Sunday, July 25, 2021

Balloon Flower

Balloon Flower (Platycodon Grandiflorus) is a  a sturdy perennial plant with bold purple flowers.

I planted two side by side and they are making lots of buds and flowers. The flower gets its name from the buds that are like little balloons. They suddenly pop open and you have colourful star-shaped flowers.  They also come in white and pink but I found the pink to be very washed out so now I stick with the purple ones.

They are easy to care for and enjoy a sunny location.  Mine lean a bit because they are not in a site with all day sun but the stems are good and stiff and don't flop.   They have a taproot so they can't be transplanted once they are established but you can buy young plants that are still small enough to handle the transplant.

The balloon flowers will make a nice clump if the soil is adequately enriched. They can tolerate dry conditions and don't like to be soggy. So far I haven't had any insect pests or diseases on the balloon flowers.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Striped Zinnias, Tiger Lily, Daylily, Magenta Astilbe

I started these zinnias with seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I didn't know how I felt about striped zinnias when I looked at the seed packet but now that they are blooming I find them really cheerful and fun.

This is a hybrid tiger lily that I've had for years.  It has lived in a couple of places but seems happy here.  Because the plant is very tall and leaning, the flowers are making a circular pattern which I like.

I like the dark freckles on the tiger lily.  Because it is not a true tiger lily, it does not have the dark seeds along the stem so it does not self-sow.  It also does not make new bulblets from the main bulb so it is forever one plant. 
I have tried a variety of daylilies over the years and find that the ones that most closely resemble wild daylilies in shape are the ones that bloom well.  With the fancy ruffly varieties, I'm lucky to get one or two blooms but these lilies have many buds.
This one is very similar to the first photo but the flowers are actually a little darker.  Nice big flowers.

The magenta astilbe is a shortish plant and the flowers are not as fluffy as the pink or white ones. In a shady location, the strong colour stands out nicely.

We have had a cool summer, hardly a day that gets to 30C, so the pansies are still blooming well. Usually they are too heat stressed to keep going through July.

The vegetable garden is coming along well as the vegetables do best with temperatures in the mid 20Cs.  The beans recovered from the beetles and I have an abundance of beans to eat. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Fluffy Flowers

It's fun to have a variety of textures in the garden.  Here are some fluffy flowers.  The big white plant is Giant Fleece Flower. It is about 5 feet tall and about 6 feet across.  I have it in the area between the forest and the lawn where I need some substantial plants to cover the ground so that brambles and trees don't grow up. It blooms mid June and keeps its flowers for about 6 weeks.  It is in part shade but could also be in full sun.
The astilbes are much daintier and start blooming the beginning of July.  I have finally found a good spot for them where they get some full shade, dappled shade and a few hours of sun.  They are about 15' from the nearest tree so they are not competing with tree roots.  They like the soil to be damp but not soggy. A top dressing of compost in the spring is sufficient feeding.

Meadowsweet is also a big plant. It grows to about 4 ' high and will spread to form a very large patch if it has the space.  It enjoys damp ground and can handle a fair bit of shade, but a sunny location would be fine as well. The meadowsweet doesn't even need to be fertilized once it's established.

I started some ageratum from seed this spring.  They are just starting to bloom now as I only planted them in early May.  They like sun.  I have them in a large pot with some zinnias and they are doing well together. I sprinkled some slow release fertilizer on the soil and that's keeping the plants healthy.

All these fluffy flowers are excellent food for the many small pollinators that are so unobtrusive we barely notice them.  These same pollinators help to pollinate the vegetables.


Monday, June 28, 2021

Thoughts on Colour Combinations

This planting is relatively new and I'm pleased with how it's coming along.  I really like the combination of the magenta perennial geranium and the evening primrose.  It makes sense for them to look good together as they would be opposite on the colour wheel and they are both on the cool side.  On the left is a campanula which would be closer to the magenta on the colour wheel but it also is a cool colour. Not quite in bloom yet, behind the big stump, is meadowsweet which will have a cool pink flower. I like the way the strong colours of the geranium and primrose are framed by the paler colours of the campanula and meadowsweet.  A bit later in the season, some pink phlox and lemon yellow lilies will be in the space.
This is a very flash combination but for me it works because the petunias are  the same intensity and form.
Here the strong orange lychnis (campion) does not go well with the pale pink lilies.  The lychnis is definitely hot, the lily is cool.  The lychnis just makes the lilies look very washed out.
The lilies would look much better near this lavender clematis.  Both flowers have similar forms (six petals) but are just different enough to be interesting.  The colours are close in the colour wheel, are both cool, and are of similar intensity.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Attracting Pollinators to Vegetables

The mock orange is blooming and nestled between its branches is a cherry tomato.  This is not as odd as it may seem as the mock orange attracts small pollinators, and these, in turn, pollinate the tomato. When the mock orange has finished blooming, I will cut it back and let the tomato get more light.

Using flowers to attract bees and wasps is a good way to get better fruiting on plants.

Here I left some wild daisies that are growing near the pepper tubs. The daisies almost always have some little bug feeding on them.  So far the peppers are setting fruit really well.  My next issue is keeping a little caterpillar from chewing holes in the peppers.  I'm thinking I will try to wrap the individual peppers in some light cloth.  I can't just cover the whole plant otherwise the pollinators won't be able to get at the blossoms.

Some other flowers that are good at attracting bees and wasps are hyssop, oregano, ageratum (somewhat toxic so I wouldn't plant it in with vegetables), echinacea, bee balm, campanula, evening primrose, phlox, and bachelor's buttons.

Enjoy your gardens.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Bean Leaf Beetle

I have a new surprise in the garden this year.  The bean leaf beetle has arrived. I've never had them before but my bean patch has suffered a lot of damage from them. One morning I went out and my bean plants were riddled with holes. These little beetles are only about an eighth of an inch long but they are very hungry.
Interestingly they come in different colours. The one in the top photo is almost beige with black, and the one in this photo is a deep maroon with black.  Some of them are more brown with black. I have been picking them off and dispatching them, but they are sneaky little guys. Any disturbance to the leaf and they instantly drop to the ground. I put one hand under the leaf and then when I touch the leaf I usually can catch the dropping beetle.  Not always successful.  Sometimes just the approach of my hand will make them disappear.
From the state of the mangled leaves, you would think there are lots of them but actually I probably only saw about 10 of them when I first noticed the damage (the patch is about 4' x 4'). The numbers are going down so I am optimistic that I can deal with them. From what I read, they are most active at this time of year and then die after laying eggs later in the season.  I have a single bean plant about 20 feet away from the main patch and it has no damage at all so they don't seem to move around much which makes you wonder how they came here to begin with.

So there you have it:  the bean leaf beetle. I hope you never make their acquaintance.

Happy gardening.

Postscript:  After dutifully picking off the beetles for about 3 weeks, they went away.  It is their natural cycle to lay eggs around now but I don't think many of them were around to lay eggs.  The plants are big and healthy now (July 9) and I am harvesting a good supply of beans.


Sunday, June 6, 2021

Mulch - Different Options

When people think of mulch, they often think of wood chips or straw but many things can be used to block weeds.  A pot of flowers can allow perennials to grow without competition. This pot is protecting an Oriental poppy and some lilies.  

Here some  pieces of poplar logs are mulching between hostas and astilbes.

Because we live on a wooded lot, we have lots of leaves in the fall.  I rake them to the side of the lawn and let them act as a mulch between plants and the grass.

This year is the first time I have used old t-shirts as mulch but they work really well. No splashing when I water and the soil stays a very even dampness.  White also reflects more light.  The pepper plants seem happy.

 If I've been doing some weeding, I might just make a weed pile on top of an area that is growing weeds.  Not super pretty but in a few weeks it will have decomposed .

The astrantia is a relative newcomer and I wanted to make sure it wasn't competing with weeds.  I had some left over flooring and used the tiles as mulch.

A nice flat rock also works well as a barrier, and it always looks natural.

I use cardboard and newspaper as well but I'm always on the lookout for other free sources of mulch.

Take care and enjoy a garden.