August 27, 2012

A tale of two vines

Are you familiar with the traditional ballad "Barbara Allen"? Particularly the version sung by Art Garfunkel? Not to get too melancholy, but it's a tale of unrequited love. Sweet William loves Barbara Allen.

Long story short, he's on his deathbed...she comes to visit him...he dies...she mourns his death...she dies...and then a Rose grows from his grave, and a Green Briar from hers.

"They grew and grew in the old church yard,
Til they could grow no higher,
And there they tied in a true lover’s knot,
The Red Rose and the Briar."

Corny and cloying, but sweet, I know. It's an old-fashioned song, with a haunting melody.

I thought about this ballad the other day when I was contemplating my garden arbor. As you can see, my vines haven't made much progress this summer.

Lablab purpureus and Wisteria macrostachya

I planted Hyacinth Bean seeds in mid-May, and while they didn't grow much during the drought, I did notice the Kentucky Wisteria grew faster than it has in the past. I had nearly given up on it. But the funny thing is, it appears my extra care for the Hyacinth Bean Vines has encouraged the Wisteria to perk up. Hyacinth Bean is more vigorous on the sunnier side of the arbor, and Wisteria on the shady side.

Now the Hyacinth Bean is starting to take off (better late than never, I guess).

I'm smitten...

And the blooms are gorgeous...

The Hyacinth Bean must be replanted from seed. The Wisteria is a perennial that blooms in the spring. Maybe next year the two vines will meet in the middle.

Next up: Garden Lessons Learned during the historic summer of 2012!

August 21, 2012

Who wants to go to Italy?

Several years ago, I traveled to Italy with my mom, my husband, and my daughter. And we visited my son, who spent a semester abroad in Florence. Like most people, I had preconceived notions about Italy. I imagined lush expanses of verdant hills, great food and wine, friendly people, and lots of history.

But boy, did Italy exceed my expectations!

We traveled to Florence, the countryside in Tuscany, Rome, and the Cinque Terre.

I could spend paragraphs describing the beauty and the pure pleasure of that adventure.

But the point of this post is to ask if my fellow gardeners and garden bloggers are interested in traveling together to tour some gardens in Italy. Your thoughts?

A friend of mine organizes guided tours to Italy. Check out her website for information about her tours: She wants to plan a trip with me for gardeners. Yay!

What do you say? Are you interested?

If so, please take this quick survey to give us a little information about your preferences: Italy Garden Tours Interest Survey. The more responses we get, the better idea we'll have about how to plan the trip.

Please complete the survey by Sept. 30, 2012. After that date, I'll close the survey and post the results for everyone to see. And we'll start planning the trip! Ciao!

August 14, 2012

GBBD: Late summer beauties

What a weird summer we've had. I'd say I'm glad it's almost fall, but I feel like we missed out on our usual mild, pleasant weather. I spent the bulk of June and July indoors at my air-conditioned job and in my air-conditioned home.

Oh well, now that the weather has cooled to more temperate levels and we've had some rain, lots of plants that struggled during the drought are perking up, and some are really thriving.

Lycoris squamigera

The Lycoris plants emerged a couple of weeks agoabout two to three weeks ahead of schedule. I usually associate them with the end of summer, so that was a weird discovery.

Hydrangea macrophylla

The Hydrangeas had to be babied all summer. I forgot to clip off the blooms when they were pink, but it's kind of fun to watch them transform from pink to green to multicolored hues in the fall.

Rudbeckia hirta

I think this is the state fair-prize year for Black-Eyed Susans. They keep blooming and blooming, and they seem healthier and perkier than in other years.

Lablab purpureus

My experiment with Hyacinth Bean Vines has been less than stellar. They barely grew during the drought even though I watered them several times a week. I thought about fertilizing them, but that didn't make sense in the extreme heat either. But, long story short, they're growing faster now and they're even blooming! I didn't capture the first blooms, but this bud is about to break. Yay!

Echinacea purpurea

Purple Coneflowers are fading, but they're still beautiful in a fragile kind of way. I'll leave the cones in place to provide seed for the birds.

Zinnia elegans

Zinnias are blooming and reblooming after deadheading. They'll continue to produce until the first frost. I love their tight buds almost as much as the full blooms.

Cosmos bipinnatus

Swoon...what can I say about these flowers? I grow increasingly enamored with Cosmos as the years pass. They're reliable, drought-tolerant, prolific, and stunning!

Salvia superba

Another reliable plant, Salvia attracts pollinators and provides season-long color with frequent deadheading.

Fuchsia magellanica

The Fuchsias seem to enjoy the heat this summerof course, frequent waterings are critical to keep them going.

Alcea rosea

There's something about the petals of the double Hollyhocks that makes me happy. They convey a feminine, joyful, warm mood. The plants don't look as pretty from far away right now, though, because they're quickly fading. Sigh.

And in the spirit of Wordless Wednesday, here's a collage of colorful Coleusone of my favorite potting plants:

I'm linking in to Bloom Day at Carol's May Dreams Gardens and Foliage Follow-Up at Pam's Digging blogs. Check out all the amazing entries.

And I'm starting to think about my "Lessons Learned" for summer 2012. I hope you'll join me in the meme at the end of the month.

August 10, 2012

Plant of the Month: Crape Myrtle

Lagerstroemia indica

I know what you're thinking: A gardener in USDA zone 5 has no business posting about a plant that's only hardy in zones 6-10! I hope you'll forgive me for breaking the rules again. This month I'm highlighting a plant that doesn't, and probably shouldn't, grow in my garden.

But I got such a kick out of the Crape Myrtles growing all over the place in Branson, Mo., when we vacationed there in June. They were all around town, and seemed to be the signature plant/shrub/tree at the resort where we stayed. It seemed to have just about every size, shape, and color of Crape Myrtle available.

Different sources spell the name differentlyCrape Myrtle, Crepe Myrtle, Crapemyrtlebut I'm going with the spelling I found on the USDA site. I seem to remember seeing Crape Myrtles on trips to Texas, Louisiana, and other points south, but never so many of them planted all in one small area.

The blooms are unique with their crinkly petals.

And the fruits are equally fascinating.

They look great planted with ornamental grasses and other landscape plants, and they compliment hardscape focal points like bridges, pathways, and fountains.

I have to be clear that I don't plan on planting any Crape Myrtles in my northern garden. But if I lived in Texas or Missouri, or another southern or middle-range state, I might think about it. While they're not native to the U.S. (they originated in China and Koreathey fill an ornamental landscaping niche similar to our Lilacs here in the north.

Some other interesting facts about Crape Myrtles, all gathered from the USDA and the U.S. National Arboretum:
  • They're drought-tolerant, which most U.S. gardeners can appreciate this year;
  • They bloom from spring through summer;
  • Their fall foliage apparently (although I've never seen it) is quite lovely; and
  • The bark has a variegated, mottled appearance (sorry, I didn't get any bark photos).

Plus, they're simply beautiful, fascinating plants. (Be sure to visit Elephant's Eye for the Dozen for Diana meme!)