A Gardening Journal


Red Oak Topiary-to-Be

Topiary is the training of any plant into a shape it couldn't achieve on its own. "Training" mostly means pruning, so topiary also makes plants compact, not just shapely. Topiary from shade trees, then, is an ultimate victory, maintaining a creature that might otherwise become eighty feet high and wide at a fraction of that. 

 

Beech trees are the usual choice for shade-tree topiary. (I'm on it!) But what about oaks? Here's a very young red oak, at the fall peak of its namesake coloring. 

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Right now, it's dwarfed by a nearby perennial, but if full size, it would be larger than my house. As topiary, it will never become larger than me. Here's the prelude to that excitement.

Read more: Red Oak Topiary-to-Be


Swamp Mallow Summer to Fall

Cherry-red flowers of swamp mallow begin in August, and the last blooms might not appear until November. Mallow stems are colorful, too. Burgundy in summer, they turn salmon as frost nears, and keep up the show even into winter.

 Hibiscus coccineus Broussonetia 090717 320

Burgundy and salmon play well with many other colors, but cherry red is tricky: It's too pink for a red garden, too red for a pink. This perennial performs best when it has the stage to itself. No problem!

Read more: Swamp Mallow Summer to Fall


The Best Season Ever: Bat-Wing Passion Vine

Passion vines are rightly renowned for their flowers, which are typically as large & colorful as they are complex and numerous. It's a sophisticated thrill in reverse, then, to grow bat-wing passion vine, because its little green flowers can be difficult to locate even when full-on. But, oh, the foliage!

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A bat-wing leaf reminds me of a boomerang Odd Job would have thrown if he'd had a change of heart an become a green assassin. Up to a foot wide but only inches long, each seems too willfully strange to function merely as a photosynthesizer. Surely depraved cognoscenti know a dangerous and possibly erotic use for them. I plan to grow the vine annually. Here's this season's report. 

Read more: The Best Season Ever: Bat-Wing Passion Vine


The Best Season Ever: White Paintbrush in Bloom

Alright, it's true: I neglect my pot of white paintbrush for months at a time. Does it ever receive water while overwintering in the greenhouse? That's six months of maybe / maybe-not. Even when outside in a shady spot from May through October, rainfall might be it.  

Haemanthus albiflos overall 102017 320

Nonetheless, my baby clump of three years ago has thrived: now there are six stalks of bloom; back then, just one. Could it be that what I guiltily think of as neglect is, from this plant's viewpoint, skillfully laissez-faire?   

Read more: The Best Season Ever: White Paintbrush in Bloom


Good Together: Caribbean Copper Bush & Naranjilla

Weeks into fall, and still no frost! As warm weather last and lasts, summer-peaking displays of tropicals and annuals grow long in the tooth. This month, before everything is put away for the winter, is the time to ponder what worked and what didn't. Which plants and combinations will be reprised whole-hog next season, and which will either be reimagined or abandoned.

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Take this quintet of huge summer containers: four bell-pots of Caribbean copper bush and naranjilla quadranting a four-foot stock tank of striped giant reed and purple-leaved aquatic cannas. From June on, this was just the mega-thing for the large lawn due west of the giant jammed-with-plants beds that crowd the first 150 feet out from the house. From a distance, the quintet was a killer. What about in detail and up close?  

Read more: Good Together: Caribbean Copper Bush & Naranjilla

 
 
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