Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nasturtiums 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 Nasturtiums.

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) are an easy to grow plant that looks lovely sitting at the feet of other taller plants, cascading over the sides of raised beds or growing up a trellis. Nasturtiums are often thought of as common plants but they are hardy growers and when well established a great addition to your garden. Nasturtiums like full sun but not hot summer weather. They grow well in coastal weather but do not fare well with frosts. Nasturtiums bloom from mid-spring to late in summer. Nasturtiums are often used in cottage garden settings and mix well with these types of flowers. Nasturtiums are edible, the peppery tasting flowers are a pretty complement to salads or desserts. Nasturtium seeds are also edible and can be used in salads as well. The most common Nasturtiums are orange or yellow, growing easily from seed. There are dwarf varieties of Nasturtiums as well as know varieties such as the varigated Alaska plant featuring white marbling throughout the Nasturtium leaves. Some of the specialized varieties feature deep red or gold flowers.

Generally Nasturtiums grow in most soils, in fact they prefer poor soils. Nasturtiums do not need fertilizer, in fact you will produce huge leaves and little flower if you fertilize them. Nasturtium plants do not like to be transplanted so go with growing from seed to create new plants. Nasturtiums are most typically planted from seed, once the plants are established they are vigorous seeders supplying you with a steady amount of new seed to place in other areas of the garden. Once established Nasturtiums will reseed, making themselves a yearly presence in your garden.

Full sun or part shade, Zones: All

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

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spring Bulbs and Plants Grow During Winter

I planted the two red amaryllis bulbs one on each side of the obelisk last week between rain showers, we'll see if they grow and flower. The spring bulbs are starting to leaf out in anticipation of the new season. The large pink hyacinth bulbs are already starting to open their pale pink flowers. The pink hyacinths were established in the back flower bed long before we moved into our Victorian. The dutch iris are also putting up their tall, thin leaves. I planted a number of grape hyacinths, brodiaea and other bulbs out in the front yard and in the back flower bed. I'm hoping the bulb display will be a good one this year. Some of the daffodils I transplanted in fall year before last are growing and budding in the back flower bed. The first spring there wasn't much showing from these transplanted daffodils from the side of the house so this year it would be great to see more blooming in the flower bed. I am happy to report the thymifolia fuchsia cutting I planted in the front yard between the two grosso lavenders is growing and starting to flower after two years of minimal growth. The picture above shows my original thymifolia fuchsia in the back yard under the holly tree, surrounded by calla lillies and one of the two-toned pink fuchsias. I had a thymifolia fuchsia in Petaluma that grew quite large. This fuchsia grows and flowers pretty much all year long, even flowering in winter, and hummingbirds love it. The cutting took a while to establish but will be well worth it this spring as it flowers and grows for a great display in the front yard.

The white camellia near the back gate fence is getting bigger after having been pollarded by the previous owner. The camellia looked pretty bad when we first got here but now the leaves are bushing out and the shrub is growing back to a familiar camellia shape. The size of the trunk of the camellia is so huge that no doubt the shrub was very tall until it was cut back. It has only produced a few white flowers in the past in the spring. This year I've counted at least eight large flower buds on the shrub. These white camellia flowers are smaller than the standard size camellia flowers and look like gorgeous little roses, so perfect looking when they bloom. I'm excited to finally see a few more blooms on the camellia shrub this year.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Planting Amaryllis And Sprouting Spring Bulbs

The red amaryllis bulb my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas bloomed exceptionally well in its warm location in the kitchen. There were two stems of flowers with a third set starting up at the base of the plant. A total of eight flowers bloomed on the amaryllis for a few weeks before the flowers started to die back this week. The flowers were really spectacular and quite large. Now that I have two bulbs (one from last year) I plan on planting both bulbs out in the backyard next to my obelisk where my sweet peas climb up. I'm hoping both of the amaryllis bulbs bloom again. I know the amaryllis I had in Petaluma bloomed one more time then never bloomed again, but it was sitting in a patio without full sunlight so that could have been a factor.

I'm not sure why I didn't bring that particular amaryllis bulb with me when we moved but with two amaryllis bulbs to plant that should be plenty for the garden. I'm hoping the bulbs do well outside. I've never planted an amaryllis bulb outdoors so it should be interesting to see if they thrive there. Guess its time to read up more on amaryllis bulbs and see how they fare when planted outdoors.


The bluebells near the obelisk are starting to send up leaves, a tight formed circle of them are growing at the edge of the dirt mound that holds the obelisk against the decorative fence near the back gate. The bluebells are one of the first bulbs to come up besides the crocus, which are already popping up in the round container on the back deck. I planted a lot of bulbs this past fall and am hoping there is a good display this spring of new bulbs. I am particularly anxious to see the grape hyacinth bulbs come up, many are planted in the front yard near the walkway and surrounding the roses. I also planted some at the edge of the obelisk near the bluebells, should be very pretty in spring. I'm looking forward to seeing all the new spring bulbs and the changes they make in the color and shape of the garden this year.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hellebore 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 hellebore.

Hellebore (Helleborus comprise) is a plant I've always wanted to try out in my garden. Long ago when I first started gardening I ordered a live hellebore plant that didn't survive after planting. I've been wanting more hellebores ever since. Hellebores are long lived perennials that bloom in mid-winter through mid-spring. Hellebores are frost-resistant and many are evergreen, providing beautiful flowers and color when the garden has little else flowering. Many species of hellebore's are considered poisonous.

The most popular hellebores used in the garden are H. orientalis (Lenten Rose), sporting beautiful flower colors in spring. Lenten rose comes in a wide variety of colors, including deep purple, red, pinks, grey and near-black. Flowers on the Lenten Rose can last as long as a month's time. The Christmas hellebore (Christmas Rose) is a cottage garden flower with white flowers that at times turn to pale pink during winter. Helleborus foetidus is known as the stinking hellebore. This hellebore has green leaves and green flower on a red stem, and the flowers have a pungent smell, hence the name.

Hellebores like moist soil with good drainage, they do not like wet soil. They prefer rich soil and are heavy feeders so feeding with a time release fertilizer may be a good choice. Hellebores prefer to be planted in full to light shade. A mulch of shredded bark is a good idea when there is no snow coverage in severe winters. Hellebores are easy to grow from seed. When established hellebores re-seed easily, you may find small plant starts surrounding your original plants.

Full to light shade, zones: 4-5

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2007-01-04Helleborus05.jpg

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