Monday, November 12, 2012

Plans and Dreams #2 - Looking Ahead to 2013!

Yes, I know it is only November 12th, but as my father says, "Dates on the calendar are closer than they appear."

So what do you think of these selections that I'm planning to plant in 2013?

1) Lobularia maritima, Sweet Alyssum - Planning to heavily wintersow actually by buying seeds in bulk.

Sweet Alyssum, photo by Anita363

2) Cosmos bipinnatus, Sensation mix from Southern Exposure

Cosmos 'Sensation', photo by Yoko Nekonomania

3) Helianthus debilis Cucumerifolius, Cucumber-Leaf Sunflower - I love growing sunflowers for their cheery late-summer blooms. Last year's Autumn Beauty sunflowers not only looked great, they also did a wonderful job of attracting bees, birds and squirrels. This year, the puffy Tiger's Eye sunflowers were attractive, but the birds, bees and squirrels all ignored them. Since I prefer plants with wildlife value, I'll be trying a new variety next year - the wild Cucumber-Leaf Sunflower from Southern Exposure. The flowers on this variety of sunflower are supposed to be much smaller, but it looks like there are a lot of them and the seeds are supposed to be very attractive to birds. I can't find a Creative Commons-licensed photo online, but you can get a good look of a spectacular specimen at the Dave's Garden site. Southern Exposure also has good general advice on the benefits and the nuts-and-bolts of growing sunflowers. (Helianthus debilis is actually a perennial sunflower, but is only hardy through zone 8, so I'll be growing it as an annual. Floridata notes that there is a prostrate form as well as the erect Cucumber-Leaf variety. Since this is native to sandy Florida beaches, I'm a little worried about how it will do in clay soil, but I'm going to give it a shot. If it fails to grow, my backup plan is to grow the Lemon Queen version of Helianthus annuus from Seed Savers.)

4) Zinnia elegans, "State Fair" variety from Southern Exposure. (Note - I don't have any commercial relationship with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, I just think they carry a great variety of seeds!)

Geranium sanguineum, "Max Frei", photo by Michael Kappel

5) Geraniums - I'm probably going to go a little overboard with the perennial geraniums next year. I've enjoyed having Rozanne in my garden for two years now and I'm eager to experiment with some other varieties -- hopefully ones that will spread into groundcovers. Rozanne bloomed beautifully in full sun during the springtime, but it quickly faded and baked during the summer, so I moved it to the front foundation bed where it will get afternoon shade. That's where I plan to put the others - Karmina (G. cantabrigiense) and Max Frei (G. sanguineum) from Romence Gardens; Biokovo (another G. cantabrigiense), Bevan's Variety (G. macrorrhizum) and Claridge Druce (G. oxonianum) from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek.
6) Hibiscus syriacus "Diana" - I ordered the blue Rose of Sharon ("Blue Bird") from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek last month. I had wanted to get Diana too, but they were sold out until next spring. Like Blue Bird, Diana is supposed to be a sterile cultivar without the excessive self-sowing issues that can reportedly be a problem with some Hibiscus syriacus varieties.

"Diana" Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), photo courtesy of Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek. (I had another white hibiscus with a red center previously pictured here that I had found labeled as "Diana" on Flickr, but Dottie at Gardens in the Wood was kind enough to let me know that Diana is a pure white hibiscus and to let me display the photo from her website in this blog post.

7) Aquilegia, Columbine - Yes, I just wrote that I was "on the fence" about aquilegia (or at least the "Winky" ones I've got, which I believe may be sterile). Part of the fun of Aquilegia, it seems to me, is that it should self sow! So I think I'll try the Aquilegia canadensis and vulgaris from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek next year and then hope for lots of volunteers the year after that!

8) Amorpha fruticosa, False Indigo, Indigo Bush - Supposed to be a tough sun-loving native that fixes its own nitrogen and can tolerate windy sites. Sign me up! Oh and did I mention it is supposed to attract butterflies too? This will be my first attempt at bare root planting, via Prairie Moon Nursery.

Amorpha fruticosa, False Indigo, photo by Dendroica cerulea

9) Forestiera neomexicana, Desert Olive - Reportedly tolerates drought, heat and clay soil while growing anywhere from 6 to 18-feet tall and 12-feet wide. As a bonus, it is also supposed to have nice fall color. I'm planning to get mine from Woodlanders. (I have to admit I'm a little concerned about whether the soil drainage here is good enough for this plant, since it's really native to SW deserts, but I'll probably give it a shot regardless. High Country Gardens seems to think it can handle clay.) There are sources on the Internet that suggest the berries - which you need both male and female plants to produce - may be edible to people, but not very palatable.

10) Agastache foeniculum, Anise Hyssop - Supposed to attract bees and butterflies, supposed to self-sow too. I didn't have any luck growing this from seed this past spring, so I eventually bought a golden anise hyssop cultivar at a local nursery and planted it in partial sun a couple of months ago. But I think anise hyssop really needs full sun. Maybe I'll try transplanting the golden one and then buying a new species plant from Almost Eden. Again, I'm a little worried about drainage with this plant, but I think I'll give it a shot. Even if it does not overwinter, hopefully I'll get lots of volunteers!

Agastache foeniculum, Anise Hyssop, photo by mmwm

11) Borago officinalis, Borage - This annual flower is supposed to be very attractive to bees. Other selling points - drought tolerance and an ability to repel some pest insects. I plan on buying my seeds from Seed Savers.

12) Chrysogonum virginianum, Allen Bush, Golden Star, Green and Gold - I continue to look for groundcovers that are vigorous, but not exotic invasives. Allen Bush is supposedly a good ground cover for shady spots in the South. I plan to buy a couple specimens from a local nursery or Almost Eden.

Chrysogonum virginianum, Allen Bush, photo by Chris Kreussling

13) Helianthus microcephalus, Small-headed Sunflower - Yes, it's another sunflower! This one is a perennial that is hardy to zone TK, and thus should survive in my Middle TN garden. Should make a statement if it reaches its projected size (5 to 8-feet tall by 3-feet wide). I plan to buy the "Lemon Queen" variety from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek. Should hopefully attract bees and butterflies!

Helianthus microcephalus, Small-headed Sunflower, "Lemon Queen" (next to a very thorny rosa rugosa), photo by KiG

14) Kniphofia uvaria, Red Hot Poker, Torch Lily - Highly recommended by an accomplished gardener in Tennessee, I'm looking forward to trying my hand at growing Torch Lily. I'm a little worried about drainage issues here too, but I'll try amending the hole at planting time and hope for the best. I'm planning to order an "Earliest of All" Kniphofia from Edelweiss Perennials in the spring.

Kniphofia 'Amsterdam', photo collage by Manuel Martin Vicente

15) Muhlenbergia capillaris, Pink Muhley Grass - I've seen some of these around in the neighborhood and I like the floating-pink-cloud look and the fluffy texture. My plan is to order 2 or 4 of the "Lenca" variety from a local nursery and use them to frame the entrance from our back to patio to the yard.

Muhlenbergia capillaris, Pink Muhley Grass, photo by Jenny Evans / SCCF Nursery

16) Ratibida pinnata, Grey-Headed Coneflower - Another North American native that supposedly tolerates heat and drought, self sows, and attracts butterflies, bees and birds! Once again, drainage could be an issue here, but I'll try amending the soil at planting time and hoping for the best. I anticipate purchasing Ratibida from Romence Gardens

17) Vernonia noveboracensis, Ironweed - Yep, the name says 'weed', but I still think it's beautiful. Supposed to tolerate drought, heat and humidity, while attracting butterflies. I plan to purchase this plant from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek.

Vernonia noveboracensis, Ironweed, photo by dogtooth77

So...what do y'all think of my (incredibly overambitious) plans?? :)

UPDATE 11/13 - Thanks to Casa Mariposa's comment below, I have added Malva sylvestris "Zebrina" to my 2013 planting plans! I anticipate ordering this from Romence Gardens. Supposedly, this plant tolerates heat and drought while attracting butterflies. And it self sows!! Some reviewers at Dave's Garden say that it self sows too much, but I'm willing to take that risk for such a beautiful plant :)

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  1. I think you've made some good choices. The agastache will want more moisture than other aga's as well as a bit of compost and well drained soil. Ironweed is super tough. I have it in my garden, along with the Green and Gold, which can take drought but really needs more moisture than advertised. You might want to consider: nepeta, salvia, orange milkweed, aster ericoides, sedum, liatris, Russian sage, malva. If you have any shade add some amsonia. It's tough as nails!
    I've used Prairie Moon for years and they have excellent stuff. :o)

    1. Thanks for the advice on agastache and Green and Gold. (Does your agastache self-sow by the way?)

      Regarding the other plants you suggested:

      - Nepeta: I've thought about this, but don't really want to attract lots of neighborhood cats to the garden!

      - Salvia: I have three right now ... Salvia elegans / Pineapple Sage, which I don't think will survive winter in my Zone 7 garden; Blue Hill and May Night, which I just added this fall. I'm not averse to adding more, but I think I want to see how I like Blue Hill and May Night before I fill my garden with salvias ;-)

      - Orange Milkweed: This is Asclepias tuberosa, right? I hope to add it to my garden at some point...maybe in 2014.

      - Aster ericoides: Thanks for the suggestion. I was not familiar with this one, but then I know there is a whole world of asters about which I'm pretty much ignorant.

      - Sedum: Have two in the garden right - Autumn Joy and Autumn Fire. Not averse to adding more, but I think I'll wait and see how these fare next year.

      - Liatris: Believe it or not, I think I killed Liatris last year! The plant is supposed to be indestructible, but I blame those 'biodegradable' pots that did not, in fact, degrade and I think therefore drowned the plant when it rained. Sigh.

      - Russian Sage: I've got three of these. They did GREAT the first year. The bees loved them. This year, not so great. Very sparse in the flowering department. And a lot of leaves turned brown and fell off early. I thought they were supposed to be super drought-tolerant, so I didn't water them much in our record temps and drought. I was worried about over-watering them, but I may have gone too far in the other direction. Well, I think they survived at least. Interested to see whether they recover next year or continue to decline. Again, I think this is another plant that is supposed to prefer good drainage, so maybe they're just not happy in their (somewhat amended) clay soil?

      - Hm. The malva sounds REALLY interesting. Which one do you recommend? This one (Zebrina) sounds nice - Apparently, Thomas Jefferson grew it at Monticello! Do you have any particular malvas to recommend? I'd prefer some that self-sow, but are not TOO aggressive.

      - Amsonia, I know it's recommended, particularly A. hubrechti, but I'm just not a huge fan from an aesthetic standpoint. Does that make me a bad person and/or gardener? ;-)

  2. Many excellent choices! I've grown the sweet alyssum, cosmos, sunflowers, zinnia, hardy geranium, agastache, and ratibida and love them all. A few thoughts. You might want to try the 'Profusion' zinnias where you want something shorter, they are about 18" and are a wonderful blooming groundcover in my garden. Another hardy geranium you could look at is 'Tschelda' - blue flowers and supposed to be very drought resistant. My experience with the species Agastache foeniculum is that they attract LOTS of pollinators and are pretty adaptable. Also, you might want to consider another plant for fall: Aromatic Aster, or Aster oblongifolius. Very floriferous and drought resistant in my experience.

  3. Your father was a wise man. Now's the time for building a fine garden in your head. Moreover, it's the most perfect one you'll ever have. Enjoy. And being excessive, I say go for all of 'em.

    1. Yep, he still is a wise man! He's a college prof and much respected I think as much for the wisdom he dispenses as for the teaching of his actual subject matter (Chemistry).

      I think I'll follow your suggestion Lee and try to plant them all. I was leaning that went anyway.

      I'm not generally a covetous person... except when it comes to plants! :)

  4. I think they look like great choices. I can see bouquets of cosmos on the table.

  5. Hi Aaron, It's never too early to look forward to the next gardening season. Such pretty choices! Happy Holidays to you!

    1. Thanks Tina! And Happy Thanksgiving to you :)

      As Lee said in his comment, it's always fun looking forward to next year's garden. The garden in my head never has weeds and is never afflicted with drought. All the plants flourish in the garden in my mind...

  6. Hi, Aaron,

    the rose is not a R. rugosa, but a R. pimpinellifolia, the word "Rigarose' meaning that this variety came from the baltic area originially. Hence the many spines.

    Like your choices btw!

    I see that you're happy with selfsowers (Aquilegia) so want to recommend honesty (Lunaria annua), which is very attractive for insects in spring. Have no idea, though, whether or not it is an invasive species in your area of the world.

  7. Hi Brigitte,

    Thanks for your comment! I sit corrected. (Although I was only copying the caption from Flickr, from whence I borrowed the Creative-Commons-licensed photo, so it's really the photographer I guess who needs correcting!)

    Nonetheless, I do appreciate the information! I'm not a huge fan of uber-thorny plants, so I'll probably steer clear of pimpinellifolia, since it looks to be covered with stickers.

    And thank you also for your kind words on my plans for 2013. I'll definitely look up Lunaria annua and see if I should add it to the mix!


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