Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Odd Names and Beautiful Blooms

I used to grow  tobaccos - both cultivars of Nicotiana alata, the most common ornamental species, and the commercially-grown Nicotiana tabacum, which can be quite decorative as well - in the first Michigan garden years ago and was always very pleased with their ease of cultivation and abundant flowering. For the little garden plot here, then, I decided to give yet another species from the genus a try and ordered some seed of woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris), generally sold as 'Only the Lonely'. I am not quite sure what the deal is with that somewhat odd name. Is it a cultivar name and all the seed offered different from the wild form? Or is it a colloquial name for the plant? If so, what is it in reference to? Whatever the story behind that may be, the plants have been as easy to grow and carefree as the other tobaccos, and the first is just beginning to bloom.

Woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris)

The plant now beginning to bloom is the only one planted in one of the raised beds and is a bit bigger and more advanced than all the other ones that I stuck in much tougher, drier spots at the edge of the property. However, those specimens, too, seem healthy and are progressing well, so they seem to be quite adaptable and drought-tolerant.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Azaleas

Over the past week, I have been noticing white and very pale yellow azaleas blooming in gardens here and there. At first I thought those seemingly unseasonal blossoms were just stragglers but then I saw more and more of them, entire bushes happily flowering away. It turns out they are specimens of the sweet azalea (Rhododendron arborescens), a deciduous azalea native to the eastern United States that naturally flowers between the middle of summer and early fall.

Sweet azalea (Rhododendron arborescens)

So now this plant will be added to the long list of plants I shall have to have if I am ever so lucky as to have a sizable garden in these parts.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Here Comes the Sun ... Flower

I had not grown sunflowers in many years but this spring I bought some seeds more or less on a whim and planted a few in the small garden patch downstairs. They were of two different varieties, the Russian 'Peredovik' and 'Hopi Dye Seed' from the American Southwest. Both have come along nicely, but 'Peredovik' is first to bloom:

'Peredovik' sunflower (Helianthus annuus 'Peredovik')

We do have a lot of birds flitting about the garden - yesterday two beautiful blue jays kept hopping around my beds - and some audacious squirrels, so I guess we will see how many seeds I will get to harvest.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


As I mentioned in a few posts in the spring, I planted several varieties of rice (Oryza sativa) this year as a bit of an experiment and because I have always been fascinated with rice plants and rice cultivation. Now the first of the rice plants are starting to put out heads! Obviously there will not be enough for a meal but I would be quite happy even if I just get to harvest a good amount of seed for next year.

Emerging head of 'Duborskian' rice (Oryza sativa 'Duborskian'), with a melon and sunflowers crowding in from the right

The rice plants beginning to head now are of the Russian 'Duborskian' variety which is sold by Maine-based Fedco Seeds and does not need to be flooded. Of the other varieties I am trying, 'Hmong Sticky' seems to be doing best, ahead of 'Carolina Gold', 'M-101', and 'Blue Bonnet', the last of which barely germinated to begin with. All of these still seem quite a ways from makings heads. Clearly they need more heat and water than 'Duborskian' to get going, and they are also larger-growing varieties. To be fair, 'Duborskian' and 'Hmong Sticky' might also have an advantage because they are planted in the open ground in the garden, whereas the other varieties are planted in a tub on the balcony where they can be kept flooded but receive less sun light and have to make do with potting mix rather than proper garden soil. Still, I am excited to see how far the different varieties get by the end of the summer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2014

I was in Michigan over the weekend for the wedding of a friend from high school, so for this Bloom Day we will have a look at a few of the many things currently flowering at my parents' place in the Detroit suburbs. After an absurdly long and cold winter, the summer has so far been cooler and wetter than usual, which makes for a particularly lush flower garden.

The inca lily (Alstroemeria cv.) in the last picture is new this year and has been flowering continuously since planted in May. It remains to be seen if it will really be hardy in the Michigan garden as advertised by the nursery.