Monday, August 29, 2011

The moss is always greener..

I love moss.

I love it in all of it's vibrant, green, touchable glory.

Acrocarpous, pleurocarpous, I love them all.

Sadly, none of these pictures came from the gardens of the Red House.  After we had to cut down our big oaks, we don't get very much shade anymore.  We instead receive a lot of hot, direct North Carolina sun, the nemesis of most mosses (though I've heard rumors of sun-tolerant mosses out there..)  These pictures are from the shaded woodland oasis of an artist's garden in New Jersey.

That is not to say that we don't have moss in North Carolina.  Moss & Stone Gardens is a moss nursery and landscape design business that opened up in 2002 in Raleigh.  If you want to see some of the most beautiful pictures of both landscape and container designs using moss, check them out.  Sadly, their moss gardens are not yet open to the public, but they are still a good source of information about these ancient, rootless plants.

At some point I want to put some sort of moss feature in my little shade garden.  For right now, though, I think I'll sit and just enjoy me some beautiful moss here in the garden state..

Today is Mosaic Monday!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

After Irene - in the Garden State

I'm away from the Red House this week and in the garden state of New Jersey - great for enjoying the cooler weather in the garden, not so great when a hurricane is headed towards you.  Thankfully the house we are staying in is on a hill, so we did not experience any flooding.  The power went out briefly several times, but all in all, it was thankfully not as bad it could have been.

We ventured outside after the storm had passed.  At first we saw the expected leaves and twigs everywhere.  Whew!  No damage, so we thought..

And then we saw this:

A tree had fallen across the fence and into the neighbor's yard.

We are just thankful that the tree didn't fall on anyone's house. 

At least Irene had a touch of remorse and left a present in her wake:

Hope everybody is safe out there!

Friday, August 26, 2011

What's that smell? Fragrant Hostas?!

I am away from the Red House and visiting an artist's garden in New Jersey today.  Walking through the cool, shaded garden paths, I smell something that stops me in my tracks.  It is a waft of sweet floral perfume, rather like honeysuckle.  I look around - no honeysuckle here.  In fact the only blossoms nearby are... white blooms of hostas?  Holey slugbait, there are fragrant hostas?!

Apparently there are!  Why did I not know about these earlier?  Radhika, the owner and tender of this garden, has a whole walkway lined with these deliciously fragrant hostas, making the scent more noticeable.

One has to lean in to get a full heavenly whiff, as the smell does not seem to carry very far.

Radhika does not know what variety of hosta this is, but apparently all fragrant hosta cultivars come from the same granddaddy, Hosta plantaginea.  Often called an 'August lily', this hosta blooms later in the summer than other kinds and has large 6" long white flowers.  It can also continuously produce new leaves during summer as opposed to sending out all of its leaves in one spring flush like most other types.
The flowers of the unknown hosta in this garden are about 3" or 4" long, and the buds have lavender tips.

According to Tom Carlson with Hostas Direct, deer prefer to eat the fragrant varieties of hostas before the non-fragrant ones - apparently they are sweeter.  (Wonder who did the taste test to determine that?)
The bees seemed to love these hostas.  They are reputed to be a magnet for hummingbirds as well.

For more information on fragrant hostas and a list of available cultivars, Tony Avent of the renowned Plant Delights Nursery has a great fragrant hosta article.  There are varieties with purple flowers, as well as ones with variegated leaves.

And if anyone knows which specimen this is, be sure to let me know!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In the Garden State: An Artist's Garden

This week I am away from the Red House and in the thankfully cooler Garden State of New Jersey.  I was fortunate to be able to stay at the house of Radhika, a very talented artist and gardener and a relative of Mr. Red House.  Her garden was a welcome shaded oasis after the blazing North Carolina sun.

As the summer blooms fade, the beautiful structure and textures of the garden emerge.

One of my favorite things about Radhika's garden is the many pathways.  One is always wondering what is around the bend..

or up the staircase..

Radhika has lived all over the world, including Hong Kong and Singapore.  Her art as well as her garden shows touches of Asian influence.

I would be remiss if I did not show some her beautiful paintings.  If only my camera could do them justice!
oil painting
Chinese brush painting
Back to wandering the paths and soaking in the beauty... what else will I discover this week?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Verbena Bonariensis, garden rock star

Verbena Bonariensis has been the darling of garden media for the last while.  It seems like I can't open a gardening magazine without seeing it.  It is described as a butterfly magnet, a wonderful filler plant, a summer blooming machine that somehow seems to take up no soil space at all in the garden!

With all this hype, I just had to get a couple when I saw them at the nursery the other day.  Purple is one of the Red House's favorite plant colors, so the plant pretty much called to me from across the garden center.  The Red House is also all about wildlife, and you know a plant is a magnet for wildlife when you have to wait for your moment to snatch it when there aren't any bees attached! 

A bumblebee moth enjoying the verbena in my garden.
Verbena bonariensis likes full sun and is supposed to be drought tolerant, though it thrives with regular watering.  I've heard it called lavender verbena, purpletop verbain, tall verbena, verbena-on-a-stick and a host of other nicknames (much easier than saying 'bonariensis')!  This verbena is hardy to zone 7; elsewhere, it is grown as an annual.  Native to Brazil and Argentina, it is known to reseed well - sometimes too well.  It can be rather invasive in certain areas such as parts of California, Texas, and Florida.  The Red House garden is situated in the land of hard red clay, so I truly doubt that it will become invasive here, but it's something to watch out for next year.  A few volunteer seedlings would be welcome though! 

The verbena were actually so pretty when sitting in their pots outside our breakfast nook window, that I wanted to put some in containers there!  But I had a big bare spot waiting in the garden, so there they went.

Not five minutes after I planted the verbena, a hummingbird came to check them out.  Since that is only the third hummingbird I've seen since the house was built in 2009, I am considering the plant a smashing success in the wildlife magnet category!  Hopefully he will visit again and I will be able to get his picture..

Soon after the hummingbird came the bumblebee moth, which did hang around for the camera.

The tubular flowers of the verbena are held in clusters at the ends of mostly leafless stems.  Because of this airy, see-through nature, it mingles well with other plants, a trait which has lauded it much praise from the garden media.  This verbena really does seem to live up to most of the hype!

Happy gardening!

Linking up with Bloomin' Tuesday today.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Clematis Seed Heads


Some people love them, some people hate them.  After the clematis blooms fade, they are replaced by the often strange looking Seed Heads.  They can look very different depending on the variety of clematis.

Should I cut them off?  Well, that depends on whether you like how they look or not.  Some of them can be quite pretty and interesting (in the opinion of the Red House, anyways), whereas many of them can look quite alien or spidery, which may not be a look you are going for.  If you want your clematis to bloom more, you should cut them off.  This is especially important after the first flush of spring blooming clematis (pruning group 2) if you want any rebloom that year.  It takes energy from the plant to make the seed heads, so if you don't care for them, cut them off and redirect that energy!

Spidery-looking seed heads of clematis jackmanii
Each seed head has several seeds in it.  Each seed is composed of a seed pod (also called the achene) with a long tail attached.

When the seed head first emerges, the tails are smooth and shiny.

Unripe seed head of clematis rooguchi
These seeds are not ripe yet.  As you can see in the picture above, the seed pods are still green.
As the seeds ripen, the tails become feathery.  The feathery tails help the wind disperse the seeds when ripe.

Seed head of clematis Guernsey Cream
You can tell the seeds are ripe when the seed pods are completely brown as in the picture below.  The seed head will come apart very easily.

Ripe seed head of clematis Rooguchi
If the seed head has not been fertilized, the tails will still become fluffy.  However they will be much shorter, and seed pods will not have developed.

Can I plant the ripe clematis seeds?  Absolutely.  Plant them in sterile seed starting soil, thinly covered, and keep moist. Here are a couple links that have more detailed information about planting clematis seeds:
Clematis International Society
Brian Collingwood (a clematis fan who tells about his home trials in growing clematis from seed)
There are two disclaimers that comes with planting clematis seeds, however:
(1) The resulting plants will usually have different flowers than it's parent, especially when it comes to those beautiful large flowering hybrid plants.
(2) You might have to have a lot of patience.  Some seeds can take up to 3 years to germinate!  And then it can take another couple of years for the plant to flower.   So you might want to do a little research into your particular clematis to see how easy it is to propagate from seed.
(Propagating by cuttings and layering is starting to look mighty good, huh?)

Happy gardening!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Interacting with the locals

Today I had the pleasure of meeting some more of the locals in my garden.

Mr. Skink had only time for a quick hello before he had to be off.

Fuzzy here is actually a recent transplant, having stowed away on a plant I got today. We welcome him to the Red House Garden!

Mr. Blue of the Damselfly family stayed around for quite a nice long chat.

Can you see him smiling for the camera?

Ms. Buckeye Butterfly seemed to be in a quite rush and couldn't stop for more than a moment or two.

Mr. Frog, on the other hand, was a little overly friendly.  He made himself right at home by helping himself to my watering can jacuzzi. 

After chatting awhile, I picked up the watering can as a subtle sign that I had to be going, at which point Mr. Frog hopped onto my hand and started hopping his way up my arm.  Thankfully after a gentle flail nudge, he landed jumped his way back home into the garden.

Any characters in your garden?
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