The Rose in the garden slipped her bud,
This is the garden that greets visitors and the cheery face we present to the world, so it has to look good all the time, though flower color peaks here in spring. The best secret I have discovered for a great looking flower border is stuff it as full as you can! Some may disagree with me, but it does work. Anytime this area looks a bit tired, I pop in some blooming annuals, a new flowering shrub, or another striking foliage plant. If a plant no longer looks good and won't again, I pull it out and replace it before it becomes an eyesore. This method also keeps weeds at bay because I'm either pulling them up as I plant something new, or the ground is completely covered so they don't have a chance to come up. Remember, the idea here is a cottage look, so it should be the horticultural equivalent of an overstuffed, chintz-covered sofa. This is no place for restraint!
If you have a large enough space, your border will look even better if you make it wide and place shrubs with colorful foliage in the center (for a bed that will be viewed from all sides) or at the back (if it will be seen from only one side). I finally did this in the winter of 2000. Before that, the beds here were 3' wide or less and everything was green, green, and more green except for the flowers, since most of our bloomers have green foliage. I widened the beds by making the central area smaller and added shrubs with maroon, silver, and variegated foliage that are terrific foils for the flowers. In addition, they give substance and structure to the beds and make the border look great even when the flowering plants are not blooming. Try to plan your beds this way from the beginning - it's less work!
Experiment with the colors of flowers in front of shrubs - for example, try cream, pink, light yellow or peach flowers in front of a maroon-leaved shrub, or white flowers in front of a cream-variegated shrub. Try to echo colors throughout your borders: Look for hints of color in stamens and flower centers and foliage. A cream flower will usually be lightly infused with another color, such as maroon, at least in the center. If you place that flower in front of a maroon-leaved shrub, the combination will look painterly, restful and reflective. Once you start doing this, you will see much more to appreciate in each plant, and your garden will look more artistic and sophisticated than if you just place plants haphazardly or by their major colors alone.
The area is in front of the house, bordered
on three sides by the sidewalk, concrete driveway and concrete walk to the
front door. These lines are straight, but I have chosen to make the
inside shape of this bed circular (see diagram).
Across from it is another bed with roses, on the south side of the
Mound. I was hoping to install an arch (in line with the front door) to
connect the two beds eventually, and planted a climbing rose on the Mound
side in anticipation of this (talk about putting the cart before the horse!),
but it never materialized and I had to remove the rose because it threw long
canes over the sidewalk. The original plan called for a sundial in the
center of this court, but this would probably make the area too busy and
harder for the lawn men to work in, so it will be a small lawn unless or
until we replace the grass with mulch or gravel or stepping stone
paths. This is the most English style garden on the property, so plants
are chosen by habit to look more northern than tropical (e.g. smaller leaves)
and we started out with mostly pink, blue and white flowers. But those
rules were made to be broken - good thing, too, it was starting to look
boring. A few tropicals have been added for contrast and we have begun
to include some stronger colors because the paler ones fade too quickly in
the bright sunlight. So the look is now heading more toward
I edged the bed with remnants of softly colored Old
In this area, proven perennial performers are:
Abutilon (Abutilon hybrids) -- These lovely Hibiscus relatives are reputed to be good here in the ground. The pendant flowers come in many colors, and some plants are variegated with cream or yellow. Logee's has a lot of different ones available in their extensive catalog. They also make good container plants and hanging plants. I have a peach-flowered one with cream-variegated foliage in the southeast corner by the driveway and infront of some Jamaican crotons and a peach rose.
(Datura inoxia, D.
metel orD. meteloides) -- Short-lived
perennial. Tropical with purple stems and flowers like big frilly
trumpets within trumpets and large prickly seed pods. Some have large,
white, single or double trumpets instead. All
parts are deadly poisonous and hallucinogenic. Several
teenagers have died recently experimenting with ingesting the flowers
of Datura and its relative, Brugmansia.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleja, Buddleia spp.) -- Shrub with cones of colorful
flowers which attract butterflies and are often fragrant. I
planted two B. davidii, one
cream and one medium purple, in this area a few months ago, so they are still
small. B. madagascariensis
has purple flowers, blooms most of the year, and is supposed to be the best
Canna (Canna generalis) -- Tropical with broad upright leaves - good for contrast with small-leaved plants. Mine has peach flowers and took about three years to get to a good size of 4'h x 2'w and I have just divided it. Cannas can be found with a range of flower colors from yellow to orange to pink, some with striking mottled, striped or straight bronze foliage. Can be grown in boggy conditions.
Cat's Whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus) -- 2'h x 1'w with purple stems and white flowers that look exactly like their namesake - there is also a purple flowering form. These are easy to propagate by cuttings placed in a container of water or damp sand or vermiculite in the shade until roots form.
Copper Leaf (Aclypha spp.) -- These shrubs live up to their name, having either bright and dark red, or green and red variegated foliage. They really pop in the cool season, when the colors turn even more vivid. Some are quite large, with correspondingly big leaves, but mine areA. goseffiana 'Heterophylla' a dwarf type with stringy-looking leaves, like fingers striped in oranges and reds. They will need very little pruning and will not outgrow their small spaces in front of some roses facing the street. They are performing their job well, providing long-lasting color in a spot that would have been empty or plain green. I would like to add larger ones nearby in the brightest red available. These plants are hot!
(Duranta erectus - was D. repens) --
Iris, Blue Flag (Iris spp.) -- Large, with 3-4" blue flowers in spring and 2-3'h stiff, upright foliage all year. Can take boggy conditions, but doesn't require them and spreads by rhizomes that sit just on top of the ground (don't bury these or they may rot) Mine took about three years to flower and start spreading but was well worth the wait. It anchors a corner and once I divided it and placed small ones throughout the bed, the younger ones took off an spread and began flowering much sooner than the original plant did, most in their first year. This plant has presence and structure all year and the flowers are a bonus.
Iris, African (Dietes vegeta, Moraea
iridioides) -- 2'h x 2'w clump of grassy foliage with 2" white
flowers in spring marked by blue and yellow. There is another
form, Dietes bicolor, which has
primrose yellow flowers with a black-maroon blotch at the base of each
petal. These iris relatives come from
Iris, Apostle's (Walking Iris, Neomarica gracilis) -- 1'h walking type with broad foliage and 3" white flowers, which are marked with blue and yellow - very interesting. Walking Irises form baby plants at the ends of stalks, which bend to the ground. The new plant roots and becomes independent and multiplies like its parent. There is another type, Yellow Walking Iris (Neomarica longifolia), that has longer leaves and 2" yellow flowers with brown spots.
A note about Bearded Irises: These are not likely to do well at all, but if you really want to try your hand at it, buy early varieties, pre-chill them, and give them excellent drainage - they may make a nice annual display but probably won't last more than a season.
Jamaican Croton -- A lovely maroon-leaved shrub, about 4' tall by 18" wide, and much more refined than most crotons. The leaves are large but not as large as those of their more popular relatives, Codiaeum variegatum (which I've always stayed away from, seeing them as too coarse, gaudy, and ubiquitous), and variegated with splashes of cream. Looks great with peach or cream flowers, and a sultry Salvia coccinea 'Lady in Red' in front of one of these was an accidental, but surprisingly powerful, combination that I would not have thought of. Good for getting that painterly look. Also survived the drought and subsequent water restrictions better than Key West Snowbush, which looks similar but has more purple, non-variegated foliage.
Jatropha (Peregrina,Jatropha integerrima) -- Mine is J. i. 'Compacta', a 4' x 4' dwarf form with clusters of 1" red flowers - another anchor plant. The standard type gets much taller and can be grown into a small tree. Another variety, J. multifida, has palmately lobed leaves, like large hands with long slender fingers, and gets fairly tall as well.
Pentas (Egyptian Star Cluster, Pentas lanceolata) -- 2'h x 2'w with magenta flowers. This short-lived perennial makes a splash with its 3" clusters of star-shaped flowers in magenta, pink, purple and white and also attracts Butterflies but must be pruned regularly or it will become woody and messy and die prematurely. Prune hard after enjoying the flowers for a few weeks. A smaller version in several colors including pale blue and pale pink is available as a bedding plant.
Portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora) -- Shallow rooted, succulent leaved groundcover with 1 1/2" flowers. Sometimes in December I peel back the whole front of this planting and set prechilled 'Angelique' Tulips in the ground underneath, fill in around them with manure compost, then carefully replace the Portulaca and water all in well. After a month, the light pink peony-flowered Tulips will bloom, contrasting beautifully with the magenta flowers of the Portulaca, if it is in bloom, or looking lovely against its carpet of small leaves if it is not (Portulaca blooms mainly in the summer). This plant comes in pinks, yellows, white, red and peach. Mine has lasted several years in almost full sun and spreads obligingly but not rampantly. Highly recommended!
Privet, Variegated (Ligustrum japonicum 'Variegatum') -- This is the type of plant one might pass by without another glance when planning a flower border, but really makes a difference as a background foil for your flowers. It provides structure plus a slash of light. Each small leaf is edged in cream, and just one of these brightens up the darkest corner of this area considerably. I have it by some Jamaican Crotons, a peach-flowered rose, and a cream-flowered Butterfly Bush and it looks beautiful! It would also be good with white flowers nearby.
Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida - was Setcreasea purpurea) -- Purple foliage and 1" three-petalled pink flowers weave through much of the area at ground level to contrast with the green. Pieces root easily in sand - just break them off and stick them in the ground where you want them to grow.
Rain Lily (Zephyranthes
spp.) -- Small bulb with 10" grassy foliage and 3" light pink
trumpets in spring. Multiplies slowly. There are relatives that
bloom in yellow and white and at different times of the year.
Roses (Rosa spp.) --
Unless noted, all are grafted on nematode-resistant 'Fortuneana'
rootstock, which has performed better for me than 'Dr.
Huey', the other rootstock often used for much of the country - or you
can always grow any rose in a large pot. Most were bought at Giles Ramblin' Roses in Okeechobee, which is
unfortunately no longer there - it was definitely worth the two hour drive we
made each January. In my experience, chain store garden center roses
get smaller every year and disappear within three. Of course, these are
usually hybrid teas and would like beds of their own, with no
competition, which is not very attractive to me. At any rate, with
roses you certainly get what you pay for. Due to their tolerance of
heat, Chinas, Noisettes, Miniatures and
Roses can be used to make rosewater and beads. The petals are edible and lovely candied or just tossed over dishes as a garnish - just make sure to cut off their bitter white bases. They are also good in beauty treatments and can be used with or without herbs in bathwater (best to enclose them in a muslin or cheesecloth bag to keep them from clogging the drain!) or facial steams. Flower buds are also edible raw or cooked. Rose hips are the fruit that forms after the flowers - larger ones are edible and a good source of Vitamin C. They are used in tea and preserves or crushed, dried and ground for flour. Avoid eating the seeds, as some are prickly and could cause internal distress. Hips are usually found only on certain old-fashioned roses.
Roses that can be grown on their own roots are worth propagating at home - root cuttings in damp vermiculite in a shady spot (Rootone or willow tea will speed the process, which is important, since it is a race to root them before they rot!) Plant roses in rich soil in sun (though some afternoon shade is appreciated in summer, and some types, like Hybrid Musks, can take a little more shade than others) and mulch well but try to keep any mulch from touching the stems. Some people place Comphrey leaves or a Banana peel in the planting hole for extra potassium. Roses are heavy feeders and should be fertilized after hard pruning, which is good for reviving a tired plant. They don't go dormant here, but if you have a variety that needs a dormant period, try spraying with lime sulfer (a dormant spray) in late fall or early winter to force dormancy - all the leaves will fall off. Since going all organic this year, I have used composted cow manure in the bads and fish emusion as a foliar spray with excellent results. My roses flower profusely on these, so don't feel like you have to use chemical fertilizers to get lovely blooms. Epsom salts, applied once a month at the rate of 1/2 cup per plant, are also appreciated.
Pruning roses is not as daunting a task as it may seem and is actually good for the plants. In fact, some, especially hybrid teas, will eventually die without fairly regular pruning. Use a very sharp pair of pruning shears and keep rubbing alcohol to wipe them with between plants to avoid spreading disease. Pick a time when the leaves are dry, so not just after rain or overhead sprinkling to keep from introducing fungus. Many plants will grow 2 branches right where you cut or have two buds under each pair of leaves - roses are slightly different. They have a single growth bud at the base of each leaf which will grow in the direction the leaf points away from the plant. To cause a bud to grow into a branch, simply cut about 1/4" above a leaf that is pointing in the direction you want a new branch to grow. You can carefully pull off the leaf to expose the bud to sun, but that is not really necessary (though you may want to do it a few times just to see for yourself how the buds grow). Prune to open up the plant for good air circulation and even sun exposure. This means cutting so new branches will grow away from the center of the plant and cutting out any branches that cross others, leaving a plant that is about the same hieght all around. It is good to angle the cuts so water will slide off rather than pool on them. This prevents disease. Be sure to seal cuts larger than 1/4" with glue (like Elmer's wood glue) to keep out cane borers. Cane borers are a major problem - they will burrow deeper and deeper into a cut branch, killing the branch as they go. If they reach the main trunk, your plant may be history. If you see signs of infestation (holes in cut ends of branches, and usually cane die-back from that point down a ways), cut the cane again below where it has died back and seal the cut. If there is still a hole, cut again farther down. You can kill borers in a shallow hole by sticking something thin and pointed, like a skewer, down into the hole and grinding it around, then sealing the hole with glue. To build new plants into healthy bushes, cut each lateral at the first mature leaf from the bud (immature leaves are small and thin and may not have as many leaflets). Repeat this 3-5 times, not allowing the plant to bloom. More of this will build a larger plant. For older plants that need renovating, gradually reduce the height to 1/3 what it started as, then build as above. Keep plants in excellent health during this process. Miniatures and some shrub roses with lots of thin canes (like 'Vincent Godsiff', described below) would take forever to prune so carefully and are easier to cut with hedge shears (manual ones, of course, since electric ones often tear). Climbers bloom on the previous year's growth, so cut older, less productive branches from the base rather than shortening long canes. They don't really climb, they just produce extra-long branches that need to be tied to a support. A branch tied horizontally will make lots of short, flowering shoots, which is why there will be more flowers on top of an arch than there will be on the way up. Deadheading keeps plants flowering longer. Just nip off the flower alone rather than cutting back to a bud for a faster, heavier second flush - two buds will come up near the bit of stem left, which will fall off by itself. If you cut back to a bud, it will take longer and there will be one bud to flower instead of two, so save this type of cutting for a pruning session. If you grow vines through your roses for extra color, make sure the vines aren't very vigorous - you don't want them to compete with the roses for sun, water, or food, as roses need all of these in abundance for maximum health.
Black spot can be a problem in summer
and powdery mildew in winter - you may
want to spray with an organic fungicide (Safer
makes one, or make a tea from Spearmint or Horsetail, if you grow either of
them - here is a recipe: boil 1 cup of chopped horsetail in 6 cups of water
for 5 minutes, let cool overnight, strain and use) or a solution of baking
soda and water with a touch of liquid dish soap to make it stick. This
last should also help control aphids, which are a favorite food of lady bugs
(a most beneficial insect!). Or you can spray with an
insecticidal soap like the one marketed by Safer.
I usually don't bother. Japanese beetles
and thrips can destroy some flowers, but each
has a season beyond which it is not a problem, and the insecticides needed to
do away with them are very strong - not worth the environmental risks in my
opinion. Some hand-pick the beetles, dropping them into buckets
of soapy water. I have read that one can use white geraniums as a
trap crop to kill the beetles. These two pests tend to attack members
of the Mallow family (e.g. Hibiscus and Hollyhocks) as well. Do not spray the leaf-cutter
bees! They are beneficial and cause negligible cosmetic
Here is a list of roses I grow or have grown successfully in my garden:
Dream' -- 4' x 4' with very fragrant light pink old-fashioned flowers and
robust foliage, considered a Bermuda rose by some, but listed in the Antique Rose Emporium catalog as a Shrub
rose bred by Dr. Robert Bayse. Appears impervious to black spot
- not that it doesn't get it, but not too badly and the vigor of the plant is
not lessened by it. This rose gets bigger every year, which is the
opposite of what hybrid teas seem to do. Highly
recommended! If you have room for only one rose, this should be
'Cramoisi Superieur' -- 3' x 3' shrub with white-centered dark crimson flowers on its own roots and doing well - one of few roses we can do this with here. But I'm looking for more! This one is a china.
Knockout -- modern Shrub rose with bright pink/red flowers in clusters. I would recommend this one - it is a favorite at Duel Earnest Rose Nursery and has done well for me, becoming established in a short time. It does not get very large, which is an asset in a small garden like mine.
David Austen's 'Louis Philippe' -- Not the same as the Louis Philippe below, this one was bred by David Austen and has clusters of small old-fashioned flowers that are dark crimson with lighter inner petals. Very pretty and vigorous - mine is on it's own roots and has done quite well. Highly recommended.
'Louis Philippe' -- Practically
thornless, leggy, but lovely and almost wild dark red china. One
of the most often recommended roses for
'Maggie' -- probably an old rose originally named 'Eugčne E. Marlitt', which would make it a Bourbon - 3" dark purple-red, very quartered flowers with old rose fragrance. This one would be good for pegging (pinning the ends to the ground in a circle around the plant), but since I don't have the room, I tie the long canes to stakes at about 3' up so they grow horizontally. This causes them to put out lots of short vertical shoots with clusters of 3-5 flowers on each (which is what pegging would do). I cut these shoots when they have bloomed out, and when the cane seems to be getting old and unproductive, I cut it out & tie a new one that has grown from the base. Flowers have very pretty color and form.
'Old Blush' -- Another china rose that can be grown here on its own roots. Has small foliage and clusters of small medium pink flowers. I grow the climbing version. It will eventually be trained to an arch, but I don't have one yet, so I tie it back on stakes to reach over 'Single Hybrid Musk' and meet 'Maggie' - these three roses are in the bed across from the main rounded one. Sometimes this plant is covered with blooms, usually in spring, but flowers all year.
'Reine des Violettes' -- this is a Hybrid Perpetual, and these are not really recommended down here because they prefer cooler weather. Mine languished for years, giving me only a few paltry flowers in the coolest air, but such flowers! Old fashioned shape, loads of petals, heavy scent and the deepest purple-crimson you can find in a rose. Lately, it has been blooming more, so I am very happy not to have tried to put it ot of its misery - the sparse show is worth the small space it takes in the bed.
'Single Hybrid Musk' -- very thorny and leggy, with single white flowers - not that great a performer but I grow it for its unusual sticky, apple-scented foliage. Musk roses aren't recommended for here.
'Vincent Godsiff' -- 4' x 4' dense shrub with almost single, glowing deep pink flowers - not good for cutting since the flowers shatter but it is always covered in bloom and is best pruned with hedge clippers, which makes it very easy to maintain. My second favorite in terms of performance in the garden. Makes a good anchor. Also recommended is 'Carnation', a similar rose with light pink flowers. Both are Bermudas.
'Dainty Bess' -- A favorite for its 5" pale pink single flowers with maroon stamens and apple blossom scent. Hybrid tea. Beautifully delicate color combination, and the flowers are large enough to be appreciated.
'Don Juan' -- Climbing, with large deep red
flowers. I highly recommend this beautiful rose, of which you can see
several specimens growing in various places around EPCOT at Disney World in
'Kathleen' -- Climbing, with long sprays of single, light pink, apple blossom-scented flowers. I had one, but she was on her own roots and did not do well - she eventually died when moved just prior to a drought. I will probably replace her when I do Don Juan.
Others I have seen and am interested in:
'Archduke Charles' -- Small-flowered two-tone red china. I just got one of these - see the new page.
'Mrs. B.R. Cant' -- Bicolor pink tea. Teas are older and came before hybrid teas. I got two of these - planted one by 'Single White Musk' and the other in the larger semicircular bed. Recommended for our area. It is reputed to get as large as 8'. What beautiful flowers! Perfectly round cups, darker pink on the outside and lighter on the inside, filled with scads of petals. Gorgeous!
'Princesse de Sagan' -- Very old - no information except it has lovely pink blooms. I planted one of these this year - see the new page.
The following roses are recommended for
'Fortuneana' -- The best rootstock but also a good rose in its own right. It is long-lived, very floriferous, and resistant to disease and nematodes. Flowers are white. The plant is covered with wicked thorns.
Sages (Salvia spp.) -- I have had terrific success with Salvias here. They look great, bloom all year, come easily from cuttings and last or reseed very well. My advice is try any Salvia you can find!
These are the ones I grow or have grown:
Bog Sage (Salvia uglinosa) -- Perennial with 6" of sky blue flowers at the tips of 3' stems. It grows sparsely for me in my dry bed and spreads moderately by its roots but in boggy situations it becomes almost weedy.
S. coccinea -- Annual.Coral Nymph or Cherry Blossom, 1'h with pink and white bicolored flowers, Snow Nymph, 1'h with pure white flowers and Lady in Red, 1'h with red flowers - these reseed themselves in the same spots all year and look very dainty and refined.
'Rose Fountain' -- Prostrate, with drooping glowing magenta flowers - gorgeous color! Very similar to 'Purple Fountain,' above. These two will also root in water but with a lower success rate than 'Indigo Spires,' so take more cuttings.
Salvia vahnouteii -- This
Salvia has edible maroon flowers
and large bracts and grows in partial shade or full sun. Leaves are
also large for a Salvia, so the plant looks quite casual. But the
flowers are a lovely color and the plant is very carefree. I got mine
from the nursery at
Spiderwort (Tradescantia spp.) -- Related to Purple Heart. Has 2'h grassy foliage and
1" three-petalled, deep sky blue flowers that are open in the morning
and close in afternoon sun. Spreads out in clumps and takes about three
years to get well-established. Before that, it would die down in summer
and come back in fall. Now it blooms for a longer season and doesn't
die down. From a friend's grandmother's garden in
Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) -- Lime green ('Margarita'), 'Tricolor' (also known as 'Pink' - green leaves splashed with pink and white), almost black ('Blackie' - divided leaves) and two other black ones ('Purple Heart', and 'Ace of Spades', both with heart-shaped leaves) can be found by mail order and sometimes locally as well. My 'Blackie', which I grow here and behind the front wall, was given to me by a friend. I had trouble finding the lime green and pink ones last year because there were crop failures, but located them at Jane's Herbs and Things. All sweet potato plants will root easily and quickly in water or wherever the vine touches the ground. They will produce edible sweet potatoes eventually, but remember these colorful vines are bred for beauty instead of flavor. The leaves are also edible as cooked greens. I grow 'Margarita' and 'Tricolor' in the Tropical Edibles area along with the more traditional sweet potatoes for eating.
Others I plan to add:
Crape-Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica - was L. elegans) -- An attractive shrub that has white, pink, magenta or lavender Lilac-like flower clusters in June and may keep flowering for a few months, depending on the cultivar. A few Crape-Myrtles can grow to 30' but all flower on new growth and are easy to keep small by pruning. Some people pollard the plant to control its size and provide a bushy display of flowers. Others thin to several main branches from the base and shorten them for a more natural appearance. It can also be trained as a small tree by topping it off at the desired height and limbing it up. I prefer the two latter approaches. Crape-Myrtle should be planted in full sun for maximum flowers, but will tolerate part shade. There is also the Queen Crape-Myrtle (L. speciosa - was L. flos-reginae), also called Pride Of India, which is larger in every way - the leaves, the flowers and the plant itself, which is a beautiful tree that grows to 60', but looks a little ragged in the cool season.
Lily varieties (Lilium spp.)
--Easter Lily (L.
longiflorum var. eximum) is supposedly the best adapted lily for
Purple False Eranthemum (Pseuderanthemum atropurpureum or Eranthemum atropurpureum) -- Reported to be one of the best broze-foliaged small shrubs. 'Tricolor' has streaks of white or pink or cream. A white and green variegated clone also exists. Grows to 5' tall.
Purple Fountaingrass (Pinnesetum rubrum) -- Fairly upright ornamental grass to 3' tall with purple-maroon foliage. The flower pannicles are a creamier version of the same color. This is a sriking plant in the right place, such as at a prominent corner of a bed or at the end of one as an exclamtion point.
Ti (Hawaiian Ti, Cordyline terminalis) -- Some beautiful varieties are available to add color and a vertical tropical element to the border. Roots and very young leaves can be boiled and eaten. Roots can also be baked. Leaves can be used to wrap foods for steaming.
Bayonet, Yucca aolifolia) -- This
perennial looks a lot like Agave but
does not die after flowering. It grows into a clump around 4' x 4' and
the flower stalk shoots up to 10'. Some have cream- or yellow-edged
leaves. Smaller varieties are also available. The creamy bell
flowers are edible and good fresh in salads or dipped in batter and
fried - pull out the ovaries in the centers, which are bitter. The
green fruits can be baked or roasted - take out the seeds before
eating. Spanish Bayonet has fallen from favor as of late because of the
vicious spines at the ends of the long,
sword-like leaves. It is a good idea to site it well into a bed
so the spines do not stab passersby. This is also a larval and nectar
plant for butterflies.
Generally, a good trial period for any perennial is three years, during
which it will either shrink and disappear or grow to glorious maturity.
Annuals for the cool season (from seed unless noted):
Bishop's Weed (Ammi majus) -- 4-5'h x 1'w Queen Anne's Lace look-alike with 6" white flower clusters. Benefits from staking and sometimes reappears the next year without my help. Terrific in arrangements.
Angelonia (Angelonia grandiflora) -- Very pretty and well-behaved 2'h x 1'w English garden looking plant, usually available at garden centers when weather turns cool. Comes in white, blue, and blue and white bicolor.
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) -- 2-4'h x 6"-2'w with 1-3" flowers in red, pink, purple or white and delicate ferny foliage. A large selection is available by mail order and on garden center racks. Especially easy when direct-seeded and very rewarding.C. sulphureus is similar but comes in shades of yellow, orange and red.
Poppy (Papaver spp.)
-- Bread (P. somniferum),
Snapdragon (Antirhinnum spp.) -- These are easy to raise from seed and that's often the only way to get the taller varieties. Short ones can be bought in bloom at garden centers for color selection but be sure they haven't set seed yet or they may die on you. If deadheaded regularly, snaps will last all season. In fact, I once got five flowerings out of a single planting of dwarf snaps! (After that I was so tired of shearing them I let them go to seed and die. Yes, I am a bad mother.)
(Cleome hassleriana) -- 4-5'h x 1'w with
a 6" spidery ball at the top - very interesting
flower. One year a plant was damaged and ended up growing
two vertical stems and flowered just as well on both, but a double stem on
one of these looks a bit strange. The plants will arch gracefully and
don't usually need staking - produces a large amount of seed so it sometimes
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) -- Very low 2-3"
tall, spreading mats with tiny clustered blooms in white, pink or
purple. Available in garden centers and easily raised from seed (they
don't even need thinning) any month out of the year. Place at least
some in containers near nose level to better enjoy their wonderful honey scent. Otherwise,
you'll end up on all fours on the ground, sniffing (like me)!
Annuals for summer:
Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides - was Coleus blumei)-- Annual or short-lived perennial. Adds color in the lime green to red-purple range. Many color patterns and leaf shapes are available. Coleus will root easily in sand or water. Trim when they get leggy. Provide some shade or take cuttings in summer because they may die in the heat. Grown in a greenhouse or on a shaded patio, one can make a topiary standard that may live many years.
Marigold (Tagetes spp.) -- Easy from seed, a large selection of which is available by mail order and on garden center racks. Some plants can also be found at garden centers but the variety is much more limited and a pack of seeds costs the same as a few plants. The 'Gem' series has edible flowers. Some marigolds are used as herbs (See the Herb Circle) and some types are said to repel nematodes, but only when grown in an entire garden space all season, then tilled under..
Verbena (Verbena hybrida) -- Most are short-lived perennials, low and mounding with clusters of flowers in the pink to purple range.V. bonariensis is a long-blooming annual which gets 2'h x 6"w and will often reseed. The flowers are light purple and borne on thin stems, giving the plant an airy appearance. They fit well into a formal or informal setting and I highly recommend them.
elegans) -- Super-easy from seed - a huge selection is available by mail
order and on garden center racks. Some plants can also be found at
garden centers (see comments on Marigolds).
Try to use mainly varieties that are resistant to powdery mildew, sush as the
'Pinwheel', 'Profusion', and 'Sun' series. Zinnia augustifolia or Z. linearis is a fairly new
introduction which forms a 1' mound covered with 1" single white, yellow
or orange flowers. Highly recommended.
I am more vigilant about this area than the others because of its location. A daily walk-through usually tells me what's needed to keep all ship-shape (see the first paragraph of this page) and most jobs (like deadheading or weeding) take only about 15 minutes. Regular maintenance consists of pruning, mainly with manual hedge clippers, every 2-3 months and fertilizing immediately, after which everything puts out new growth and blooms 2-3 weeks later. The roses get a more careful pruning with pruning shears. Roses and annuals are deadheaded constantly. Each fall, I add a 1" layer of garden compost and composted manure, plant new plants, then follow with a 3" layer of mulch. I keep the compost and mulch a few inches from the stems of plants, especially roses, to keep them from rotting. The mulch keeps down weeds but also prevents reseeding of delicate annuals, so I have to start or buy these each year. I used to feed with chemical fertilizers, but have now gone organic, and never tilled. These practices, coupled with not stepping in the beds, keep the soil rich, light and fluffy, and full of earthworms. One day a friend stepped into this bed to get a closer look at a flower (yes, I lectured her) and her foot sank several inches deep!
This garden is by no means complete, but the basic structure is now to the point that it looks good even when the whole thing needs pruning or the weather changes abruptly. Dense planting keeps the look lush. Colorful foliage plants are used to break up the monotony of green. I try to keep a patch of Beach Sunflower in the corner by the driveway - it is perfect in front of the maroon Jamaican crotons - but recently the lawn men destroyed it in an attempt to get rid of the horrible nutsedge, the worst weed in our garden, which infests the front beds, but so far hasn't wormed its way into the rest of the garden... WHen I went to get another plant, the nursery was out, so something else is holding its place for the moment. A Snow on the Mountain shrub (Breynia disticha 'Roseo-Picta' - was Breynia nivosa, the fine new growth of which is white and pink - it does tend to sucker, though, so watch it carefully or contain its roots) or aVariegated Ginger would also brighten up a boring spot. The popular Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata' has yellow highlights, but I prefer Costus speciosus 'Variegatus' because it has whiter markings - yellow still looks sickly to me. But chartreuse (e.g. Sweet Potato 'Margarita') would be very fine, especially played against maroon or purple foliage (like that of Purple Heart). Oh! decisions, decisions...
There is a red Bottlebrush Tree (Callistemon spp.) in one corner which didn't match the flavor of this garden at all. I have long wrestled with the question of what to replace it with when my husband finally cuts it down - a Snow on the Mountain grown as a small tree (a lovely treatment spotted in Boca Pointe)? A Tabebuia in pale pink (T. rosea, 20 - 50') or golden yellow (T. caraiba, 20')? A Crape-Myrtle in purple or magenta? Would another plant in the pink family be too samey here? Would yellow be too shocking? It must be a small blooming tree and grow tall quickly since it will start in some shade while it is small. Lately, in keeping with the new California color scheme idea (I'm adding lots of orange flowered annuals this year in the form of marigolds, poppies and zinnias), I'm thinking of a Geiger Tree (Cordia sebestena, a Florida native with clusters of gorgeous saturated orange flowers which only gets 15' to 20' tall; 30' depending on the source you consult). Maybe. If I get wet feet, there's always the white-flowered Cordia boissieri, which gets only slightly larger. But Fragraea berteriana also sounds intriguing - it has fragrant cream flowers and large oval leaves and is a tree that gets 40' tall but is often grown as a shrub, so it must be easily controlled. AndMelia azedarach (was M. australis, M. japonica, or M. sempervirens) is a deciduous tree which is covered with lilac-like sweet flowers in spring and also gets to 40'. Guess I just have to check these last two out in person before deciding. The more choices, the harder it is!
Update: We finally had the Australian pine at the end of the driveway and
the two Bottlebrush trees on either side of the drive (see How It All Started) cut down. I planted a variegated
privet just behind where the red Bottlebrush in the
** Further Update: Meanwhile, since these pictures were taken, routine maintenance has been done. The roof was replaced and is now covered in dusky purplish concrete s-tiles (the color is called Boysenberry, but they only look really purple when it rains), the house has been painted a beige-cream (too dark at first, but it finally faded somewhat in the sun), the front double doors nearly the same shade of blue as the potager raised beds, and the shutters and trim a dusky purple that helps tie in the roof. The old lights were replaced with matching Arts & Crafts style lamps, painted to look like weathered copper, which is fitting, since most structures in the garden will be copper. After that, we topped all the grass in the garden, except for the swale and the south side yard in front of the fence, with cardboard and a very thick layer of mulch. This was done mainly to keep the lawn men of the time out of my garden - they weed whacked everything way into the beds and girdled trees and shrubs and I had to get them *out*! Barbarians, I tell you! That's what you get for $20 a cut twice a month. They also scalped the grass, and had whacked gashes in the potager raised beds, which are made of wood, allowing water in for potential rotting, so these must now be repainted, though we would have done that anyway as part of maintenance. Now there is no grass at all in the back garden areas and the south side yard in front will soon be mulched up to the air conditioner / side garage door (which incidentally is also blue now:)) Anyway... Then in 2003, we planted many new roses. You can see these changes on the 2003 update page.
** Update of the Update: We had to give up on the mulched paths idea because the weeds invaded and became absolutely insane! Right after making the path change, I began having migraines, and they quickly took over my life, leaving me unable to work in the garden at all for several months. By the time I was able to go out there again, you could hardly walk into teh center of the court! We had hired a new, better lawn service, and they helped clear the paths and we reinstalled grass. Not my favorite choice, but I don't know how public gardens and similar places maintain their mulched paths without Roundup or similar chemicals, and I refuse to do that. Having grass and letting my husband apply whatever he must to keep it looking decent is the lesser of two evils and will have to do for now.
Across the front walk from the Rose and
Perennial Court is a narrow bed backing up to a low wall (4'h and pierced
by window-like openings, which are actually good because they provide air
circulation) and going from 3' deep at one end to 1' on the other. This
has so far been occupied by a Hibiscus hedge with single red
blooms. The color and habit were all wrong for this area, the growth
too rank for such a narrow bed and the flowers get cut off whenever we prune
(which is often if we want to use the path to the front door). Also,
the plants are old and getting pretty gnarly looking, so we have decided to
replace them with a hedge of Silver
Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus, a Florida
native with velvety silver leaves - there is a green-leaved type, but I
don't see the point) and to allow Purple Heart to wind through its
feet, especially since the Buttonwood doesn't produce new growth indefinitely
near the bottom, but develops attractive thick woody trunks. We will
eventually clean the lower part of these trunks to reveal them and let the Purple
Heart fill in between. (We've seen this combination on A1A just