|IPOMOPSIS RUBRA, A NATIVE SOUTHWESTERN WILD FLOWER, BLOOMS IN THE FRONT MIXED BORDER|
Just when I was beginning to feel a little bored with what I grow, while sitting having my coffee and yogurt this morning, watching hummingbirds dart around the garden, I started taking note on where they were going and what plants they were visiting. One female hummingbird (a Ruby Throated Hummingbird, our only species here in New England) who was experimenting – visiting every plant- this and that, taking an audit. I assumed that she was just unfamiliar with many of the species, as most are from far away locations worldwide.
A yellow Asiatic lily? Nope…(1.5 seconds). A lavender Tulbaghia from South Africa? Nah, (3 seconds). A very tempting dwarf, potted callistemon ‘Bottlebrush tree’ spending the summer outdoors from the greenhouse? Not even that, but maybe she was avoiding it because for the 6 species of bees who have claimed this nectar source for themselves – her final choice? – a tall, bouncy stem of a Thalictrum aquilegiafolium – with tiny purple flowers – clearly it was catnip for little, Miss. Hummer.
I did notice one more thing, however – our hummingbirds have been visiting many of the plants which are new to me as well. Or at lease, new to my garden this year. Each winter it seems I spend more and more time examining seed sources, overseas seed catalogs like Ciltern Seeds or Swallowtail Gardens, looking for unusual annuals, biennials and tender plants to raise from seed. Some, as a few of you may note, have been on my ‘must-grow’ list for some time, and either due to crop failure or my i nobility to raise them properly, have failed in the past, but this year, I’ve been either lucky, or I’ve mastered their germination. Here are ten new plants which I have never raised successfully before. Maybe a few of these will make it into your garden next summer? I’ll be saving seed!
To be honest, I don’t remember if these are plants which I started from seed ( from Burpee last year sold under the selection “Hummingbird Mix’, (I question this since the selection has multiple colors, and these are all red), or are these from a suitcase of plants that Panayoti Kelaidis from the Denver Botanic Garden gave me as seedlings, after I saw them growing in a roof garden there (they might be both, as I planted them out at the same time). but at this point, I (and the hummingbirds) don’t seem to care, they are tall and gorgeous – and may even slow the traffic down a bit on the road.
I am not sure if these are biennial or perennial, or if they self-seeded ( perhaps biennial AND self seeded) but they are not commonly seen in Eastern US gardens. Worth seeking out, I say.
“OK, MATT”, you are probably saying – “will you stop yakking on about this plant?”. I know, I get obsessed with a plant that I saw, fell in love with and then could not grow – but finally, I have figured out how to raise this rarely seen garden annual (and native North American plant). Cuphea viscosissima ( “viscose” because of the natural sticky oils on its stems and leaves – you’ll see once you grow it) is a striking annual also known as ‘Bat Flower’, a silly name applied to many Cuphea because of the two large petals that look like, well, a bat face (they say), Dunny Flower might be more appropriate.
This annual will appear in many photos of mine over the next few months, so bear with me. Ever since I first spotted this species growing in large mixed borders at the Berkshire Botanic garden a few years ago, I wanted it – if only for the color, which is very special. A deep shade of blackberry, or what I might venture to say – Summer borsht with a plop of sour cream mixed in (if you’ve ever had it, then you know the color I mean). Maybe I should grow it near dill?
This past January, I received as a host gift some packets of seeds from a horticulturist at Blythewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island – (thanks Gail!). Seeds of annuals grown on the estate, which I planted later in the spring with some hope that they would be interesting, and of course, they look like they will be. One of the packets con tainted this = Browalia americana, a tall wild browalia nothing like the hybrid forms found at the garden centers today.
I know that Blythewold raises this in their cutting garden, but as this is the first flower to open, I will need to see how cut-flower-worthy it is, as I am not cutting it just yet! far more delicate than I expected, but I have high hopes for this drift of browalia which I set out in our new bed.
|ASARINA ANTIRRHINIFLORA ‘COCCINEA’|
A mouthful of a name, I know – but I remember it from the species name, which comes from the Genus name for Snapdragon (Antirrhinum). Geeky, I know, but it works. This tiny vine has been on my ‘want to grow’ list for about 20 years, but I never had luck with the seeds. The tiny seeds need light to germinate, as well as warmth, which might be the reason, for years ago when I would order dozens of packets of ‘interesting yet random seeds’ from Thompson and Morgan, I would be overwhelmed at sowing time, and just sow everything in the same way. This time I found a seed source at Chiltern Seeds.
This is proof that with a little research, one can achieve success. This vine is small ( honestly, I never realized how small until now!), so I am training it on a small trellis globe in a pot. Sweet, unassuming pink flowers which hopefully will become more abundant with age, but hey – it’g growing AND blooming.
Another plants from my gift packet of seeds from Blythewold Mansion, and although this is its first flower, I have high hopes for this as a garden annual. Sure, it’s a garden escapee in some parts of Europe and even in the US, but it is still a treasured, pass-along old fashioned annual hibiscus worthy of the border.
Also known as ‘Flower of an Hour’, I guess I was lucky to spot this first bloom, as the flower apparently only remains open for about an hour (portulacaism maybe?). Bumblebees and other native pollinators crave it however, and even though it vines along sneakily through the border, I think I like the color – so far.
|CERATOTHECA TRILOBA, COMMONLY KNOWN AS ‘SOUTH AFRICAN FOXGLOVE’, MAKES A TALL, STATEMENT IN THE ANNUAL BORDER|
This is one annual that will be hard for most of you to find, but the seeds are available from select seed catalogs, mine came from the British firm Chiltern Seeds. I’ve written about this plant a few times after seeing it for the first time featured in a mixed border at Tower Hill Botanic Garden a few years ago, where its flowers were in peak bloom in September. I’ve tried in the past, yes – with little luck raising them, but this year – boom! Botanically, this is not a foxglove, but the flowers look so much like a foxglove (digitalis) that one can see how the name stuck.
I had so many plants, which I carefully sowed in individual pots in the greenhouse in late March, which rewarded me with 60 or so plants which were sturdy from the beginning, and all now look like they will bloom. Tall, lush and even the ones in a few containers I have are healthy and look as it they will be showy enough for my mixed container assortment. Staking seems to be helpful, for the tall stems which are a bit Hollyhock-like, seem as if either the dogs will knock them over, or a hail storm will, but the ones set out in the big border are tall and gloriously budded up. The first two flowers opened today.
Another gift plant from a blog fan and now a friend (two lovely ladies from Toronto who hosted me when I spoke at the NARGS chapter there, remembered that I fell in love with the genus Roscoea which they had growing in their Toronto garden ( I know, Toronto!). A relative of the ginger, this genus is one which I am trailing this year with 7 species. This one, so far, is my favorite. I am growing it in a pot, but this Himalayan native is hardy here (up to Zone 5), so I may set the bulbs out after it blooms and take a chance.
|SET NEXT TO A RAIN BARREL, THE ROSCOEA GETS NOTICED RATHER THAN LOST IN THE GARDEN|
NASTURTIUM ‘MARGARET LONG’
Plants all have stories, in one way or another, but this one, which I’ve written about a few times this winter, has a great one which makes it very special. First of all, it’s a nasturtium – which really doesn’t look like one at all, right? It’s sterile, and sadly does not set seed, so it must be raised from cuttings, and then shared with others who must keep it growing on, either in warm gardens or greenhouses – which is exactly what has happened ever since it first appeared as a sport in Dublin, Ireland off of another even older sterile double from called ‘Hermine-Grashopf’ back in 1970.
Gifted to me vial Gail at Blythewold Mansion, who had shared with with Avant Garden’s and then lost it, only to get it back again from Avant Gardens who read this blog last year and gave Gail a cutting to share back with me (that alone, is a great story). The selection is old, but lovely. I feared that I had some virus of a sort, but now, my new cuttings from stronger growth and new, sterile soil seem very healthy.
|NASTURTIUM ‘ELF’S CAP’, ON THE LEFT, AND A NORMAL NASTURTIUM ON THE RIGHT.|
NASTURTIUM ‘ELF’S CAP’
A bit of a nice surprise for me, this precious, and more elegant nasturtium appealed to me simply from it’s description in a catalog. Thanks Select Seeds for turning my onto this gem. The flower sold me, but the foliage and floriferousness along with the color of the foliage, which is more olive, and somehow, denser and tighter all create what I believe could be the perfect nasturtium. More to come on this one, since I am crossing it with some of the newer fringed forms (‘Phoenix’) types.
|I ALWAYS SAW TITHONIA IN SEED CATALOGS, BUT NEVER SAW ONE LIVE UNTIL I WENT TO A RESTAURANT NEAR OUR HOME, AND SAW A BORDER OF THEM LIGHTING UP THE PARKING LOT.|
TITHONIA ROTUNDIFOLIA – MEXICAN SUNFLOWER
This is a color worth seeking out. Enamel Orange, I’d call it. Almost painfully orange, but a shade so rich and to artificial that it puts any zinnia to shame. With Tithonia, it’s all about scale. Large plants erring on the side of sunflower size, combine so elegantly with lime colored foliage. Large seeds, easy to start, I really don’t know why we don’t’ see this annual raised more often? My guess is that in garden centers, it would not be in bloom yet so it rules out early spring sales – but take note, this beauty will attract butterflies like no other plant in the garden – I already spotted two new species which refuse to leave the garden because of this torch. Once I Googled it, I was dumbfounded to learn more about its high nectar and attractability for butterflies (and, hummingbirds, of course).