September 28, 2012

Plant Spotlight: Kaleidoscope Abelia

Its fall again. The air is crisp and the garden is coming back to life for one last show before its time to settle down for winter. One of the first plants to come to back to life this fall is Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', one of my all-time favorite foliage plants.

Since its introduction a decade ago, the Kaleidoscope Abelia has secured a spot in many southern gardens. Its evergreen foliage is a lime green with touches of cream and coral that become more evident in fall and winter. Although the foliage is the star, its delicate white flowers, a bumblebee favorite, bloom from spring to fall. In my full sun garden I usually get the best peaks in the cooler seasons, and with the recent cool nights they have burst into bloom.

The great thing about Kaleidoscope Abelia, and what makes it so versatile in the garden,  is its compact size. At only 3ft tall and 4-5ft wide, it makes a great accent shrub and is a favorite for foundation plantings or front yard beds for year round color. Paired with the dark purple foliage of a barberry it really steals the show!

April 30, 2012

Moonlight and Roses

The only thing that could have made our near-5ft tall clump of 'Carolina Moonlight' Baptisia look better this spring was the beautiful color contrast provided by the red 'Double Knockout' Rosa in the background.

False Indigo, Baptisia sp., is perhaps my all-time favorite perennial plant, and the 'Carolina Moonlight' always steals the show in the spring with its vigorous height, although I do have 3 varieties of the shorter purple-toned Baptisia australis hybrids that are gorgeous as well. I love watching every stage of the plant's growth, from the asparagus like buds shooting out of the ground in early spring, to the delicate blue-green foliage, and of course those characteristic pea-family flowers!

The 'Knockout' rose in the back of the border provides a background to make the light yellow Baptisia flowers really stand out. 'Knockouts' have become a common staple in landscapes, offering a re-blooming, disease resistant option for even the most novice rose gardener. Used in the right places, the dark foliage and dazzling flowers give a show all season long... and with this warm spring they are starting extra early. In our sunny perennial border filling with spring flowers, these two beauties really steal the show when they come into bloom at the same time!

April 18, 2012

A Vegetable Expansion

With my ever growing heirloom tomato obsession we were long overdue for an expansion of our kitchen garden. After growing all our herbs and vegetables for years in a relatively small raised bed along the South side of our house, a new patch of rich soil is poses exciting prospect!  Armed with my spring veggies, both from seed and from the garden center, Ive been spending the weekends planting tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, peppers, dill, basil... and all my other favorites!

Last year, although our vegetable bed looked luscious and full in the spring, a nasty virus spread through the tomatoes, a chance I took by planting them in the same spot year after year. But with tomatoes taking up more than half of the bed, and a big hop vine in the way,  I really had no option. Luckily, we had a spot in the full sun that was free this year. After taking out a dead dogwood tree, we had converted this sloping spot into our little hop yard last winter.

Erecting the hop trellis system last winter.. look at that clay soil!

 With a little bit of convincing, Brian let go of a little hop space and knowing that he had to dig up all the hops, was willing to build us a new bed... a level one, with good soil fitting a production area. With a few 2 by 4s from a local lumber yard, a yard of garden soil plus a half a yard of home-grown compost, and a lot of hand-tilling with our two shovels, the spot transformed in an afternoon.

We decided to only build up one side to keep with the natural look of the beds in the back yard. Stacked rocks from the stream behind our property were added to the sides to prevent any erosion. The terracotta pot was my little addition... I cant wait for the Dahlia to pop up later this spring! And Brian's hops should enjoy the new soil and a little more attention this summer.

April 13, 2012

Plant Spotlight: White Lady Banks Rose

The Lady Banks Rose is a staple of the southern garden. Popular for its cascades of tiny rose blossoms, the yellow variety is by far the most popular. However, I'm here to advocate for its lesser used twin, the double-white Lady Banks Rose, Rosa banksiae 'Alba Plena'. For me there is nothing better than a pure white rose to ring in the spring, and the large blooms of this climbing variety do it with style.

The Lady Banks Rose has been popular in China for centuries, where the native species (a small-blooming white variety) grows wild. On a plant hunting expedition at the request of botanist Sir Joseph Banks, the gardener William Kerr found the rose in Chinese gardens and brought it to the west in 1807, naming it after Sir Banks wife.

The Lady Banks Rose provides a thorn-free, carefree, disease resistant option for incorporating roses into your garden. It blooms early in the season, from early March to late April in our garden. Although the yellow provides a more popular color, the white lady banks has a light, enchanting fragrance reminiscent of violets. With enough sunlight and room to grow, this climbing rose can turn any fence into a fragrant spring bouquet!