Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Unexpected Outcomes

As I had posted about here, I ordered some tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) bulbs this spring, both of the regular single kind and the double 'The Pearl'. The first pot to flower was one I thought I had planted with 'The Pearl' but the flowers so far are all single. Not that I particularly mind, since the fragrance is just as delicious, but I do hope that at least some of the other pots end up producing double flowers.

Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa)

Another plant that has not turned out quite as planned is a type of hibiscus I raised from seed which was supposed to be roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), a species that produces fleshy red calyces used to make tea, syrups, and jams. Based on the foliage and the flowers that are now beginning to appear, however, it seems more likely that I have a green-leafed, yellow-flowered form of Hibiscus acetosella or something similar. Still pretty, though not quite as useful.

Hibiscus acetosella?

I think I might try for roselle again next year with seed from a different source. If it is as easy to grow as this clearly closely related planted it should be satisfying enough to grow, and I still want to give making my own hibiscus tea a try.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Eid ul-Fitr!

Wishing a very happy and blessed Eid ul-Fitr to all those who celebrate, especially in light of all the horrors that are engulfing so many parts of the world right now.

Masjid Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin in Putrajaya, Malaysia

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Bayramınız mübarek olsun

عيد مبارك

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flecked with Gold

I have tried growing four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) a number of times over the years and never had any success with them. Consequently I would always jealously admire them when I encountered them growing elsewhere with wild abandon, often in less-than-hospitable locations like tree pits on busy urban side walks - and I have seen them growing in such spots in places as different as the Boston North End, southern Portugal, and Singapore! Well, this year I tried again and finally had more luck:

A beautifully multicolored four o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa)

One plant has been producing beautiful golden yellow flowers wildly flecked with rich raspberry pink, a color combination and pattern that makes me think of a sumptuous brocade or very fancy Japanese paper. A second plant appears to be gearing up to produce deep pink flowers. The only draw-back is that, contrary to their common name, the flowers currently do not open until 7:30 pm or so when dusk is near and close by 8:00 am. Still, they are definitely worth it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Very Old Rose

In June I got two antique China roses from Rose Petals Nursery, 'Old Blush' and 'Slater's Crimson China'. These two varieties are believed to have been the first cultivars of Rosa chinensis to reach the West from China sometime in the 18th century. They were a great novelty due to their ability to flower continuously as long as the weather permits and became important ancestors of all the modern classes of roses that possess the ability to bloom repeatedly or continuously, from the fantastic Bourbons to the hybrid teas, polyanthas, and floribundas which have unfortunately come to define for most people what a rose is and should be. 'Old Blush' has yet to bloom but 'Slater's Crimson China' has been flowering for a while now and has a delicate charm all its own, quite distinct from many of its descendants.

 Rosa 'Slater's Crimson China'

The color of the flowers is difficult to capture adequately in pictures; newly opened flowers like the ones at the top of the picture have a pinkish sheen and are slightly lighter towards the center, while older flowers like the one at the bottom darken somewhat. Some flowers also have a bit of white striation on the smaller innermost petals. The blooms have a light fragrance, very much a typical rose scent but only perceptible at very close range.

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.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Colors

It is very hot and some plants that relish the cooler temperatures of spring and early summer are fading fast but the garden is full of blooms nonetheless:

The first of hopefully many flowers of cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Lots of Asiatic lilies (Lilium cv.)

More 'Old Fashioned Vining' petunias, these clambering about between some Nicotiana sylvestris and Sorghum bicolor

Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis 'Resina')

More daylilies (Hemerocallis cv.)

The first African marigold (Tagetes erecta) to open...

... and the second African marigold bloom to open, which promptly broke off in yesterday evening's rain and now graces a water glass on the dining table

The vegetables that really like it hot - eggplant, chili, squash, etc. - also seem to finally be taking off; I guess we will see if they will have enough time to bear properly. Hopefully nothing else will get in their way after this slow May and June.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Beautiful Blossoms

Stewartia pseudocamellia is blooming all over town and the flowers are just gorgeous. They are usually of the purest white but a neighbor has a young tree with blossoms heavily flushed with reddish pink.  It also started flowering particularly early, but unfortunately a tall fence prevented me from taking a decent picture. Here, then, is the regular kind:

A close-up of a flower of Stewartia pseudocamellia

Another tree found here and there that is in peak bloom right now is the sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). Unlike Stewartia pseudocamellia, which is native to Japan and Korea, the sweetbay magnolia is native throughout much of the eastern and southeastern United States. It is evergreen in the warmer parts of its range but looses most of its leaves during most winters here. In many ways it appears like a much more delicate version of its more well-known southern cousin, the evergreen magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora).

Flower of sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Another pretty native grows along my usual running route. Apparently the flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) occurs wild throughout much of eastern North America and is commonly grown as an ornamental in parts of Europe, but I have to say I do not see it very often except for this patch.

 A blossom of flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus)

I like how I keep "discovering" new plants around here as the seasons change - not so much plants that I did not know existed, but plants I did not realize grew here, or at least that I did not think were common.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

Gratuitous Celebratory Clematis

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

More New Blooms

A few more new things have begun to bloom, so here is a quick update from the garden and balcony:

Yet another opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) but this one turned out a soft pink; some orange cosmos (Cosmos aurantiacus) is beginning to bloom in the background

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)

 An Asiatic lily (Lilium cv.)

Borage (Borago officinalis)

 'Tashkent' French marigold (Tagetes patula 'Tashkent')

 The first flower of this year's batch of black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) - unfortunately as you can tell by the leaves it is infected with something or other

'Old Fashioning Vining' petunia - Much more dainty than the modern carpet varieties and sweetly fragrant

The opium poppies will soon be finished blooming now; in the heat of the last couple of days individual flowers often only last a few hours. As the silky petals drop down or are blown away by the breeze, rapidly fattening silvery green pods are left, holding a promise of lots and lots of poppy seed - for more poppy plants, of course, and perhaps also for a bit of baking.