March 30, 2015

Plant of the Month: Drumstick Allium


Do you grow Alliums in your garden? Of course you do, if you grow onions, garlic, chives, shallots, or leeks. But there's an entire class of ornamentals in the Allium genus, grown for their beauty, companion-planting value, and pollinator-attracting abilities.


What's that popping out of my otherwise barren, mulch-covered potager? Why, it's Drumstick Alliums (A. sphaerocephalon)! They're sometimes surprising in the timing of their appearance each year (they seem early this year), but they never let me down.

I take them for granted so much that I don't have photos of them at their classic peak of interest. That's embarrassing. For beautiful examples, please click here and here. (Note to self: Grab the camera this year when the Alliums are blooming.)

There's always something more showy blooming when they're at their peak, which makes them great companions and "filler" flowers in late spring/early summer bouquets.


I do have photos of them at the bud stage.


Also, a mediocre shot showing them green and just about to add their colors.

Here's a little information of interest: Drumstick Alliums are happy in USDA zones 4 to 8, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. They prefer full sun and dry to medium levels of moisture. Their height ranges from 2 to 3 feet, with a spread roughly half that, although they have a definite tendency to spread and naturalize. With shallow roots, however, they're easy to lift, transplant, and share.

Like most ornamental Alliums, they're colorful and fragrant. But some of their best qualities: They attract butterflies, they repel deer and rabbits, and they're drought- and Black Walnut tree-tolerant.


Do you grow Drumstick Alliums in your garden? Any other species of ornamental Alliums?

March 23, 2015

Goodbye Tangerines, Hello Lemons

tangerine 2

Who can resist the delicate beauty and sweet, delicious scent of a citrus tree in bloom?

tangerine tree

As I mentioned in a recent post, my parents added a Tangerine tree (Citrus reticulata) to their Florida landscape this year.

tangerine 1

After spending several weeks with the folks, enjoying the warm Florida sun and the sweet scent of Tangerine blooms, it was somewhat difficult to come back to Wisconsin in March.

tangerine 3

The Tangerine tree was covered in blooms.

tangerine 4

By the time I left, little Tangerine fruits were starting to form.

lemon tree

But look what was waiting when I got back home.

Hard to see from this angle?

lemon buds 3

New buds on the Lemon tree (Citrus x meyeri)!

lemon buds 2

Not just buds, but new growth, too.

lemon buds 1

By the time you read this, some of these buds might be blooming.

lemons 2

Plus, we have ripe Lemons!

lemons 1

And more waiting in the wings for the coming weeks.

snow & daffodil

So, while I had to face a late Midwestern snowfall that covered the Daffodils ...


I made it back in time to see the Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) blooming.


The fishman and I harvested our first Meyer Lemon.


And we celebrated with refreshing, Lemon-flavored, Wisconsin craft beers. It's great to be home. Cheers!

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Thanks to all who participated in the most recent "Garden Lessons Learned" meme. To read their amazing posts, check the comments on the Lessons Learned post, or visit PlantPostings' Facebook page for the wrap-ups.

March 14, 2015

My Tropical Wish List of Flowers and Foliage


If I lived in a warm, tropical climate ... and if money was no object ... and if all I was thinking about was plants I simply enjoy ...

hibiscus 1

I would definitely have a tropical Hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis). Maybe a warm red one.

hibiscus 2

Or maybe an apricot-colored one with a warm red center. Better yet, I'd have a few of each.


Of course, I'd have some of the same favorite plants I grow in my northern garden during the summer, like swaths of variegated Coleus (Solenostemon spp.; Plectranthus spp.).


And bright Lantanas (L. camara).

regina iris

Oh, I would have to splurge on at least one 'Regina' Iris (Neomarica caerulea 'Regina').


And of course, a dwarf Jatropha shrub (J. integerrima). Who wouldn't want a plant that attracts butterflies and that blooms 365 days a year?

sweet almond

Also, Sweet Almond (Aloysia virgata). Both its blooms and foliage are gorgeous, and it smells like vanilla/almond.

chinese lantern

Any tropical garden must have at least one Chinese Lantern (Abutilon spp.).

yellow elder

Yellow Elder (Tecoma stans) is an attention-grabber and conversation-starter (and it attracts hummingbirds and butterflies).

indian hawthorns

One foundation planting of choice would be Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepsis spp.)--a low-maintenance bloomer.

mexican heather

And of course, I'd need a few pots of Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia), for its foliage and sweet lavender-colored blooms.


Gotta have some hybrid tea roses in a warm climate. Maybe 'Sedona'? (Sigh.)

colorama dracaena

Definitely masses of Colorama (Dracaena marginata), which is actually a shrub, but looks like a grass.

ground orchid

I'd want to include some orchids. Possibly an easy-care Ground Orchid (Epidendrum radicans)?

foxtail fern

Oh gosh, I would add a patch of Foxtail Ferns (Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers'), for the way the sunlight catches in their fine foliage.

duc azalea

Azalea 'Duc de Rohan' would be another "must have" for its color and form.

mystic spires

I'd need a hot perennial Salvia like 'Mystic Spires.'

fire cracker

And a couple of Firecracker Plants (Russelia equisetiformis) for their wispy foliage and bright red blooms.


For some reason, I'm attracted to the flowers, foliage, and form of Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis).

agave and bromeliad

Oh, and of course, I'd need a few agaves and bromeliads in my tropical garden.

white dipledina

This beauty would be a focal point of my tropical garden--both by day and at night in my moonlight garden. A white Dipladenia (Mandevilla) with 3- to 5-inch blooms!

boug barbara karst

Last but not least, my tropical garden would definitely need a Bougainvillea (B. glabra). My personal favorite is 'Barbara Karst.'

boug 2

But the butterflies seem to prefer this Lilac hybrid, so I guess I'd have to include this one in my garden, too.

I'm cheating with this post by linking in to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens and Foliage Follow-Up at Digging. These flowers and foliage are nowhere to be found in my Wisconsin garden. But they're blooming in my dream tropical garden, and many are blooming in gardens along Florida's Gulf Coast.

(Thanks to Oak Farms Nursery in Englewood, Fla., for the inspiration.)

March 10, 2015

Wildflowers and Wildlife
At Cedar Point Environmental Park


Cedar Point Environmental Park is a 115-acre property along Florida's central Gulf Coast, boasting a broad range of habitat diversity and wildlife sightings. Last week, while the fishman and the kids were visiting for a spring break vacation, we spent a lovely afternoon exploring several trails at the park.

Cedar Point covers a protected peninsula along Lemon Bay, and includes pine flatwoods, salt marsh, mangrove fringe, and Oak scrub plant communities. Each is described in detail with educational signage along the trail.

cookie house
cookie house 2

The "Cookie House" is a preserved pioneer building with a tie to my home state of Wisconsin.

The park is thick with butterflies.



white peacock

In addition to the Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) highlighted in my last post, we also saw numerous Zebra Longwings (Heliconius charithonia) and White Peacocks (Anartia jatrophae), among others.

standing tree

The park allows some dead trees to remain standing for wildlife.

eagles 1

The standing trees provide excellent viewing and nesting habitat for Bald Eagles and other birds of prey.

eagles 2

This family's nest was close to the trail--within easy viewing for hikers.


We saw many lizards.


And little crabs that crawled across the path and into the brush. It's amazing how these little critters use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings.

Many of the plants were familiar--plants that are native in both Florida and Wisconsin, although they bloom much later in the north, including:


Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis);


Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus); and

pencil flower

Pencil Flower (Stylosanthes biflora).

Others were plants not seen in my part of the country:

rosary pea

Rosary Pea (Abrus precatorius);


Mangrove trees (various species);

marsh fleabane

Marsh Fleabane (Pluchea odorata);


Nickernut (Caesalpinia bonduc);


Coco-plum (Chrysobalanus icaco);


Yellow Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens); and


Common Beggar's-tick (Bidens alba) (although we have a similar species in the north).

pine cone

I was surprised by the prevalance of pine and the huge pine cones throughout the park.

morning glory

Also, Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor), while not native, can be found growing throughout the area, not just in the park. They're considered invasive, but not as much of a problem as some other species of the genus.

MG Pollinator Collage

They seemed to be a favored pollen source for the park's bees.


At several points along the trail were beautiful views of Lemon Bay.


All in all, a rewarding, educational "spring" hike enjoyed by the entire family.

(I'm linking this post to Wildlife Wednesday at My Gardener Says, Nature Notes at Rambling Woods, and Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View.)