The Natural Garden Coach

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Of Daffodils and Hellebores


'Minor Monarque', Narcissus x italicus

Goodness, I've gotten hooked on heirloom plants, and daffodils and hellebores can be some of the more confusing ones when it comes to correct nomenclature for these old beauties. But hey, it gives me something to work on when the skies are gray and the wind is cold. And fortunately for me, the daffs and hellebores (aka Lenten roses) are just starting to put on a show. I know for a fact that the daffodil above, 'Minor Monarque', is its true name but that's only because I bought it from Old House Gardens! This one can bloom very early, but so far it is not reliable for me on the bloom front. Its leaves are always the first to come up, usually in December, but that means they often get nipped by freezes.

Some kind of tazetta narcisuss, possibly 'Grand Primo'

The name of this tazetta type of daffodil is unknown to me, though I'm thinking it might be 'Grand Primo'. I rescued the bulbs from an old farmhouse a few years ago. You wouldn't believe how many daffodils were growing at this place - it was awesome! I have a few pics from the rescue here.

'Trevithian', I think

Although my garden journal, which is simply a Word doc that gets recreated each year, is over 30 pages long, I don't have a record of planting these 'Trevithian' daffodils in that spot. (Arg, I'm just terrible at documenting where I finally find a place for bulbs - I need to quit buying/rescuing them!) I hope you can at least see that these daffs get at least 2-3 blooms per stem. And they're a very deep yellow.

Narcissus x intermedius, aka sweeties or Texas star jonquils

I got these little jonquils from Celia Jones, an expert in all things narcissus and its nomenclature. Author Greg Grant says they are a natural cross between N. jonquilla and N. tazetta. These grow wild along Interstate 20, and they're just about the only wildflowers the state will let grow there for some strange reason!

The first 'Ice Follies' daffodil of the season in my yard

The front corner of my yard is planted heavily with 'Ice Follies' daffodils (the story of how I got them is in the aforementioned blog post here). They're usually blooming in March but this guy couldn't wait. What I'm really liking about this patch of daffodils is the fact that other daffs are starting to bloom there now, not just 'Ice Follies'.

Butter and eggs daffodil, N. incomporablis aurantius plenus

One last daffodil - the old classic called butter and eggs. I know this is the correct ID since I bought this from Old House Gardens. They say "buyer beware" when it comes to this one since many double daffodils are called by this name.

More daffodils and other bulbs will be blooming shortly, yay!

Joker hellebore

I've blogged about Joker hellebore before. I can't get over how many blooms, upright ones at that, are on this plant. It's not an heirloom (far from it) but it's a keeper.

Hellebore, unknown variety

I bought this cute little pink spotted hellebore at a passalong sale that my Master Gardeners group had last fall. It obviously didn't need much time to settle in before blooming. The sometimes confusing thing about hellebore varieties is that they frequently hybridize without any help from us. Even though I have this urge to classify any plant I see, I'm okay with unknown hellebores because they are so darn easy to grow and bloom for several months.

Another unknown hellebore variety

Many of the hellebore varieties for sale are hybrids of Helleborus orientalis and other related species. Have you seen or grown the frilly picotee ones? I swoon. If only they were more widely available at nurseries. Maybe then they wouldn't cost so much and I would have a few of those picotee ones, too. :-)

So there's my dip into the sometimes confusing world of daffodils and hellebores. Chin up folks! Spring will come. It always does!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2015. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Quick Look at My Winter Garden

Lent lily, Narcissus pseudonarcissus

While most gardens in North America are sleeping, including most of my garden, there are a few harbingers of spring around here. These daffodils, identified by Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens as Lent lilies, are almost always the first daffs to bloom for me. They're only about 6 inches tall so the blooms are not huge, but they are a cheerful way to perk up winter.

Joker hellebore and Lent lilies


More Lent lilies accompany the blooms of this fantastic hellebore - Joker (Helleborus 'HGC Joker'). Joker is the first hellebore to bloom for me and it blooms reliably for months. I could probably cut back a few leaves to show off the blooms more.

I have no idea what insect made this. 

About a week and a half ago we had a lovely foggy morning. I found this dew-covered web on one of my salvias but it was gone the next day. Hmm...

I like fog

The garden is sleeping, for the most part.

While strolling around with camera in hand looking for signs of spring life, I remembered to look up, not something I do very often! Here you can see another view of the backyard. The flags are marking where an edge will be placed and the grass (and weeds) from there towards the camera will be removed. It'll be the start of my tiny woodland garden. We'll see if what's in my head comes anywhere near reality!

Camellia japonica 'Pearl Maxwell'

This is the first bloom to open on my one and only japonica. Here's hoping there are no more hard freezes!

'Peggy Clark' flowering apricot

'Peggy Clark' is still in full bloom (she started to bloom around January 1). The tree is humming with bees! I'm glad I have a little something for them.

That's a quick tour of my winter backyard. I can't wait for the garden to fully wake up though!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2015. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Japanese Garden in Winter

Descano  Gardens' blue-tiled Japanese teahouse

During the holidays I accompanied my husband on a short research trip to the Los Angeles area. For me, it was a garden-seeking trip. I spent an entire day at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, which was pretty amazing and deserves its own post. The next day I drove into the foothills of La CaƱada Flintridge to see Descano Gardens. Descano Gardens is an interesting mix of garden types, mostly highlighting southern Californian plants, but also showcasing other odd bits such as a rose garden, a Japanese garden, and an extensive collection of camellias (disturbingly procured from two nurseries during the Japanese-American internment of World War II).

Sozu water fountain

Since I arrived early to the gardens, and since I'd had to endure zillions of people touring the Japanese garden at the Huntington, I decided to head first to the Japanese garden here. It was small but incredibly peaceful and serene. And yes, I was the only one in it!

I want some of these!

The Full Moon Teahouse, seen here and in the first photo, was built in 1966 yet looked brand new. I really loved these lights. The teahouse is open in summer for tea.

A peak at the arched bridge and the farmhouse in the background

Though nothing was in bloom at this time, and of course, very few Japanese gardens depend on blooms, the diversity in textures and interesting pathways still held a lot of interest for me.

Arched bridge and stream

There was a koi pond and a stream that meandered throughout the small space. And as you can see from a few of the photos, one Japanese maple was mostly still full of leaves. I don't know whether the leaves of that tree are always red, or if they had turned for fall/winter.

Koi pond

The last photo I leave you with is mostly a study in reflections. I appreciated the simple beauty of this Japanese garden.

I've seen quite a few Japanese gardens over the years. Though they all share common traits, I've found myself truly favoring only a few of them. But this one I've added to my favorites list.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2015. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Monday, December 15, 2014

December Bloom Day, Help Needed, and Teaser

Viburnum mistflower, Eupatorium viburnoides

I was surprised this morning to see that it was already Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for December. Where does the time go?? So late this afternoon I went into the garden expecting only to find the plant above, viburnum mistflower, in bloom. But I also found a few more! Back to this plant - I love it because of its late blooms (normally in November but I think the early hard freezes delayed it a bit). It's about the only plant that I see the native pollinators on this time of year. It was swarming with them! It's lightly fragrant, woody and about 6 feet tall now, and, I think, hard to find. If you do find one, snap it up!

Midnight Glow pansy

I'm not usually much of a pansy person. I think they're pretty and all, and I think they look great in containers, but they've never really done much for me when I see them in gardens. They get kind of lost sometimes. Or they're lined up like regimented soldiers. But much to my surprise I got over my aversion to petunias by planting the Wave variety, so I thought maybe there was hope for my pansy aversion. This is a very pretty pansy with big blooms, but I'm still reserving judgement on all pansies in the garden (mine at least) until spring. :-)

Blooming rosemary

It's beginning to be that time of year again - time for the rosemary to bloom. Oh, I should have snapped a photo of the sweet olive, too! Such a heavenly scent, but only during the cooler months.

Burkwood viburnum, Viburnum x burkwoodii

Okay, these are not blooms but they're colorful nonetheless. A few weeks ago the fall colors were brilliant around here (and elsewhere). This viburnum is about the only one left with much color. It's semi-deciduous and doesn't always put on such a pretty show in the fall/winter. Earlier in the year it was mangled by a large oak tree limb that fell on it. But it's seems to have survived just fine.

I need some help with this one - the name escapes me! I know some of you know what it's called so please let me know. HELP FOUND! It's pincushion flower, Scabiosa sp. Thanks everyone!

Lizard Lips aloe blooms, indoors

And now here is my teaser below.



Not a bloom either but it's exciting for me! This is the beginning of a timber and gravel set of steps from the raised beds down to the mini-deck and pergola. Stay tuned for more.

I know there are bound to be some more blooms around the world right now. To see them go to Carol's blog at May Dreams Garden!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Surprises


Blue pickerel

Fall is here, hallelujah! And with it come a few surprises in the garden and life in general. Probably one of the biggest surprises is that I'm finally doing a blog post, haha! First one since late June. And I've seen a boatload of beautiful gardens since then and lots of things have been happening in my own garden. What can I say except that I've been super busy? But that's always been one of my excuses. Onward... I thought I'd show a few of the happenings here that have been both little and big surprises for me in the last two months. First up is the blue pickerel. I bought it for my stock tank pond just for its height. Little did I know how much the bees and hummingbirds would like it.

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ - beautyberry

Though beautyberry is not that surprising, this cultivar called 'Issai' produces tons of light purple berries that are immediately eaten by all the birds in my backyard. They're eating these berries while the plant is still making them! By now all the berries are gone. Another surprise is that this plant is supposed to be about 3-4 feet by 3-4 feet. Mine is 4 feet tall by 9 feet wide!

Lycoris radiata, aka spider lily, amongst 'Compact Margie' sweet potato vine

We had a great showing of spider lilies all around town this year. I love how you can never predict where they'll show up. I know the general vicinity of most of them but I always get surprises like this one.

'Amistad' salvia

Okay, it's no surprise that I like salvias. What did surprise me was my failed attempt to grow a salvia that didn't make it through a relatively mild 2012-2013 winter. It was a freebie 'Amistad' salvia from Southern Living Plants, so I let them know of that issue. Then I totally forgot about it until two of them showed up on my doorstep this June. I have been LOVING them ever since. They're not too tall, maybe 3 feet by 3 feet, and they bloom nonstop, no joke.

Milkweed assassin bug and bee on garlic chives

I had a fun time watching this milkweed assassin bug waiting for potential victims. Every time a bee landed, he turned to face it. I never did see a capture, though.

Milkweed bugs and nymphs on milkweed

Speaking of milkweed, here are some different insects - the milkweed bug and its nymphs. They are certainly startling when first viewed! They suck the sap from the milkweed pods. I didn't see them on any other plants, and plenty of seed escaped unharmed (as you can see below). But I did end up squishing some when they got too plentiful.

Milkweed bugs and nymphs with milkweed seed

The surprise with these milkweed seeds was the feel of the "coma," the silk-like threads that the actual seeds hang on. I swear they're as soft as kitten fur!

Oxblood lily, Rhodophiala bifida, aka hurricane or schoolhouse lily

I've planted quite a few 'Hill Country Red' heirloom oxblood lilies here and there but gotten very few blooms. But this year I had great success! I think it may be because I've finally started to get the graveyard grasshoppers under control, and maybe they just needed to settle in a bit. Sometimes bulbs are like that. BTW, I love the size of the ones I get from Old House Gardens. I actually ordered more of them after this year's wonderful show.

Anyone know what these caterpillars are called? They've had fun munching on my Chinese hibiscus,  Hibiscus paramutabilis

'Firecracker' cuphea

The first surprise with this 'Firecracker' cuphea is that I planted the original one two years ago. It's supposed to be an annual but I just cut back the plants and they made it through our mild 2012-2013 winter and rebloomed. Of course, they didn't make it another year because of the fierce winter we had in 2013-2014. But lo and behold it had seeded around and then in October I found these blooms.

'Indian Spring' hollyhock

The 'Indian Spring' hollyhocks I grew this spring did great except for the usual rust problem. When I went to remove them after their bloom period it looked like some of them wanted to keep going. So I cut them back, continued to remove rust covered leaves, and they're still here. It'll be cool if they make it to next spring and start blooming again.

Nonstop bloomer - 'Fireworks' gomphrena

My 'Fireworks' gomphrena has continued to bloom since late May when I first planted it. I even had a stray one pop up and bloom in the gravel path.

'Climbing Pinkie' rose only three weeks after planting

I decided to add another climbing rose to my little pergola since the 'Sombreuil' is doing just so-so (too much blackspot and too few blooms). I had a 'Climbing Pinkie' rose in the front but she died suddenly from a mysterious ailment, as did the climbing rose that was there before it. (Roses are no longer allowed in that area!) But I loved Pinkie since she was a showstopper in spring. So I'm giving a new one a go in the back. I can't say enough good things about the Antique Rose Emporium when it comes to their nice, healthy roses.

'Peppermint Stick' Swiss chard

My chard has picked up considerably since the cool weather arrived. It's no longer flopping about, as you can see.

Fall aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, with gulf muhly

I thought all the fall asters I had purchased from the Wildflower Center last fall had died. But then this one popped up. It was most surprising since I don't remember planting it there but I guess I did. I'm liking it.

'Lindheimer's Muhly' grass

Since we're really into fall now, I'll show some not so surprising things in my fall garden. The 'Lindheimer's Muhly' is like Old Faithful. Every year I say I'm going to move it but that hasn't happened yet. I guess that's no surprise since it's so big!

Moon vine, Ipomea alba

Every year I grow moon vine on my tuteur, so I guess that's no surprise either. But I do love it when they stay open long enough for me to catch them in the morning.

That's it for around the garden right now. Soon I'm off to a more tropical destination where I hope to visit some gardens and blog about them. Stay tuned!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.