Monday, November 11, 2013

This is Why I Grow Zinnias

Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) on a Zinnia elegans
The zinnias are dead now having succumbed to the twin hazards of powdery mildew and cold weather.

But when I look at the blackened stalks standing in the garden, I think back to the warm days of July when the zinnia patch was alive with ethereal butterflies skipping from one blossom to another.

Still, I'll be taking a break from Zinnias next year and trying to weed out the volunteers. My plan is to sow seeds again in 2015 -- but using Z. marylandica (specifically the Pinwheel variety) which are supposed to be more resistant to drought and mildew than the typical Z. elegans.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Feeling Guilty about Coral Honeysuckle

Alas, Poor Honeysuckle, it's only crime was to grow too well and too bushy...

I had a dream in days gone by of native coral honeysuckles twining their way up the metal railings on either side of my porch stems, blooming with their orange-and-yellow trumpets all summer long, attracting hummingbirds and softening the hard lines of the metal and brick.

Amazingly, my dream came to fruition.

And yet, once I saw the coral honeysuckle in place, I realized I had made a mistake.

The honeysuckle was so happy and so exuberant that it practically hid the railing entirely and sent up bushy tendrils in every which direction from the top railing.

It was out of control.

And I was worried. Worried that I had created a potential hazard for anyone using the front porch. After all, the railings are there for a reason - to help people go up and down without tripping or slipping.

But if they can't find or grasp the railing, then the railing is pretty well useless.

I didn't want anyone to get hurt and I didn't want to worry about the liability issues either.

So one day in August, I went out with scissors and started trying to snip the honeysuckle vine off the railings.

The vine broke my scissors! (The tendrils get woody and tough after a while.)

So I went to get my loppers. Overkill? Sure, but it did the trick.

I toyed with the idea of ripping out the whole plant, but I felt guilty curtailing the growth of a couple of vines that were only being all-too-successful at fulfilling the goals I had set for them.

So I left the stubs with a couple of flowers and some maturing berries.

Here you can see the pruned remnants of the formerly mighty vine - now transformed into a truncated bush - encamped at the foot of the stairs.

Provided the vines survive, I'm still undecided as to whether I should leave them to ramble through the front foundation beds or take them out entirely. I'm not at all sure that they'd be willing to play nice with other perennials, at least not without a lot of watchful pruning and shaping.

But I do like the fact that the vine frequently attracted a visiting hummingbird -- who seems to have become accustomed to our property and now drinks from other flowers like the zinnias and even has sampled the Russian Sage.

What would you do with these Coral Honeysuckle vines?

And have you ever had to remove or relocate any overperformers in your garden?