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Sunflower MoonwalkerSunflowers are a very large group consisting of both annulas and perennials. 150 species. The most popular sunflower for gardens is the annual, Helianthus annus, but there are many good perennial sunflowers suitable for the garden. In general sunflowers like hot weather, full sun, fertile, moist, well-drained soil but tolerate less. When planting sunflowers beware of the fact that the roots of the plants emit a substance that may inhibit the growth of other plants around them. Because they are often tall plants, sunflowers also tend to shade other nearby plants. When sighting plants take into consideration that the flowers will face the sun. Since sunflowers are cross-pollinated by insects, grow only one variety at a time if seed collection is the goal, or separate varieties by at least 1000 feet. Hybrids and cultivars will not breed true. [click to continue…]

Ozark witch hazel is a deciduous flowering shrub or small tree native to the Ozark Plateau from southern Missouri through northwestern Arkansas east to Oklahoma where it grows in moist areas and can form large colonies.  It is a member of the witch hazel family,  Hamamelidaceae, that also includes loropetalum, fothergill, and Persian ironwood.  Plants grow up to 10′ tall and have zig zag twigs and thick,  ovate to rounded leaves up to 4″ long with deeply crenate margins, conspicuous sunken veins, and a short petiole.  The leaves emerge  medium to dark green but become golden-yellow in the fall although some cultivars turn orange, red, and purple.  In mid to late winter before the foliage emerges, fragrant flowers appear in axillary clusters.  The flowers range in color from pale yellow to orange and  red-orange,  and have four, narrow, ribbon-like petals that are 1/3″ long and roll up on cold days, roll out on warm ones.  The fruit is a 2-valved capsule that is produced in late summer and perists into winter. Ozark witch hazel provides very welcome interest in winter and is a good choice for a shrub border, screen, hedge, woodland or winter garden. Flowers can be forced for the vase.   The genus name, Hamamelis, comes from the Greek words hama meaning at the same time and melon meaning fruit and refers to the fact that the fruit and flowers appear  at the same time on some genera.  The specific epithet, vernalis, is the Latin word meaning of spring and refers to the early bloom time. [click to continue…]

Mead is a beverage with an alcohol content between 4-20% using a variety of yeasts and with a taste that some describe as “wine with a kick’ but can also have a taste like beer or one all of its own. It is made by fermenting honey with water  but the type of yeast, amount of aging, and addition of spices, grains, fruits and other additives may vary.  The production of the drink goes back to 7000 BC in China and was the favorite drink of the Ancient Greeks.  There are several different kinds of mead including sweet, semi-sweet and dry meads.   My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, included several recipes for mead in her book Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wine. [click to continue…]

Garden phlox is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial native to eastern US from Main west to Minnesota, south to Georgia and Louisianna where it grows in woodland clearings and borders, meadows, lightly shaded riparian areas, thickets, and moist roadsides.  It is a member of the Polemoniaceae family that also includes Jacob’s ladder.  Plants grow up to 4′ tall from a taproot and have smooth unbranched stems, sometimes with purple streaks, and bearing narrow dark green pointed leaves  4-7″ long.  From mid summer to fall, terminal pyramidal panicles of fragrant flowers appear that are 4-8″ across.  Each tubular flower is up to 1″ across  has 5 spreading petal-like lobes that are pinkish lavender to white in the species.  Numerous cultivars are available that vary in color, size, vigor, disease resistance, floriferousness, and attractiveness.  Garden phlox does better in cool weather and may struggle in hot humid weather especially where evening thunderstorms are common because of its susceptibility to powdery mildew.  In spite of its disease issues, it is an outstanding border plant because of the beauty of its flowers and its long bloom time of 6 weeks or more.  The flowers are also attractive to butterflies and birds. Tall varieties may need staking. The genus name, Phlox, is the Greek word meaning flame and refers to the color of some varieties.  The specific epithet, paniculata, comes from the Latin word panicula meaning tuft and refers to the inflorescence. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rose ‘Pristine’

Long, pointed, ovoid buds open to high centered flowers with reflexed petals.  The  full flowers are carried singly on long stems and are up to 6″ across.  The imbricated petals are near white  shaded with light pink and highlighted by a pink blush on the back edges.   The very vigorous bushes are upright, prickly, and have crimson new growth and large, healthy, semi-glossy, dark green leaves.  Plants are considered very disease resistant and the flowers are popular for cutting and exhibition.  A sport, ‘Fountain Square’, has all white petals with no pink, but otherwise has all the qualities of ‘Pristine’. [click to continue…]

Giant sea holly is a short lived herbaceous perennial often considered a biennial and is native to the Caucasus and Iran. It is a member of the parsley family, Apiaceae, that also includes dill, celery, and Queen Anne’s lace. The first year plants produce a basal rosette of spineless heart-shaped gray-green leaves that is followed in the second year by a flowering stem up to six feet tall with spiny leaves. In summer the small blue gray flowers are carried in closely packed cone-shaped umbels three to four inches long and subtended by eight or nine rigid, toothed silvery bracts. This is large plant and a good choice for the back of the border in a place protected from wind. Although it is short lived it usually self seeds. Plants have a taproot and do not transplant easily. The flower heads add both texture and form to arrangements and are especially beautiful with gray and pink plant material. They can also be preserved for use in winter bouquets. The genus name, Eryngium, is from the Greek word eryngo that refers to the prickly or spiny nature of the genus. The specific epithet, giganteum, is the Latin word meaning unusually tall and refers to the relative height of the plant.

Type:Short-lived perennial or biennial

Bloom:Cone-shaped umbels 3-4″ across of small blue gray flowers subtended y 8 or 9 rigid, toothed silvery bracts, in summer

Size:4-6′ H x 4′ H

Light:Full sun for best color

Soil:Lean, medium moist, well-drained; tolerates drought

Hardiness:�Zones 4-8

Care:Cut stems to the ground after flowering.

Pests and Diseases:None of significance

Propagation:Seed (plants self seed but do not transplant well); division

Companion Plants:Brown eyed Susan, purple coneflower, Russian sage

Outstanding Selections:’Miss. Willmott’s Ghost’

White enkianthus is a compact, deciduous, flowering shrub and a member of the heath family, Ericaceae, that ncludes azaleas, heather, and cranberry.  Native to the woodlands of Japan it grows up to 6′ tall and wide and has shiny red twigs, reddish brown twigs, and branches arranged in tiers.  The bright green, ovate leaves are 1-2″ long and clustered at the tips of the branches.  They have finely toothed margins and midribs on the undersides that are downy at the base.  In the fall the the leaves turn  burgundy and then bright yellow and scarlet, but plants are variable and best purchased in the fall when the color can be evaluated.   In spring, before the leaves emerge, pendent umbels of 3-10 pure white, urn-like flowers  1/4-1/3″ long appear on smooth 1/2″ long stalks. White enkianthus is valued for both its flowers and spectacular fall coloration and is a good choice for containers, borders, hedges, and woodland gardens.  The genus name, Enkianthus, comes from the Greek words enkyos, meaning pregnant and anthos meaning flower, and refers to the swelling at the base of the corolla of some species.  The specific epithet, perulatus, is the Latin word meaning provided with budscales and refers to the fact that the budscales of this species are consipicuous. [click to continue…]

Also called dewberry, trailing blackberry is a deciduous  mounding shrub or trailing vine and member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes apple, almond, and lady’s mantle. It is native  of  western North America and occurs in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington as well as British Columbia and Baja California where it grows on prairies, woodlands, pastures, and disturbed sites such as clearings, burned areas and roadsides.   Although often grown as an ornamental or for its flavorful fruit the plants tend to form colonies that are difficult to control. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Black-Eyed Cuphea (Cuphea cyanea)

Native to Mexico, this tender evergreen shrub is often grown as an annual.  It is a member of the loosestrife family, Lytharaceae, that also includes crepe myrtle, pomegranate and henna.    Plants grow up to 4′ tall in southern gardens but 1-2′ tall in the North, and 12-15″ in containers.  The opposite leaves are up to 23″ long and ovate with a rounded base and a short petiole.  The 1″ long tubular flowers appear in summer on branched stems and are mostly pink with yellow tips carrying 2 small maroon petals that look like eyes.  Red stamens emerging from the corolla complete the picture.  Plants do well in containers.  The genus name, Cuphea, comes from the Greek word kyphos meaning curved and refers to the curved seed capsule.  The specific epithet, cyanea, is the Latin word for blue, but is also the name of the ancient Greek Naiad-nymph of a spring or fountain of the town of Miletos in modern day Turkey. [click to continue…]

Also known as Jacob’s coat, this broadleaf evergreen shrub is native to tropical and subtropical areas of  New Guinea, Malaya, Fiji and nearby South Pacific islands. It is a member of the spurge family, Euphorbaceae, that also includes poinsettia, croton, and caster oil plant.  Growing up to 15′ tall and the plant is highly branched and has slightly hairy stems and leaves.  The elliptical leaves are 4-9″ long, have coarsely toothed margins, and are coppery green often blotched with red, crimson purple or bronze.  Male and female catkins of small reddish flowers appear on different plants and are up to 8″ long with female catkins being shorter.  Plants give a tropical look to any garden and can be grown in a shrub border, or as a hedge or specimen in areas in frost free areas but should be grown as an annual or taken indoors in a container in USDA Hardiness zone 8 and colder.  Indoor plants need high humidity.  Many cultivars are available that vary most significantly in leaf color and form. The genus name, Acalypha, comes from akalephe, the ancient Greek name for nettle, and refers to the nettle-like appearance of the leaves.  The specific epithet, wilkesiana, honors  the American scientist and explorer Admiral Charles Wilkes (1801-1877).

Type: Broadleaf evergreen shrub

Outstanding Feature: Colorful foliage

Growth Rate: Rapid

Bloom: Male and female catkins of small reddish flowers on different plants in summer

Size: 10-15′ H x 10-15′ W

Light:Full sun to partial shade;  foliage color best in full sun.

Soil: Fertile to average, consistently moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 9-11

Care: Pinch stem tips to encourage bushiness

Pests and Diseases: Mealy bugs, white flies, spider mites

Propagation: Cuttings with 2-3 nodes using bottom heat

Outstanding Selections:

‘Ceylon’ (coppery leaves with pink to shitish margins)

‘Haleakala’ (twisted bronze leaves with fringed margins)

‘Hoffman’s’ (narrow twisted leaves with ivory lobes)

”Kana Coast’ (large bright yellow leaves flecked and spotted with green)

‘Kilauea’ (dwarf form with small narrow green leaves with creamy white margins and blotched with red and copper-pink)

‘Macrophylla’ (wide russet leaves splashed with bronze-red and copper)

‘Marginata’ (green leaves  with crimson and other colored margins)

‘Musaica’ (green leaves with orange and red markings)

‘Obvata’ (bronzy green leaves with bright pink to orange margins)

‘Petticoat’ (large, ruffled, coppery leaves with earth-tone margins)