Monday, January 18, 2010

Garden Volunteers Part II

This is the second post to follow up with more reseeders I employ each growing season in my garden. For Part I click here.

Nigella damascena 'Miss Jekyll' with Perilla frutescens off to right

Nigella is one of those plants I tried growing for years with no success. I'd sow seed again and again and if I got one plant that would be it, with no reseeding for the next season. I'm a sucker for blue and reseeders as well so this really vexed me! Enough to keep trying! Finally, after nearly a decade, it has established itself in a few areas of my garden. I love its ability to mingle well with other plants. I scatter its seed as it ripens, throughout the growing season, so I always seem to have some blooming, making me happy.

Perilla, on the other hand, has never had any problems establishing itself. It will reseed readily and grow nearly anywhere, sun to shade. I like burgundy foliage and use perilla in bouquets, as well. It is technically an herb, though I personally couldn't imagine eating it. I have gotten used to its smell although I'm not sure I really enjoy it. I can remember one visitor seeing it growing in my garden and telling me - insisting - it was purple basil. Then she plucked a leaf and chewed it. She didn't say much after that!

Pink Hollyhocks with Clematis 'Jackmanii'

This was one of the joys of my summer! I had no idea these hollyhocks would be rosy pink. I've had 'The Watchman' which is black, and 'Creme de Cassis' which is a mix of cream and burgundy. Neither variety is nearly as tall as these - well over my head. I might be exaggerating when I say ten feet tall, but they seemed like it! I now have quite a few babies around this mother plant from deadheadings. Much to look forward to!

Portulaca aka Moss Rose, Calendula, purple Verbena, Teucrium 'Purple Tails'

Not the greatest photo but some more of my favorites. I'll start with the portulaca. This reseeds freely for me between the crevices in my patio. A good lesson I learned from my mom. She pays attention to these things. The happy coincidence here is the color, echoing the calendula. I had no idea what color the blooms would be when I moved the portulaca here.

That's something else. I move many volunteers through most of the growing season. I try to look for rain in the forecast - the combination of a good soaking and overcast skies works magic. If it is hot and sunny I will put up a little shade for the plants with bamboo stakes, burlap and clothespins. If it's also windy I'll drape the burlap down close to the ground for even more protection from stress. And then I leave this not so pretty but useful protection up for a few days.

Another move from the patio's crevices is the purple verbena. This plant came from my mom along with that genius lesson. I don't know if it is hardy here - I don't know its name to look it up - but it reseeds for me every year this way. This coming year I'm going to grow it amongst my bearded irises. I loved it when I saw the two grown together around the drive court at Mettawa Manor, the amazing home of Bill Curtis and Donna LaPietra, a few years ago while visiting during Open Days . I tried this combination this past season, not so outstanding with all the rain and cool weather. Next year!

The other plant, not blooming, pictured near center, is Teucrium 'Purple Tails'. Hmm, not sure of a common name. It does look like mint, to which it is related. I have grown this for several years, best on a slope. Then I had to move it because I just knew I would like it better somewhere else and it did not make it through the winter - though it did reseed. Another lesson, winter drainage. At any rate, next year this perennial will bloom in a color I call dusty purple - greyed out a bit. Very similar in color to Salvia 'Purple Rain', if you are familiar with that one. It blooms and blooms, a doer. Piet Oudolf used a Teucrium in the amazing garden he designed along with Jacqueline van der Kloet for the Seasonal Walk at the New York Botanical Garden (seriously, check it out, this is amazing and I can't get enough!)

Eryngium planum

Steel blue and striking. This one never fails to get the attention of non-gardeners and gardeners alike. There are also other varieties which I believe do not reseed - a bonus as this plant has a long taproot and can easily be propagated by taking root cuttings. Which for me means if I try to dig it up I leave bits of root behind and the plant will return. Sigh. I'd like to try E. 'Sapphire' - if anyone has grown it, let me know. Maybe there is another I need to try, too - I seem to remember there is an olivey colored one? Give your suggestions!!!

Euphorbia marginata, or Snow on the Mountain

This is another that took more than a few tries to get it to establish itself, now I have drifts. Grows to maybe waist high and looks so fresh late in the summer! If you grow it, be careful when touching the plant. All euphorbs are poisonous - it's actually the sap inside the stem that irritates. Especially your eyes if you rub them after working with this plant. Not that I would know personally;-)

Verbena bonariensis

I really have a thing for this plant. Which is good as it reseeds readily. It blooms from sometime later in July thru frosts. I use it a lot in bouquets and throughout the garden. It has provenance, too. Now, it's been growing in my garden for years and before that my mom's, but prior to us, the very seed that sprouts in our gardens each year happens to be the offspring of seed that grew in nature activist Lorrie Otto's Wisconsin garden who in turn got her seed from Christopher Lloyd. Oh yes, as in Great Dixter . The very place, and man, who made Verbena bon so popular. I'm also a big fan of his and hers so I get some pleasure out of all this. And that is what gardening is all about, anyway - pleasure. Connections.

I have also found that even over and above Butterfly Bush the butterflies flock to this plant. Late summer I can sit on my patio and count numerous Monarchs and Yellow Swallowtails enjoying their feasting. Hummingbirds like it, too.

Echinacea, Larkspur, Cleome, Nicotiana langsdorfii

All of these reseed for me, for years I left the seedheads of Echinacea intact, for the birds. This has resulted in nice clumps and drifts in a few places in my garden. No complaints, Echinacea is a trouble-free plant for me and I like it in the garden as well as in bouquets. I deadhead now, occasionally dropping a seedhead or two if I'd like more plants. I have E. 'White Swan', also. It is not as vigorous and I'd like more. I'm thinking of trying some of the newer varieties - some of which have been developed by Piet Oudolf - 'Green Jewel', 'Virgin', 'Vintage Wine' and 'Fatal Attraction'. Has anyone tried them? What do you think?

Cleome is fun one, its large ball shaped flowers float above other plants from midsummer on. I think my plants are 'Rose Queen', originally purchased ages ago. I'd be willing to bet from Pinetree Garden Seeds. This is a reliable reseeder, not too rampant, although I usually weed out more than I keep. It looks good in drifts or with a few sprinkled through a border.

Nicotianas are a favorite of mine. I love their colors, especially N. mutabilis. N. langsdorfii reseeds reliably for me, more so in the patio cracks. N. mutabilis I have to make sure I save...and I usually start it indoors, the earlier the better as I have had years when it doesn't bloom until so late in the season that it's barely started blooming and the frosts hit it. One of my favorite combinations is N. langs with the above mentioned Verbena bon - the butterflies and hummingbirds like this combo, too!

Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue' with Marigold 'Cottage Red'

Late in the season, early October, actually. Love the punch. Another reseeder (especially in cracks!), though I believe if you are just a zone warmer than I am (Zone 6 for you) this will overwinter. I've actually had it overwinter for me and now that I think of it the plants were on a slope near the south side of my house which tends to be a microclimate. Good winter drainage and warmth. Hmmm...and I'd been only remembering it may have been a milder winter. Last summer I thought it did pretty well deciding to come up by this great Marigold I picked up at Target, a Burpee's Fordhook Collection seed selection. I'm hoping this is a reseeder, I really loved it. The ferny foliage and purple tinged stems next to a nursery planting of Sedum 'Purple Emperor' and S. 'Matrona' in the veg garden constantly caught my admiration even before the orangey red flowers constantly caught my eye! I also love that it's taller (30" so says the seed packet) and bushy.

So those are a few of my volunteers I rely on, I'd love to hear what volunteers you love to look forward to each year!

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