Jeanne Grunert is a freelance writer, blogger and book author from south central Virginia. Her books include "Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden" and many others, available on Amazon and wherever fine books are sold. Learn more about Jeanne, her books and her garden at www.homegardenjoy.com
 

 

Add a Little Butterfly Joy to Your Garden: New Perennials
by Jeanne Grunert - posted 02/05/16

Add a pop of color and some lovely butterfly-attracting plants to your garden this year with these new introductions from High Country Gardens.

Today's plant feature: Asclepias incarnata, (Rose Milkweed). 

 

Ascelpias should be no stranger to gardeners. This herbaceous perennial grows wild throughout much of the United States. It prefers moist, well-drained soil despite the nickname "Swamp Milkweed."  The flowers produce nectar that's a favorite food source for Monarch butterflies, and the plants host the Monarch caterpillar. 

 

This lovely new color looks wonderful when grown alongside other perennials and ornamental grasses. It would look beautiful in a native plant garden or a butterfly garden. It would also make a good rain garden plant. If you're not familiar with rain gardens, check out my article on the topic on Home Garden Joy: What Is a Rain Garden?

One thing I especially like about this new introduction is that it is very cold hardy. While my area of Virginia rarely dips below 20 degrees, we do get a few nights in the teens each year here in the Piedmont area.  Last year, one night dropped as low as - 1 degree, and I feared I'd lose some of my perennials. This particular plant is said to be especially resilient. I like that in a perennial.

 

Another good thing for Virginia gardeners: It likes clay soil.  Yay!

 

So if you are looking for a nice butterfly garden perennial and a native plant too, add Aescelpias to your garden. This particular variety is available from High Country Gardens. Photo provided by High County Gardens and used with permission.

 

 

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New David Austin Roses
by Jeanne Grunert - posted 12/08/15

This story and the photo above are courtesy of David Austin roses. 

In 2016, David Austin Roses has three national introductions for U.S. and Canadian gardeners. Each makes its North American debut after turning heads and making headlines at London’s famed Chelsea Flower Show. All three varieties were  2014 introductions for English and European gardeners. 

The new Austin roses include: an exquisite soft pink English Rose that Mr. Austin himself considers possibly the best rose they’ve ever bred; a deliciously fragrant yellow English Rose, Austin’s first yellow introduction since 2003; and a much-awaited, blush pink, short rambler rose that’s ideally suited to covering garden arches in flowers and perfume.

Following are full descriptions of the 2016 introductions from David Austin’s technical director and senior rosarian Michael Marriott. For more on these and all 134 English Roses available to U.S. and Canadian gardeners, visit www.davidaustinroses.com or call 1-800-328-8893. All Austin roses sold in North America are grown in and shipped in or from the U.S.

‘Olivia Rose Austin’ – It’s hard for the understated English to enthuse. Yet, in beautiful ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ we find the master rose hybridizer David Austin himself admitting that ‘this is possibly the best rose we’ve ever bred.’ What makes this rose so spectacular? “It’s an outstanding rose that has it all,” said Michael Marriott. “It’s remarkably healthy and disease-free, incredible for a fragrant rose that blooms in such abundance. Its bloom season starts quite early, typically three full weeks ahead of other English Roses. All season, the blooms keep coming in full-blown flushes that follow in quick succession, hot on the heels of the one before.” The soft pink flowers have an Old Rose formation that opens to a cupped rosette. The medium-strong fragrance is lovely, with distinctly fruity tints. The dark green foliage shows off the flowers beautifully.

Details: Repeat-flowering.  Pleasing fruity fragrance. The fully double flowers are 4-inches in diameter with approximately 90 petals each. Grows to 3.5-feet tall by 3-feet wide. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-10. 

Naming notes: Named for David Austin’s granddaughter Olivia Rose Austin. (David Austin 2014, Ausmixture).

The Poet’s Wife’— In ‘The Poet’s Wife’ Austin introduces its first yellow English Rose since ‘Charles Darwin’ in 2003, making it only the 16th yellow in Austin’s expansive range. “Yellow roses with a fine flower, strong fragrance, true garden strength and excellent disease-resistance are very difficult to breed, making them rare indeed,” said Michael Marriott. “This is a rose of superlatives. Its yellow color is unusually rich and the fragrance is unusually strong and appealing.” Austin’s scent expert (rose nose) Robert Calkins gives ‘The Poet’s Wife’ a top-ranked score of 5 out of 5 for fragrance, describing it as Old Rose with strong hints of unripe lemon rind, peach and mango that becomes stronger and sweeter with age.  For the lay nose, said Marriott, that translates to “a rich fruity citrus fragrance that sweetens.” Marriott has just added ‘The Poet’s Wife’ to Austin’s list of Most Fragrant English Roses.

Details: Repeat-flowering. Very strongly fragrant. The fully double flowers are 4.5-inches in diameter with approximately 80 petals each. The bush is nicely rounded with shiny dark green foliage. Grows to 4-feet tall by 3 ½ -feet wide, taller in warmer areas. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-10. (David Austin 2014, Auswhirl).

‘The Lady of the Lake’ – A resurgence of interest in billowy, flower-laden rambler roses is greatly inspired by the new beauties bred by David Austin Roses. Now, Austin introduces ‘The Lady of the Lake’, its fourth short rambler to be bred for repeat-bloom, fragrance, and heights of 10 to 15 feet. These are ramblers made for climbing arches, trellises, pergolas, walls, fences, obelisks and small trees. They are perfectly scaled to draping structures with flowers and fragrance, without overwhelming them with size or weight.

Though strong fragrance is exceedingly rare in short ramblers, ‘The Lady of the Lake’ is remarkably fragrant with a fresh citrus scent. The flowers are a delicate blush pink.  Each opens wide with a boss of golden stamens at the center. The new short rambler joins Austin’s soft pink ‘The Albrighton Rambler’, soft yellow ‘Malvern Hills’ and white ‘Snow Goose’. All four varieties pump out waves of flowers all season long on lax arching stems, making them ideal for climbing garden structures.

          Details: Repeat-flowering. Strongly fragrant. The semi-double flowers are 2-inches in diameter with approximately 30 petals each. Grows to 10- to 15-feet tall.  Hardy in USDA Zones 7 -10 (to grow in Zones 6 and colder, provide winter protection). 

Naming notes: Named after the ruler of Avalon in the legend of King Arthur and in a related poem by Sir Walter Scott. (David Austin 2014, Ausherbert).

 About David Austin English Rose Introductions:

The David Austin Roses breeding program focuses on garden performance, including health and disease resistance, romantic color and fragrance, season-long repeat bloom and attractive foliage. Once a breeding candidate satisfies these initial strict criteria, it must then pass the hurdle where its overall charm and beauty determine whether it has ‘the magic’ required to become an official David Austin English Rose. The process is rigorous. From an initial pool of approximately 250,000 candidates, reviewed over an eight to nine-year selection procedure, only two to four varieties are selected each year for introduction as English Roses.

 

Find your favorite David Austin Roses at your local Virginia garden center.

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Poinsettia Care
by Jeanne Grunert - posted 12/02/15

Poinsettia are the quintessential Christmas flower, but the poinsettia itself isn't really a flower. The colorful red, white or pink petals are actually leaves surrounding yellow brachts. Because everyone else calls it a flower, I will too for the sake of this blog post. But you can wow all your friends by explaining this to them at your office Christmas party.

The poinsettia hails from Mexico, where it's actually a weed. It can grow up to several feet tall along roadside ditches. In 1825, Joel Poinsett, the American ambassador to Mexico, brought the first plants from Mexico to America. Since then, its popularity has spread, especially in the 20th century. Today, you can find poinsettia plants for sale in supermarkets, big box stores and of course, your local nursery and garden center.

Poinsettia Care

Keep in mind that poinsettia is essentially an equatorial weed. The climate in Mexico is warm and steady around this time of year, and that's what you want to recreate for your poinsettia. The first step in caring for your poinsettia is to take good care of it when you bring it home from the store. Most stores wrap poinsettia inadequately, especially in northern climates. Poinsettia hate blasts of cold air. Insist upon double-bagging or wrapping your plant, and keep it warm in the car on the way home.

Once you get your plant home, place it near a sunny, warm window. Keep the temperature between 65 and 70 degrees F. Any cold drafts or colder temperatures can cause leaf drop, which leads to an ugly, scraggly poinsettia.

Water your poinsettia daily. Place a finger into the pot, and water it when the soil feels dry. You may need to move the foil wrap around the base to allow water to drain through.

Once Christmas is over, you can keep your poinsettia indoors for many months. Reblooming is another story, but we'll cover that another day.

Since the original red poinsettia were introduced in the 1800s, the industry has worked hard to introduce lovely new colors. Speckled, marbled, red, white or pink...the colors are almost limitless. Enjoy poinsettia now and through the holidays.

For more information on poinsettia, see:

Photo: Pippalou, Morguefile.com

 

 

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