Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beautyberry Plant Profiles

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 beautyberry.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri, American beautyberry) is a fast-growing deciduous shrub sporting pale green leaves with tiny lilac flowers during the year, then magenta colored berries develop in late summer. The shrub has attractive leaves which turns yellow in fall, with the shrub eventually dropping its leaves, leaving only the striking cluster of magenta berries on bare branches in late fall. Beautyberry can grow 4 to 8 feet tall and wide. The beautyberry shrub prefer light shade, planting in a protected area from the wind against a fence is a good idea. Staking the shrub as they grow is helpful for sturdy growth, the shrubs can grow up to five feet tall. Water the beautyberry shrub with one inch of water weekly. It will take a growing season or two before new Beautyberry shrubs produce flowers and berries. The Beautyberry shrub may die back in cold areas but will grow back in spring. The Beautyberry shrub needs new growth to grow berries, if you must prune do so only after the shrub has produced berries for the first time. The berries can be eaten by birds, but may be astringent and would be a last choice for a natural food source. American beautyberry is known as a natural insect repellent. 

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Evergreen Foliage and Garden Structure in Fall and Winter

When fall arrives on the north coast, plant growth starts to wane and leaves drop from the drooping cherry, Japanese maples and eventually the curly willow drops its curled leaves. As bleak as late fall and winter can be in a garden, I am always impressed with evergreen plants that stay sturdy and look healthy in the coldest, wettest weather.

The white camellia has deep green leaves that look incredibly healthy as it starts to grow bigger and taller each year. The spring flowering increased on the camellia this past year, wonderful to see, and no doubt it will flower better as it grows as it should grow, with minimal trim back. Every year the pink jasmine vine continues its greenery and blooms throughout every season, even in winter there are less blooms but small white with pink blooms nontheless. The passionflower vines on the fence stay lush and evergreen all year long. Even the first year we were here when a heavy frost killed the leaves down to the woody vine, the vine grew back perfectly beginning in spring, and was lush and full by summer. The heaths and heathers stay evergreen and in fact thrive in the cold weather. The heathers with fall leaf colors of yellow, orange, reds, and bronze are a sight for sore eyes in the dead of winter.

The curly willow and drooping cherry tree may lose their leaves in fall and winter, but their shapely branches provide a beautiful structure to the front garden. The pink roses may have bare leaves, but the hard working rhododendron and azaleas look green and lovely, with some red tints on one of the azaleas burnishing its leaves in fall and winter. The lavenders keep their green and grey leaves looking sturdy, attractive even without their long wands of lavender blooms. Trees, evergreens and colorful leaf foliage are a focal point in my garden giving added interest. These dependable trees and shrubs provide a bit of hope for the coming seasons, comfort within the sturdy structures when little else is standing in the cold days of fall and winter.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hardworking Plants For The Garden

Over the years I've used the following plants throughout my garden to add some color and long lived blooms most of the year. They may be common flowers, but lobelia, alyssum, and nasturtiums are hardworking plants perfect for baskets, containers, to line pathways, and to fill in under plants in flower beds.

Lobelia is a great addition to flowerbeds, billowing up and out wide, depending on the type of lobelia purchased. Most containers of lobelia available at garden centers are in the blue tones, some in electric blue, light blue and deep blue tones. There are varieties that cascade, ideal for hanging baskets and container gardening. There are also pastel shades of lobelia in whites and pinks, although I find the blue lobelia a little better for growing and reseeding. Ah reseeding, lobelia does like to reseed, a perfect way to expand your garden plants naturally. Beyond how well they flower, how long they flower and how easy care they are, lobelia are really lovely, fitting right in and making a small statement along pathways and mixed with other plants. Annual lobelia are a good addition to any garden.

Alyssum has a wonderful smell and virtually blooms year long in the right climate. I have had alyssum planted in my Petaluma garden, where it got to be in the 90's to 100 degrees and beyond, and in my coastal Eureka garden where the average temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees all year long. In both places my alyssum has grown with easy abandon, lighting up areas with its white fluffy flower heads. I've found the white alyssum is very dependable when planted, once in place it is in the garden for years to come. I bought some white and purple tinged alyssum to plant in my half moon shaped planter with three terra cotta pots. Nothing has worked well in these pots and I decided if alyssum can't grow happily there, nothing will. I will also plant some alyssum in the top of my metal planter that houses red lilies. The alyssum will help fill the top of the container until summer weather brings up the lily bulbs. Alyssum is always a good choice for underplanting and pathways, and great for edging in hanging baskets and containers, while sharing its sweet smell for lucky passerbys.

Nasturtiums may be considered a common garden vine, but they are one of my favorite all time plants. When I think of gardens and bed and breakfasts I've been to, nasturtiums have been one of the most beautiful parts of the gardens I visited. When nasturtiums really take hold in part of the garden they are lush and full of flowers. I have a few spare vines here and there that are in too shady an area to really get growing. I'm looking forward to the nasturtium seeds I planted back in the corner below my climbing roses to start sprouting and growing. Nasturtiums are colorful and prolific creators of seed. Once established nasturtiums will grow contentedly in your garden where they will fill areas with bright colors and green leaves. Beyond nasturtium vines, there are a number of dwarf nasturtium varieties in colors other than the traditional oranges and yellows. Varieties with varigated leaves, red and burgundy flowers and pastel cream colors are among the many choices for nasturtium lovers

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall Planting for Heathers

There was finally a break in the rain this past weekend, with enough time for me to plant the seven heathers we purchased from the annual heath and heather sale. I brought out my small shovel, some extra dirt, and five of the seven heathers to the front yard. I dug up the red rose bush that has been doing very poorly underneath the pink roses. The red rose may put out one or two roses each summer and other than green leaves sits there looking forlorn. I'm not sure if the rose just isn't viable or if its place against the fence wasn't a good choice, but I decided to dig it up and replant it in the back yard near the kiwi vines. Another spot can't hurt, and it can't do much worse there, hopefully better. The red rose was a strange placement under the pink roses and always looked out of place. I was able to dig it up with plenty of dirt surrounding it and replanted it successfully.

The space left by the red rose was taken by the heather that grows up to five feet tall. This heather has pale pink bell flowers with a darker pink edge at the tip of the flowers. It is a beautiful plant and I'm hoping it does well in this spot back towards the fence. On one side of the heather and one of the pink climbing roses, I planted a rooting of my garnet colored pestemon plant, which should look terrific paired with the pinks of the roses and purple flowers of the small lavenders growing there. Next I planted the four ground cover heathers in front of two of the climbing roses, these four plants should fill in the area next to the lawn very well and help keep down weeds. Best of all they produce an abundance of pink blooms that should look fantastic during the fall and winter months.

I decided at that point I might as well dig up the purple hebe and plant it next to one of the climbing roses. The rhododendron and garnet pestemon were crowding out the hebe. I planted the hebe with plenty of breathing room surrounding it and hope it grows even better in its new spot. After planting and replanting plants, I decided I might as well plant the remaining two heathers in the back yard. These heathers are very different, one has pink buds on green branches, while the other has the orange/yellow/bronze colors on its leaves. I planted them both underneath the deck below the pink jasmine. Once I finished all the planting I sat in my chair and could see these heathers easily from the arbor where I spend time enjoying the garden. Planting the heathers was a pretty big job all in all. Next is the planting of the various bulbs I've been buying. I will be getting a late start but hopefully the good weather will hold up through next weekend so the bulbs can finally get in the ground before the rains start up again.

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