Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Flowers Made from Moons

It started when we were at the Farmers’ Market at the end of last summer and I spotted a moonflower (Datura) plant at one of the booths. It had a single, huge, beautiful bloom on it. Miss A had grown Moonflower vines before, which are actually not Datura, but Ipomoea (belonging to the morning glory family). The last time I've seen a moonflower plant/bush was in my grandmother's garden when I was younger. I immediately snatched up the market plant and brought it back with us where it found a home in the gate bed. After allowing the plant to naturally drop some seeds from the prehistoric looking pod, I clipped the pod off and saved the remaining seeds for the following year.

At the beginning of June this year, there were several seedlings well on their way in the gate bed. There was no need for me to plant any of the seeds I'd collected the season before. I moved the seedlings forward in the bed just a bit so they wouldn't collide with the white bleeding heart I’d planted behind them. The timing has worked out well. As the bleeding heart starts to fade back, the moonflowers begin to take center stage. Also, the large size and fragrance of the blooms make the moonflower a perfect addition to a moonlight garden. Bonus.

One thing I am doing different this year is that I am deadheading the blooms on the moonflower. The blossoms often open as white trumpets in early morning and last a day at most. My plant's flowers seem to last a bit longer, but I think this is due to the fact it only get partial sun during the day. The neck of the stem bends and the bloom droops like a wet tissue. The bloom will eventually drop and the seed pod with begin to form. Instead of letting the plant do this, I clip the spent bloom off just behind the stem. This has been encouraging the plant to send out even more flowers. My plan is to continue this until the weather grows colder. At that time, I'll let the plant form it's pods and hopefully self-seed as it did the year before.

One last note, I have read that Datura are poisonous if ingested, so I have to be sure my four-legged garden helpers do not chew on it. They show more interest in the bumblebees buzzing around the blooms than they do with the plant itself. Even so, like the foxglove, this plant is dangerous to pets. The kittens are never left unattended when around the moonflower.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Deadheading Dragons

I purchased both white and red snapdragons this year for the white, black and red bed. After dutifully planting them in a sporadic grouping, I was rewarded the next morning by all plants being nibbled down to bare remnants. Blast! I was not a happy, fledgling gardener. After writing the plants off as having to be replaced, I was pleasantly surprised when they bounced back without any aid from me. The snapdragons went on throughout the spring to become huge and beautiful.

This past week seems to be the end of the blooms. I have never raised snapdragons, so I consulted The Internets to see if I should bother to dead head them. Apparently, if the blooms are deadheaded and the weather is cool enough, the snapdragons may give another round of blooms. As always, there were varying opinions on how to take care of the plant after it blooms. Some gardeners will snip of the blooms from where they join the stalk as the blooms fade. Snapdragons are much like hollyhocks in so far as they bloom from bottom of stalk to top. Other gardeners wait until the majority of the blooms fall from the stalk and then clip the stalk just below the lowest seed head and just above the first set of leaves. Since most of the blooms are already gone, tonight I tried the second method. We'll see what happens.

Monday, August 10, 2009

How to Prune the Rose Campion

This is the second season I have a rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) on the lot. It is nestled along the left edge of the backyard bed. This plant came to us from a co-worker’s daughter’s garden early summer of last year. The plant offers a burst of five-petaled magenta flowers on silvery, felted stalks. 

The rose campion has been blooming since the beginning of June. I do not know how I should dead-head it once the blooms are spent. I’ve read the plant will self-sow profusely if you let it go to seed. It’s just right for it’s space, so I’d rather it not spread too much. But, I also found out rose campion is considered a biennial or short-lived perennial. So, I suppose letting the plant spit a few seeds first would be a good idea to ensure this pretty plant blooms again next year. I also read gardeners will continuously deadhead the plant until the end of the blooming season where they will then leave the last few flower stalks to go to seed.

Anyway, to the pruning... The spent flowers can be deadheaded as they fade, allowing the other buds on mult-branched stem to bloom. When all buds are completely finished on a stalk, most sites recommend cutting the stalks all the way back to the base.