Saturday, May 4, 2013

Meet the New Front Foundation!

Remember how we ripped out the old front foundation plants and then tried to reinvent the border by stocking up on shrubs last autumn?

Well, it's time to check back in with the front foundation plantings and see how things are shaping up. (I wish I could take you in order from one side of the border to the other, but Blogger's bulk upload feature doesn't work quite that smoothly for me, so the photos are presented in no particular order)

Agastache foeniculum, Anise Hyssop, "Golden Jubilee", a few leaves deteriorated or got mulched, so I removed them, but otherwise, this plant seems to be doing fine. Hope to see flowers in the summer.

One of the new Aquilegia vulgaris from Gardens in the Wood. This one is my favorite - a creamy white flower over fresh blue-green folage. 

Aronia arbutifolia "Brilliantissima", the beautiful white flowering show is pretty much done now and the plant is sending out new foliage. Interested to see whether it will actually produce fruits this year. 
Aronia melanocarpa, either "Autumn Magic" or "Viking" (not sure which is which), this is the last of three aronias to still have flowers. It is sort of charting a middle course between the Aronia arbutifolia (which concentrated first on flowers and then on foliage) and the other Aronia melanocarpa (which had a few flowers but seems to have focused this year on pumping out some large and beautiful leaves)
Aronia melanocarpa, either "Autumn Magic" or "Viking" (not sure which is which), love the beautiful leaves on this plant which seem really large for such a young tree 
I'm not a huge fan of azaleas for numerous reasons. At least at our property, the foliage frequently looks diseased (I don't do any spraying) and the plants themselves are unexciting outside of their short bloom season. The flowers do not seem to attract any bees or butterflies or other beneficial insects. (At least none that I can see.) And they don't seem to produce any fruit for birds or mammals. Plus the dead flowers look awful hanging onto the plant after bloom season. The plants are not self-cleaning (like crape myrtles or redbuds) and the flowers do not come off easily (as with daylilies, for instance, or camellias), so it's a chore to get the plants looking good after they bloom. All that being said, I imagine we'll keep them for now. My wife likes the azaleas in bloom and I have to admit, they really are beautiful when covered with flowers. This it their peak time to shine. Plus we're lucky enough to have inherited plants that do rebloom a bit in the autumn. That said, I don't think I'd add azaleas to any future garden of mine nor would I recommend it in Tennessee, especially if your garden does not have acidic soil. 
Aucuba japonica, Gold Dust Plant, seems to be happily settling in and sending out new foliage, which emerges all light green and then presumably changes later on to the variegated and speckled look. It was planted last autumn.

This is actually a pink azalea from the Northeast side of the house. I cheated a little by including it since it's not in the front foundation. But it is probably my favorite of the azaleas. Even though its foliage is very sparse, it still manages to cover itself with blooms.

Callicarpa americana, Beautyberry, a bit slow to leaf out, but I'm liking the shape and texture of the new leaves, interested to see how it performs this year in its more sheltered Eastern exposure. Last year, it was absolutely thrashed to pieces in a windy Southwestern spot. It seems much happier here so far. 
At the top of the photo is Tiarella cordifolia, Foamflower, "Pink Skyrockets". Contrary to its bold name, this tiarella actually has smaller and less prominent flowers than the more modestly-named Pink Brushes. Otherwise, it seems fairly similar to its Pink Brushes sibling.

Lower down is Stachys officinalis, Betony, Hummelo. Just added last month, the plant is doing well so far and looking healthy. It is supposed to have flowers that last from July to September! 
 Unknown autumn-blooming camellia, here when we moved in, seems to be sending out a lot of new growth shoots this year 
Camellia sasanqua, either Kanjiro or Pink-a-Boo (not sure which is which), seems to be settling in just fine after having been planted last autumn 
Unknown camellia, here when we arrived, a lot of the foliage seems less-than-healthy. Not sure what the problem is and I don't plan on spraying. The camellias sometimes seem to go through cycles of having foliage problems here and then recovering on their own. At least that's the pattern so far. I will probably give it some acidic fertilizer at some point.

- Lonicera semervirens, Coral Honeysuckle, this is one of the two cultivars - Alabama Crimson and Blanche Sandman - that are both growing nicely and sending out long tendrils that I'm trying to guide onto the porch railings with moderate success. Once the tendrils are tied to the railings for a little while, they often start curling around the railings and then are able to hang on by themselves. Lots of flowers this year, but sadly have not seen a single hummingbird on them yet. :(  Still the flowers and foliage are beautiful and it's nice to see my dream of climbing flowers along the railings coming true with this plant. 
Geronimo Crape Myrtle - Not sure this was the best choice for a foundation plant. Like all crape myrtles, it takes a long time to leaf out and then a number of branches did not leaf out fully. This plant was pretty inexpensive for its size, but it came from an unknown nursery. I wonder if maybe the roots were not so healthy? Or maybe it's just settling in. I pruned it back a bit after I took this photo and will probably do some more pruning in a few weeks when I see which branches look like they definitely won't leaf out no matter how long I wait. 
Crape myrtle, Tonto, which I believe was a Monrovia plant, seems to be leafing out much more robustly and fully on its Northeast corner than the Geronimo crape myrtle on the Southeast corner. We'll see if Geronimo catches up or if Tonto continues to perform better this summer. 
Dryopteris x australis, Dixie Wood Fern, seems to be acclimating nicely and sending out new fronds, a number of the fronds have fallen over, which doesn't really bother me, but I wonder if that is normal or if something has gone wrong? 
Fothergilla gardenii, nice white bottlebrush flower show this spring for several weeks, I'm liking the new foliage that's emerging now

Gardenia jasminoides "Jubilation", planted last autumn, this is one of the few plants that is not looking happy right now. Lots of yellowing leaves. Could be that it was unhappy with the long cold winter, or could be that the soil is not acidic enough? I will try adding some acidic fertilizer. 
Geranium x cantabrigiense "Biokovo", in bloom when I added it in April, I like the delicate pink-white flowers, the foliage seems smaller than some of the other Cranesbill perennial geraniums. 
Origanum vulgare, Golden Marjoram, "Aureum", doing great so far this year, much better than last year, looking very healthy, hoping I might get to see the pink/mauve summertime flowers that did not appear last year when the plant was struggling.

Veronica peduncularis (a.k.a Veronica umbrosa) "Georgia Blue", the flowering that was so cheerful in late winter when nothing else was blooming has mostly stopped, although there are still often a couple of open tiny blue flowers each day. The foliage still looks marvelous and healthy. Wish this would spread more!

- Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, Hardy Blue Plumbago, late to emerge, it has since sent up vigorous leaves that are larger than anything I saw last year. But the plants do not appear to have spread much yet (unfortunately). 
New foliage on one of the three Ilex glabra, Inkberry Holly shrubs that I added last autumn. The bushes weren't sexed, but hopefully I have a mix of males and females so that I'll have black berries that will attract birds later on. Looking forward to seeing whether my Ilex glabras produce flowers that attract hummingbirds as they are supposed to do.
A broader perspective on Ilex glabra to show the overall impression the plant makes.

- Alchemilla mollis, Lady's Mantle, seems to be settling in nicely, growing and expanding a little, I have high hopes for this one! As mentioned before, looks absolutely lovely after a rain or when gilded with the morning dew (but looks nice at other times as well). 
Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, "Snowflake", has leafed out nicely, I was absolutely smitten with this plant, but I've come down to Earth just a little bit, I did notice that some of the leaves were hit hard with what seems to be a fungal disease. Apparently oakleaf hydrangeas are susceptible to such problems at times of high moisture (we've had lots of rain lately). I picked off the worst-affected leaves. We'll see if that helps. 
Pachysandra procumbens, Alleghany Spurge, seems to have settled in nicely, does not appear to have spread much yet, but the new foliage looks great and the old foliage seems to be deteriorating pleasantly back into the soil. 
Phlox paniculata "Blue Boy"

Phlox paniculata "Eva Cullum" 

Platycodon grandiflorus, Balloon Flower, planted early last autumn, Platycodon has reappeared vigorously this year, with another newly planted Platycodon right behind it 

- Scabiosa columbaria, Pincushion Flower, the flowers are cute, but the whole plant is tiny. I'm sure I read somewhere that Scabiosa is supposed to grow 12-18 inches tall. Really? Because the plant is only about 3 inches tall at this point! 
Sedum ternatum, has been flowering for about a month since purchased. It seems happy and healthy in their partial shade setting 
Stargazer Lily
 Galium odoratum, Sweet Woodruff. I've already sung the praises of this plant many times. This year I have finally gotten to see the white flowers which have just started opening over the past week or so. Looking forward to clipping some stems and trying to dry some of the flowers/foliage, which is supposed to bring out its fragrance. 
Tiarella cordifolia, Foamflower, "Pink Brushes", my favorite of the tiarellas I purchased last month, this one has nicely variegated foliage like the others and the most prominent flowers. 
Tiarella cordifolia, Foamflower, "Running Tapestry", I like the foliage a lot, but this foamflower has fared the worst of the three I purchased last month. It frequently wilts if it goes a few days without rain, and we have not even gotten into the heat of the summer. I did move all three Tiarellas from a morning shade/afternoon sun setting to a spot where they get more gentle morning sun/afternoon shade. The other two tiarellas seem fairly happy with their situation, but I'm worried about this one. (Frankly I'm worried about all of them once we get into the heart of the summer, but I'm prepared to baby them a little this year in the hopes they'll be tougher once they get established.)

The ajuga in the background has been putting on quite a blue show!
This variegated ajuga, has been flaunting its blue flower spikes for weeks and weeks. Unfortunately, it does not seem to have attracted any bees, but then sadly I have not seen many pollinators at all in the garden yet this year. 
Veronica spicata, Spike Speedwell, "Giles Van Hees", just starting to bloom
Clematis integrifolia, Solitary Clematis, late to emerge, I thought it was dead after the plant really struggled in last year's heat and drought, probably it was not smart to expect a plant that is native to Russia to perform well in Tennessee. Nonetheless, Clematis integrifolia has made a strong comeback so far this year. Not sure how it will do once the real summertime heat kicks in, but we shall see. No flowers yet, but the foliage looks clean, healthy and robust. 
Here's the other Lonicera sempervirens. Hard to believe, but I've yet to see any hummingbirds working these red tubular flowers! Do I need to put up a sign that says, "Hummingbirds welcome?"

Geranium sanguineum "New Hampshire". I'm really liking this one for its thick spreading foliage and the pink flowers. I saw a Geranium sanguineum at the Nashville botanic gardens last year. It seemed really tough there so I'm hoping mine will be also.

So that's the highlights! I may have missed one or two specimens (somehow skipped over the Monarda didyma "Jacob Cline"), and I didn't talk about the annuals like the Sweet Alyssum seed I scattered throughout the front of the bed or the Cosmos bipinnatus seedlings that are popping up here and there (not to mention a few English marigold seedlings from the flowers that filled the beds last year), but I think this probably gives you and idea of the rich diversity that I've aimed for in the front border.

Hope you've enjoyed the tour and that it wasn't too exhausting. Going forward, I think I'll try to limit my future posts to a maximum of 5 or so photos at a time.

Meanwhile, questions, suggestions and exclamations are all welcome using the new Disqus comment platform!