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Archive for the ‘Perennials’ Category

These days everyone is concerned about proper nutrition and what we put into our bodies; but what about our turfgrass and the plants we grow? How do we take care of their nutritional needs?

Good rich soil provides the perfect growing environment for your plants

Good rich soil provides the perfect
growing environment for plants

Soil is obviously very important to plant growth. It not only provides a physical medium in which your plants grow, it is also a reservoir of nutrients, air, and water – three requirements for plant growth.

Most of the nutrients needed for the growth and development of plants are absorbed from the soil by the roots. Over the seasons, these soil nutrients become depleted and must be replenished or plant health will decline.

Because the makeup of the soil is so important to the health and well-being of your plants, it should become very important to you as a gardener.

Awareness of the properties of your garden soil will allow you to adapt your cultural practices so your soil environment will be most conducive to healthy plant growth, whether it be a flower garden, vegetable garden, or your lawn. The nutrients that will give you a thick, lush, and green lawn are very different than the nutrients required to have a thriving and productive vegetable garden.

Understanding Plant Nutrients

There are 17 chemical elements known to be essential for plant growth, flowering, and fruiting.

Primary macronutrients

Maintaining a lush green lawn requires more nitrogen and correct pH.

Maintaining a lush green lawn
requires more nitrogen
and correct pH

The primary macronutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), are used in the largest amounts by plants and are thus prone to deficiency in soils. These nutrients are the primary ingredients in most garden fertilizers and the percentages of each are prominently displayed on the bag as the N-P-K numbers. These percentages are always presented in the same order – nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium.

Nitrogen is required for healthy vegetative growth (leaves and stems) and is especially important in young plants. High levels promote dark green leafy growth but not fruits and flowers. Thus a fertilizer higher in nitrogen is great for lawns and leafy vegetables but disastrous when you are trying to grow tomatoes!

Phosphorus is important in all functions of plant growth but especially for root development and growth, and in the production of flowers, fruits, and seeds. Starter fertilizers, which can be used when transplanting trees, shrubs, and perennials, are much higher in phosphorus than nitrogen and potassium. They stimulate root growth and help avoid transplant shock. “Bloom booster” fertilizers with 20%-30% phosphorus help promote flower bud formation.

Potassium is important for the overall vigor of plants. It promotes disease resistance, root formation, and cold hardiness. Plants deficient in potassium will have weak roots and stems.

Secondary macronutrients

The secondary macronutrients are calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). These nutrients are very important to plants but are used in smaller amounts than the three primary macronutrients.

Micronutrients

Micronutrients, also known as trace elements, are not nutrients of lesser importance to plant health but those that are required in minute quantities. With the exception of iron and manganese, micronutrients are seldom deficient in our garden soil, however, some can become unavailable to plants when the soil pH is either too high (alkaline) or too low (acidic). Maintaining your soil pH between 6.0-6.5 will keep these nutrients available to the plants. Some fertilizers are fortified with micronutrients.

What’s in YOUR soil?

A bountiful harvest depends on building and maintaining proper soil nutrients.

A bountiful harvest depends on
providing proper soil nutrients.

So your lawn is thin and patchy or your vegetable garden is not producing like it used to or your plants just aren’t blooming? It may well be your soil. You probably need to add fertilizer, but what kind and how much? Is your soil deficient in nitrogen? Maybe phosphorus? Perhaps the pH is not optimal. How would you know?

The easiest way is to get your soil tested. Sound hard? Not really and the analysis from these tests will allow you to make informed decisions on how to improve the soil environment for your lawn and garden plants. If you choose to have your soil tested professionally, you will not only be provided with a detailed analysis of the soil but you’ll also receive specific recommendations for amendments to improve the pH and also nutrient content if necessary.

Easy Online Soil Testing …

ThinkSoilThe lawn care professionals at MyTurfandGarden.com have developed a unique, on-line and very straightforward way to test your soil. It’s called Think Soil™.

A soil analysis from Think-Soil™ will provide essential information on relative levels of organic matter, pH, lime requirement, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and levels of plant-available nutrients contained in your soil.

Simply go to MyTurfandGarden.com, and click on Soil Testing in the top menu. There you can read all about it and see how easy it is.

Follow the instructions or watch the YouTube video demonstrating how to take a soil sample from your garden or lawn. Within days of placing your order, you’ll receive a pre-addressed envelope, a leak proof zip-lock baggie, and detailed instructions. After you collect your soil sample, just place the baggie with the sample into the pre-paid envelope and give it to your postal carrier. There is no cost for shipping.

Once your soil sample arrives at the lab, the test results will be ready for you to review within 36 hours. You will be notified by e-mail as soon as the test results are available.

Beautiful lawns and gardens require proper nutrition and soil properties

Beautiful lawns and gardens require
good soil with proper nutrients
and amendments

In addition, Think-Soil™ consultants are available toll free to help with any questions about your test results and to offer advice on what’s needed to remediate your soil. For the first time you’ll have the information needed regarding how much product is needed, how best to apply it, and when to do it.

For the month of August, Think-Soil™ has an introductory offer of 50% off all soil tests plus no cost to send your soil sample.

Doing a soil test is one of the best ways to insure that you amend your soil to provide just what your lawn, vegetables, and/or your flowers need to thrive.

Remember next month is Lawn Care Month. September marks the beginning of the best season for most lawn projects. Be ready!

“Don’t Guess – Do the Test!”

Until Next Time – Happy Gardening!

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Thrips in Platycodon flower

I have noticed lots of these tiny insects deep within the flowers of many of the daylilies in the gardens. As a result of their feeding, these pesky critters have caused some disfiguring of daylily flowers and foliage.

Apparently, a few years ago they were also very abundant! Here’s some info that I put together at that time …

Thrips on a daylily petal

Thrips on a daylily petal

So… what are thrips?

Thrips are small cigar-shaped insects with long, narrow, fringed wings. They are tiny; just visible to the naked eye. There are many different species and most of them cause injury to plant tissue. A heavy infestation of thrips can cause severe damage to foliage and even flowers and fruit as their rasping/sucking mouth parts scrape the tissue and extract plant juices.

Thrips damage on daylily foliage

Thrips damage on daylily foliage

What does thrips damage look like?

On foliage, thrips damage appears as brown stippling on the leaf surface and when damage is more severe, the leaves may appear silvery or papery in appearance. Flower buds can become distorted and sometimes fail to open. On open flowers, thrips damage appears as dead spots, blotches, or the flowers may be discolored or deformed. I find this a lot in some of my daylilies; it’s especially noticeable on the darker colored flowers like the reds and the purples.

Thrips damage on a daylily petal

Thrips damage on a daylily petal

In addition to the damage caused by their feeding, thrips are also vectors for the spread of some destructive plant diseases and viruses like tomato spotted wilt virus.
A double whammy!

You can sometimes see thrips on the flowers or foliage but you have to look carefully because they are very small. You may also notice black specks of their fecal matter on the foliage or flowers. According to Andre, though, the easiest way to tell if you have thrips is to shake the foliage or a flower just above a pad of white paper and see if any little cigar-shaped insects fall onto the paper.

Thrips tapped out of a hosta flower onto white paper.

Thrips (and pollen) tapped out of a
hosta flower onto white paper.

Controlling Thrips

In the past, thrips were controlled with applications of DDT. Yikes! There are much “safer” ways to control them now.

Minor infestations may not warrant any control measures. Healthy, vigorous plants are able to outgrow thrips damage so it is important to keep your plants healthy through proper fertilization and watering practices.

If you have a heavier infestation of thrips, one way to reduce their numbers without spraying is to prune off damaged flowers, buds, foliage, or terminal growth and discard it in the trash. This is kind of drastic and it doesn’t always get rid of the problem.

Thrips on a daylily showing their small size. Notice the damage to the petal.

Thrips on a daylily showing their small
size. Notice the damage to the petal.

A better way to control them is to spray your plants with highly refined horticultural oil such as Bonide All Seasons Oil. Horticultural oils are often used by organic gardeners and are effective in controlling thrips in the nymph (immature) and adult stages. The oil basically coats the insects and smothers them. Although oil sprays are often effective in smothering the eggs of many insects, thrips eggs are usually unaffected because they are laid inside the plant tissue where they are protected.

The nice thing about oil sprays is that they have little effect on non-target, beneficial insects like lady beetles and honeybees.

Thrips crawl deep into the flowers, good spray coverage is necessary for control.

Thrips crawl deep into the flowers.

Thrips can also be controlled using Bonide Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew, a broad spectrum organic insect control that can be used on ornamentals and edibles. Always read and follow the label directions.

So if you have noticed small patches of color missing in your flower petals or stippling on the foliage, you may have thrips – but now you know what to do!

 

You should know!

Even natural or organic products can be deadly to pollinators like bees. Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew is toxic to bees for three hours following treatment. If possible DO NOT spray when plants are in bloom. If this is not possible, spray early in the morning or later in the evening when bees are less likely to be foraging on the plants and ALWAYS read the label!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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ButterflyBuddleia

Take time to stop and smell the flowers!

Children can't resist smelling the flowers!

Children can’t resist
smelling the flowers!

Have you ever noticed small children in a flower garden? They tend to immediately bury their little noses into the flowers and smell them.

We adults need to take the time to do the same – and many of us do! Especially when the daylilies are blooming at the nursery, I see so many people, adults and children alike, walking around with the telltale sign of flower sniffing – orange pollen on their nose!

The peonies and iris are blooming in the gardens now and many of these have a wonderful sweet fragrance.

Viburnum carlesii fills the air with its sweet perfume in the spring

Viburnum carlesii fills the air with
its sweet perfume in the spring

When planning a garden, it is important to not only consider form, structure, texture, and color in the flower bed, but also fragrance. Your sense of smell can often bring back pleasant memories of places and times in your past. Whenever I walk past a blooming Viburnum carlesii, I am transported back to my childhood home where a magnificent specimen of these intensely fragrant shrubs grew at the corner of our patio.

What wonderful memories!

What flower fragrances take you back? Roses, lilacs, honeysuckle …
Be sure to incorporate some of those plants into your gardens!

Peony 'Belle Chinoise' has a lovely fragrance

Peony ‘Belle Chinoise’ has
a lovely fragrance

You should plant pockets of fragrant flowers where you will enjoy them the most – near the porch, deck, patio, or poolside. Another good place for a touch of fragrance is along a favorite garden path or beside your sidewalk or driveway. If you place plants with fragrant foliage at the edge of your garden path, the fragrance will be released when you brush against it as you pass by. An interesting idea to keep in mind!

The fragrance of certain flowers is more obvious during various periods of time – when the weather is warm and the air moist, or when the sun goes down and the night bloomers emit their sweetness into the air. I love driving by a patch of wild honeysuckle in the early evening with the windows down – their sweet perfume just wafts into the open windows.
Such a delight!

The beautiful honeysuckle flowers fill the air with sweet summer fragrance

The beautiful honeysuckle flowers fill the air with sweet summer fragrance

Fragrance can be added to the landscape and garden through the use of trees, vines, shrubs, annuals, bulbs, and perennials. There are many fragrant choices in each of these categories.

Some fragrant spring flowers include:

Lilac Sensation

Lilac ‘Sensation’

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Magnolia
  • Calycanthus floridus (Sweet Shrub)
  • flowering quince
  • Daphne
  • Mock Orange
  • Lilac
  • Viburnum
  • Wisteria

Perennials and bulbs:

  • Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-Valley)
  • many peonies (like ‘Phillipe Revoire’, ‘Belle Chinoise’, and ‘Le Cygne’)
  • Dianthus
  • Primula
  • many tall bearded iris
  • Jonquils and hyacinths

For summer fragrance, try:

Fragrant flowers of Buddleia attract loads of butterflies

Fragrant flowers of Buddleia
attract loads of butterflies

Shrubs:

  • Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
  • Clethra (Summersweet Clethera)
  • roses

Vines:

  • Clematis
  • Jasmine
  • honeysuckle
  • moonflower
  • sweet pea

Annual flowers:

  • Snapdragons
  • Cosmos
  • Four O’clocks
  • Nicotiana
  • marigolds
Astilbe bring color as well as fragrance to the shade garden.

Astilbe bring color as well as fragrance
to the shade garden.

Perennials:

  • Astilbe
  • Lilium (oriental lilies)
  • Lavandula (Lavender)
  • Nepeta
  • certain hosta varieties
  • some Monarda and Phlox paniculata hybrids
  • Perovskia (Russian Sage)
  • some daylily varieties
  • Yucca

With the fall comes:

  • Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
  • Sweet Autumn Clematis.
Many interesting varieties of lavender are available including a silver edged lavender

Many interesting varieties of
lavender are available including
a silver edged form

Fragrance from Foliage

There are many plants that produce fragrant foliage rather than fragrant flowers but the fragrance is none-the-less intoxicating. Try the many varieties of thyme, lavender, rosemary, basil, the mints, and a host of other herbs. Artemisia, hay-scented fern, sweet woodruff, lemon grass, lemon verbena, heliotrope, and scented geraniums are a few others that will add a pleasant scent to the garden or containers.

And, of course, everyone loves the many fragrant boughs of evergreens that are used at Christmas time to bring a spicy, nostalgic aroma indoors.

Until next time – Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers!

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Freeze damage on quince flowers

Well it’s happened once again!

The foliage on some of the daylilies was damaged

The foliage on some of the
daylilies was damaged

Unseasonably warm temperatures in March have pushed spring along in the mid-Atlantic states; only to have below freezing temperatures the first week of April provide a wake-up call that warm weather is not here to stay just yet.

Frost and freeze damage to tender new growth is evident throughout the Viette gardens and we are definitely not alone in seeing plant damage from this sudden cold snap.

The following was posted on our discussion board yesterday morning:

I live in Hollywood, MD (southern MD) and this past weekend we had freezing temps and my hydrangea leaves were damaged. I have 5 plants total, 3 chest-high and two others a little taller. They were looking wonderful with the leaves coming in nicely. They are 5-7 years old. This is the first time I have seen damage like this at the beginning of the season. They are calling for freezing temps again Sat. night. I am planning on buying and putting plant sheets on them to prevent further damage but I am wondering if it is too late. I am so disappointed. I was so looking forward to their blooms this summer. Anyone have experience with this with any tips or what I should expect as far as blooms, leaves coming back?

The dogwood flowers froze and turned brown.

The dogwood flowers froze
and turned brown.

I have had experience with this!

I even wrote a blog post about it at the time. The same thing happened in the spring of 2012 after a very warm March. In early April of that year the temperatures plummeted – just like this year. There was major damage to many shrubs (including my lacecap hydrangeas) and perennials that had broken dormancy earlier than normal due to the unusually warm March temperatures. The dogwood flowers were beginning to open and they got zapped as did the tender new growth on the boxwoods and on a few young native hollies growing in the woods.

New holly leaves turned black but tougher older leaves were fine

New holly leaves turned black but
tougher older leaves were fine

The new growth on the boxwood was severely damaged

New growth on the boxwood
was severely damaged

Boxwood and hollies can be trimmed back to remove any damaged foliage. As for the lacecap hydrangea, it’s best to wait and see. You don’t want to risk cutting off flower buds that might still be alive! Fortunately for me, I did not cut my damaged hydrangeas back that spring and they eventually recovered with lush new growth and they bloomed beautifully in the early summer – much to my surprise and delight!

 

This peony bud was zapped and some of the foliage was damaged a bit.

This peony bud was zapped and
some of the foliage was damaged.

This year it may be different, although it is too early to tell how extensive the damage may be. Walking around the gardens just now, it didn’t seem too bad. Some of the daylily foliage was nipped and a few of the peony buds froze but all-in-all, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. That may change after this weekend, though.

Most of the hosta in the gardens are covered now so I wasn’t able to see if they had been damaged. They were covered before the worst of the cold.

Hosta covered in the gardens

Hosta covered in the gardens

At least most of the herbaceous perennials like daylilies and hosta can be trimmed to remove damaged foliage and they will respond with a flush of new growth. The cold damage will not usually affect the flowering of these summer blooming perennials.

Shrubs that bloom on new wood, such as butterfly bushes (Buddleia), Caryopteris, crape myrtle, and some hydrangea, can be pruned later in the spring to remove any damaged foliage or branches without affecting their flowering. In fact, we recommend waiting until the danger of cold weather has passed before doing any pruning on these shrubs.

As I walked around, I also noticed that many of the blossoms on the quince and the early blooming crabapple varieties had turned brown from the freeze.

Quince flowers were killed but the tougher foliage was not hurt.

Quince flowers were killed but
the tougher foliage was not hurt.

The pink quince flowers just melted out.

Most of flowers on the
pink quince turned brown.

It’s really too bad because they were just beginning to get really pretty!

The crabapple flowers and the tender new foliage were damaged

Crabapple flowers and the tender
new leaves were damaged

The buds that haven’t opened yet seem mostly sound.

That’s good news for the rest of the spring bloom but …

This cold snap is not over yet!

The nighttime temperatures are forecast to remain in the low 30’s for the rest of the week and by early Sunday morning they may drop into the upper teens in some of the colder areas. Brrrrrrr!

Hopefully the forecast is wrong but don’t count on it! Be sure to protect your plants tonight and keep them covered through Sunday morning.

Maybe this will be the last of the cold weather. Time will tell …

Until Next time – THINK SPRING!

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Botrytis infected peony stem and bud

An ugly name for and ugly disease!

Botrytis or gray mold is a fungal disease that attacks many perennials but especially peonies – the “aristocrat” of the spring perennial garden!

A peony bud and stem infected with botrytis

A peony bud and stem infected
with botrytis

Anyone who grows peonies eagerly anticipates the appearance of their glorious blooms in mid to late May. Sometimes we are bitterly disappointed when our peony stems suddenly begin to turn brown, wilt, and flop over.

It is especially upsetting when this occurs after the flower buds have developed and are beginning to swell on the stems. We can hardly wait for them to open and reveal their beautiful flowers – but then … Ugh!

.

Botrytis at the base of this peony leaf

Botrytis at the base of this peony leaf

Botrytis blight often rears its ugly head in the garden after late spring freezes or during periods of cool, rainy weather. It can be especially damaging to plants when wet, humid conditions persist over several days.

Botrytis (Botrytis paeoniae) is probably the most common disease of herbaceous peonies. It typically first appears as brown or black patches on the bases of the young leaves and stems when they emerge in the spring. The stems and leaves wilt rather quickly and fall over.

This peony bud would have produced a beautiful flower!

This peony bud would have produced
a beautiful flower!

A gray mold which produces and disseminates a tremendous number of spores eventually develops in these areas. These botrytis spores are carried by the wind and also by insects to the leaves and flower buds of other nearby peonies where they grow and cause leaf blight and bud rot. Often, this is when the damage becomes most noticeable. The very tiny flower buds turn black and fail to develop further while larger buds and the stems just below them turn brown and quickly droop over. Unfortunately, under favorable conditions, botrytis can quickly spread through your peony beds unless steps are taken to control it.

What can you do?

Botrytis spores beginning to cover this diseased bud.

Botrytis spores beginning to
cover this diseased bud.

If you notice botrytis on the buds, leaves, or stems of your peonies, carefully remove the infected plant tissue, place it in a bag and discard it in your trash – do not put it in your compost pile! Never prune infected stems and foliage while the plant is wet or you risk spreading the disease to other healthy plants.

Botrytis overwinters in dead leaves and other plant tissue so it is important to remove all plant debris from the garden in the fall. Cut peony foliage to the ground in September or October, bag it up, and put it in the trash. Rake up dropped leaves and remove them from the garden.

Again, do not compost any of this plant debris.

Leaf blight caused by botrytis often develops after the blooming period.

Leaf blight caused by botrytis often
develops after the blooming period.

In the spring, just as the shoots begin to come up, spray the shoots and the surrounding soil with a mixture of Bonide Mancozeb (with Zinc) and Immunox according to the label directions. Then begin a spray program, spraying first with Mancozeb, copper fungicide, or Bonide Fung-onil and then 10 days later spray with Immunox or one of the other fungicides that you didn’t use for the first spray. Repeat this every 10 days until they flower.

.

In our gardens, botrytis wasn’t too bad this year. However, I have had a few calls about the sudden death of peony buds or the lack of bud development all together. If you don’t see signs of botrytis, the following are a few other reasons why peonies might fail to bloom:

  1. A late spring frost or freeze might kill the buds. We had some very cold nighttime temperatures this spring. It dropped into the mid 20’s several times in the middle of April and we even had frost in mid May this year.
  2. Peonies may be planted in too much shade. Sometimes, as your landscape matures, full sun gardens can become more and more shaded. Peonies will bloom in bright shade but the bloom will begin to decline in deeper shade.
  3. Too much nitrogen will hinder flower development. Your grass loves lots of nitrogen; peonies, not so much. Nitrogen promotes lush green growth – just what you want for your lawn but not your perennials. Foliage comes at the expense of flowers. Be very careful to keep your high nitrogen lawn fertilizer out of your perennial beds if you want a nice show of flowers! Choose an organic fertilizer like one of the Espoma “tones” or another fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen.
  4. Bare root peony showing the two types of "eyes".

    Bare root peony showing
    the “eyes”.

    Your peony may be getting too old. As your peonies get age, flowering may slow down. To rejuvenate your peonies and make them bloom well again, dig and divide them in September or October when the foliage begins to turn brown. Here are some tips.

  5. Peonies are planted too deeply. Plant your peonies so the eyes are no deeper than 2″ below the soil surface. If they are planted deeper than this, they may not bloom.

Our peonies were pretty spectacular this year! I hope yours were, too!

Peony 'Gay Paree' blooms in the Viette gardens. It is one of Andre's favorites.

Peony ‘Gay Paree’ blooms in the Viette gardens. It is one of Andre’s favorites.

If you don’t have any planted in your garden, maybe it’s time to find a sunny spot for one or two! Check out our list!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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Begonia grandis

Last Thursday afternoon I took a walk through André’s gardens. It was a beautiful sunny day with pleasant temperatures in the mid 70’s – glorious!

The gardens are beginning to transition into to their fall colors of reds, golds, oranges, and browns but there are still plenty of vibrant flowers around.

Begonia grandis

Begonia grandis

One of my favorite fall bloomers is the bright pink hardy begonia, Begonia grandis. These hardy perennials are slow to break dormancy in the spring but once they pop up, the foliage remains attractive until the first hard frost knocks them down.

The leaves are a beautiful green above with striking red venation on the underside. In August, clusters of bright pink flowers appear dangling from ruby red stems above the green foliage. They are wonderful plants for brightening the shady garden in the fall. Begonia grandis is hardy to zone 6 and will come up year after year. Even if the tuberous roots don’t survive the winter, many of the small bulbils that form in the axils of the leaves will drop to the ground in the fall and sprout new plants in the late spring. These little seedlings can be transplanted or allowed to grow where they are to create a colorful shady ground cover.

Ceratostigma foliage is just beginning to turn red.

Ceratostigma foliage is just beginning to color up in the Viette gardens.

Another colorful ground cover that is in its full glory in the late summer and fall is Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (plumbago or leadwort). This perennial is also slow to emerge in the spring but once it pops up, it forms a lovely carpet of deep green foliage that grows to about 12″ tall. In August, clusters of rich, cobalt blue flowers adorn the plants adding color to the garden through frost. The outstanding reddish orange fall foliage creates a beautiful backdrop for the deep blue flowers. Ceratostigma makes a wonderful fast growing ground cover for dry sunny banks or in rock walls. It should be cut back in the spring before new growth begins.

A lovely single pink anemone.

A lovely single pink anemone.

Japanese anemones, Anemone japonica, are another of my favorite fall bloomers. These wonderful perennials add a graceful dimension to the late summer and fall shade or part shade garden with their profusion of light and airy blooms. They come in a wide range of colors from white to pink to deep rose and in single flowers or semi-double to double flowers.

Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'

Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

These hardy perennials produce a mass of silvery buds and colorful blooms which rise on well-branched stems above their attractive foliage.

André uses mass plantings of several different cultivars of Japanese anemones in many of his berm gardens and they are truly spectacular! They are one of the most asked about and sought after of all the fall blooming perennials in the Viette gardens.

A bumblebee crawls over a Tricyrtis flower

A bumblebee visits a Tricyrtis flower

One of the most interesting of the fall bloomers is Tricyrtis (Toad Lily). Gardeners seeking plants for shade are always pleased to discover Toad Lilies! They offer some of the most unique flowers in the perennial world and produce them in fall, when most shade gardens could use a point of interest. Graceful arching stems bear clasping lance-shaped leaves and clusters of unusual white flowers which are heavily spotted with purple. The flowers, which are rather orchid-like, appear in the axils of the leaves and also at the tips of the stem. They are a true conversation piece in the fall garden. Tricyrtis prefer moist, well-drained soil and make excellent cut flowers.

Aster n.a. 'Hillside'

Aster n.a. ‘Hillside’

Of course it wouldn’t be fall without the glorious fall asters! These floriferous autumn bloomers are true magnets for a huge variety of butterflies! The deep purple New England aster ‘Hillside’ is one of the showiest fall bloomers in the Viette gardens. In September through October, it transitions into a solid mass of purple flowers with bright yellow centers. The bees and butterflies can’t stay away! Asters come in many different colors from vibrant reds to rose-pink to blues and even white. ‘Harrington’s Pink’ is another beautiful fall aster with bright pink blooms.

Aster n.a. 'Harrington's Pink' makes a beautiful tall mound of pink flowers in the fall.

Aster n.a. ‘Harrington’s Pink’ is covered with pink flowers in the fall.

A monarch butterfly visits a Buddleia 'White Profusion' flower

A monarch butterfly visits a Buddleia ‘White Profusion’ flower

Speaking of butterflies, the Buddleia (butterfly bushes) are still blooming strongly and will continue to flower until frost. These shrubs attract loads of butterflies and hummingbirds with their large, fragrant flower trusses. Monarch butterflies in particular seem to be drawn to the Buddleia flowers. In early fall when they are migrating through, we will often see large numbers of them flitting from one to the other throughout the gardens.

Ornamental grasses, Perovskia (Russian Sage), Sedum, Chrysopsis villosa, hardy hibiscus …

The list of beautiful fall bloomers goes on and on. Don’t let fall become the end of the flower show in your garden. Visit a garden center near you and put some pizzazz in your fall gardens!

Click for more beautiful shots of the Viette gardens in fall

Until next time – Happy Fall!

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Grass blade loses water through guttation

The other morning as we sat at the breakfast table at my mom’s, we noticed that the leaves of her two pothos plants had water droplets at the tips of most of the leaves. The plants were sitting on the windowsill in the bay window. Mom noticed it first and remarked about it.

It reminded me of a question that was e-mailed to me a few years ago inquiring about this very same phenomenon.

I have recently bought a wonderful plant called weeping Aglaonema and have noticed that it’s producing water droplets at the tips of the leaves. I do not mist it and always water at the base of the plant. There are no sprinklers or water sources anywhere close to it. I know that these plants are supposed to be super good for cleaning the air and I was curious if this was a property of that.

Guttation causes a droplet of water to form at the tip of a pothos leaf

Guttation causes a drop of water to form
at the tip of a pothos leaf

This is actually the result of a rather interesting event that occurs in some plant species. The appearance of water droplets at the tips and edges of the leaves of a plant is caused by a secretory process called guttation. It often occurs under conditions of moist soil, high humidity, and relatively cool air and it usually occurs in the early morning. The morning we noticed it on Mom’s pothos happened to be a relatively cool morning but rather humid as there was a light rain falling.

Here’s what happens.

There are tiny pores called stomata on the surface of a leaf. In most plant species, these pores are predominately found on the lower leaf surface. The stomata are important for the movement of gasses (carbon dioxide and oxygen) and water vapor into and out of the leaf and they are open or closed depending upon the environmental conditions. When the stomata are open, usually during the day when it is light out and photosynthesis is occurring, water leaves the plant as water vapor through the stomatal pores. This process of water loss through the leaves is called transpiration.

Water droplets forced from hydathodes on a blade of grass.

Water droplets forced from hydathodes
on a blade of grass.

The stomata are typically closed when it’s dark, so transpiration is all but stopped at night. Since the roots continue to take up water during the night, pressure (called root pressure) builds up in the leaves and forces water out of special structures called hydathodes which are found along the leaf margins. This is called guttation and is what produces the water droplets that you sometimes see along the margins of leaves in the early morning.

The process of guttation is more common in some plant species such as strawberries, lady’s mantle, and many other perennials and annuals including pothos and Aglaonema apparently. It is frequently seen on grass in the morning and is often confused with morning dew.

So that’s your botany lesson for the day!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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