Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Butterfly Bush Plant Profile

During the winter months I thought it would be fun to showcase plant profiles of my favorite garden workhorse plants and new plants I'm interested in growing. This week's plant profile is the butterfly bush.

Butterfly bush (Buddleia) is a very hardy, sun loving plant that does well in both warm weather climates and coastal weather. Typical height for butterfly bushes are six to eight feet tall but they can grow taller and quite wide as well. Here on the coast butterfly bushes in our yard grow a good ten to twelve feet high after a severe cut back in spring to three feet tall. Do not prune your newly planted butterfly bush until it is in the ground for a year. Once the plant is established you can cut them back hard 1 1/2 feet to 3 feet from ground level. Prune your butterfly bushes after last frost in early spring. Growth of the newly cut stems tend to grow quickly, at times growing five feet or more in a season.

Butterfly bushes are sturdy plants with beautiful cone shaped flowers resembling lilac flowers. The individual flowers are very tiny, smaller than lilac flowers, but together the flowers form a long cone shape at the end of stems. The new stems and flowers grow from either current wood or newly developed wood after pruning. Some butterfly bushes are never cut back and flower regularly year after year. The butterfly bush is aptly named since butterflies travel to these plants in droves. The flowers emit a grape like smell that is very fragrant. Butterfly bushes come in a variety of colors including dark purple, light purple, white, pink, dark magenta and golden yellow. It can take a year for a new butterfly bush to get settled into place in the ground before they grow large. The plants require full sun but don't seem to mind coastal fog.

Full sun, zones 5-9

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Trimming In The Coastal Garden

In the midst of the holiday season the garden tends to get pushed to the sidelines. After the unusual freezing cold weather snap in the mid twenties we had a few weeks ago the usual fall and winter coastal weather patterns were back in place. The coastal weather in Eureka this time of year is usually a forecast of rain for weeks on end. It is rare you get a day on the weekend that doesn't feature rain. This past weekend we had a clear Saturday and decided in the midst of Christmas wrapping to get out and trim up the yard while we could.



The lawns were both in need of mowing and looking pretty overgrown. We set the level of the mower up a bit to leave the grass a little higher during the winter months. My husband took on the mowing tasks while I concentrated on trimming things up in the front yard.

I left the passionflower vine long on the fence to give it more coverage for the vines during the colder winter months. This seemed to work well last winter so I left the vine coverage full from its summer growth. I did cut back part of the vines near the rhododendron since they were growing too far over near the plant. A good four or five inches of cutting with my hand pruners and the rhododendron was given some breathing room. By spring I'll cut the passionflower vines far back so they have plenty of room to grow in by summer. I found it also helps the vines grow better during the season.

The pink jasmine is as usual out of control. At least it slows down a bit in fall and winter growth. I cleaned up the porch area so the mail carrier isn't accosted by the winding long vines of the pink jasmine. As long as the vine is kept trimmed back a bit it works well for the porch area. I usually have to trim the pink jasmine many times during the year, and last Saturday was no exception. The pink jasmine has grown farther over on the porch railing since this photo was taken and is twice as big now. It is hard to control the shaping of the vine but so far with many trims during the year it looks very pretty and is flowering well.



The hedge had stopped its growth in late fall but there were still a few inches of excess growth left from the last month. I manually trimmed up the top of the hedges. I thought getting in one more entire trim of the hedge might work but between the rain and the holidays hedge trimming had to wait until this weekend. A manual trim works just fine for winter since it requires so little tidying. I find if you give the hedge at minimum a good trim in spring and fall it should look fairly trimmed up through winter. Some manual trimming has been done here and there in summer when needed beyond the hedge trimmer pruning I gave the hedges. It felt good to clean up the front yard as much as we could. The roses already had a good trim in late summer so now the garden should be in good shape through the holiday season.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Plants For The Season

Plants for the Christmas season can be as simple as buying a red leaved poinsettia or forcing bulbs to decorate your home during the cold months of fall and winter. Holly branches from the garden covered in berries in a vase or on the table can become a long lasting, natural centerpiece for the holidays. The typical items for winter months include forcing paperwhites (always pretty and smell beautiful) and large hyacinth bulbs in a pot indoors. Instead try forcing crocus and grape hyacinth bulbs for the holidays. Grape hyacinths come in a number of colors, most typically purple, while crocus come in purples, whites and yellows. Grape hyacinths cone shape with small bell flowers and the cup shape of the crocus are both lovely. Imagine these tiny flowers in a pot on your sill or in pots decorating your table and it will be worth the effort to force these early bulbs indoors.

Amaryllis bulbs are always fun to pot up, although the timing of bloom can vary from the time you plant the bulb. Your amaryllis bulb generally will take 7 to 10 weeks to bloom so time your amaryllis bulb planting in November for bloom in December. Christmas cactus are fun to grow indoors and have beautiful flowers that open in December. My dad had quite a green thumb which is where I get my gardening gene. My dad took a poinsettia after the Christmas holiday one year and planted it up as a hanging house plant. His intention wasn't to color the leaves again for the holidays but simply grow the poinsettia as a houseplant. The poinsettia grew very large over the years with a good two feet of green leaves, maintaining a healthy looking green all year long. The poinsettia was beautiful even without the red leaves. This is another way to keep your poinsettia live and growing, with or without the festive color at Christmas.

A fun tradition my dad started in my family was planting a small live pine tree in a pot then using the tree as our Christmas tree for many years until it was big enough to plant out in our garden. We had a number of Christmas trees lining our quarter acre property when I was a kid. I continue this tradition today. Our Christmas tree in Eureka is a redwood started from a foot and a half tall tree in a gallon pot. Two years later the tree is a good three feet tall and growing, with plenty of light green tips of growth during the summer months. We stop watering the pot a week before bringing it indoors. Once we bring the tree indoors, we place a plastic saucer under the pot, cover the square pot with a tree apron and the tree is ready to be decorated. Adding a little water during the month when needed keeps the live tree in good shape. Once the holiday is done the Christmas tree pot goes back on our deck until next holiday season. My plan is to keep this tree in a pot. Once the tree grows too big to bring indoors it can still live in a pot on the deck and another small Christmas tree can be purchased to pot up. The Christmas tree is great to look at all year long and an earth friendly way to use live trees for the holidays.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Heaths and Heathers Plant Profile

During the winter months I thought it would be fun to showcase plant profiles of my favorite garden workhorse plants and new plants I'm interested in growing. This week's plant profile are some of my favorite plants, heaths and heathers.

Heaths and heathers (Erica Carnea) are hardy woody, perennial shrubs that make good ground cover and add a great deal of color and structure to the garden. Heaths have needle-like leaves that are dense and bell-shaped flowers. Heathers have leaves that feature flowers on one side of the branch. Most heaths have larger shaped bell flowers although some feature smaller flowers like heathers. Heaths and heathers have shrubs that flower in spring, summer and winter months, some for three months time. These plants can sport either evergreen leaves or colored leaves, some in lime green, creams, oranges and reds. Many of the winter shrubs have bright leaf foliage which makes them a great addition to your cold weather garden. Plants can grow close to the ground at six to eight inches tall up to two feet tall and wide. The flower colors range from lavenders, pinks, white and reds, with single and double flower varieties.

Heaths and heathers are not fussy about planting but do need good draining soil. They like acid soil and must have good draining soil because their roots are very delicate. Once established for a year in the garden they are low maintenance and drought tolerant. Water your heaths and heathers weekly during the first year so the roots do not dry out. Heaths and heathers do not like soggy roots. The plants do not need fertilizer but if you want to add some an acid fertilizer made for rhododendrons and azaleas would work fine. Mulching works well for cold weather around the base of the plant, I would advise mulching for the first year in the garden. The general rule of thumb is to trim heaths and heathers right after they bloom. Remove the flowers from the plant and shape but do not cut down further into the wood unless you need to regenerate a plant that is sickly. Heather flowers grow on new wood. Heaths and Heathers require six hours of full sun a day. Here on the north coast they manage very well as long as they are planted in a sunny location.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EricaDarleysensis04.JPG

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Creeping Raspberry Plant Profile

During the winter months I thought it would be fun to showcase plant profiles of my favorite garden workhorse plants and new plants I'm interested in growing. This week's plant profile is a new plant I'm propagating called Creeping Raspberry.

Creeping Raspberry (Rubus calycinoides) is a dense low maintenance groundcover that establishes itself by forming runners rooting nodes that form new plants. The plant sports attractive thick evergreen leaves that change color from green to burgundy during fall and winter months. The plant likes sunny locations and does well in shady areas as well, making it a good groundcover for gardens and urban areas. It can be used in container gardening, tumbling over container edges. Creeping raspberry produces small 1/2 inch white flowers in mid-summer after which edible amber colored fruit appear. The plant is not invasive but spreads readily. Once creeping rasberry is established it needs little water except in hot summer months. Creeping raspberry is a low maintenance plant, a quick trim in the spring will take care of older foliage withered from winter.

Full sun or part shade, Zones: 6-10

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Creeping_raspberry.jpg

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