Tuesday, 31 of March of 2015

Archives from month » October, 2012

Daylilies: Cornerstone of the Perennial Garden

I recommend growing Daylilies to every gardener and potential gardener I know. They are great to start out with because they are a hardy perennial, require very little special care and will be happy and flower abundantly in bright sun to partial shade. If you develop what I call a  “daylily plan” they can become the cornerstone of your perennial garden. Daylilies don’t make the best cut flowers since the flower blooms last for only a day, but they bloom in such profusion a single plant can have a succession of blooms that can last for weeks. The buds of the flowers can be cooked and eaten.

As much as I like to see the old fashioned orange daylilies on the side of the road or in a field, I steer clear of orange Daylilies for my garden. Mostly because modern hybridization techniques have created Daylilies in almost every color of the rainbow and I like to take advantage of that. Modern hybrids can rival the beauty of Orchids.

When trying to figure out what kind of daylily you want, the variations are so great you need to think about what you like. The variables are color, bloom shape, height, price and bloom time.


Daylilies now come in almost every color you can imagine. I say almost because they are still having a hard time with blue, and if you see a Daylily described as blue, chances are it’s more a shade of lavender. They are getting close to blue, but the bluer the daylily the higher a price you will pay for it. There are also color combinations. Some come in a contrasting colored “rim” (called picotee) or have a colored “eye” in  the center. Even this eye can have another colored rim. Also ribs running down the center of each petal can have a different color. The colors and combinations will astound you.

Bloom Shape

The flowers are composed of three petals and three sepals. The sepals form the outer protective sheath of the bud. When the flower opens the sepals become part of the flower and generally recurve back toward the stem. Petal variations usually define the shape of the flower. Petals are generally wider than the sepals. Sometimes so wide they can cover the sepals. When they are long and narrow they create a flower form that looks like a spider. Some hybrids have heavily ruffled petals. Double varieties can just have a few extra petals, or look like a pom-pom. The size of the average flower is 4” to 6”. But diminutive types can be as small as a few inches and large flowering varieties can be as large as 9 inches.


The stems the flowers bloom on are called scapes and they can vary in height as well. Make sure you take note of this when purchasing a plant so you know where to place it in the garden. The strap-like leaves also vary in height, but their sizes is less of a concern than the height at which the flowers bloom.


I only mention price because trendy new hybrids can literally be hundreds of dollars when they are first introduced. As years go by the price falls quickly and you can find amazing hybrids in a price range from $2.00-$12.00.

Bloom Time

When purchasing Daylilies from catalog or online, you will notice a bloom time is generally specified, usually in shorthand that is defined by the site. Generally early blooming is from June to early July, Mid-blooming is from the end of July to August and late is from late August to September. Although I have a variety that has bloomed as late as October.

Finally, much is made about diploid and tetraploid Daylilies. Normally, Daylilies are diploid, or having two sets of chromosomes. Many hybrids are tetraploid, having an extra two sets of chromosomes. Although both have their advantages, tetraploids tend to be stronger, hardier and more vigorous. However I would not pass over a Daylily I liked simply because it was diploid.

Now that you know all this you can create your daylily plan. Ordering from a website or catalog, I choose the colors I want and order one plant in that color that is early, one that is late and one that is mid-flowering. That way I have a profusion of Daylily flowers in the garden from June to the beginning of October. The only flaw in this plan is that late flowering varieties tend to be in shades of red and rust since they are developed from a late blooming species type that have these color characteristics.

Daylilies are rarely bothered by pests. I think mine may have a type of thrip, since the older leaves yellow and die. Plants with long strap leaves like Daylilies, Gladiolas and Crocosmia are often bothered by thrips. I don’t really do anything to prevent it, and the plants thrive. Deer don’t generally eat the leaves but will eat the buds. Every four years the plants should be divided by root division which is easy to do, and an easy way to cultivate varieties that you like, give to friends or trade.

A good site for more information on Daylilies is : http://www.daylilies.org.



Although I would call it more of a lavender, the hybrid “Prairie Blue Eyes” is the closest to a blue Daylily that I have. pink-attraction.JPG

“Pink Attraction” has an almost Orchid-like beauty with a green throat, pink petals and a pale center rib.


Like many Daylilies in my garden, the name of this variety is long gone. A pale yellow, its heavily ruffled recurved petals are wide and showy.


A deep pink variety puts on a nice show in mid-summer.


A consistent performer, “Hyperion” puts on a good show and occasionally reblooms.


“Catherine Woodbury” blooms profusely with the palest of pink flowers and a nicely contrasting chartreuse throat.


This deep red variety has large flowers. The profusion of buds show how a plant can produce their daily flowers for weeks at at a time. Many red types such as this one bloom later in the season.


This is my latest blooming Daylily called “Autumn Red.” This picture was taken in early October.


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Shade Gardens- Where Ferns, Moss and Hosta Thrive

Chances are there will be at least a few places on your property that don’t get the 6-10 hours of full sun that most gardens require. These are probably areas where trees or buildings block the sun. At Andrew’s Legacy we have a few of these areas and they are the perfect place for a shade garden. There are a lot of plants with low light requirements. Many woodland plants, such as Trilliums, Wild Ginger, Ligularia, Dog tooth violets and the like, lend themselves to shade gardens. But some are fussy, requiring special soil amendments, specific water fertilizer and light requirements, and have brief seasons. Ferns and Hosta are hardy and adaptable. Moss can be a bit particular, but once started is easier to care for.

I chose my two main shade gardens in areas that don’t get much light other than dappled sunlight or morning sun. I fought with and pulled up tree roots and rototilled in lots of compost and pete moss. I create a rich fertile environment for my plants and unknowingly for the surrounding trees as with a few years their roots invaded my gardens, sucking the life out of them. I fought with them for a while and eventually realized the only way I could outwit them was to leave the hardy plants that were surviving the tree roots in the ground and fill in with containers and moss. Ferns and Hosta became the backbone of my shade gardens since they seemed able to survive anything.


There is a surprisingly vast number of hardy ferns to choose from. The variety and number shoots up if you are willing to include tropical varieties, which worked well for me since I was including containers as part of my shade garden. Shades provide a lush texture and through varieties like the Japanese Painted fern and Ghost fern can provide color variations. Most are used to battling for resources with trees and have done well planted directly into my inhospitable ground. The Japanese Painted fern seems to reproduce well by spore, as I have found plants coming up in many spaces around the yard. Ostrich fern spreads by underground creeping roots or rhizomes. As with most shade plants they do need to be well watered, prefer and acidic soil and a nitrogen fertilizer. They seem to be unbothered by slugs or deer, but deer have been known to eat the new growth. True ferns do not produce seeds, but make spores found on the backs of leaves or in central bracts. Spores require perfect conditions to grow, but many varities of ferns can be reproduce through root division.


Hosta are one of the most common leafy perennials in the American gardening lexicon. They became so ubiquitous they fell out of favor in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s until hybridization began to produce hundreds of new and exciting types. The “blue”-leaved varieties tend to do better in shade, although most Hosta don’t seem to have a problem in the shade and the yellow/chartreuses types really pop in a dark place. Slugs love hosta, and I have been told deer do as well, so you will have to maintain diligence against these pests. Hosta thrive in the same conditions as ferns, although for the most part you may want to put them in the brighter section of the shade garden. They are easy to grow, hardy perennials and there are many exciting new types showing great variation in leaf shape, size, color and variegation. Hosta can be propagated  by root division which is recommended every three or four years to avoid overcrowding.


For many of you, this may be an odd choice for a shade garden, especially those of you who have battled with moss in sections of your lawn or on your roof. But moss gardens have become popular, especially in Asian countries and Japanese gardens, and that popularity has spread. Moss can create a carpet of intense velvety green that flows over hills and engulfs objects in its path. It can be particular, but if it’s happy it will thrive. It can be the perfect addition to a shade garden, growing where nothing else will, unaffected by tree roots and the deepest shade. I got my moss from a neighboring wood, digging clumps and moving it to my garden. If you get moss form an area other than your property I recommend you get permission. If you don’t know where to get moss there are a few hardy varieties that can be purchased online at: http://www.mossacres.com/

Moss does require a lot of water and may need to be watered daily, especially when you are trying to get it to take. It does love a liquid nitrogen fertilizer, which will help it spread and green-up. Moss can dry up and will come back, but it looks best when it is well watered and thriving. Moss can even look good through a warm winter, or brought indoors in a greenhouse or terrarium. (Moss requires high humidity at all times.) Moss can connect empty areas of your shade garden, or you can create a moss garden with nothing else but moss. I have made a Pinterest board devoted to deep shade gardens made with moss and fungi. http://pinterest.com/macnish/moss-fungi-and-ferns/

Here are some pictures showing how we have used Ferns, Hosta, and Moss in our shade gardens.


This Hosta, called “Patriot” shows stark contrast in the variegation between the deep green and white edges, making it stand out in the shade.


Like many Hosta in my gardens I have long ago lost the name of this one, but its ribbed leaves and nice variegation help it stand out against the Dicentra in the background.


A thriving Ostrich fern works its way through the shade despite invasive tree roots. Hosta and English bluebells are in the background.


 The pale green color of the ghost fern helps bring it forward in the dark shade and provides a nice contrast to the deeper green around it.


A close-up of a burgeoning Hosta. In the spring their growth is explosive.


Nice variegation of green against a pure yellow color in this Hosta.


Sometimes fences or garden walls create shade in the garden and can look stark and bare. A Staghorn fern, mounted on a cedar board creates interest and a focal point on this garden wall. Since it is tropical it needs to be moved indoors for the winter. One screw holds it to the wall so it can be easily removed. An unusual plant it is also an interesting conversation piece.


The traditional Boston Fern is happy in the shade of the porch. It’s leaves cover the moss basket it is growing in. Daily watering, frequent fertilizing and large containers are the tricks to making this tender tropical thrive.


There are many new Hosta that are bright chartreuse yellow. I recommend these varieties since the color really pops out of the shady garden and contrasts well with purples and pinks.


The Lady In Red Fern has an upright habit with deep red stems.


The Japanese Painted Fern is very hardy and colorful showing white, many shades of green and burgundy.


A Hay-Scented Fern grapples for space in a large container with Herchuera “Southern Comfort.”


This is the view from the side of our porch. A small shady space became a hidden garden filled with hardy and tropical ferns, Hosta, Moss and a variety of woodland plants. Although there are several containers in this garden, they are obscured by the lush growth. A copper bath beckons the birds and a terra cotta lion plaque stands guard.


Once established, moss will create a velvety green bed, filling bare spaces and looking lush and inviting.


Unusual containers are great for growing moss. Make sure they have drainage so the soil is not super-saturated, but a saucer on bottom can help ensure constant moisture.

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Coleus Provide Bold Garden Color Without Relying on Flowers

The vast array of color combinations and leaf variety in Coleus today is amazing. Many unusual types have been identified and propagated by cutting to maintain their unique look, but more and more are breeding true from seed. We grow hundreds from seed and buy several varieties that can’t be grown from seed from the nursery. This provides a profusion of color in the garden all season long. Although the seed are tiny, they are surprisingly easy to start indoors, and grow quickly to hardy, sturdy plants that aren’t bothered by much more than slugs. They are not water hogs like impatiens, but I wouldn’t call them drought tolerant. Deer has never bothered ours, but we don’t have much of a deer problem. 

Many try to solve the problem of color in the garden by using flowers, but I find a much more seasonally permanent and effective way of solving the problem is using plants with strong leaf color variation and heavy and multiple variegation patterns found in plants such as Coleus. Coleus also tolerate a broad range or sun exposure. Although they don’t do well in deep shade, they prefer a semi-shade situation, but will still do well in full sun. The same varieties may look different in different sun exposure situations. Boost growth with nitrogen fertilizers, and pinch back the insignificant flower stalks. This will encourage branch and discourage the plant from going to seed, and put all the plants energy into leaf growth. I have noticed, if allowed to seed, coleus will self sow, but our season does not allow self sown plants to get big enough to be noticed in the garden. They also lend themselves to being grown in containers, so they can be moved around the garden wherever color is needed. The following pictures are only some of the many types we have grown.


This variety was found at a local nursery. The deep burgundy leaf centers are edged in a soft green.


Although this is a cutting and vegetable garden, it dominates the back yard and without the addition of ornamentals like coleus, it would look pretty ratty as the season progresses. The bold colors of the coleus that were used literally jump out of the garden providing lots of color long after the flowers have faded. The coleus in the foreground was grown from seed and is called “Versa Crimson Gold.”


Coleus seedlings are easy to grow. Although it helps to have a greenhouse or cold frame  you don’t really need one. They need to be started at least 6-8 weeks before the last frost on a sunny window sill. Seeds are very small, but most companies usually coat them for easy handling.


These coleus are called “Exhibition Mix” and were grown from seed. The colors within the variety coordinate providing a very pleasing  effect. The Exhibition strain are very hardy, robust, and true to type. They can reach three feet by the end of the season.


Another nursery purchase, this popular coleus is called “Gay’s Delight.” The almost fluorescent  chartreuse is accented by purple veining.


This coleus is a blazing magenta. It was raised from seed and is called “Wizard Sunset.”


This coleus call “Tapestry” is from a nursery and shows how the leaf shape can vary as well as the color, this one showing heavy edge ruffling.


What makes this rust colored coleus unusual is it’s magenta sheen.


A small-leaved variety called “Tapestry” a common name among coleus since they often create this effect.


Another raised from seed, this one from the “Wizard Mix colection.”


 This coleus was also grown from seed and is from the “Wizard Sunset collection. “


Shaded by a porch roof, this coconut husk lined window basket is filled with coleus, Euphorbia “Diamond Frost” and Bocopa.


Another small-leaved coleus from a nursery, this variety is called “Strawberry Fields.” since the leaves are shaped like strawberries and colored like strawberries in their various stages of ripening. They are planted with another brightly colored coleus.


These three coleus, planted in an old wooden box, show various types of leaf variation and color.



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