Great Plants

Plant Shopping: Clerodendrum, Clematis and a bonus Tree Peony sighting

For those of us with willpower deficiencies, a car with a large cargo area is a dangerous thing. There’s always room for another plant or six, especially if you get to the annual Trade Secrets plant sale too late to find any interesting dwarf evergreens.

I did of course buy a few other little things, and then as usual a few more, at my annual TS day next stop, Greystone Greenhouses, on rt. 343 right outside of Sharon CT and no I can’t put in a link because they have no website. What they have – in addition to all sorts of gorgeous tropicals you didn’t know you needed but gee the prices are so reasonable –  is the tree peony of the century, in bloom early this year just like everything else.

giant tree peony in bloom

depending on the weather, you probably have two or three more days to see this on the way in to buy your never-saw-a-pink-one before Clerodendrum thompsonii and other necessities.

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Tree Peony Time

ezra pound tree peony

Ezra Pound, my latest adventure in tree peonies. There are purple flares inside but it rained hard the day Ezra opened and that was the end of that.

I have to say I’ve never had good luck with tree peonies, but that may not mean much;  in 40 years of gardening I’ve only had three of them.

The first, an unnamed white, did beautifully for about a decade, growing ever larger and ever more floriferous – until it went into a rapid decline for reason or reasons unknown.

white tree peony

The white tree peony in the Maine white garden, at about 5 years old

Next came a weed-buried mystery, discovered after we moved into the Hudson Valley house.

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Shallots to Scilla – Plan Now for Fall Planting

This year’s official* growing season started a full month earlier than usual in our part of the Hudson Valley. Although last week was spangled with frost, spring is already more or less over. Even late-flowering bulbs are toast. The lilacs are in full bloom.

Not wishing to miss the bandwagon, I’ll go ahead and be early too. It’s time to order bulbs for fall planting: pretties for the borders, shallots for the plate.

spring bulbs: muscari, chionodoxa,scilla, puschkinia

clockwise from left: chionodoxa, muscari, puschkinia, muscari, chionodoxa, scilla, puschkinia, chionodoxa, scilla

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Those Beautiful Purple Bells? Iochroma Cyanea

The recent post on building a home greenhouse included a snapshot of flowers therein, tastefully set off by beaucoup de snow outside. Most responders wanted to know what they were, but one reader not only knew, she went me far, far better in doing justice to Iochroma cyanea, a plant that as far as I know has no common name.

Iochroma cyanea by Bobbi Angell

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Any Crocus Experts Out There

who could help with an ID?

Any of the pale ones look familiar?

My friend Gary Lincoff, author of The Audubon Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, teacher at the New York Botanical Garden and crocus enthusiast, is a naming things kind of guy. So when he saw the crocus picture in the Maple Syrup post he wanted to know exactly which species and cultivars they were.

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Amaryllis Are Blooming

still, although there are only a couple left – both of them big gaudy Dutch hybrids. Then all will be quiet until the promising papilios bloom (or don’t) sometime in early to mid summer.

This is a stem of Benfica, reputedly the deepest, darkest red. It's much darker and redder than this picture suggests.

or this one either, for that matter.

Thus we arrive at the moment for talking about long-term amaryllis care. Questions have been coming in, so here’s the drill:

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Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) in Bloom – or Not – it must be February

This year’s first to flower, a Butterfly (Hippeastrum papilio), opened about a week ago.

Butterfly amaryllis, photographed yesterday

There are 5 more – 2 papilios and 3 Giant Dutch Hybrids – in various stages of budded up. Also, par for the course, we have 4 in healthy-but-not-promising mode; 1 pot of 3 robust papilios that has “wait ‘till summer” written all over it and 6 bulbs that have refused to green up well and will not be with us much longer.

They may be harboring bulb fly or simply be discouraged by last year’s cold dark spring.( It didn’t get warm and bright enough for them to grow until it was almost time for them to stop.) On the good side, they’ve underlined a lesson I probably should have absorbed some time ago.

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Echinacea(s) Extraordinaire – Coneflowers go High Style

Juniper in winter garb

Beautiful big snowstorm on Sunday, not predicted but not minded. Glittering blanket smoothing the world, nowhere to go but a chair by the fire and nothing to do but read and try not to eat leftover cookies – until it was time to shovel a foot of it off the driveway.

Today it’s still bliss-productively white, white white everywhere. Including in my head where after Sunday’s catalog wallow I’m looking eagerly ahead to spiffing up the white garden

A corner of the white garden (in Maine)

and that brings us to the story of my adventures with Fragrant Angel,

echinacea 'Fragrant Angel'

'Fragrant Angel'

in all respects except one an enormous improvement over good old White Swan.

White Swan

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Eric’s Pet Plant – Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus Atlanticus)

Fittingly, we have a beautiful evergreen for the holiday – in the landscape, not in the house. Our friend Eric over at Yale’s Marsh Gardens is extolling the merits of cedars, his baby blue one in particular.

A close-up of the foliage shows the whorled-arrangement of needles along the stem. This is distinctive to all of the Cedars.

A close-up of the foliage shows the whorled-arrangement of needles along the stem. This is distinctive to all of the Cedars.

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Eric’s Pet Plant – Japanese Anemone

japanese anemone by Hellsgeriatric

One of my favorites! For trouble-free late fall bloom on a plant that’s lovely all summer long, I’m with Eric in finding it among the best.

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