Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hibiscus Diversity

I am not currently growing any varieties of the most well-known species of Hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, nor of the rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). However, despite not having either of these common ornamental shrubs at the moment, there are three different types of Hibiscus blooming in the garden right now: the annual flower-of-an-hour or bladder hibiscus (Hibiscus trionum) and roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and the herbaceous perennial swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos).

Flower-of-an-hour (Hibiscus trionum)

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

 Swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)

I also have some specimens of Hibiscus acetosella which are now beginning to bud, though with temperatures cooling down I am not sure they will make it to flower.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Over the course of this year, I have ended up growing four different species of passionflower. Passiflora edulis, the one commonly cultivated for passionfruit, grown from seed taken from a fresh passionfruit soda, has become a lush vine clambering in every direction but has yet to show even a trace of a flower bud. The very common blue passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) I picked up as a small cutting from a local garden center on a whim this spring. As during all my previous attempts at growing it as a child in southern Germany - where quite a few people successfully grow it has an exuberant hardy vine that covers entire walls and pergolas - it has only been growing weakly and any flower buds have turned yellow and dropped off well before blooming. The third is a small seedling of a hitherto unidentified species, grown from some seeds I picked somewhere by the side of the road. It is probably too small to flower anyway, but now it also suddenly appears sickly for no apparent reason after growing well for most of the summer. However, the fourth one is a success story; my maypop or purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), grown from root cuttings taken from the plant in my parents' Michigan garden late last fall. They cut a rather pitiful figure through spring and early summer but began to take off with the heat of July and August and lots of fertilizer and watering, and now they have finally begun blooming.

The first to blooms to open... more purple...

... and one more pale

Maybe one day I will have better luck with other passionflowers, too. In the meantime, the native, fragrant Passiflora incarnata is my favorite anyway.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2016

In terms of gardening, the last couple of days have been frustrating, as an infestation of mice has been rapidly decimating the rice I have been growing. The little rascals seem to outsmart any traps I set for them, and consume unripe rice grains at an astonishing rate. However, that uphill battle and the continuing drought notwithstanding, there is much to be pleased about in the garden right now as well.

An early morning view of part of the garden

 There are much fewer cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) in the garden this year than in previous summers, but due to the ongoing dry weather they are mercifully free of mildew so far

Dahlia 'Mrs. I. de Ver Warner'

Red valerian (Centranthus ruber) reviving in the cooler temperatures

 The 'Old Fashioned Vining' petunias tend to look quite bedraggled by this point but bounce back a bit for the fall

The Persian basil has been a fragrant, floriferous stalwart this year

Garlic or Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum) flower for a surprisingly long time period, especially for an allium, and that at a time when virtually no other member of the family is in bloom

The moonflowers (Ipomoea alba) are spectacular this year

This self-sown four o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa) is almost pure pale yellow...

... Though there is no dearth of multicolored ones either

The Joseph's coat amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor) continues to get more extravagant

 The chocolate daisies (Berlandiera lyrata) took a long time, but now they have been getting continually bigger and more floriferous for over a month

The yellow seedling cannas are beginning to bloom again

 My African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are having some disease issues this year but luckily some plants are still blooming well

The klip dagga (Leonotis nepetifolia) bushes have gotten massive and are flopping all over the place but all but one of them are also flowering beautifully

To see what others have growing and flowering the world over, make sure to visit May Dreams Gardens!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Visions in White

Even though warm fall colors are coming, many of the flowers at their peak in the garden right now are actually white. Most are annuals, but there are some perennials as well.

Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba) - yesterday a thunderstorm toppled their trellis but luckily there was not much damage

The white rain lilies or autumn zephyr lilies (Zephyranthes candida) has been blooming right on schedule

 The "Old-Fashioned Vining" petunias are reviving with cooler temperatures and less insect predation

Bladder hibiscus or flower of an hour (Hibiscus trionum) - as the second name suggests, the flowers are very ephemeral, opening only for a few hours in the morning

 This self-sown woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) just keeps going and going

 A large hosta in the frontyard; it looks as though it might have some Hosta plantaginea - my favorite hosta by far! - in its ancestry, but the flowers are smaller and not fragrant

Now if only these early summer-like temperatures could last, but with a bit of rain...

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Surprise and a Riddle

Just a little update from the patch of rice: panicles have appeared on another, notably different set of rice plants - short, stocky, with broad, very dark green leaves - but I have no idea what variety it might be based on the appearance of the husks. All the short-grain varieties I planted are accounted for, save the Japanese 'Koshihikari', which, judging by last year's plants, produces a fairly tall, delicate plant. Yet the husks of this variety are broad and rounded...

One of the mystery rice plants

A close-up of the shape of the husks

If there had only been one such plant, it could have plausibly been the result of a seed of another variety slipping in with one of the batches of seed, but seeing as there are at least three of these plants that seems less likely. Hopefully as the grains mature their identity will become clearer. On a another exciting note, there are at least a few stalks of the medium-grain Californian variety 'M-101' after all, heading a few weeks later than last year no doubt due to the challenging early summer:

'M-101' flowering

Now to wait if any of the long-grain varieties will actually decide to head any time soon...

Thursday, September 1, 2016


I grow as many varieties of rice (Oryza sativa) as I can get my hands on every year as an experiment. This year has been challenging for this little project of mine, to say the least. My first sowing was almost completely destroyed by a mouse that got into our apartment and decimated the sprouting grain. The survivors and a second planting then suffered through an unusually cool May and June. Those plants that made it through as well as a third planting of only the hardiest and earliest varieties finally started doing better as the weather heated up from the end of June onward, though almost continuous drought from then until now meant that they were dependent on daily watering and probably did not do quite as well as they could have with more rain.

A rare depiction of rice cultivation in Indian miniature painting from a ca. 1785 manuscript of the Bihari Satsai from the princely state of Guler in what is now the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh; apart from the exquisite paintings from the royal ateliers, in the 18th and 19th centuries the region was renowned for its excellent rice (Sources: The Met; Bābū Nathū Rām. Bāghbānī aur zirā'at kā risālah. Lāhor: Maba'-i mufīd-i 'ām, 1909. p.150-153)

With all these challenges, some of the varieties did not make it at all. I have not seen a single flowering spike, for instance, of the Californian variety 'M-101', which has done well here in previous summers. Other varieties are quite behind and have yet to head, which means they may not make it before it gets too cold in fall. A few, however, have done reasonably well. The Russian 'Duborskian' tillers quite poorly compared to other rice varieties and gets quite lanky and droopy, but it developed reliably and made it to heading even from a mid-June planting.

'Duborskian' grains beginning to color

Two Japanese varieties that I am growing for the first time this year have also done relatively well; 'Hayayuki' and and 'Yukihikari'  are more delicate than 'Duborskian' but have tillered better and display virtually no blanking.

A small ripening panicle of 'Hayayuki'

A developing spike of 'Yukihikari' against a backdrop of Persian basil

I do hope that two fairly well-developed patches of 'Hmong Sticky Rice' and 'Charleston Gold' will make it two flowering soon; these two varieties managed to head in September last year as the days got short enough and some grains made it to maturity. Hopefully this year a few more will make it and maybe I can select for earlier flowering - that is, less day length sensitivity - over time.