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Rusty foxglove

Long after other Digitalis have taken the summer off for vacation, the rusty foxglove or Digitalis ferruginea is flowering during the warm days of July and August here in New England. This tall, slender foxglove is from Mediterranean regions of southeastern Europe. Depending on its growing conditions, it can behave as a perennial or self-sowing biennial. If the climate is mild and soils are perfect, they have a tendency to self seed themselves in the gardens. Perfect soils are those that are fertile with adequate moisture. Soils that are too wet or too dry will cause the rusty foxglove to oxidize itself into a prolonged death.

The common name comes from the reddish coloration of the small, numerous flowers. Our flowers are a warm beige with the reddish-brown veins. The individual flowers are much smaller than the common foxglove. Each flower is one-half to one inch in width to around an inch and a half in length. Because the flowers are smaller, they are much more numerous on the 4 to 5 feet tall flowering stalks. Hundreds of flowers cover each stiff stalk and they make a great complement the middle to back of the mixed flower border. Bees absolutely love the rusty foxglove but it is humorous to watch them climb inside of the flowers to gain nectar. The flower tubes are almost too narrow for the bees. Watching them crawl inside reminds me of having to suck in your belly when trying to slide behind your cousins at the Thanksgiving table, as you shimmy to the desert table for a piece of pie that you really should not eat.

If the main stalk is cut back after flowering, it will produce multiple flowering side stalks which can prolong the flowering time and make a wider plant. This characteristic has me wondering what might happen if the Digiplexis cross is recreated with Digitalis ferruginea  and Isoplexis canariensis.

rusty foxglove en masse

As with all Digitalis species, care should be taken with the plants as they may be somewhat toxic if ingested. Make sure that you site the plants where they are out of reach from those who may not know better. Have you tried the rusty foxglove? This species has me wanting to try other members of the genus in the gardens.

-Rodney

Images: Josh Coceano, The Sproutling Writes

mini meadow garden Since seeing this container planting over on Garden’s Illustrated’s website earlier this summer, I have been all sorts of obsessed with mini meadows in pots.  This lovely thing was grown from seed, so my own experiment to re-create something similar with have to be added to next year’s ‘To Do’ list….but my patience for this look can hardly stand the wait so I’ve been casting around for options to create it. Like, right now. The key to this look is to toss aside the Fillers, Thrillers, Spillers way method of container planting.  Opt instead for a mix of upright plants and use them repeatedly (but not in groupings).  They can be at varying heights, but their open habit should be obvious allowing for the tops to mix and dance together.   Have you experimented with this look?  As I try it out I will certainly learn a few tricks that will happily share later. meadow style garden containers from rochelle greayer  www.studiogblog.com Shopping for plants, I think the key to this will be to use just 2 or 3 and mix and match different varieties to create textural interest and exciting but simple color combinations.  Here are somethings that I think would be good to experiment with.

images: Top – Gardens Illustrated, Proven Winners Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Proven Winners.  I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own. See the other posts in this series

ranch, yard, path, front yard, makeoverFor this week’s Before & After I have a lovely front yard transformation that I found over at Foodie is the New Forty. This sweet little ranch house begged for a yard that would make its mid century-esque exterior sing, but the homeowners knew it was going to take a lot of hard work and a hefty budget, as well as the help of a landscaping crew. Optimista (which is the moniker she goes by on her blog) was tired of the weeds and general frump-factor radiating from the exterior of the house, so she decided it was finally time and enlisted the help of Dearen Landscapes. Read the full post

Gillenia trifoliata

I think this Summer has been absolutely fantastic here in Maine. So far, there has been plenty of sunshine and enough warmth to make everything grow and prosper. The plants have leapt from the slow, cool spring to seemingly take in all that summer has to offer, just like the throngs of tourists that visit Maine. Several times per week, I walk through the gardens here at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, taking notes on how gardens look, how plants are performing, and how weeds can grow at the rate of Dr. Bruce Banner morphing into the Incredible Hulk. I have mentioned several times about the winter of 2014 and how rough it was in New England and for many along the eastern coast of the United States. The cold winter and afore to mentioned spring have led to what I am calling the Monty Python effect. Remember that scene from “The Holy Grail” when a couple of men are removing the dead from a Middle Ages village? They pick up the one guy and attempt to place him in the cart when he responds: “I’m not dead yet!”

For a couple of months, I felt like there were an entire cluster of these plants that were not exactly dead yet. They had succumbed to the plague of frost and sub-zero temperatures. It seemed that daily, I was scratching the bark with my fingernail or gently cut a small branch with my Felco #2′s to see if there was any evidence of green. It is now mid-July and we have mostly removed all of the dead and pruned back all of the near-dead branches.

Gillenia close up

The flip-side to the Monty Python effect are the plants that have prospered from the cold and now mild summer. Besides the weeds, I am blown away by the colors and the growth rate of many of our hardy, perennial plants. I am going to go out on a limb and say the MVP (most valuable plant) of 2014 thus far has been Gillenia trifoliata. This fantastic, native perennial leapt from the ground in mid-spring and has been flowering for well over a month. The airy, 5-petaled, white, star-shaped flowers are soft and borne en masse above the leaves for a dramatic effect. The flowering stalks will top out at 3-4 feet in height so this is formidable perennial. The leaves are trifoliate and vary between a deep green and light green depending on exposure, soil moisture, and nutrition. Most references list this as plant for partial shade but we can get away with more sun here along the Maine coast. The stems provide a nice contrast as they are a deep, unobtrusive red. As the temperatures start to decline and the season changes to fall, Gillenia trifoliata leaves turn a brilliant red color. The common names for this MVP are Bowman’s root, Indian physic, and fawn’s breath. These common names crack me up as the first two are masculine and mysterious while the fawn’s breath has me visualizing Bambi hiding down inside of it on a frosty morn just before it wakes up and eats the entire plant down to the ground. That was just a joke. I have no idea if deer like Gillenia trifoliata. Given that it is in the rose family and somewhat related to Spiraea, deer may eat it if given the chance. I would appreciate any feedback if deer do like Bowman’s root.

In addition to being a wonderful plant in the garden, the flowers work well and hold up as cuts for arrangements. Also, after the flowers fade, the red calyces persist on the stems, adding to their seasonal interest. That finest of countries which gave the world Monty Python, has also given Gillenia trifoliata the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. This is one of the highest awards that a plant can receive from the RHS.

Now, I beg your pardon, when are you adding Gillenia trifoliata  to your garden?

-Rodney

Images: Slottstradgardsmastaren, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

 

There are plants that people love and then there are plants that people hate. Some of the plants that a lot of people love, have a few detractors as well. One plant that I have found most people really like and enjoy in their garden is the columbine. I have always thought that columbine is a beautiful plant with its light green, somewhat fleshy leaves and stems. The foliage is beautiful in its own right, having a somewhat fern-like appearance because of the dissected leaves. Depending on the plant, the leaf color can vary between a light green to almost blue because of the waxy coating to the leaves.

Aquilegia vulgaris 'William Guinness'

The real beauty of the columbine are the bell-shaped, spurred flowers that are held above the foliage on long flower stalks. The foliage forms a clump well over 2 feet by 2 feet, with flowers held up to 3 feet high. There are usually many flowers on a well-grown plant which makes for a festive and beautiful appearance in the garden. All of the columbines that I had ever seen were either yellow, red, or shades of pastel colors. This past weekend, I was working in the garden at Coastal Maine Botanical Garden when a friend pointed out a certain columbine. Wow, was my immediate reaction! I had never seen a columbine so unusual with tall, dark flowers and a central, white tube. The plant was Aquilegia vulgaris ‘William Guiness.’ William Guiness sets itself apart from other columbines by having dark-purple flowers with a white corolla. Have you ever grown this columbine? Most of our guests who walked by the plant were talking and pointing at it. “What is it?” “It looks like a columbine.” “I have never seen a flower so dark before.” were some of their responses.

Aquilegia vulgaris William Guiness

Plant William Guiness columbine in a rich, moist, and well-drained garden soil. Full to part-sun is needed for northern latitudes while areas farther south will require some shade for it to grow. Add this columbine to your garden and watch your friends stop and ask you what exactly is that plant in flower.

-Rodney

Images: 99roots.com, planteoversikt.blogspot.com

My dad’s latest engineering feat has been to install a hydroponics growing system in the spare bedroom of my parents home. Yes, they live in Colorado, no, they don’t seem to have new snack cravings or large sums of cash flowing in — this is a straight up tomatoes, lettuce and peppers operation (and hopefully strawberries to come). (I mentioned the origination of this project at the new year in my weekly column on Apartment Therapy)

Here is a little before and after of the progress….

Taken April 3rd, 2014

hydroponics garden www.studiogblog.com

(my mom started these little guys from seed in March)
hydroponics garden www.studiogblog.com

Taken May 5th, 2014

Hydropnic

Note how not only have the tomatoes grown immensely in just one month (hydroponic growth rates are nothing short of amazing!!), but that there is also a whole other rig?  This is how these things go in our family (I think it’s an engineer dad thing) — in addition to this, a trellis growing system has been built-in the basement for peas and other vining plants — you see how these things spin right out of control…right? ;)

I’ve been working with Ebay to help promote their collections and I used the tools to gather Hydroponics related gear as part of a campaign related to Fathers Day.  As hobbies go— this is one for the engineering, tinkering types of dads with the side effect of getting great produce as part of the bargain. Check out the collection here.

And if this isn’t quite right….maybe the music lovers collection I created (As inspired by my husband) is more apropos. My guy is teaching himself to play the guitar and the banjo (the playing of instruments all started with the purchase of a toy store ukulele a few years ago – things have a way of spinning out of control in this house too — we now have a wall full of beautiful instruments…). Thinking of father’s day gifts, I know he will appreciate anything in this set.

 

This blog post was written as part of my collaboration with eBay. All images taken by my dad. 

It is late May here in Maine and we are in the midst of a long, cool spring. The temperatures have only risen above 70 degrees a couple of times which has prolonged spring. Our tulips are still in flower as we are about to flip the calendar forward to June. Hopefully, soon the 70 and 80 degree days will be commonplace and summer colors will dominate the landscape for months.

Sanguinaria

I am not complaining about the cool spring. I spent 28 years growing up in North Carolina with many sleepless nights because the temperatures never went below the mid eighties. Along with that heat, we never truly enjoyed the spring colors provided by tulips and other ephemeral spring plants. One plant that has really caught my fancy this spring is bloodroot or Sanguinaria canadensis. Bloodroot grows in most areas of North America east of the Rockies but I never had encountered it until we lived in Pennsylvania. This small, woodland gem can be found sporadically in old woodlands. Bloodroot does not like to grow on disturbed sites and I am told it can be difficult to transplant. I asked Peter Beckford from Rebel Hill Farms in Clifton, Maine about the best way to grow Sanguinaria canadensis. Peter recommends collecting bloodroot seed as soon as it is ripe and sowing immediately. He has an outdoor seed bed where he sows the seed directly. It takes about a year for the seed to germinate into new seedlings.

Bloodroot

Have you seen bloodroot in flower? The small, bright-white flowers are usually borne sometime around Mother’s Day here in Maine. They resemble small, petaled poppies which provides a clue to their family, the Papaveraceae. The 2″ flowers are produced above the grey-green, lobed leaves. Once the flowers are pollinated by ants, they drop their petals within a couple of days. Then, the foliage continues to grow, reaching almost a foot in height before going dormant for the summer. Different forms of bloodroot can be found in nature including doubles and a fantastic pink strain that we have at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in the Alfond Children’s Garden.

I have come to admire and prize this woodland beauty. Sanguinaria canadensis is unlike any other native plant in the eastern United States. If you have a wooded area in your garden, it is well worth the effort to seek this gem out and add it to your garden.

Rodney

Images: Oehme van Sweden blog, A Study in Contrasts