Saving Hibiscus

“Saving Hibiscus”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

We may have our first hard freeze here on the Gulf Coast tomorrow. As I was protecting my tender plants this afternoon and looking at the hibiscus flowers, I was feeling a little sorry to see so many lovely summer plants doing so well, but knowing their days are numbered. I will really miss the coleus. It did so well this year and was a great replacement for the flowering annuals that require so much water in our hot summers.

I have a feeling this will be the last of the hibiscus flowers until next spring.

 

 

 

 

Most of my hibiscus plants are over seven to fifteen years old. Every winter, I protect them because it is often hard to find the double ones in the spring. Years ago, they were everywhere, but now I rarely see them in the nurseries. I can seem to find only the singles, and while they are pretty, the doubles have stolen my gardening heart.

To overwinter the hibiscus, I will cut them back and cover them with plastic sheeting. This is usually enough for the freezes we have because the below 32 degree temperatures rarely last more than four hours, and then we warm up enough to uncover the tender plants. If we have a really hard freeze of six or more hours, then I carefully put a light bulb under the plastic. This is enough to keep them from freezing. (I don’t know what I will do when incandescent bulbs are no longer available.) On the very rare occasions, every ten years or so, that we will not be above freezing for a few days, they will come into the garage. While the hibiscus plants will lose most of their leaves in the winter, come spring they bounce back fairly quickly.

Over the years, I have lost a few hibiscus plants even with these precautions, but if I get low on one color, I will root cuttings to ensure I always have my doubles. I know this is sometimes a lot of trouble for an inexpensive plant, but after all these years, they are irreplaceable to me.

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A Comeback Plant

“A Comeback Plant”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

In springtime, we all eagerly check our gardens for returning plants. Living in an area where winter can often be very mild, it is not unusual for annuals or tender perennials to survive for another year. Impatiens, pentas, blue daze, and others will frequently only be nipped back, or they will return from the roots. This last winter, was particularly cold, so very few of these tender plants did survive, and those that did took a very long time to come back. Some didn’t show any growth until June or early July.

One plant that I though I had lost was Cat’s Whiskers (Ocimum aristatum). I had planted it for the first time last summer and loved how it looked and performed in the garden. Here’s how it looked last August.

 

 

I did take some cuttings and was able to overwinter them which was a good thing since I was unable to find the white variety to plant this spring. However, I did not plant them in the same area. It was around mid-May when I saw that the old plants were sprouting leaves. It did take them a while to comeback, but finally, they have started blooming.

 

 

I really didn’t expect these to return at all since it is listed as a tropical or tender perennial, and we had such a hard winter. It was in a bed that I heavily mulched so that may have been what saved it. Anyhow, from now on I will be sure and take cuttings every year since I never want my garden to be without these lovely and unusual flowers.

Update on Pinecone Ginger

“Update on Pinecone Ginger”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

A few days ago, I posted about the first “pinecones” that have showed up on the pinecone ginger I planted in spring of 2008.  Today, I noticed that the flowers have appeared on the cones, which means it should not be too long before the cones turn red.

Pinecone Gin 2 (redu)

As the above photo shows, the flowers just pop out of the cone.  Since this is the first year I have ever seen these, I am not sure how many flowers will show up or how long they will last.  Everything about this plant will be a learning experience.

The flowers, while small, are pretty.  They are a dark cream or pale yellow and appear very delicate.  The petals look like tissue paper.  The flowers remind me a little of my yellow four o’clocks.

Pinecone Gin 1 (redu)

Now that the flowers have appeared, it probably won’t be too long before the cones turn red.  I’ll keep you posted when they do.

Butterfly Ginger

“Butterfly Ginger”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

This year we haven’t seen as many butterflies as in previous years, and the ones that have shown up seem to have come later than ever.  But one butterfly that has shown up right on time is the butterfly ginger.

 

Butterfly Ginger (redu)

 

I have these now in three separate areas of the garden, and the clumps have grown enough now to make a nice show of flowers.  The almost tissue paper white flowers are so delicate and, of course, resemble the shape of a butterfly.  This dark green plant will grow to about five to six feet tall and make a nice summer screen for privacy or as a backdrop for other shorter plants.

But, it is the fragrance, which is strongest at night, that is the most wonderful thing about this ginger.  While the flower is only about three inches long, the perfume it gives off in the evening can travel all around the garden.   While aroma spreads over a fairly good distance, it is not overpowering or cloying.  Butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium)  has a sweet scent very much like a light gardenia fragrance, and when sitting outside on a warm summer evening, you feel as if you are in a tropical paradise with all this delightful air around you.

Somehow, the fragrance of this plant always reminds me of hurricanes.  It must be because when a hurricane comes through and we lose electricity, the windows are open and at night the fragrance drifts in the house.  This year I am hoping to be able to experience this ginger’s perfume only when outside because I am keeping my fingers crossed that no hurricane comes this way to make us lose the electricity.

Summer Favorites

“Summer Favorites”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

We all have favorite plants.  Ones we never tire of seeing in our garden or extolling the virtues of to anyone who will listen.  For the summer, I have two plants that I simply must have every year.  I don’t know why they are my favorites, but I do know that every time I look at them, I smile.

The first is the Gingerland caladium.  This is one of the more sun tolerant of the caladiums and was first planted in my garden three years ago.  I have it in the entry garden where I used to have a summer color scheme of red, white, and green.  Now that I have changed that to red, purple, and green, these caladiums still look fantastic with those colors, too.

 

Gingerland Caladium (redu)

 

My sister has planted Gingerland in her garden, too, and she has told me every time she looks at hers, she thinks of me.  I guess that is because I have raved and praised this particular caladium so much (maybe ad nauseum?).

The next plant is one that I have had in my summer garden for over ten years.  It is a coleus that goes by several names, but I usually find it available as Solar Sunrise.  Again, it is the color combination that I just love.  The purple, chartreuse, and streaks of red make this a stand out.  The fact that it can get very large is also a plus.  It makes a small shrub by mid summer.

 

Coleus (redu)

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great plants in a summer garden that I really love, but these two plants, for some unknown reason, really are my favorites, and they  must be planted every year.

Desert Rose

“Desert Rose”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

My very good neighbors have been out of town for a few days, and I have been taking care their plants.  With all the heat and little rain, the container plants especially needs looking after.  Fortunately, we had a much needed rain shower late yesterday afternoon, and it dropped 1.7 inches of rain, the most we have had in months.  So, this morning when I went to check on things, I brought my camera to take a photo or two of their desert rose plant which is in bloom.  I just love the color of these flowers, a dark cherry red.  The camera just does not show the true color, unfortunately.  There really isn’t that much pink in the center when you see it in person.

 

Desert Rose (redu)

 

I would love to have one of these plants, but it is hardy only to zone 10 and would have to be protected during the winter.  I already have too many plants that I bring in or cover when freezing temperatures are predicted, and I just can’t add any more, so I will have to enjoy the neighbors’ flowers.  But, every time I pass by this container of gorgeous, red flowers, I want one of these plants.

 

Desert Rose II (redu)

 

The desert rose (Adenium obesum) seems to be an easy to care for plant, just very tender.  If I didn’t already have so many plants to take care of in winter time, this plant with the showy, red flowers definitely would be on my patio right now.

Night Bloomer

“Night Bloomer”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

I missed the first one.  I had been watching the buds develop on the night blooming cereus in the side garden for several days.  Sure enough, on Saturday night the first one bloomed, and I forgot to go outside that night and check.  But I did check on Sunday night and was rewarded with five blooms.  This was a perfect way to celebrate the Summer Solstice – tramping around late at night taking pictures of flowers.  I hope the neighbors didn’t see me.

I could have gotten more sleep last night because the photos I took at first light this morning turned out better than the night shots.  This plant is just about the most unattractive and gangly plant around, but the flowers it produces are about the loveliest.

Night Blooming Ceris Profile (redu)

Night Blooming Ceris Five (redu)

I don’t think I have ever had five blooms at one time before, and was excited to see so many.  When it is night time and you see these flowers standing out in the darkness, it is a spectacular sight.  As this plant gets bigger, I am hoping for even more blooms.

I remember my mother had a night blooming cereus, and we would often go outside on a warm summer night to see this mysterious flower.  So beautiful, yet no one around at night to appreciate its beauty.  It does deserve its common name of Queen of the Night.

This is supposed to be hardy only to zone 11, and while I do bring this particular one inside if a freeze is predicted, I do have several around the garden that make it through the winter in my zone 8b garden.  These are pieces that have broken off the main plant that I just stick in the ground here and there in protected areas.  These may be nipped back by the cold, but they put out new growth in the spring.  I have lost very few of these “inground” cereus.

The plant pictured above was a gift from a neighbor.  My mother gave me cuttings from hers which has a different shape flower.  That one isn’t blooming yet, so I have something to look forward to.  These night bloomers certainly show that a garden can be interesting even after the sun goes down.

Hidden Treasure

“Hidden Treasure”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

The hidden ginger has started to return.  This is my favorite summer plant, and I eagerly await its return each year.  This is Curcuma zedoaria which goes dormant in late fall and returns in late spring.  Its flowers usually show up before the leaves do, and once the leaves emerge, the flowers are hidden among the foliage.

 

Hidden Ginger (redu)

 

They are not your typical flowers, but they do last a long time.  While the flowers are nice, it is the foliage that I love the most.  Big leaves with a maroon stripe down the middle sway in the summer breezes.  I have them planted on the property lines, and they do give some privacy from the neighbors during the summer months when we spend the most time in the garden.

 

2008-084-hidden-ginger-redu-005

 

This is a photo from last year showing how big the leaves can get.  Here, they are about six to seven feet tall, great for summer screening.  I can’t wait for this year’s returning hidden ginger to reach these heights.  It truly is a treasure in the garden.

Trying Something New

“Trying Something New”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

We all like to try something new; maybe something that pushes the limits.  Well, I have decided to try out two new things this year to see how well they will do in the garden or even if they will survive.

The first one is Supertunia mini silver.  Here, in the Gulf South, we plant petunias in the fall and pull them up in April or May depending on the heat.  Even the wave petunias can’t last here with our heat.  I have been seeing Proven Winners supertunias, and since the millionbells have survived, I thought I would try and see if these could make it, too.  I love the color of the mini silver.  It is white with a tinge of a very, very pale pink.

 

supertunia-mini-silver-redu

 

I only bought one plant and put it in a container which is placed in a wire bicycle.  I didn’t want to invest in too many of these plants in case they do not last.  I would be happy if they could at least last through July.  That way if they are planted in February, that would mean six months of enjoyment and worth the time and money to buy more.  So far, they are still looking good while the other petunias are slowly starting to succumb to our heat.  They say next week we will be flirting with 90 degrees, so it won’t be long before I will see if they will withstand our heat or not.

 

mini-silver-redu

 

Since this is supposed to grow in full sun or partial shade according to the plant label, I think I will try growing it where it will get morning sun and protection from afternoon sun.  That may help it do better this far south.

With the next plant I am trying out for the first time, it is not the heat, but the cold that I will have to watch out for.  I first saw oyster plant (Tradescantia spathacea) on a television gardening show and then later at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens.  It is such a lovely, multicolored plant and will grow in some shade.

 

oyster-plant-redu

 

Every thing I have read has said this is definitely a tropical plant, but that it can take a light freeze is well protected.  This plant is supposed to be hardy only to zone 9. I figured if wax begonias can survive the winter here in zone 8b, than this plant surely could.  Because of its cold tenderness, I will probably try and place it in a sheltered location to up the chances of its surviving our occasional freezes.  Maybe global warming will help them make it through the winter.

 

oyster-plant-2-redu

 

So, it looks like this year I will be trying out these two plants to see if they will preform well in the garden, thereby earning a permanent place in my little plant world.  I sure hope they make it and do well.

A Long Awaited Plant Is Found

“A Long Awaited Plant Is Found”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Saturday, I finally found a plant I have been searching for.  For several years now, ever since I saw fantastic photos in a garden book, I have been wanting to plant cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) commonly called artichoke thistle.  It is a very curious looking plant.  What attracted me was the architectural look of the plant with its large, deeply cut, gray-green foliage.  It is supposed to keep its vase shape until late in the season.

cardoon-1-redu

From what I have read, this plant can get really big.  It can get six to eight feet tall and four to six feet wide.  While I don’t think mine will reach the optimum size (at least I hope not), I am looking forward to its being big.  The photos I saw showed a very large plant that was very sculptural and made a wonderful textural contrast with nearby plants.  This plant is also edible, but I am not interested in eating it, just having a focal point that is an attractive, dramatic, architectural ornamental.  I am thinking about growing this in a very large container with Margarite sweet potato vine at the base.

cardoon-2-redu

The flowers, according to internet sources, are supposed to be a butterfly and hummingbird magnet.  When it goes to seed, the chickadees are also reported to be enamored with this plant.  While the flowers are thistle-like, purple and held atop tall stems, it is the foliage which I find the most attractive.  If it will grow to about three feet wide, I will be happy.  Today, after work I will be planting this much sought after plant.  Wish me luck.

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