Sunday, September 21, 2014

September - Time to collect seeds

September is the month where you get a true bumper crop of selection when it comes to seed. Last year's harsh winter claimed many casualties in the garden. Collecting seeds now can prevent the loss of many plants that self seed readily.

Yesterday I managed to collect seeds from:

Nasturtium (please don't pull off the seed pod, if they naturally come free with a little effort, then it's the right time to collect).

Coriander. I let these dry completely on the bolted growth. Half I usually leave overwinter to allow natural reseeding, half for culinary purposes. Taking a few in case this winter kills them off.

Don't eat all your snow peas. Allow some to go to seed. Wait to collect once the pod goes yellow.

I love this allium. I rather not divide this young plant yet. Instead I would like to try and...

grow from seed next spring. Seeds are now dry, still encased in the pod.

Hemerocallis is so easy to grow from seed. Be sure to collect the pod, not the flower bud. Note the difference.

One of the easiest perennials to grow from seed is this common Coreopsis. Just allow the seed pod to dry completely on the plant before collecting.

Once some seed begins to fall off, or eaten by birds, you know this is the right time to collect Rudbeckia seeds and...
...Echinacea seeds. Please leave some for the birds. Yellow Finch love them. They provide fabulous winter interest in large clumps.

With Gaillardia, I leave many pods alone for birds too. Because of that, sometimes nature does a better job in plant production than I do. Come late spring, I find baby Gaillardia all at the base of this plant. But just in case we have a tough winter like last, I've taken a few for safe measure.

With Common Rue (Ruta graveolens), I deadhead and harvest the seed, so it doesn't seed itself everywhere. This is a tough one to die off. However, collecting the seeds now gives me a chance to give seedlings in spring as gifts. So easy to propagate.

With this Siberian Iris, I enjoy leaving their seed pods for winter interest. Thankfully, the pod stems are rigid and sturdy enough that you can bend them over and collect without taking the attractive seed pods off.

The best way I find to make sure you don't get debris mixed in with seed for storing, is to just empty the pods onto a sheet of white paper. You can lightly blow off the unwanted bits and the seeds remain to be packaged away.

I hate waste and I learned this from my Mother. If you get return envelopes from your utility bills, save them by:
1. Licking the envelope closed. Then cut the envelope in half.
2. Cut about 1/2 inch away on one side of the newly cut area to make a fold over flap for the new envelope.
3. Flip over and crease.
4. Be sure to write the name of the plant and date ahead of time before inserting seed. Tape closed.

Store in a cool, dry, dark place. Ready for March (indoor propagation) or May (sown right outdoors).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Whacky Echinacea

I see weird and wonderful things when it comes to plants.

How about this three in one bloom...

This patch of Echinacea has gone through the ringer. Drought stress, foot traffic and salt drift from both roadways and walkways close by.

Resulting in two smaller flowers coming straight out of the "cone" centre of the original bloom.

On this one, nearly a dozen flowers off shooting from one bloom. Crazy!!

I decided to leave them, to see whether they will grow any larger or set seed. Just intriguing to see and learn. A certain means to ponder.
Plants are incredible.
Update: A colleague of mine diagnosed what is happening to these Echinicea.  Aster yellows is what is causing this strange growth. It's a chronic, systemic plant disease caused by a bacterium-like organism called phytoplasma. It can be transferred around by small insects (leaf hoppers and mites). It's best to remove and destroy the entire plant, so that other Aster family species of plants close by don't get it.

Coooooool! Learning something new every day. That's why I love plants!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

What a little heat can do!

This summer's weather has been peculiar. Working in the cooler temps has been absolutely comfortable and I am grateful for this weather trend. However, the plants in containers haven't responded the way they usually do.

Here is my backyard as an example.

The plant material in the ground is unchanged (except for blooming). Yet, within 2 + 1/2 weeks, my containers have burst into a growth spurt. I use granular blood and bone meal when mixing my potting soil before planting and every week a bath of compost tea. All of July and early August it was a slow go. Two weeks of hotter, dryer conditions and presto.

Making most of the heat and enjoying its perks.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Perennial Plants For Shade - Part 4

More shade loving choices:

1. Vinca minor - Evergreen Ground Cover. Excellent for adding texture, sheen and coverage. Can be invasive if left un-manicured.

In May, dainty star-shaped, blue flowers emerge with new foliage.
Vinca minor "Illumination" - variegation is quite vibrant, but slow to grow.

2. Ligularia stenocephala "The Rocket" - great for moist soil conditions. This plant needs adequate spacing as well, but there are dwarfer, more compact varieties of Ligularias...

....such as: Ligularia dentata "Osiris Fantaisie" - bronze foliage in spring and early summer, paling to green. Lovely yellow daisy flowers in late August. If you have slug problems, this is slug bate (as you can see).

I do like its contrasting foliage in spring and the daisy flowers. They help bring colour continuity to the garden by flowering along side my Rudbeckia.

3. Heuchera villosa "Caramel" - So many choices of Heuchera are out there. I love this "Caramel" variety of Coral Bells for its contrasting colour and red leaf undersides. Stands out from a distance. White pinnacle flowers in July.

Shades from brown, to red, to plain green - there is a Heuchera or Heucherella for any garden. Here, bronze foliage, with burgundy pinnacle flowers make a great selection against lime green and blue hostas. So many cultivars to choose from.
4. Echinacea purpurea "Magnus" - ok, this plant is so versatile. It grows in full sun to shade. In shade, the flowers last longer, but the coneflower is slightly smaller and the colour is not as vivid. Yet, bees love this plant and so do I. I find the newer introduced cultivars require more sun. The original 'Magnus', does quite well.

5. Euonymus fortunei "Emerald Gaiety"  Whether you grow this as a shrub or climber, it tolerates a lot of shade. Here, I am training it as a vine. Again, many cultivars are available in shades of green and gold variegation - all evergreen.
Growing along a trellis....

...or used as ground cover. This cultivar is called, Coloratus Winter Creeper. Purple/Bronze winter foliage.

6. Ajuga repens "Chocolate"  Great ground cover with blue flowers in Spring. Several other cultivars available too!

Still more to follow.

Here are the other three posts prior to this one: Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Stumped - Possible Tradescantia?

Stumped on this fella. Nestled near a fence-line, in complete shade. Tiny, singular flower bloom on the tip and look like a face if you have my imagination. Stands about 8 inches off the ground. Lily like foliage.  Me thinks it belongs to the Tradescantia family, but it's only a hunch. Any ideas???

With one last internet search, I found it. It's a Commelina communis. First time I've ever seen one. Flowers apparently last for one day. Glad I caught this before it completely wilted.

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