NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

A Gardening Journal


Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: 'China Purple' Clematis

This shrubby plant combines features of two of my favorite plants: The non-vining clematis, 'Mrs. Robert Brydon', and heracleum, otherwise known as cow parsnip. The flowers and habit are similar to those of the clematis, the leaves echo those of the cow parsnip. 

Clematis heracleifolia China Purple Yucca filamentosa Color Guard stem tip from side 071715 B 320 

Meet Clematis heracleifolia 'China Purple', which betters both of its namesakes: The leaves and stems don't cause the cow parsnip's contact dermatitis, and are dramatically darker green, too. Plus, the flowers are vivid violet, not the pale-blue-and-white (charming to some, bland and twee for others) of the clematis.

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The Best Season Ever: Farge's Cobra Lily

"Cobra lily." Those two words pack so much contradiction: A poisonous snake vs. a gorgeous flower. Aggression that's fatal vs. wouldn't-hurt-a-fly beauty. Sudden messy combat vs. stately and welcoming display. 

 

The perennial that bears the extraordinary flowers below isn't a lily at all, let alone some sort of fastidiously-striped snake. And for all the cues that we humans could see as predatory (that needle-like tip, the front-and-forward helmet covering...well, what?) or salacious (what is going on in there?), Arisaema fargesii needs plenty of kindness and effort to feel welcome in most gardens.

Arisaema fargesii flower front 062115 320

Only when under attack-by-chewing does the plant fight back: Sharp crystals in its tuber cause immediate and painful swelling. But if you can put your arm around its shoulder, not your teeth into its tuber, a cobra lily is a safe and sensational thrill.

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Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Variegated Meadowsweet

My deep and heavy soil is a favorite of filipendulas: Even with no irrigation, ever, my Camschatica filipendula tops seven feet; if I would provide conditions just a bit moister, it might top ten. 

 

At any height, the variegated meadowsweets are worth the effort to provide the rich soil and plentiful moisture they require. The Siberian variegate can form colonies as large as any side-by-side washer and dryer. This European variegate is one of the smallest, forming clumps just two to three feet tall. 

Filipendula ulmaria Variegata 072015 320

It deserves—and receives—a prime spot: I lifted another slab of my bluestone terrace to create a bed on the shady side of the contorted beech. I guessed right, and this Filipendula ulmaria 'Variegata' is thriving. And the big guy to the left is positively joyful.

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Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Kwangtung Beautyberry

Most beautyberries are one-season wonders. Yes, their Fall show of metallic lavender berries is sui generis, and a thrill for that reason alone. But the rest of the year, the bushes are a snooze.

Callicarpa kwangtunensis for flowers 071515 320

This chinese species of beautyberry, though, is also a thrill in Spring and Summer. Its burgundy stems bear unusually large leaves that emerge burgundy and mature to dark green with showy burgundy veins. They are both perfect foils for the clusters of white flowers that emerge in July.  

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