Juicy sweet.  Ripens late September.  Good keeper, compact form, 8-10 feet.
  • Spartan Medium, dark red, crisp, excellent flavor.  Good storage.  Tree needs thinning due to heavy bearing. Ripens mid-October.
  • Yellow Delicious Yellow, aromatic, crisp, excellent eating and cooking. Ripens late.
  • Yellow Transparent Medium-large, tender, tart, good cooking. Ripens late Jul-Aug.

Peach and Nectarine

  • Frost Peach Leaf curl resistant.  Medium to large fruit, yellow flesh, freestone, good quality and producer.  Ripens mid-August.  Self-fertile.
  • Hardy Red Nectarine New promising variety for the Northwest.  Red skinned with golden blush, yellow flesh.  Ripens mid-August.  Excellent flavor.  Self-fertile.

Pear Trees

  • Anjou Medium to large, fine flavor, good keeper.  Mid-late ripening.
  • Bartlett Medium to large thin-skinned, very sweet and tender.  Excellent eating and canning.  Ripens early September.
  • Colette High quality, medium size pear.  Waxy yellow with pink cheeks.  Sweet, juicy with a spicy flavor.  Continues to flower and fruit from August until it freezes.
  • Comice Large fruit, thick-skinned.  Best when stored 1-2 months.
  • Flemish Beauty Medium to large, yellow with red blush, fine flavor, good canner.  Just after Bartlett, fruit best when ripened off tree.
  • Rescue Large, sweet mild flavor, orange-yellow skin and good producer.  Ripens late August.

Oriental Pear Trees

  • Chojuro Medium round, brown-skinned, mildly sweet, texture, firm and crisp.  Ripens mid-August.
  • Housi Medium-large brown skinned pear.  Crisp sweet flavor.  Ripens September.
  • Nijisseiki Medium round, greenish yellow-skinned, firm, crisp and juicy, good to excellent quality.  Ripens late August.
  • Shinglo Golden brown skin, sweet, juicy, excellent flavor.  Ripens early August.
  • Shinseiki Medium, round, yellow-skinned, crisp and juicy.  Ripens mid-August.

Cherry Trees

  • Bing Top quality, large, juicy and sweet black cherry.  Ripens mid-season.
  • Rainier Yellow skin with pink blush, good pollinizer.  Ripens few days before Bing.
  • Sam Large, jet-black, firm, heart-shaped fruits of good quality.  Highly resistant to cracking, good pollinizer, ripens one week earlier than Bing.
  • Stella Red fruit, self-fertile, good pollinizer.  Ripens mid-season.
  • Surefire Late flowering and self-fertile.  Tolerates frosts and produces crack resistant crops.  Fire engine red color.  Highly regarded, the first sour cherry.
  • Van Black, shiny fruit, firmer and slightly smaller than Bing and ripens about same time.  Heavy bearing tree and a good pollinizer.

Plum Trees

  • Green Gage Medium, round, greenish yellow with amber flesh.  Sweet, good flavor, good for eating, cooking, canning or jam.  Ripens mid-season.  Self-fertile.
  • Imperial Epineuse European type, medium sized oval fruit, purple-blue skin, yellow flesh, freestone, firm, sweet, great for fresh eating and drying.  Very productive.   Ripens mid-August.
  • Hollywood Pink flowers, early.  Purple foliage, very good eating and canning plum.  Upright.  Self-fertile.
  • Italian Prune Medium, purplish black sweet.  Excellent fresh, canned or dried.  Ripens mid-season.  Self-fertile.

Fruit Tree Cultivation

Site

Choose a site that is well-drained in full sunlight.  Take advantage of sun pockets or sheltered areas in your yard.  A soil test is recommended to determine which fertilizers and amendments may be needed.  Keep well-watered, especially when fruit is maturing.

Planting

Plant bare root trees when they are fully dormant—the earlier the better.  Keep the roots of the bare root tree covered or moist until planting time.  Prune off any damaged roots.  Form a small mound of soil and gently spread the roots over it.   Back fill with native soil and compost.  Be sure to keep the graft union above the soil level.  Gently press down on the soil, removing any air pockets.  Water well.

Pollination

Pollination is the transfer of pollen between flowers to set fruit.  Cross pollination is recommended for most apples and pears and many sweet cherries and plums.  Most peaches, nectarines and sour cherries are self-fertile.  The act of pollination depends mostly on bees.

Pollen compatible trees should be within 100 feet of each other to ensure adequate pollination.  The bloom periods of both trees must overlap enough to provide at least several days for cross-pollination to take place.  Most white flowering crabapples are excellent pollinizers and they are often used in orchards because of their abundant, long lasting bloom.

Pears and Oriental Pears are genetically compatible, so they can cross-pollinate just the same as any varieties whose blooms overlap.  Keep in mind however that Oriental pears tend to bloom earlier and not all European pears are suitable pollinizers.

Pests and Diseases

The most serious disease problems for fruit trees in Western Washington are apple anthracnose, apple scab and leaf curl (Peach and Nectarine).  Other less threatening diseases are powdery mildew, bacterial canker, pear scab and brown rot.  The apple maggot and the codling moth do the most damage on apple trees.  For detailed information on these insects and diseases, read the online resource from WSU Extension: Insect and Disease control for Home Gardens: Small Fruits and Berries.

Pruning

Pruning is essential in a young fruit tree.  It will encourage early fruit production and help develop an optimum structure for supporting future crops.  Pruning of mature trees is aimed at producing new growth of fruiting wood.  Pruning fruit trees is covered in great detail in many publications.  A few basics essentials are:

  • Start out young trees with a sound framework of scaffold limbs.  Spreaders or weights can be used to position the limbs.
  • Maintain good exposure to light throughout the tree.
  • Don’t let the top of the tree outgrow and shade the lower limbs.
  • Use thinning cuts that remove entire shoots, branches, or limbs.
  • Avoid heading cuts that remove only a portion of the branch and often result in regrowth of a cluster of new shoots that may shade out other parts of the tree.
  • When in doubt, thin it out!

Thinning

Thinning is the removal of small fruit or blossoms to improve the size and quality of the fruit.  It also helps ensure an adequate crop the next year.   Some general guidelines are:

  • Thin early for maximum effect, when fruits are about marble size.
  • Remove the smaller fruits and leave the larger ones, because the smaller fruit have fewer cells and will remain relatively smaller, even after thinning.
  • Remove fruit with disease spots, weather damage, or other defects.
  • Aim for an even spacing as much as possible.  Keep in mind the size of fruit at maturity and leave room to avoid overcrowding.
  • Adapt all thinning to the type of fruit being thinned.

Resources

Fruit Handbook for Western Washington, Washington State University Extension, by G.A. Moulton and J. King

Crop Protection Guide for Tree Fruits in Washington, Washington State University Extension

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/ag29.html

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07003.html

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Growing Grapes

Gray Barn Green Thumb Guide

Favorite Grape Varieties

Almost all grapes are self-fruitful and do not require pollination from another variety to bear fruit.  The following grapes are adapted for the Pacific Northwest climate, having a moderate summer heat requirement and hardiness for our zone 8.

Buffalo Seeded black fruit with spicy flavor.   Excellent mid-season concord-type grape.  Productive and good for table, juice or wine. Can produce a second crop if subjected to an early frost.

Canadice Small, red, seedless, early maturing, with sweet slightly foxy flavor.

Himrod Seedless white fruit with spicy flavor.  Good for fresh eating.  Very vigorous, suited to arbors.  Hardy to -15˚F.

Lakemont Seedless white fruit with mild flavor.  Very productive.  Fine table grape, keeps well in cold storage.

Interlaken Firm seedless green or yellow grape with fruity flavor.  Excellent for fresh eating.  Best for raisins in cool summer areas.  Ripens a week earlier than Himrod.   Extremely vigorous vine.  One of few that matures in the coolest areas of Pacific Northwest.

Vanessa Firm, seedless red grape with fruity flavor.  Resists cracking.  Good replacement for European variety ‘Flame’ in cool summer areas.  Use for fresh eating or raisins.

Planting

Grapes need full sun and well-drained soil. A Southern or Western exposure is best.  Provide a sturdy arbor, trellis or fence to support the heavy vines, and plant about 1 ½ feet from the support.  Space grapevines 8-10 feet apart.   Fertilize annually in the spring, but beware of giving too much nitrogen which may cause the plant to be overly vegetative at the expense of fruit production.

Harvesting

Grapes change color long before they are fully mature, so it’s possible to pick them before they have reached their peak in flavor, size, and sweetness. For best fruit, taste the grapes first to see if they are ripe. If they aren’t, wait for optimum quality to develop. Grapes will not improve in quality once they are harvested.

Pruning and Training Hardy Varieties (From the University of Minnesota Dept. of Horticulture)

Prune vines when they are dormant, removing about 90% of the wood that grew the previous season.  Although there are several systems for training grapes, the four-arm Kniffen system is the most simple for varieties that do not require winter protection. In this system, two horizontal wires are stretched between posts to support the vine. The bottom wire is 36 inches and the top wire is 60 inches above the ground. The young vine is tied to a stake and, as it grows, to the two wires. This ensures a straight trunk for the mature vine.

Begin training after the vine reaches the first wire. Remove all shoots between the wires and cut back shoots along the lower wire to two buds.  The mature vine has four to six canes (each with five to twelve buds) and four to six renewal spurs (each with two buds).

When pruning, keep in mind that fruit is produced on the current season’s growth, that in turn grows from last season’s wood. Heavy pruning provides the best fruit. Light pruning result in large yields of poor-quality fruit; very heavy pruning produces too much vegetative growth and very little or no fruit. Table, juice, and jelly varieties can have 40 to 60 buds per vine, but wine varieties should have only 20 to 30 buds per vine after pruning.

Resources

Washington State Extension http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/cepublications/eb0775/eb0775.html

The Berry Growers Companion by Barbara Bowling, 2005

The Western Garden Book of Edibles, Sunset Publishing, 2010

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Hydrangeas

Gray Barn Green Thumb Guide

Hydrangea Descriptions

 Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)   is a rounded shrub with either mop-head or lacecap flowers.  Flower color depends on soil type– blue in acid soil and pink in high pH soils.  It grows well in sun or shade in moist, organic-laden well-drained soil.  Plants require abundant moisture and grow 3-6 feet high.  Popular varieties are ‘Endless Summer’ with a longer bloom period, ‘Pia’ a pink dwarf shrub and ‘Nikko Blue’ with deep blue flowers.  With over 500 cultivars, there are many to choose from.

PeeGee Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)  is a large shrub, often trained as a small tree.  Cone-shaped flowers open white in Summer and persist into the fall.  Flowers of ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ change from creamy white to a beautiful pink shade.  ‘Limelight’ flowers open a bright green and slowly change to a deep pink.

 Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) forms aerial roots and can cover walls and fences.  Somewhat slow to establish, it is long lived and usually trouble free.  It tolerates shade or sun and is adaptable to a variety of soils.  White flowers open in June and July, covering this climber with lacy blossoms.

Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) has large white flowers that bloom in June on a loosely upright shrub.  ‘Annabelle’ blooms can be up to 12” in diameter and ‘Invincible Spirit’ sports a pink flower.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) grows 5-6 feet high and wide and has lobed leaves that resemble those of an oak tree.  These turn a rich burgundy in the fall before they drop.  The long panicles of flowers bloom white during the summer.  This handsome, all-season plant grows in full sun to partial shade in moist well-drained soil.

Moisture and Hardiness

Hydrangeas need water during our dry summers.  They will begin to wilt during hot temperatures or drought, but recover quickly when given water.  Late spring frosts can damage new growth.  As a consequence, plants will produce less flowers.

Pruning

 Blooms on old wood.  This means that these plants grow a stem in the spring and bloom on that stem the following spring.  If you cut those stems off, there will be no flowers.  Bigleaf Hydrangea and Oakleaf Hydrangea both bloom on old wood and consequently do not respond well to heavy pruning.  To rejuvenate this type of hydrangea, first take out the dead wood (be careful, hydrangea canes often look dead when they are not—living canes will have some green inside).  Next take out a few of the crossing canes, especially those that are too crowded in the center.  Cut off canes lying on the ground or touching the house.  Cut these canes all the way to the ground. Deadhead flowers in fall or spring.

Blooms on new wood.  These plants bloom on the current season’s growth, so they generally start blooming later than those that bloom on old wood.  If you are unsure what type of hydrangea you have, observe the bloom time and let the plant tell you how to prune it.  If it blooms early to mid-summer, prune lightly.  For late bloomers, it’s okay to cut them way back.  The PeeGee Hydrangea and the Smooth Hydrangea both bloom on new wood and are consequently late bloomers.  They respond remarkably well to annual pruning, although they do not require it.   In late winter, cut the stems back to two or three buds, or 18 to 24” from the ground, similar to a rose bush.  This will encourage larger flower size.

 Resources

Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs by Michael Dirr, 2011

Encyclopedia of Hydrangeas by C.J. Van Gelderen and D.M. Van Gelderen, 2004

Guide to Pruning by Cass Turnbull, 2004

Hydrangeas for American Gardens by Michael Dirr, 2004

Hydrangeas:  A Gardener’s Guide by Toni Lawson-Hall and Brian Rothera, 2005

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Hebe topiaria

Hebe topiaria is a well-groomed shrub with a satisfying symmetrical shape.  It originated in New Zealand, which has over 100 Hebe species.  It’s growth and appearance make it seem like a trimmed topiary plant, but in this case it’s all natural.  The leaf colors are in cool blues and greens.    At one time this plant was named Veronica topiaria. I found this interesting tidbit from the blog Catalogue of Organisms.

“During the 1800s and early 1900s, most of those New Zealand (and a few South American) species that would later become recognised as hebes were included in the genus Veronica, a genus originally established for an assortment of temperate Northern Hemisphere taxa. The genus name Hebe (after the Greek goddess of youth…) was originally established in 1789, but didn’t really enter use until the 1920s (Albach et al., 2004). Even after the botanical community recognised the distinctiveness of Hebe, horticulturists still tended for some time to regard the hebes as Veronica (Metcalf, 2006). Over time, everyone seems to have adjusted to the new view, and some groups of ’Hebe’ species were even committed to further segregate genera - Parahebe,Chionohebe and (ha ha) Hebejeebie.”

Hebe topiaria is an evergreen shrub that reaches 3-4 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide in zones 7-9.  It needs well-drained soil and full sun to grow the best.  Flowers are white, but they occur infrequently on this Hebe.  Hebes with large leaves and showy flowers are the most tender to cold, while those with small leaves and white flowers are the most hardy.  Hebes are  intolerant to excessive hot or cold weather and therefore the Pacific Northwest is one of the best places in the United States to grow them.  The key to growing tender cultivars is to place them in a protected spot near a house, fence or other plants.   For an in-depth discussion on Hebe hardiness, visit this site:  Oregon State University Hebe Test.  Put the right plant in the right place and you will have horticultural success!


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Dawn Viburnum

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is a plant with a promise.  A promise that spring will come and flowers will bloom.  A promise that there is a sun behind the cloudy winter skies.  A promise of color in the December drizzle.  Dawn viburnum throws out it’s flowers in the winter, before the veined deciduous leaves appear.   Green all summer, the leaves turn a bronzy red in autumn. Blossom buds begin dark pink and the fragrant  flowers open in clusters of light pink, turning to white on the bare stem.  This viburnum continues to bloom for months.  It  grows in USDA zones 7-8 and reaches 8-10 feet high and 6-8 feet wide, a good sized shrub.  ’Dawn’ grows in full to partial sun and prefers moist, well-drained soil.   Winter bloomers, like Dawn viburnum and witchhazel, sarcococca and camellia are good to incorporate into any garden, giving that extra zing to a dormant landscape.  Dawn viburnum also was chosen as part of the Great Plant Picks program, a list of exceptional plants for the Pacific Northwest.

Dawn Viburnum Blooming in December

Dawn Viburnum Blooming in December

Flower buds on Dawn Viburnum

Flower buds on Dawn Viburnum

Written by Elaine Sawyer December 18, 2011

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Heuchera Obsidian by Lindsey

Caramel

Caramel

Heucheras come in a HUGE variety of colors, as shown below. They add a soft, fluffy texture to garden borders and pots. Heucheras are fantastic container plants. We have a container contest here at the nursery each May. The staff all know which pot is mine because of my consistent use of Heucheras! They work so well in containers because of how their texture can soften the edge of a pot. And because some are reliable evergreen! From my experience, the varieties Crimson Curl, Obsidian, Marmalade and Frosted Violet have performed the best through the winter months. I am sure others do well also, but these are the ones I can vouch for.

So now that you have the Heuchera lowdown, I’ll tell you about my favorite, Obsidian. The color of it is really its selling point. Obsidian has rich, velvety, purple leaves. They are softly lobed and look fantastic with pink, violet and yellow flowers and plants.  The plant tag says ten inches tall and 16 inches wide. From my Obsidian experience, that sounds about right. And lastly, since we are telling all the dirt about plants, good and bad, I have to tell what I see as a negative. After a handful of years, 4-5 in my garden and pots, Heucheras can get a bit ratty looking. There are two options that can happen in my garden. One, in the words of Cass Turnbull, a rad reno. AKA, a radical renovation. Pull out all the ugly leaves and add some potting soil or compost around the base of the plant. Pulling out all the ugly leaves might be 95% of them. This is the radical part. This is usually where you decide if you are going to progress to option two. Option two, it is just too ugly and its time for an extraction and a new plant! Despite this, I will continue to use them as often as I do and recommend them. Heucheras are great plants that contribute greatly to my garden and pots. A must have regardless of the potential rattiness. But for gardeners, a hole in a pot or the beds isn’t really a bad thing. Its just an excuse to go to the nursery!

Obsidian

Obsidian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crimson Curls

Crimson Curls

Lime Marmalade

Lime Marmalade

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Helleborus Rosemary by Lindsey

Helleborus Rosemary isn’t your typical hellebore. Say you’re at a holiday party and everyone has on pretty dresses. All the dresses are pretty, but there is one that has a bit more to it. That would be Rosemary. She has bigger flowers, more flowers and they last for months. Yes, months. My plant started blooming in December last year and still had flowers on it, that looked good, till March! I find that amount of bloom time, for that time of year to be amazing!

Hellebores are shade to part sun loving plants that bloom in winter. They are evergreen and provide interest when much of the garden is asleep for the winter. Rosemary has big pink flowers that fill the inside of the plant. If you want to see the blooms even better, you can trim off some of the leaves to open the plant up more. This won’t harm the plant, since you’ll want to trim up most of the leaves anyways in the spring to allow the new fresh foliage to emerge. Rosemary’s plant tag says she will be a foot tall by a foot and half wide. I can tell you now, the tag lies! My plant is easitly two feet wide and a foot tall. So maybe anticipate a bit more room than the plant tag says. Rosemary would be pretty in the ground or in a pot by the front door so you can enjoy her blooms close up. Where ever you plant her, make sure its someplace you pass often in the winter months because you won’t want to miss her show!

Oh! PS- Rosemary is a deer resistant plant! Don’t you want her even more now?!

Rosemary has HUGE pink flowers!

Rosemary has HUGE pink flowers!

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Camellias, Never Out of Style

Native to Southeast Asia, the camellia comes in countless shapes and sizes.  It ranges in size between a few feet to over fifty feet.  It can be compact, rounded, tall, spreading, tiered or low growing, depending on species.  Flower color ranges from pure white to clear red and many shades of pink, often with bright yellow stamens showing.  The blossoms can have  single, semi-double or double petal arrangements.  The leaves are a rich, glossy green that stand out in the winter landscape.  This plant grows best in acidic soil with a good supply of water, especially during the late summer when it’s often dry and flower buds are in the process of forming.  Most people don’t realize that Camellias are their cupboards.  The classic tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis.

Two of the common species are sasanqua and japonica, but what’s the difference?  Camellia sasanqua grows 6 to 10 feet tall and blooms in the fall/winter.  It grows best in semi-shade, but will tolerate full sun more than the spring blooming  japonica.  The leaves are usually two inches long, smaller and narrower than japonica and the new twigs are fuzzy, not smooth like japonica.  Flowers are short lived (less than a week) before petals drop, but many enjoy the colorful carpet of petals that forms around the base of the shrub.  Sasanquas grow best in climates similar to their native habitat with hot summers and mild winters, like the southern United States.  They will tolerate our cold winters, but may have leaf damage or leaf drop and problems with flower bud formation.  They can easily be grown in containers, or espaliered against a wall or fence.

Camellia japonica is a bigger plant with larger leaves,  reaching 8 to 15 feet.  It blooms later, during  the winter/spring. The best time to prune camellias is after they flower each year, just before the plants starts growing in earnest for the season.  Use a fertilizer for acid loving shrubs during this time of new growth to supply nutrients.  Both types of camellias have a long bloom period, showing color for most of the season.  Enjoy some winter flowers this year and try a camellia!

Written by Elaine Sawyer December 8, 2011

Resources:   Camellias, The Complete Guide to their Cultivation and Use by Jennifer Trehane, 1998.

Camellia sasanqua 'setsugekka'

Camellia sasanqua 'setsugekka'

Camellia japonica

Camellia japonica

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