Monday, November 28, 2011

My favorite bush - Buddleja davidii 'Santana'

It's the last stunted blossom of the season for the beautiful 'Santana' butterfly bush now that freezing temperatures have arrived.

I have written about my Santana before - I just can't seem to say enough good things about it.  The blooms are a glowing magenta purple, and the variegated foliage is beautifully edged with gold.

The Santana has been full of blooms all summer thanks to regular deadheading every couple of weeks.  Out of all of my pollinator friendly flowers and bushes, this one seemed to attract the most butterflies and bees by far.  Here in zone 7b, it also keeps a lot of its beautiful leaves throughout our mild winters.

A bush that blooms for months, has beautiful foliage, and attracts butterflies?  No wonder it's my favorite shrub!

In its second year, my Santana is 4' tall and 7' wide.  Yep, 7' wide - one of the only things I don't care for about this bush is its rather messy and splaying habit.

It is also rumored to be a short lived cultivar, sadly.

This Buddleja davidii 'Santana' is in full sun and in one of the best drained spots in my clay yard, which is good, as they can be prone to rot.  Now that it is established, I hardly ever water it.  Buddleja davidii (also spelled Buddleia davidii) bloom on new wood, so I will prune it down to a couple feet tall in late winter.  We'll see if some pruning can help the splaying habit somewhat.

But either way, I love this bush..

.. and I don't think I'm the only one.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What Sparrows are Thankful For

Often I will look out my back yard and find flocks of sparrows in my yard.  These little birds are hard to see as they are camouflaged so well, but all the little hopping and darting motions among the grass alert me to their presence.  What attracts all these birds to the Red House?


I really hate crabgrass, but I also have a pretty laissez-faire attitude towards my backyard lawn.  Thus I have a fair amount of crabgrass and other weeds, to the delight of the sparrows and other wildlife. These offending plants that we try to get rid of are probably one of the things that the sparrows are most thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday.

Can you see the camouflaged sparrow?
Another thing that I hate in my garden are sweet gum balls.  These spiky fruit fall into my yard from the sweet gum tree in the neighboring lot and are a mess to clean up.  I have nearly turned my ankle slipping on sweet gum balls.  And you surely don't want to go bare-foot anywhere around them.  But guess what else the little birds in my yard are thankful for?

The seeds in sweet gum balls a food source of goldfinches, white-throated sparrows, and many other birds and animals.

Today is Thanksgiving.  I have much to be thankful for - abundant food, clothes, shelter, a loving family.  I often take many of these basics for granted.  There are so many who would be so thankful to have these basic needs met, and I think it is important for us to help those who are in need.

This Thanksgiving holiday there are also many little things to help others around us that one might not even think to notice.  Many are hungry for kindness, a listening ear, someone to notice and care.  What someone nearby might be most thankful for could be a kind word, or the holding back of an angry one.  Or maybe going out of one's way to help do the jobs that nobody wants to do.  What might be a small, but challenging or even slightly unpleasant effort for you might be what someone could be most thankful for this holiday.

weed seeds
In the end, tolerating crabgrass and sweet gum balls in the garden is unpleasant, but they are what the sparrows appreciate the most.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You've Been Lying to Me

You've been lying to me.

Telling me that you were a harmless little ladybug.

I have ladybug spots! you said.
I'm just a cute green one!  you said.

And I believed you.

Come to find out, you are not a ladybug at all,
but a cucumber beetle.

And you were not here to protect my roses from aphids, 
as you previously had beguiled me into believing.

You were here to eat them.

Did you do this?

I think it's time for you to go.

 Don't give me a sob story about how you are a good cucumber beetle.

I don't believe you anymore.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

To Repel a Squirrel

Let's talk about this guy.

The Squirrel

On a good day he provides comic relief.  
On a bad day he is gleefully enacting his nefarious plan of garden mayhem and destruction.

Now, I don't normally mind the squirrels.  Usually the amount of digging they do in the garden is of a tolerable amount.  Recently, however, two situations have come up in which squirrels are a Problem.

Problem 1:  Bulb Planting

Last year I planted dozens of crocus bulbs in the backyard, only to have them 'disappear' even though they were covered with a mesh.  In hindsight, I think the holes in the mesh were too large, and the squirrels were able to get their greedy little paws through and pull the bulbs out.  This year I'm taking a different approach.

Deer Off is made from what is basically rotten eggs, hot pepper, and garlic, so anything sprayed with this will not smell or taste good.  Thankfully it doesn't really smell strongly for people as long as you follow the directions and shake the bottle first.  (On the occasion that I forgot to shake it, even I didn't want to go into the garden for awhile!)  

I've used Deer Off successfully in the past for deer, and this year while searching for some sort of squirrel deterrent, I remembered its squirrel-repelling claim on the bottle.

For bulbs that squirrels will eat, I sprayed them well with Deer Off and let them dry before planting them.  (The official instructions are to dip the bulbs in Deer Off - I took a shortcut.)  After planting, I then sprayed the area with Deer Off so that the squirrels wouldn't dig there.  

So far so good - I haven't noticed any digging in those spots!  We'll see what comes up in spring.  It also probably helps that the squirrels are too busy with my new bird feeder to try to eat my bulbs.  Which brings me to my second squirrel problem.

Problem 2:  The Bird Feeder

I hung my new bird feeder from tallest pole I could find hoping that would prevent the squirrels from greedily gobbling up all of the birdseed.  At first it worked.  I wished I had gotten a video of the squirrels trying to climb the pole and then sliiiiddding back down to the bottom - it was quite humorous.

But then they called in the biggest, baddest, best climbing squirrel of the lot... 

 ..and my bird feeder was sadly no longer safe from squirrels.  

Time for a trip to the store.

Squirrel baffle!

The squirrel is effectively baffled - take that, Squirrel!  They'll just have to be satisfied now with the seeds that the birds drop.

Until next time, Squirrel..

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Visit to the North Carolina Desert

Last weekend I took a visit to North Carolina's desert. 
A desert in North Carolina? you might ask and with good reason.  There is only one small desert in North Carolina that I know of, and that is the Sonora Desert at the fabulous North Carolina Zoo.

The Sonora Desert is a glass-domed exhibit that creates an arid environment and houses plants and animals that are native to the Sonoran Desert located in Arizona, southeastern California, and Baja California.  Outside the dome is a desert garden.  There are many desert plants that do well in the North Carolina heat if given good drainage.

desert garden at the NC zoo
Texture is dominant in desert plants.  Many display sharp or spiky features, which is useful in creating drama or contrast in the garden.  I have often seen yuccas planted in local gardens for their spiky foliage, and I see the occasional prickly pear as well. 

A planting of Mexican sage, yucca, and prickly pear cactus at the NC zoo
On the other end of the spectrum, the blooms of this desert Mexican sage plant, aka Salvia leucantha, have a luxurious, velvety looking appearance.  It is quite an interesting contrast with the prickly pear and yucca.

Mexican sage
Inside the Sonora Desert dome are plants that need a more arid environment, like the saguaro cactus and the ocotillo.  The ocotillo, aka Fouquieria splendens, is natural live barbed wire.  When planted close together, ocotillo can be used as a living fence.

A close up on its thorny stalks:

Now there's some texture for your desert garden!  With rainfall, the occotillo does leaf out and produce clusters of reddish orange flowers at the ends of its stalks that attract bees and hummingbirds.  I sure wouldn't want to have to weed around it, though!

I am impressed with people who are able to design beautiful desert gardens, as such spiky textures are hard for me to work with (and do not go so well with my English cottage look that I am going for.)  Yucca is actually one of the most hated weeds in my garden, as it is so very tenacious and very unpleasant to step on!  It just goes to show you, in the right setting just about any plant has its beauty.

For more  'Textures and Patterns' in other gardens, and for a great post on how to use texture in the garden, check out Garden Walk, Garden Talk's Word for Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November Buds of Clematis and Roses

It is the middle of November, but winter has not reached the Red House yet.  Indeed, several plants are still enjoying their fall flush of blooms, the most noticeable of which are the roses and clematis. 

My little rose bushes that I planted this year are blooming and still have several more promising fat buds on them.

Rosa 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' still blooming
The most surprising November blooms in the garden belong to my Clematis 'Bill Mackenzie', which, while nonchalantly taking over my front porch, has produced barely a handful of blooms in its two year existence.  It has now decided to have a small flush of blooms, perhaps in response to me threatening it with a move to a remote corner of the garden.

The blooms tend to get lost when there are only a few of them, but are quite cute and cheerful up close.

Clematis 'Bill Mackenzie
The Clematis 'Jackmanii' has been going for weeks and doesn't seem to have any plans of slowing down just yet, as long as winter is held at bay.

Clematis 'Jackmanii', still full of buds
But it is the sporadic fall blooms of Clematis 'Guernsey Cream' that are my favorite.  I shall leave you with the opening of one of its buds throughout this past November week.

Clematis 'Guernsey Cream'
To see what is blooming in gardens all over the world this November, check out Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day hosted by May Dreams Garden.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The First Frost

This weekend we had our first frost.

It swept up the front yard, barely kissing the tops of the grass and leaves with its touch.

Thankfully it only made it up to the first line of defense in the garden, the edging of zinnias.

Most of the zinnias survived, even if they are not looking their best, and the bushy zinnia plants are still a strange mix of flowers, seedheads, and buds.

The cold has also had the curious effect of bringing out stripes in my zinnias.

I wonder why?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ode to Abelia

Looking for a good shrub that can withstand the hot sun of warmer climates and will tolerate pretty much any soil, including dreaded clay?

How about one that blooms for several months and attracts butterflies?

And while we're at it, how about one that has beautiful fall foliage but also keeps most of its leaves in the winter?

Believe it or not, there is such a shrub  - the under-appreciated and often over-looked Glossy Abelia

Abelia 'Little Richard'
Abelias are mounding shrubs whose branches have an arching habit.  They stay semi-evergreen or even evergreen depending on the cultivar and location.  They are not as hardy in colder climates, however, and may die back every year in cooler locations. 

Abelias bloom for several months throughout the summer and into early fall.  Depending on the type, the trumpet-shaped blooms may be white, pink, or lavender and are clustered at the end of the branches.

'Little Richard' Abelia sports white flowers.
The bushes are a magnet for the bees and butterflies while in bloom.  I have also heard that hummingbirds like them, but have not seen any on my bushes.

Monarch butterfly on Abelia.
When the flowers drop, they leave the pretty clusters of reddish sepals, which provides interest in autumn.  The foliage will often turn a bronze color as well.

'Little Richard' Abelia in fall - many of the leaves have turned a reddish-orange color.
My Abelia bushes are situated in rather poorly-drained clay and part to full sun.  Abelias do need sun to do well.  One place where I often see Abelias are in parking lot strips.  They must be tough plants to survive there!

You might not recognize those bushes under the trees, but they are Abelias.  They've just been pruned into rounded lumps.

Abelias pruned this way will not bloom.
Okay, Abelias must have some drawback, right?

Well, as previously mentioned, Abelias do not do so well in colder climates.  Some cultivars are hardier than others.   Additionally, cultivars like 'Little Richard' and 'Sherwoodii' will occasionally send out abnormally tall shoots straight out of the middle, a reversion to the species.

Abnormal shoots in the middle of 'Little Richard' Abelia.  Notice that they are straight instead of arching.
If your Abelia throws out these shoots, reach your hand in the shrub and prune them near the ground.  Don't do what I did the first year I had them and cut them off right at the top of the bush - they just branched and continued to shoot straight up!

Pruning Abelias: Do not just take hedge clippers to Abelias and shear them - they will just branch there and look strange instead of arching gracefully (believe me, I've done it!)  Instead, prune by cutting the oldest or straggliest branches way back to the ground.  If the whole bush is starting to look really sad and leggy, you can try cutting the whole bush back to a foot or two high to rejuvenate it.  Prune Abelias in winter, as they bloom on new growth.

Some popular Abelias varieties are Abelia x grandiflora (8 feet tall with white flowers), 'Edward Goucher' (pink flowers), and 'Kaleidoscope' (colorful, variegated leaves and white flowers).  My Abelia 'Little Richard' get up to 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide, despite being touted as a dwarf cultivar.

So if you need a sun loving shrub that will grow in challenging conditions, check out Abelias. They might be the shrub for you.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...