Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jolly Bee or Rozanne?

Remember the controversy about geranium Jolly Bee and Rozanne? It has often been speculated whether the 2 plants were identical! Both are found seedlings but Rozanne was introduced some years before Jolly Bee.

When I write geranium - I mean geraniums and NOT pelargoniums which are often confused in North America.

For some years I also had a hard time seeing any difference between G. Jolly Bee and G. Rozanne. But this spring the difference stands out. I moved a Jolly Bee Geranium and divided it into 1 big plant and 3 smaller plants. All 4 plants are doing very well. I could not have done this with G. Rozanne. They are still small plants compared to G. Jolly Bee. So I must conclude that the 2 geraniums are different and that G. Jolly Bee in my opinion is far superior to G. Rozanne.

- G. Jolly Bee is much more vigorous and compact than G. Rozanne

- G. Rozanne is more lanky and has a more trailing growth than G. Jolly Bee

- G. Rozanne has fewer leaves than G. Jolly Bee

- G. Jolly Bee produces more blooms than G. Rozanne

- G. Jolly Bee can be divided more often than G. Rozanne - due to the greater vigor.

I have no doubt anymore - I prefer G. Jolly Bee over G. Rozanne

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fritillaria Meleagris - Snake's Head Fritillaria

One of my favorite springflowering bulbs is Fritillaria Meleagris. Their nodding chequered Purple-brownish elegant flowers are fascinating. For some years I bought bulbs and planted them in the fall. But come spring I never saw any of them? I wondered what I did wrong, until I read that they prefer acidic moist soil. So I mixed plenty of peat moss in the soil where I planted some new bulbs. The next year a few bloomed and the following year even more bloomed in small groups. I love them - only thing I dislike about them is that they seem to attract red lily beetles - I hate those since I try to grow lilies - with not much succes yet. You can see the traces left by beetles munching on the thin leaves in this picure:

I had also noticed another Fritillaria in some gardens around here - Fritillaria persica. The very large orange sized bulbs produce upright 2-3 feet tall flowerstalks with purple-brownish bell-shaped flowers:

I planted the bulbs in the fall, a place with very well drained soil and where they get plenty of sun - as recommended. I saw them shooting in March and looked forward to seeing them blooming. But no - they only produced foot tall stalks, with blind shoots? I wonder why they did not bloom? Perhaps they just need to get settled in and will bloom next year?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Longing for the Violet Rain

Few plants smell like wonderful childhood memories like violets. The native violet: Viola Odorata may be small and few pay much attention to it. But after a few weeks of bright sunny spring days a little rain is usually going to fall, and the scent of the violets is going to be released and carry on air. Many have noticed the divine scent of violets wafting in the air after a spring shower - expressed in Al Jolson's song, "April Showers.":

Though April showers
May come your way,
They bring the flowers
That bloom in May;
And if it's raining,
Have no regrets;
Because, it isn't raining rain, you know,
It's raining violets.

And when you see clouds
Upon the hill,
You soon will see crowds
Of daffodils;
So keep on looking for the bluebird,
And listening for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

Poets have sung it's praise and the ethereal sweet fragrance is truly remarkable. Pick a few and smell the sweet perfume, that seems to be there one second and gone the next - a perfume like life and love.

Viola Odorata are small evergreen plants, that thrive in dappled shade and where plenty of leaves fall and form compost. Along most hedges they spread willingly and form large clusters. Seeds are also spread by birds and ants. Since I am not a neat freak and appreciate these delicate flowers, I do not consider them a weed. I have come to appreciate their wonderful fragrance and long for the violet rain of spring, that kicks of the garden season, after the snowdrops and crocus have flowered.

Violets interbreed and produce violets of different colours. The most fragrant are the violet blue, but I also see light blue and even blush pink violets. I have also noticed a variety that produces dark leaves. Even the leaves are romantic - heartshaped.

Empress Josephine loved violets. When she married Napoleon Bonaparte, her bridal bouquet contained violets. Violets became Napoleons favorite flower too. When he left for Elba - he told her: " I will return with the violets of spring". On her grave violets were planted and he picked some and kept them in a medalion.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Dreamy Plant Combination

I have a preference for using roses in mixed borders - roses mixed with bulbs, perennials and annuals. I use companion plants with a long flowering time like hardy geraniums, nepeta and salvias. Plants like irises may not bloom long, but the spiky foliage add texture, even when they do not flower. Springflowering bulbs like crocus and tulips and fallflowering corms like gladiolus prolong the flowering season in the mixed borders.

I have chosen not to grow roses as a monoculture, and not use a mulch as ground cover to prevent weeds and retain moisture. I can do this because I live in a climate where we get plenty of rain and only need to water in May to August if it has not rained for weeks. I add a layer of compost, mushroom compost and aged manure in the fall. Many of the companion plants I use in the front of the borders, serve as an effective ground cover and help prevent weeds and retain moisture.

I use some annuals as fillers in the mixed borders. They fill out the spaces left behind, when I remove the bulb baskets. I don´t use many annuals. A few of my favorites are Nigella, Opium Poppies and various Lobelia and the very fragrant Matthiola Longipetala and heliotrope (an anual here). I start these as seedlings indoors early April and after being hardened off I plant them out, where I want them in the mixed borders.

Last year I saw Lori posted a picture of a combination of some of my favorite plants: Roses, hardy geraniums, Allium Christophii and Nigella. I already used this combination in my own garden, but I saw that using a little more Nigella created a very airy, dreamy effect. Very, very pretty! And great inspiration, that is easy to create in your garden. I prefer the blue flowered Nigella, but the white ones are also useful. Nigella is great to use in bouquets. Most often the seed capsules are used and they can be dried too. I prefer not to let them selfseed in the fall. It is possible to get Nigella to last longer, if you sow 4 weeks in between. Oh - and do get yourself some more of those pretty Allium Christophii next fall!

Hat tip to Lori for inspiring me (and hopefully you) to sow more Nigella. The rose in her picture is the bourbon rose; Madame de Sévigné, A repeatflowering old garden rose. Other roses I recommend using in this combination could be the Austin roses: Alan Titchmarsh or Princess Alexandra of Kent.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Divine Rose Garden Picture

Sometimes we see pictures of gardens that are so out-of-this world beautiful that we are left speechless. That happened to me last year on the GW antique roses forum, when Jon from Wessex in England posted a picture of part of his garden. I asked his permission to post his picture here and share this extraordinary masterpiece of gardening and photography.

The picture showed a hedgerow of shrubs and small trees, interplanted with roses. Ramblers like 'Seagull' growing up into the shrubs and trees, mixed with large shrub roses and a mixed border - roses with perennials and annuals in front. The result is amazing and shows that it is possible to make a sublime garden with roses. The Roses used were: Seagull, Gypsy Boy, Archiduc Joseph, Francesca, Adam Messerich,californica Plena and a few others I can not identify from the picture.

The picture is so beautiful that it almost hurt! I come to think of a quote from the movie 'American beauty'; "it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in." My heart almost caves in from awe, seeing such a beautiful rose garden. Breathtaking isn´t it?

During the winter, we gardeners and roselovers long for summer and days were the sweet fragrance of roses fills the air. We endure by reading books, blogs, forums, catalogues and plan the tasks in our gardens the coming season. Waiting. Waiting for our garden to reach a peak of beauty we long for all winter, and have prepared and planned for years. It takes years for roses to reach mature sizes and good care, but I do feel they unlike many other garden plants give so much more. Few plants bloom as much and as long as roses. Mixing onceblooming and repeatflowering roses give blooms all season.

Jon is a great gardener and he works as a gardener in one of the worlds most beautiful public gardens: Mottisfont Abbey. His own private garden is just as beautiful, even though much smaller. Like he says, "When we have small gardens we need to cram everything together and go vertical". Something I totally agree with since I only have a tiny garden myself. Rambling roses in trees (Like the Ayrshire Splendens rose in my header picture) and climbing roses on arches, pillars and walls creates gorgeous features in gardens. I like when it rains rose petals from above.

I hope this picture inspires you to reach a little higher when you plan your gardens. Often the limitions, as to what is possible are all in our own minds. We need to be inspired to break these limits and a picture like this helps. 5 years from now your garden can look great too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Changing the blog layout

So many things in our lives and gardens appear way too complicated and we give up. We settle - because we lack the knowledge and skills to carry out certain tasks. If we need to add or change certain elements in our gardens we often hire a professional if we can afford it. Or we try and the results sometimes become better than expected or we realize that we should have hired someone to get the job done properly.

I have decided to try to improve the layout of this blog. Editing the Html codes that define the different spaces - Header, Body - outer wrapper, main wrapper and sidebar wrapper and footer. I am also going to enlarge the font types, so the words appear bigger; making my blog easier to read and more relaxing for the eyes.

I am also going to edit my old posts. Using the blogger picture upload feature displaying small thumbnail pictures was a mistake. I should have used the large thumbnail pictures and altered between centered and left placed pictures. I also realize that if I want to post larger pictures I need to use a picture host like ImageShack, PhotoBucket or Picasa. This will allow me to post bigger pictures of better quality - sometimes. Thus the reason for the need to increase the size of the body's main wrapper (The space where posts and pictures are on the blog). As it is right now I still have to resize pictures so they fit the screen when someone click the picture to enlarge it.

I set up a test blog so I could see what I was doing when I altered the Html codes and now feel confident going ahead with it for real. So bear with me for a while if you visit and my blog looks a little strange. I am on top of it and hope both you and I will be satisfied with the layout changes. I really did not know it was possible to custom edit the layout of the blogger template - but I read up and it is not as hard as it appears.

I love to design gardens. I know what I am doing - I intimately know how different elements in the garden will complement a house and suit the needs of the people who live there. I know to choose plants and how different plants are going to develop as they grow, how to care for them and maintain the garden. The hardest part is often to pass this knowledge along to clients and make them see how different solutions will work.

In many ways our blogs reflect who we are - just like our gardens tell a lot about us. Sometimes we just go ahead without having a clear plan and end up settling for a result that was not exactly what we had in mind. But blogs are like gardens - we can change things we do not like and try something different - in fact we should. Gardens like blogs are works in progress.