Friday, June 28, 2013

Inspired by Vitex at 2013 Southern Living Idea House and Garden

2013 Southern Living Idea House, Nashville, TN
2013 Southern Living Idea House, Nashville, TN, photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Earlier this week, I had a chance to attend a preview party for the 2013 Southern Living Idea House on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee.

There is no denying that the home itself - really a collection of buildings, many connected by porches and breezeways - is impressive.

I guess the house is supposed to give visitors ideas to decorate their own home. In this regard, I was impressed in a geeky way by the Lennox wi-fi thermostat. My wife liked the Elsie Swivel Glider Club Chairs and an eye-catching carved wood antelope head. (I knew we were missing something from our home decor!)

As for the gardens, I gotta be honest here and say that there was very little that fired my imagination. I know that the landscape design team employed Southern Living Plants (available at Lowe's and Home Depot), so they were working with sort of a limited palate. (Near as I can tell, the Southern Living collection only includes 8 perennials, for instance.)

Of those perennials, the only one that really caught my eye was a white Agapanthus. I don't know whether these will really endure in the landscape given that Southern Living's own description only rates the plant to zone 8 and we're at the cold end of zone 7 (or the warm end of zone 6 until the most recent USDA zone refresh).

Incidentally, various sources list Agapanthus as being attractive to hummingbirds. Does anyone know if that's the case? I didn't see any hummers on all the plants during my visit, but I doubt the birds would have hung around the party crowd...

There were also some dwarf (5-8 H x 3-4 W) Early Bird crape myrtles that were charming in a modest sort of way. Southern Living claims these crapes start blooming earlier than most and that the bloom season continues for 100-120 days, which would be pretty darn impressive.

Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste Tree, Monk's Pepper (I think the landscaper branched a bit here, because I couldn't find Vitex in the Southern Living Plant Collection)

The only plant that made me stop and take a photo was a limbed up Vitex agnus-castus (a.k.a. Chaste Tree or Monk's Pepper). This was also the only plant in the garden where I saw any pollinators (bumble bees, in this case).

A single bumble bee (I believe) on a Vitex agnus-castus. There were actually two bees that I spotted on this Vitex, but I couldn't get them both in the same photo. They were the only pollinators I saw in the whole garden.
The Vitex was planted in a bed of roses, so it was interesting to see how the bees ignored the roses and went for the Vitex. I've observed on neighborhood walks that some of the most popular roses (Knockouts, for instance) seem to hold zero appeal for bees, but it was instructive to see that given a choice between Vitex and a single-flowered rose, the bees made a beeline (pun intended) for the Vitex.

Just makes me like Vitex that much more.

PS - If you're in the Nashville area and looking for architecture or interior design inspiration, tours of the home cost $12 with various discounts for children, seniors, military and students. A portion of the ticket proceeds reportedly goes to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June is Blooming Out All Over - Geraniums, Honeysuckle, Salvia, Zinnias, Monarda, Malva sylvestris, Crape Myrtle, Hypericum and more!

After a long cold winter and a wet cool spring, the summer heat has finally arrived in TN with temps in the low-to-middle 90s earlier this week.

(Of course, that was the day our air-conditioning decided to conk out. Figures.)

Anyway, here are some of the blooms on this month's hit parade:

Self-sown Zinnia elegans
Zinnias! These are self-sown Z. elegans from last year. Can't remember the cultivar name. They started blooming in early June.

Perennial Geranium "Biokovo", this is one of those plants that looks better in person than in a photograph. The flowers - washed out here - are actually a lovely pinkish-white. And the dead flowers in the photo (some of which are actually from the azalea behind the geranium) are not actually very noticeable in real life. It hasn't expanded much (which could be a pro or con depending on your viewpoint), but this plant is like the Energizer Bunny of geraniums - it keeps blooming and blooming and...

Rozanne Perennial Geranium, sprawling, billowy and floriferous!
Rozanne Perennial Geranium, sprawling, billowy and floriferous!

North American native, non-invasive trumpet honeysuckle - Lonicera Sempervirens "Blanche Sandman"
North American native, non-invasive trumpet honeysuckle - Lonicera Sempervirens "Blanche Sandman". Has been blooming for months and recently has begun attracting a hummingbird sporadically.

Monarda "Jacob Cline" flower close-up
Monarda didyma "Jacob Cline" flower close-up. Reportedly monarda is technically edible. We tried adding some young leaves to our salad and were reminded that "edible" does not necessarily mean "palatable". But pinching the top leaves did cause Monarda to branch out and double the number of flowerheads. Bonus!

Monarda didyma "Jacob Cline" whole plant
Monarda didyma "Jacob Cline" whole plant. I did not contain this plant despite warnings that it could become invasive. I can see one small stem emerging near the base of the plant. I'll need to keep on eye on Jacob and will report back if he gets out of control.

Agastache "Golden Jubilee".
Agastache "Golden Jubilee". Happy in partial sun. Typically agastache is supposed to like full sun, but my experience with variegated or yellow-leafed plants is that they generally need afternoon shade in TN. 

Salvia "May Night", deadheaded and giving a bit of rebloom
Salvia "May Night", deadheaded and giving a bit of rebloom

"Natchez" Crape Myrtle flowers started blooming around June 7th. I've been pleased to see bumble bees working the blooms.

Here's an "aerial" shot of one of the Natchez Crape Myrtles from an upstairs window. I just wanted to give a sense of the flowers scattered throughout the tree canopy.

Cosmos bipinnatus and happy bee. I'm sure some of the Cosmos popping up this year are self-sown and some are Early Sensation seeds from Southern Exposure that I sowed this spring. Not sure which are which. Anyway, you can never have too much Cosmos, can you? :)

Hypericum frondosum, Sunburst, St. John's Wort.
Hypericum frondosum, Sunburst, St. John's Wort. Can't take credit for these as our landscaper installed them last autumn. But I can sure enjoy them! They just started blooming around June 10th. The bumble bees seem to love these flowers~!

Here's a wide shot of the hypericums massed in a landscape bed. I have to say that the flowers are more impressive up close right now, but perhaps the bushes will look more impressive from a distance if more flowers come into bloom simultaneously...

Stachys officinalis, Betony, Hummelo, just starting to come into bloom
Stachys officinalis, Betony, Hummelo, just starting to come into bloom ~June 15th

Tagetes patula, French Marigold "Sparky Mix", these are self-sown flowers from last year. They look small now, but if last year is any indication, they'll bloom non-stop until frost without any deadheading and get pretty large and bushy by then.

The yellow flowers on Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) are tiny, but they do last a looooooooooong time. (I've heard Alchemilla can self sow rampantly. Haven't seen any seedlings yet, but I'm keeping an eye out for them. Then again, I've also heard the young leaves are edible, so I'm not too concerned about getting lots of volunteers.)
Callirhoe bushii, Bush's Poppy Mallow
It looks kind of like a sprawling, not so floriferous hardy geranium, but this is actually a photo of Callirhoe bushii, a.k.a. Bush's Poppy Mallow. Reportedly it has only been found at about 50 sites in the wild. It is a North American native.

Callirhoe bushii, Bush's Poppy Mallow flower
Here's a close-up on a Bush's Poppy Mallow flower.

Echinacea purpurea, Eastern Purple Coneflower, a native plant to Tennessee
Echinacea purpurea, Eastern Purple Coneflower, a native plant to Tennessee. These purple coneflowers have been looking taller and stronger than ever this year. I've heard that you can propagate the plant by burying the seedheads in the autumn. I plan on trying that, because I'd love to have more coneflowers in my yard. In past years, they have attracted bees and butterflies, but I haven't seen either creature on the coneflowers yet this year. Maybe as more of the flowers open, it will get their attention?

This is Gardenia jasminoides "Jubilation". It wasn't looking good 6 weeks ago and it isn't really looking much better now.
As you can see, I've been having problems with leaves turning yellow and brown, then dropping off. I don't know if this is lingering transplant shock (it was planted last August), unhappiness with the cold weather we had this spring. Despite claims of hardiness into zone 6, G. jasminoides is really meant for zone 8 and warmer, whereas we're on the cold side of zone 7. Typically, I don't try to push zones too much, but I couldn't resist trying to grow Gardenia after getting a snoot full of the Gardenia perfume on a Nashville garden tour last year

Gardenia jasminoides "Jubilation"
So imagine my joy when I saw this gardenia flower unfurling on June 13th! I bent down and inhaled deeply. Yes, it was a Proustian moment. Ou sont les neiges de l'antan and all that. A trip down a sweet-smelling memory lane. And if my gardenia doesn't pull through, at least I can say I smelled it once upon a time in my own garden.

Stachys byzantina, Lamb's Ear, "Helene von Stein"
Stachys byzantina, Lamb's Ear, "Helene von Stein". OK, there are clearly no flowers in this photo, but then "Helene von Stein" rarely flowers. It's the soft, fuzzy, silvery leaves that are the star of the show. So far, Helene has been holding up well to torrential downpours and more recently temps in the 90s with high humidity. She's supposed to be the toughest of the Lamb's Ears.
Love-in-a-Mist seed pods
Love-in-a-Mist has mostly completed its bloom, but the seed pods are prominent and highly ornamental. In some ways, it reminds me of a collection of miniature striped beach balls!

Of course, there are still a few of the starry blue Love-in-a-Mist flowers blooming among all those seedpods...

Malva sylvestris "Zebrina"
This is Malva sylvestris "Zebrina". It is a relative to the Hollyhocks. I bought two of them at the Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee plant sale. Both of them - especially this one - got chomped by something. I suspect rabbits, but it could be deer. Despite being nearly decapitated, Zebrina has still bloomed! Impressive!! Beautiful flowers, although smaller than they appear in the nursery catalogs. I'd say these flower heads are about the size of a quarter perhaps. Maybe if the plant survives and grows bigger then it will have larger flowers next year? Zebrina is supposed to self-sow vigorously. We'll see if it survives to the point where it can make seeds. If the rabbits were smart, they'd let it go to seed so that they could have many more plants to chow down on next year, but I'm not sure that rabbits are into advance planning.

Do mushrooms bloom? Because if so, these are blooming among some perennial - Rudbeckia? Tennessee Coneflower? - that I planted last year and that I thought had died out. Apparently it wasn't as dead as it looked. I've no idea what type of mushrooms these are and since many mushrooms are extremely toxic to people, I gave them a wide berth.

Again, not technically in bloom, but I find the reddish-purple seedpods on Penstemon digitalis "Husker's Red" quite ornamental. This is another perennial with a reputation for reseeding vigorously.  

It's a little hard to make out with all the variegation on this Ajuga, but there's a pale blue flower spike in the middle of this photo. The main bloom was in the spring, but it's nice to see a little rebloom in June!

Veronica spicata "Giles van Hees" has been blooming pretty much non-stop since April when I planted it. I've only deadheaded it once by cutting off a couple of spent flower spikes. I may try deadheading it again soon.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Out, Out Damn (Cercospora Leaf) Spot!

A significantly defoliated Oakleaf Hydrangea (following removal of ~80% of foliage apparently infected with Cercospora hydrangeae fungus)

Ugh. Lady Macbeth thought that she had problems.

At least she didn't have to worry (as far as I know) about the fungal pathogen Cercospora hydrangeae disfiguring her oakleaf hydrangea.

I had assumed that hydrangeas were relatively trouble-free and that a native hydrangea like H. quercifolia would be particularly tough and resilient.

But when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me. ("Assume" = "Ass" + "u" + "me")

As it turns out, hydrangeas are susceptible to multiple diseases. Or as University of Georgia says:

[Cercospora] fungal leaf spot can affect most hydrangeas and is generally an aesthetic issue for homeowners. The pathogen will rarely kill the plant, but can reduce plant vigor by defoliation. It is generally more problematic in low maintenance landscape situations or when homeowners overhead irrigate their plants.

Well, if by "low maintenance" they mean gardeners who do not spray fungicides, then I guess I qualify as low maintenance. I expect my plants to take care of themselves. I'll put them in the ground, give them some water to get started, a smidgen of organic fertilizer now and then, accompanied by healthy doses of Encouraging Words, but that's pretty much it. I don't spray for fungus and I don't spray for pests. (Well, I might try to wash off aphids with the garden hose if I'm already giving the plants some water, but that's the extent of it.)

And if by "aesthetic issue" they mean having all the beautiful oakleaf foliage turn spotty and purplish-brown, then yeah, it's an issue.

I appreciate the advice not to irrigate the plants from overhead, but I've hardly been irrigating at all this spring thanks to all this natural irrigation we've been getting from the sky. It's called Rain. And it tends to hit plants from overhead.

So what to do? UGA says the fungus survives in fallen diseased leaves that remain on the ground and ultimately reinfect the plant. It recommends removing dying and diseased leaves to prevent subsequent infections or outbreaks.

So that's what I did early this morning. I went out and removed all the infected leaves I could find, even the ones with just a few visible spots.

Unfortunately that meant that I had to remove about 80% of the foliage.

On the bright side, the remaining foliage should have much better air circulation, which perhaps might prevent a recurrence of the fungus.

What do you think? Have you encountered any fungal problems or other diseases with your hydrangeas? Were you able to overcome those diseases without resorting to fungicidal sprays?

Or did I just site my hydrangea in a bad place - in a corner next to the stairs and crowded up against a camellia and an inkberry holly?

Oakleaf hydrangea "Snowflake" - the one I bought - is supposed to grow 4-6 feet tall and wide. It certainly has the room to grow tall, but it can't really expand to 6-feet wide (maybe not even 4-feet wide) without bumping up against other plants.

And I'm thinking the fungal issues show that Snowflake does not like to be put in a corner. (Just like Baby in Dirty Dancing.)

If today's leaf-pinching doesn't work, I'm thinking I may sadly have to shovel prune the plant this autumn. I'd like to transplant it elsewhere, but apparently it needs at least partial shade and I just don't have any other partially-shady spots where the plant could reach its full-size in an uncrowded setting.

I'm thinking oakleaf hydrangea really needs to be out in the open, perhaps in the shade from some tall trees. (Although apparently it needs moist soil, so these trees couldn't be ones that suck up all the water.) Or all by itself in a wide North-facing border.

Oh and if I do end up removing the oakleaf hydrangea, any suggestions on what I should use to replace it in the semi-shady corner?

I could add another Dixie Wood Fern (I just added one this spring to the corner on the other side of the steps, so adding one on this side of the steps would create a nice symmetry, which my wife especially appreciates in the garden. The fern seems happy on the other side of the steps, but there's more shade over there.)

Or maybe there's some other kind of fern - maybe Christmas Fern?

Other ideas include another Ilex glabra (maybe Shamrock) or another Fothergilla.

Or perhaps another smallish camellia - something like April Dawn.

Thoughts? Experiences? Commiseration? All are welcome!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Balloons in the Garden!

Balloon flower buds. You can see where the plant got its name.

OK, actually it's Balloon Flower (a.k.a. Platycodon grandiflorus).

Here's what I know about it:

- It's native to Eastern Asia (China, Korea, Japan and Siberia)

- It is hardy to zone 3, but it can also take the heat of a Tennessee summer

- It can take sun or partial shade. I have two balloon flowers planted in morning sun and one that gets a lot of sun throughout the day (with some intermittent shade from a nearby crape myrtle)

- It can grow 18-36 inches tall. I'd say none of mine are over 12-inches at the moment and one that I planted this spring is blooming even though it's only about 6-inches tall. But the one that I planted last autumn is much taller this year than last, so I'm guessing it gets bigger and bushier as the plant gets older.

Balloon Flower just beginning to open.

- It is considered a long-lived perennial (i.e. 15 years or more)

- It has a tap root that makes it drought-tolerant, but that means it dislikes being transplanted or divided. In other words, just put it where you want it and leave it alone to do its thing.

- Reportedly it prefers well-drained soil, but ours are doing well in semi-amended clay.

- The plant is herbaceous. It dies to the ground in winter and is a little slow to emerge in the spring. I can't recall exactly when it emerged, but I do remember I was worried as to whether it would ever reappear. You may want to mark the spot where it's sitting dormant underground so you don't accidentally dig it up if you are planting in that bed in the spring.

And here's a fully-opened Balloon Flower!

- The plant is supposed to bloom for 4-8 weeks starting in early summer. Sure enough, two of our three balloon flowers started blooming around May 24th. I'll try to post an update later to let you know whether they did indeed bloom throughout June and July. Some sources say that cutting the plant back to the ground when blooms cease may prompt regrowth and an autumn rebloom. I might try that.

- Some sources say the flowers are supposed to attract butterflies. Sadly, I have not yet seen butterflies (or any other pollinators) on our balloon flowers.

- Kitazawa says that the plant is known in Japan as "Toraji" and that the root is eaten there fresh or dried and valued for its medicinal anti-inflammatory properties. I have not tried that so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of those claims. 

- Bountiful Gardens says Platycodon is used in teas and syrups for coughs, and for soups and salads as a medicinal food. Again, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this claim and would suggest that you refrain from consuming any part of Platycodon unless you can find proof to your own satisfaction that portions of the plant are safe to ingest.

- Update 6/10 5 p.m.: Want to hear something really confusing? Near as I can tell (from Wikipedia and other sources), the Koreans also eat the root of Platycodon grandiflorus and they call the root "doraji". But there is also an unrelated Korean Bellflower also called "doraji"! No idea whether the roots of that 'other' doraji are edible. That's why it's best to use Latin names when talking about plants - particularly plants you're thinking about eating - to make sure you don't confuse an edible plant with a toxic one that happens to have the same common name. In any case, personally, I don't have any plans to try eating Platycodon grandiflorus or using it medicinally. First of all, the medicinal benefits sound unconvincing. Second, some sources list Platycodon as being toxic - at least the basal foliage and perhaps the root too!? Finally, the preparation process to render doraji edible sounds arduous and lengthy for a dish described as having a taste that is not "particularly pleasurable". In short, I think I'll continue to think of Platycodon strictly as an ornamental plant for now.

- Some sources say that Platycodon may self-sow politely. I have not seen any evidence of that yet, but I'd certainly be happy to get some volunteers.

Overall, I've found this to be a lovely plant so far. It seems very tough and trouble-free. The foliage looks great - so far I have not had any issues with pests or diseases. The buds are lots of fun as they swell into their balloon shape and the flower is beautiful when it does unfold. I'd say the self-cleaning flowers last for the better part of a week.

In conclusion, I wish the plant offered more wildlife benefits for bees, butterflies or birds, but from an aesthetic (and perhaps medicinal/edible standpoint), it's certainly a nice plant that I think could and should be used by more gardeners looking for a charming and reliable perennial.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June Blooms - Gaura lindheimeri, Love-in-a-Mist, Penstemon digitalis "Husker's Red", Zinnia and Sunflower

One of my goals when I first started planning my garden was to have a long bloom season.

There are plenty of plants out there (ahem, looking at you Azalea and Redbud) that have a week or two of bloom and then are unremarkable or worse (looking at you again, Azalea, with your dried flowers still stuck all over you) for the rest of the season.

By contrast, I like plants that:

a) Bloom for a long time


b) Are self-cleaning. That means you don't have to deadhead them because the petals or the entire flower falls off after the bloom is done.

Anyway, here are some of the plants blooming now:

Remember how I was worried a few months ago that my Gaura lindheimeri were dead? Um, they weren't. Those of you who reassured me that the Gaura would bounce back were 100% correct. Two of the three are bigger than ever this year (and the other one is doing just fine too).  Gaura has been covered with flowers now for a couple of weeks. Self-cleaning flowers that drop off and (presumably) add nutrients back into the soil.

Here's a wide shot of two of the Gaura lindheimeri "Siskiyou Pink" plants. This year I have looked closely and noticed lots of bees visiting the flowers. Not bumble bees (at least not so far) or even honey bees, but tiny native bees and/or wasps and/or hoverflies. And since the gaura attract aphids (found this out the hard way when I tried to see if Gaura would make a good cut flower - it doesn't), they also attract ladybugs that eat the aphids. Actually, the microscopic hoverfly larvae also eat aphids. As you can see, the aphids don't slow down the gaura or keep it from blooming. Some folks reportedly even plant Gaura specifically to serve as a trap crop and lure the aphids away from other plants.

I don't have much of a veggie garden this year. Long story. But I did have this one self-sown lettuce growing in a patch of buffalograss. I pulled some other lettuce from the patch and ate it, but I'm letting this one go to seed. I'd guess this lettuce is about 3-feet tall now. Didn't fertilize it at all. The buds at the top have not quite opened yet, but I imagine they will open soon.
Remember a few months ago when I asked whether folks thought all the tiny seedlings in the garden beds were self-sown Love-in-a-Mist from last year? It turns out they were! The plants got MUCH taller this year. Last year they were about 6-inches tall at most. This year, I'd guess that some of them are around 2-feet tall. And they're absolutely covered in blooms. Beautiful blue blooms. Well, actually blooms that start off bluish-white, then change to light blue, then dark blue and finally to the alien-looking purple-striped seed pod you can see here.

LOTS of seed pods. Which I'm guessing will mean lots more Love-in-a-Mist next year! Incidentally, Love-in-a-Mist's Latin name is Nigella damascena. There's another species of Nigella - Nigella sativa - that is supposed to produce edible flavorful seeds used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, but I don't know whether or not the Love-in-a-Mist seeds are edible and/or tasty.

Here's a wider shot of Love-in-a-Mist. As you can see, it's attractive from any angle. It's feathery foliage does not shade out other plants, and it seems pretty easy to pull if you find it growing someplace where you don't want it. I've also looked more closely this year and found that - like the Gaura - Love-in-a-Mist also seems to attract lots of little beneficial insects (bees, wasps, hoverflies, etc.)

Here's a new plant that I added to the garden this spring (purchased at Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek) - Penstemon digitalis "Husker's Red". As you can see, the plant is covered with flowers right now. These flowers are supposed to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, but sadly I have not seen any on the flowers yet. Perhaps I'd need more plants to grab their attention?

Here's a close-up on the Penstemon flowerstalk. The stalk looks delicate, but it's really quite tough and wiry. We had intense winds rip through yesterday. They knocked over some stalks on coneflower and Phlox paniculata, but they didn't even bend the Penstemon. This plant is supposed to self-sow prolifically. Sounds good to me! In fact, one of the reasons I got the red-stemmed Penstemon is so that hopefully I can identify seedlings instead of mistaking them for weeds and pulling them. (Since most weeds have green stems, at least around here.)

Finally, here are a couple of plants that aren't quite blooming, but almost. And anyway, I think Zinnia buds are beautiful in their own way, like tightly-packed jewels. 

And here's a strong, bushy sunflower too! Can't wait to see its bright and cheerful blooms!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Trumpet Honeysuckle is One Sweet Vine!

Lonicera sempevirens "Alabama Crimson" climbs the left porch railing 

Every once in a while, I have a Gardening Idea that actually works out just as I intended.

This happens fairly rarely, but when it does come to fruition, it's a good feeling.

Last year, I had the idea of planting two native honeysuckle vines on either side of my porch steps and letting them twine up the metal railings so that visitors would be welcomed by cascading red flowers.

I'm NOT talking about invasive Japanese Honeysuckle, but the native Lonicera sempervirens, also known as Trumpet Honeysuckle. L. sempervirens is native to Tennessee and throughout the Eastern U.S.

You know that old adage about vines - the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap?

Well, ours definitely slept the first year, growing perhaps 12-inches total but at least staying alive through awful heat (many 90-100+ summer days) and searing drought. On the other hand, it is cold hardy to zone 4.

But I think they've skipped the creep stage and go right to LEAP.

(Or if this is their creeping phase, I'm a little scared to see what leaping might look like.)

These days, they seem to grow about a foot or more per week.

Here's a side-view of the vine climbing up the porch railing.

And just as I had hoped, the vines have twined (with a little bit of assistance and guidance) right up the porch railing. In fact, they're nearly at the top of that railing. I'm not sure what will happen next. I'll either try to keep them trimmed at the top of the railing or keep guiding them onto the porch and see how big they get. They're supposed to have a maximum length of 8-15 feet. I'd guess they're probably around 6-8 feet long right now, so I suppose they might be able to double their growth either this year or next.

(One nice thing about growing a native plant that is really vigorous is that I don't have any fears that it will escape cultivation and wreak havoc on the local ecosystem. If it escapes into the wild, it will just be re-entering its natural habitat and presumably enhancing it.)

They also have a really long bloom season. We had a really cold spring -- one of our coldest springs on record - and Trumpet Honeysuckle was making buds in March and I believe started flowering in March or April. It flowers on old wood, so this year's main flush of blooms was not so huge, but it also flowers on new wood and there have been continuous small sprays of red flowers over the past two months with no sign of stopping.

Unlike the invasive honeysuckle, L. sempervirens flowers are unscented.

The buds and elongated flowers are both beautiful. My only source of sorrow is the fact that I have not yet seen any of the hummingbirds that L. sempervirens is supposed to attract. Maybe they'll come around next year if I get a larger flush of spring blooms on all the growth that's being added this year?

Here's aclose-up of the flowers on the right-side railing from the "Blanche Sandman" Lonicera sempervirens, Trumpet Honeysuckle. What could make this picture perfect? Hummingbirds!

L. sempervirens is also supposed to produce red berries that attract other birds. I don't recall seeing any berries last year, but I'll keep a closer eye out for them this year.

Oh and I'd say the vine is partially to mostly evergreen here in Middle Tennessee. We had a fairly cold winter - not record cold, but long and cool - and L. sempervirens held on to most of its leaves all winter. I believe it drops the old leaves in the spring, but then leafs out almost immediate.

L. sempervirens seems to be very wind-tolerant. We're on top of a small hill and the leaves and vines get buffeted pretty well as they climb the railing, but they don't seem to mind. It is also supposed to be drought-tolerant once established.

I've heard it prefers full sun, but since our front porch (where I wanted the vines to grow) has Eastern exposure, it only gets sun all morning and very early afternoon and it still seems to grow just fine. Maybe I'd get more flowers if it were in Western exposure?

The foliage has stayed pretty clean. Not pristine. There are a few holes here and there, but I don't spray any pesticides, and L. sempervirens - at least the two varieties I have - does not seem terribly bothered by any pests. Certainly nothing is slowing it down!

I currently have "Alabama Crimson" growing on my left banister and "Blanche Sandman" on the right railing. I'd say both plants seem really similar so far, with Blanche Sandman perhaps flowering just a bit more. 

Other varieties that are supposed to be good include "John Clayton" (a bit more compact?) and "Major Wheeler".

Based on my experience thus far, I'd highly recommend Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) for any garden in the Eastern U.S.

As I drive along Tennessee roads and see empty fences surrounded by acres of lawn, I think how much nicer those fences would look covered in flowering trumpet honeysuckle vines and how many more hummingbirds we might have if their natural food supply was in greater abundance.