Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Annuals from Seed - Award Winners for 2010

Every year new garden seed varieties are named “All American Selections” because (supposedly/hopefully) they have superior garden performance in impartial trials across north America. I always try to offer all of the new AAS plants to customers.

For 2010 four flowers have been selected as the top new varieties and I will be growing all of them.

Gaillardia ‘Mesa Yellow’ is the first hybrid blanket flower on the market. It is bred for prolific flowering and compact growth with three inch blooms. Gaillardia burgundy overwinters in my gardens, so I have to wonder if this will be a perennial as well. I like the burgundy gaillardia, but it does demand considerable deadheading.

Snapdragon ‘Twinny Peach’ is a double flowered shorter snap (to 12 inches) with a blend of pink tones. The photos make me think of the bloom on stocks. I love the taller snaps for cutting and to me this is more of a novelty plant, albeit very pretty.

Viola ‘Endurio Sky Blue Martien’ (yes, that spelling is correct) was selected “... for its unique spreading/mounding and vigorous garden performance.” It is recommended for edging garden beds, window boxes and hanging baskets.

Zinnia ‘Zahara Starlight Rose’ is the last of the honorees and the one variety I am really excited to try. I have a hard time with zinnias and powdery mildew, and this one supposedly has good resistance. With a 2.5 inch bloom it should be a pretty flower for smaller bouquets as it is 12 - 14 “ high.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Houston - We have had Frosts - What is Blooming Now

Above is "iron weed" or veronia noveboracensis. I don't remember where I got this plant and I always forget about it until the fall when I am desperate for cut flowers and this one is perfect. The dark blue/violet goes nicely with mums and it is long lasting in bouquets.

Summer phlox can be problematic. Deer find it tasty and some years powdery mildew takes it down. This particular phlox is 'Laura' and it seems to be both disease resistant and long lasting in bouquets - and ... very fragrant.

Cimicifuga (white plumed flowers above in foreground) provide a dramatic fall statement. The common name is 'bugbane'. The horticultural folks have decided to reclassify the plant and now it is 'Actaea racemosa', but I finally got comfortable pronouncing cimicifuga - and so it will remain at Amanda's Greenhouse and Perennials. I don't care for the species as it spreads and becomes rather sparse, but cimicifuga ramosa atropurpurea forms a huge vase-shaped specimen plant that always delivers in September and October.

Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpreum) is another guaranteed fall bloomer. It's a "weed" only in the sense that it is a wild plant in north America. It's an OK cut flower and I'm told it can be dried. 'Little Joe' is a new shorter introduction, and I'll be able to report next year on how well it does, as the native Joe Pye can easily be 6 feet tall.

Step away very slowly from this plant, (macleaya cordata or 'plume poppy'.) It is mightily invasive. I might recommend it for the edge of a pond or background in a very wild setting, as it really is lovely in its own overbearing way. I unknowingly planted it among other perennials in a row and have been fighting it back the last ten years. Right now a woodchuck has a happy home in its center. (Plant seen above and below).

I love artemesia lactiflora (white mugwort) for its late blooms and the fact that it is non-invasive, unlike many other artemesias.

Above is sanguisorba canadensis, another very late bloomer that I use extensively in my fall bouquets. The common name is 'Canadian burnet' and when not blooming it has pretty serrated foliage. This one is vigorous, but controllable.

Now I have to figure out how to make my photographs larger for this blog. And I am already ordering for next year!

Monday, August 31, 2009

MUM's the Word ....

September is peeking around the corner and we are overwhelmed with mums.

I must have had a few senior moments when I was ordering the cuttings last spring, because we have about 500 more than usual ... AND it is a bad year for mums. The early cold weather made them set their buds early. We are selling many of them for $3.50 each or 5/$15. The darned pots cost us 50 cents each!

Four greenhouses are filled, as well as any available landscape fabric on the ground.

We buy rooted mum cuttings in late May and into June. They get planted and established in 4 inch pots and then as the greenhouses clear out of annuals we start bumping the mums up into larger pots.

There’s constant watering, pinching and shaping, and fertilizing involved, so it’s probably not worth the effort. But it also seems a shame to have those greenhouses empty when they could be working.

The only true perennial mum around here is Chrysanthemum rubellum ‘Clara Curtis’.

It’s pleasant enough and does provide late summer flowers, but it spreads a bit too fast and tends to bloom unevenly for me.

Blooms of Bressingham have introduced the Igloo series of mums, with a hardiness rating of 5. I chose “Rosy Igloo” because the photo looked like a reddish rust orange, a color which has been popular with our customers in the fall.

The actual bloom here is more of a washed out copper from my perspective and they have disappointed me..

If this mum does overwinter, the trick is to pinch it back right up to July 4 for a bushier fall bloom. We have some in the ground so they will be tested here. It’s possible that they will pick up more color from being planted in “real” soil. If they survive the winter I may try the yello Igloo next year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Great Flowers - Poor Sellers

Oh fickle customers - they do seem to snap up whatever is blooming in the six-packs in the spring, and bypass the “starts” that are still green. I am at fault too, as I should whip up some nice POP (point of purchase) posters to show folks what they will be missing. Every year I offer some “hard-to-find” annuals, and every year I end up with most of them still on the shelves by mid-summer.

For example, blue didiscus (below.) It’s kind of like a smaller version of the white queen anne’s lace, very pretty as a filler in summer bouquets.

Lavatera comes in various shades of pink and a shorter white version and once it starts blooming it is loaded with hibiscus like flowers and makes for a great cut flower. This time of year I am cutting lavatera every day.

Sanvitalia procumbens ("creeping zinnia") is great for hot dry areas.

Tithonia (“Mexican Sunflower”) is a nice splash of color for the summer garden. The stems are hollow and it is not good for bouquets, but it is a show stopper.

While rudbeckia (black-eyed susan) can be a fine perennial (I think the best is 'goldsturm'), there are also many nice rudbeckias that I grow as annuals, including ‘Indian Summer’, ‘Prairie Sun,’ ‘Tiger Eye,’ and the ‘Toto’ series. Next year I will offer ‘Cherry Brandy,’ the first red-flowered black-eyed susan grown from seeds.

I have always thought it would be a good idea to have a “Gourmet Corner” in one greenhouse for the hard-to-find flowers. Maybe This will happen "next year”?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Bouquets for Farmers' Market

I thought it would be fun to take various containers and use them as vases for my flowers for farmers’ market. I chose an old tea pot that had a crack, so it couldn’t be used for tea; a sweet pottery vase; a little brass vase; and an older planter with a chip, among other things.

They were meant to be whimsical and quirky, but I sold them all right away to one person to be used for a wedding! I don’t think they even noticed the containers - she just liked the flowers... and at $7 a bouquet, it was a bargain. (Sorry, the second photo should have been rotated one more time...)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wedding Flowers for a Friend

One of my best friends is also an employe of 14 years, Rose Bothfeld. Her son, Raymon, got married this weekend and I volunteered to make the table bouquets for the wedding as a gift. It turned out they needed 22 bouquets. Rose and I picked flowers Thursday evening at a friend’s flower farm to supplement what I could provide from my gardens.

I am most comfortable making bouquets with oasis, as compared to “loose” bouquets. It’s really easy and most florist are fine with selling you a few containers and a brick of oasis. I take the round container, place in a hunk of oasis and then moisten it thoroughly with water with preservative.

Then I usually make a general foundation of foliage. Astilbe and peony leaves work great for this, but I also use hosta, amsonia and the dark leaves of ninebark.

I can do this a day or two before the actual bouquets get done. One nice thing about giving the flowers as a gift is that I was told any color combination was fine. So some tables got blue bouquets, while others got shades of yellow with ornamental grass and many just got wild mixes.

They came out really nicely and I was proud to deliver them Saturday afternoon. The first photo is the bottom layer of the truck.

The bridegroom is a farmer and he met me at the house in soiled clothes (“I still have to tie up the cows”). He had three hours until the wedding and he said his tux was ready.

This was a real country wedding with potluck dishes and BYO drinks. And then there was this - a Vermont wedding really needs a pig roast!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Daylilies in Bloom August 3

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned for my business is to use a number 2 pencil on a plant tag. This will last longer than any ‘sharpie’ made. I have also learned to mark my daylilies in the field with large wood stakes, the cultivar’s name written with a paint marker on one side and pencil on the other.

Some growers bury the name with each planting as well, just in case the tags disappear.

We grow our perennials in two areas and since we are closed on Monday (today) , I headed to the upper field with my camera to take an inventory and see how the plants are doing with all the rain.

One of the showiest daylilies now blooming is called ‘Brilliant Circle’(below). It produces tons of flowers in the field and in the pot. It has a small bloom (3 and 1/2 inches) but the quantity more than makes up for the size.

Brilliant Circle

Another flower with a smaller bloom, but stellar performance is 'Siloam Doodlebug'.

Siloam Doodlebug

I really like 'Dragon’s Eye' because of the wide rose eyezone.

Dragon's Eye

This one is named ‘Outrageous’ which is a bit of an over statement, as it is very similar to 'Holiday Delight' or 'Bandit Man', but I suppose it is one notch hotter.


'Pink Cotton Candy' is from the breeder, Patrick Stamile, who has a whole series of ‘candy’ daylilies and they all do well for me.

Pink Cotton Candy

'Butterfly Kisses' is an older daylily, but lovely with incurved 8” blooms.

Butterfly Kisses

The following daylily is lovely and blooms heavily each year, but its name has disappeared from my inventory list and I can't find a tag anywhere.

I have No Name

I have a special place for daylilies in pots that have lost their tags. It is the "orphan daylily" corner and they sell for $4.50 a clump. Perhaps I will dig some of these next spring for sale as nameless orphans.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Plants .... some Disappointments

Just like any other industry, the horticultural people have to come up with “new and improved” plants each year to peak the interest of gardeners. Unfortunately, when you are buying wholesale like me, this means purchasing at least 25 plants, rather than try just one out. But I want my customers to have a chance to grow something new, and of course I am excited to try new cultivars as well.

Last year I offered ‘splish splash’ perennial geraniums for the first time in quart pots. The photograph was irresistible.

I immediately had problems with mildew. The plants in the ground did OK at first and bloomed nicely this second year, but for a very short period, and again - the mildew has set in. And the blooms never lived up to the photograph. This may be a perennial that does well in warmer zones. I have read that it does rebloom if cut back to the ground after the first bloom. It is certainly unattractive right now!

I haven’t decided if I should give it more of a chance or send the plants to the compost pile.

‘Double Decker’ echinacea (cone flower) is another plant that got a lot of hoopla and even turned up on the front pages of a few catalogues. I encouraged customers to try it, as did I. I have yet to see anything resembling the following.

My blooms the second year are all single pedaled and nothing to write home about.

The standard echinacea purpurea is a great plant without any hybridizing.

Another plant that got a lot of hype was ‘big red’ begonia - a cross between fibrous begonia and angel wing begonia. Park seed catalogue called it “...the quickest-blooming, largest, most vigorous begonia the world has ever seen!” (Sounds like a circus barker.) And for this honor they charged $4.95 for 15 seeds.

It was supposed to do well in the sun or shade. Here’s a photo used to promote the new plant.

I put some in the front of one garden and they struggled along in the sum with the leaves turning dark and not a lot of growth going on despite lots of rain and good growing temperatures.

They did better in a window box that’s in part shade, but I won’t be offering this one again.

These are all minor disappointments, I'm already thinking about new plants to try next year.