Monday, February 29, 2016

Class of 2016 -- Polanisia dodecandra, redwhisker clammyweed

Redwhisker clammyweed, Polanisia dodecandra, photo by Jim Pisarowicz via Wikimedia Commons

Why I'm growing Polanisia dodecandra in my garden...

1) Although it is not really native to Tennessee (though there is a waif population in the state), it is considered native throughout much of the U.S. including neighboring states such as Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky.

2) Scott Woodbury at Missouri Botanical Garden says this Cleome relative can bloom non-stop from July through September, attracting butterflies, bees and hummingbird clearwing moths.

3) Like partridge pea, Polanisia dodecandra is an annual plant, but Woodbury says it can persist in a garden for many years by reliably self-sowing.

4) Woodbury also calls P. dodecandra drought tolerant and says it can adapt to a wide range of soils and drainage conditions.

5) How could anyone not want to grow a plant called 'redwhisker clammyweed'? :)

Do you grow redwhisker clammyweed? If so, what has been your experience with this plant?


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Early Signs of Spring - Tulip, Camellia and Daffodils!

Although I usually like the autumn-blooming Camellia sasanqua better, it's nice to have some early spring / late winter flowers from the Camellia japonica too!

It's our first year growing tulips! This is Pink Impression from Easy to Grow Bulbs.

It's my understanding that tulips are native to places where winters are relatively dry and drainage is good, so I was nervous about trying to grow them on heavy clay soil that gets saturated by winter rains. I planted some on a hillside to improve drainage -- and those ones seem to have emerged first, although I suspect that's because they get a good dose of morning sun. Some of the ones I planted on flat ground are just starting to poke their heads above ground...

Dependable daffodils put on their usual late winter show. What a cheerful sight!


Monday, February 22, 2016

Class of 2016 -- Chamaecrista fasciculata, partridge pea, sensitive plant

Partridge pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata, photo by Fritz Flohr Reynolds via Wikimedia Commons

Why I'm growing Chamaecrista fasciculata in my garden...

1) It is native to Tennessee and throughout most of Eastern and Central North America.

2) The USDA says that partridge pea seeds provide food for quail, prairie-chickens, pheasants, ducks and other grassland birds, while nectar from glands at the base of each leaf provide nutrition for bees.

3) Although I usually favor perennials, I'm willing to take a chance on this annual. Andrea DeLong-Amaya at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center told me that partridge pea is a drought-resistant annual that self sows reliably enough to persist in the garden for years.

4) DeLong-Amaya also mentioned that partridge pea is a larval food plant for several species of sulphur butterflies, including the cloudless orange and sleepy orange.

5) In photos I've seen, the flowers, seedpods and foliage all look gorgeous.

Do you grow partridge pea? If so, what has been your experience with this plant?


Monday, February 15, 2016

Class of 2016 -- Hydrangea arborescens, smooth hydrangea

Hydrangea arborescens, smooth hydrangea, photo by Hedwig Storch via Wikimedia

Why I'm growing Hydrangea arborescens in my garden...

1) It is native to Tennessee and throughout a large swath of the Southeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.

2) Sources at several botanic gardens say that H. arborescens flowers attract myriad pollinators including bees, wasps, hoverflies and skipper butterflies.

3) Since it blooms on new wood, I believe that smooth hydrangea should flower well even after the harshest Tennessee winters.

4) As with Cornus amomum, I've heard that smooth hydrangea is easy to propagate through a live-staking method (i.e., trimming branches in the spring, sticking them in the ground and giving them a bit of supplemental water if necessary as they get established).

5) Smooth hydrangea is supposed to be more drought tolerant than exotic mophead hydrangeas (H. macrophylla). It may even have a bit more drought tolerance than the oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia), which I have found quite drought tolerant in partial shade.

6) H. arborescens may spread by suckers. I've planted it on a hillside where I think I would welcome that tendency to naturalize and protect the soil from erosion. However, I've heard those suckers are not especially difficult to control if I do want to keep it from spreading too far.

Do you grow smooth hydrangea? If so, what has been your experience with this plant?


Monday, February 8, 2016

Class of 2016 -- Cornus amomum, silky dogwood

Cornus amomum, silky dogwood, photo via Mid-Atlantic Regional Seedbank

Why I'm growing Cornus amomum in my garden...

1) It is native to Tennessee and throughout much of the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and New England.

2) It has a reputation of being a tough and adaptable plant, capable of tolerating wet clay soils. Some sources also say it has good drought tolerance.

3) The Pollinator Partnership says that Cornus amomum flowers attract bees and butterflies.

4) A University of Rhode Island fact sheet says that silky dogwood berries are eaten by many migratory songbirds.

5) It has red stems that provide winter interest.

6) I've heard it can be propagated very easily using a live staking method. So if it grows well here, it's good to know I may be able to take cuttings and get some free plants.

PS - When most gardeners think of dogwoods, they probably think of flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, but that plant has a reputation for needing or at least preferring moist, rich, acidic, woodland conditions. If I had a woodland, I'd certainly try planting some flowering dogwoods, but since my garden is mostly sunny and filled with compacted clay soil, I don't think Cornus florida would thrive here. In fact, I tried growing one a couple of years back and it really struggled even in one of the shadiest spots I could provide. Cornus amomum sounds like a much tougher and more forgiving member of the genus. We shall see...

Do you grow silky dogwood? If so, what has been your experience with this plant?


Monday, February 1, 2016

Class of 2016 -- Rosa 'Carefree Beauty', shrub rose

'Carefree Beauty' shrub rose, photo by Malcolm Manners

Why I'm growing 'Carefree Beauty' in my garden...

1) My wife likes roses!

2) I would describe some kinds of popular roses as ecologically inert. The only insects they seem to attract are Japanese beetles! But Sarah Rummery, Horticulture and Grounds Manager at the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State says that 'Carefree Beauty' has flowers that attract bees and other pollinators, while the rose hips that follow provide food for wildlife.

3) I was impressed by Dee Nash's enthusiastic review and beautiful photos at Red Dirt Ramblings.

PS - I hesitated to grow any roses in my garden after reading about the scourge of Rose Rosette Disease, but I figured I'd take a chance with just a couple of roses in the garden.

Do you grow roses? If so, which are your favorites and have you had any problems with Rose Rosette Disease?