OK, I like all the Nicotianas. For different reasons. Some I like for their fragrance, some for the color of their flowers. This one, tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca), earns my affection for the lovely blue gray of its foliage. I grow this South American native as an annual, but in some parts of the world this can top off at more than 20 feet. Hereabouts it rarely reaches a third that height. It does get some attractively dangling, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers, but only rarely for me. The leaves are what this is all about--they can easily be big as your hand, and their color comes in handy for making neat foliar compositions and groupings. I often cut plants back to make them bushier.
Golden creeping speedwell (Veronica repens 'Sunshine') sure knows how to brighten the day. This sweet little groundcover forms a half-inch (not even) mat that serves as the perfect backdrop for a red lettuce, Helmond pillar barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Helmond Pillar') or black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscarpus 'Nigrescens'). Or heck, why not all three. This super, simple plant needs plenty of sun to be at its brightest; mine starts heading toward chartreuse in the least bit of shade. It spreads slowly to form a carpet of shimmering gold that's sure to catch the eye. Oh yeah, tiny purple flowers too (sometimes) in spring.
Why won't my wisteria bloom? I can't tell you how many times I've seen this question asked in magazines, newspapers, and the like. Maybe I'm just lucky, but my wisteria not only blooms, it does so three times a season. Once in late spring as per usual, again just now and then yet again later in the season. I reckon this happens because: A) the roots are restricted--yes it's in the ground, but in an island bed in the middle of our patio, so it is, in essence, a small oasis of good soil in an ocean of stone dust and gravel. B) I never feed it. C) It gets cut back-ruthlessly-after every flush of flowers.
But those are just guesses. Maybe it's the way the stars align over Clatter Valley. Or maybe something even more esoteric. Really, I don't know why it happens. Gardens are often full of mysterious, hard-to-explain events? How wonderful is that?
The Missouri Botanical Garden's most excellent website has this to say about lead plant: "Somewhat ungainly...somewhat ordinary looking...with an attractive bloom but otherwise with no particularly outstanding landscape features." Excuse me? I find lead plant (Amorhpa canescens) a stellar foliage plant in the right circumstances. Its tiny silvery leaves, arranged on fernlike branches, are just the ticket for introducing a most appealing and delicate texture into beds and borders. A sun loving, bone hardy (USDA Hardiness Zones 2-9) shrublet, this plant should appeal even to native plant purists--at least those who define a native plants as one from the same contintent (for me a native plant is one found anywhere on planet Earth)-as it can be found growing in the wild throughout a very broad swath of the midwest.
This serious breach in taste regarding lead plant aside, the Missouri Botanical Garden (Mobot) is a superlative resource for quickly researching the design and horticultural characteristics for any garden plant I wish to know more about. I go straight to their Plantfinder, and hunt it down. Actually, the fastest way is to Google the plant's name and enter "mobot" in the searchbox too.
One last thing: yes, Fab Foliage Friday is all about foliage. Really. But since Mobot says that basically the only worthwhile part of lead plant are its flowers, I though I'd better include a shot of them as well. The bllooms are indeed striking in their purple and orange raiment. My plant is covered in these beauteous spires at this very moment--and the butterflies like them almost as much as I do.
Like an arrow pointed to the sky, Alocasia 'Sarian' aims for the heights. And it gets there. This awesome elephant ear reaches anywhere from 4- to 8-feet tall, with the leaves accounting for about half that size. The upright, arrowhead-shaped leaves look a lot like the better-known but harder-to-grow (for me anyway) elephant ear 'African Mask' (Alocasia x amazonica 'African Mask'), only bigger and greener. I grow these guys in a pot, so the dramatic effect they create is a portable one. Anywhere I need a quick blast of drama, it's ready and willing to provide a touch of magic.
Do you know 'Bert'? You might want to make his acquaintance. 'Bert' is a flowering maple (Abutilon spp.) with stunning maple-shaped leaves dappled with a splashy yellow variegation. Just the thing for brightening up a dark spot or for shimmering in the sun. This tender perennial cavorts happily in the ground or a pot, in sun or part shade, but 'Bert's best tricks are his flowers-colored a pale moonbeam yellow that matches the brightest sectors of the variegation. It's a color echo all by itself. I got this passalong plant from Sydney Eddison, who got it from Peter Wooster, in whose knock-em-dead Roxbury, CT garden, she adds, it originated.
Back in May, before our rains of biblical proportions began, I went to give a talk in the Hamptons, and while there visited the garden of Bob Luckey and George Biercuk in nearby Wainscott. Again. And it was even better than the first time I saw it. George is a garden designer, and his display of choice selections of all kinds of plants and, most especially, azaleas and rhodies is a show-stopping tour-de-force in spring. And from all accounts it's sweet in October, when legions of tall fuchsia 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' preside over the garden from one end to the other. I'm looking forward to seeing it then. But in the meantime, let's cut to the chase: pictures. Enjoy 'em.
A network of twisting, turning paths radiates out from the house to weave throughout the garden.
Burgundy Japanese maples--especially the low, mounding cutleaf types- always make stellar backdrops for more delicate plants.
A naturalistic swimming pool lies at the garden's heart.
Love the tawny oranges of this Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon' echo with the orange azalea, rhody, whatever.