Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Feeling Spiny

I've had a long, angst-ridden day. To celebrate, I'm going to share one of my favorite plants with you.

Meet Solanum atropurpureum, also known as Five-Minute Plant, Malevolence, or Gates-of-Hell. It’s a tender perennial eggplant relative that can be grown as an annual here in Wisconsin. I started several from saved seed this February, and they’re about a foot or so tall now. As they grow, the spines get larger, and they turn purple-black. I’ll post pics later this summer to show their progress.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring Foliage

Many of my favorite garden plants are those with interesting foliage. Relying on foliage for color and interest allows me to garden without too much concern for bloom times. That and I've always just liked neat-looking leaves.

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

The first plants that come to mind when I think of foliage is ferns. I especially like the look of the ‘fiddleheads’ in the spring as they unfurl:

Mexican Male Fern (Dryopteris pseudo-filix-mas)

Some ferns are ephemeral: they die back to the ground at the onset of dry, hot weather. An example is the Fragile Fern, living at the edge of my chocolate garden. It’s a native fern, and it spreads somewhat quickly by underground rhizomes.

 Fragile Fern (Cystopteris fragilis)

I really love the lacy look of maidenhair ferns. Another inhabitant of the chocolate garden is this ‘Miss Sharpless’ Northern Maidenhair, which has bronze new foliage and dark bronze wiry stems.

 Adiantum pedatum 'Miss Sharpless', fronds almost unfurled.

But this isn't a post just about ferns! There are all sorts of interesting foliage plants in my garden.

Tiarella ‘Mint Chocolate’

Heuchera 'Blackcurrant'. I need to add some light green, fine foliage plants around this one to set off the color.

Persicaria ‘Lance Corporal’. I love the patterns on the leaves.

Heuchera ‘Brownies’ and ‘Caramel’. I planted them together on purpose, but for the names more than the look... mmm, caramel brownies....

Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) is a plant native to my yard.

You may notice from my pictures that I haven't gotten around to major weeding and mulching yet this year. Dandelions like to pop up everywhere, and grass seems to prefer growing in my garden beds over growing in the 'lawn'.

Yes, I do own a handful of Hosta. Here’s ‘June’, with some more grass.

Asarum aff. shuttleworthii

One of my favorite groups of plants is the Wild Gingers, or Asarum. I have many species in my garden, and I hope to collect more.

Asarum arifolium, or Little Brown Jugs, is named for its flowers which hide under the leaves. Also hiding beneath the leaves seem to be bits of cars(?) from the garage (my partner is a mechanic).

Silver is an excellent color for shade gardens, since it shines out against the gloom. So I'll end with a little bit of argent...

Some kind of Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

Another kind of Lungwort (also Pulmonaria). I really should try to figure out what their names are. I don't think I've ever bought a lungwort... they're all from friend's gardens.

Athyrium ‘Ghost’ …what? I didn’t promise I wouldn’t show another fern, did I?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A welcome surprise!

I was truly exited when I came home today to find this:
Galearis spectabilis

My Showy Orchis are blooming! This is a lovely native orchid that I got from a co-worker/friend. It seeds around her yard, and she gave me a generous chunk of it a couple of years ago. I traded it for another native orchid that grows in my yard: Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens).

After I received them, I gently pulled them apart into three pieces and planted them here and there in my "Oak Grove" garden, which has sandy soil amended with compost, and oak leaf/pine needle mold. This particular clump started out with three "noses", or three growing points. Now, just a few years later, it's up to around ten! I'm considering dividing this clump either this fall or the next... no, don't raise your hand just yet, I don't feel I have enough to share/trade/sell quite yet. You'll be the first to know when I do!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Helleborus 'Birkin's Black'

I have several hellebores in my garden, but so far this is my favorite. I like it for several reasons: one, it's not a variety that's easy to find; two, my friend (Shady Character) gave it to me; three, it's got black flowers; and four, it has interesting divided foliage that suggests H. foetidus parentage. 'Birkin's Black' is not really an official name (it doesn't have one). That's just what my friend calls it because it was bred by Graham Birkin, a hellebore breeder in England. Of my 3 small divisions, this one has the most flowers. I'm considering under planting it with a lighter-colored companion to make its dark flowers and dark green foliage stand out.

Of my other hellebores, only 2 are named, and one of those names escapes me at the moment. I have an 'Onyx Odyssey' in the chocolate garden, a pink-flowered variety from another friend's garden, 2 seedlings from Sunshine Farm and Gardens (bred by Barry Glick), and a new pink-flowered one with a name that I acquired from work this winter.

Hellebores are great plants. They're more or less evergreen, so they provide a long season of interest. Even when the flowers fade, the colorful bracts remain and look like faded flowers themselves for months. They thrive in the deep shade of my oak trees. On top of that, they're drought tolerant, which makes them my kind of plant.

The pink hellebore. Ok, maybe it's more mauve.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

First Garden Bloom Day!

As well as my first post. Let's see how this goes...

Arisaema sikokianum, a Jack-in-the-Pulpit relative from Japan. It lives in my 'Chocolate' garden.

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ is from a trade I made last year.

Dodecatheon pulchellum, also known as Shooting Star

Anemonella (Thalictrum) thalictroides is one of my favorite spring bloomers.

Saruma henryi, or Upright Wild Ginger

Fragaria vesca, alpine strawberry. These will start producing fruit in a month or so...

Trillium cuneatum (sessile), Toadshade, is another denizen of the Chocolate Garden. I use the Golden Creeping Jenny as a foil to set off the chocolaty leaves and flowers.

Tiarella ‘Mint Chocolate’, can you guess which garden it's in?

Viola riviana Purpurea Group is often sold as Viola labradorica. Yet another chocolate denizen.

Narcissus cvs. I have 7 or 8 kinds of daffodil blooming around the garden.

Also in bloom right now: 
Ajuga ‘Valfredda’ (Chocolate Chip Bugleweed), Antennaria sp. (Pussy Toes), Asarum canadensis (Wild Ginger), Claytonia virginiana (Spring Beauty—thanks Laurie!), Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-Valley), Cuphea ignea ‘Matchless’ (Cigar Flower… an annual I started from seed that’s still inside), Dicentra exima (Fringed Bleeding Heart), Dicentra spectabilis f. alba (White Bleeding Heart), Epimedium alpinum f. rubrum, Euphorbia cyparissias (Cypress Spurge… a noxious groundcover/weed), Helleborus ‘Birkin’s Black’ (thanks Shady Character!), Helleborus orientalis ‘Onyx Odyssey’, Narcissus ‘Hawera’, Phlox subulata (bright pink Moss Phlox), Polygonum odoratum variegatum (Variegated Solomon’s Seal, Pulmonaria cvs. (Lungwort… thanks Barb!), Rhododendron cv. (evergreen azalea), Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’, Tulipa humilis ‘Persian Pearl’, Tulipa sylvestris, Vinca minor (Periwinkle), Viola sp. (sororia? The wild violets are blooming), Viola canadensis

And that's that!