Category Archives: Annual Flowers

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Seed growers generally do a good job of providing accurate information about what kind of plant will grow from the seeds that you purchase from them. Yes, the descriptions are sometimes a little exaggerated and written in “flowery” prose that push the edge of credulity. However, when describing the growth habit of the plant and the kind of fruit or flower that the plant will produce, they’re usually spot on.

But this year I grew one plant that wasn’t even close to what it was supposed to be.

IMG_2299I picked up a packet of Burpee’s Candy Cane zinnias at Lowes. The packet was beautiful – even the cashier remarked about what a pretty flower this was – so I decided to give it a try. I planted them in the front of the house and couldn’t wait to see the plants in bloom. I knew they might not be exactly like the picture on the packet but I expected them to at least be close

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Candy Cane Zinnias????

The reality was of this zinnia was something else entirely! Instead of large red double flowers with white markings on fairly short plants, I got a hodgepodge of single and semi-double zinnias in white, pink, orange and red on gangly, sparse plants One plant had small fully double flowers that were white with a few red markings but nothing like the seed packet. The butterflies were attracted to them so I let them grow for a time. However the ugliness of them eventually caused me to pull them up and plant something else in their place!

When it comes to short zinnias with double flowers, I think I’ll stick with the Magellan series. They might not have striped blossoms but they grow well and are always filled with blooms. These plants actually look like the picture in the seed catalog!

Magellan Zinnias

Magellan Zinnias

The Candy Cane zinnia seeds were cheap so I’m not upset about their terrible performance. This just goes to show that occasionally what you plant isn’t always what you get!

 

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Passion Flower and the Bees

I’ve never grown a passion flower plant before but at the end of the season, a local gardening center had the passion flower “Incense” at a great price so I decided to give it a try.

Passion Flower Incense

Passion Flower Incense

The plant didn’t do much for the first month; it just sat there in the garden, working to get established.

But now it’s starting to grow and is becoming filled with flowers.

Yesterday I noticed something about the way a bee interacts with a passion flower. It’s clear that the bee wants to get to the nectar and the nectar appears to be found in the center of the flower. But in making its way to the center, something interesting happens.

The male reproductive organ of the flower – the stamen – has two parts: the filament and the anther. The filament is simply the stalk that supports the anther. The anther is what produces pollen.

Passion flowers have five anthers and each of them open facing down. That means that when the bee crawls into the center of the flower, its back gets coated with pollen from the anthers.

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The female part of the flower is the pistil and the end of the pistil, the stigma, is where the pollen needs to land in order for the flower to be fertilized. The way the passion flower is set up makes it hard for the pollen to get to the stigma; that is, unless a bee is present.

After digging around in the center of the flower, the bee is coated in pollen. When the bee takes flight or lands on another passion flower, there’s a good chance that it might bump into one of the three stigmas of the flower with its pollen covered body. And when it does, fertilization takes place.

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I’m liking the passion flower plant. The flowers are interesting and seeing the bees pollination them is even more interesting!

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Flowers for the 4th

The garden is starting to really bloom and here are some of my favorites.

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Magellan Zinnia

Cheyanne Sunset Echinacea

Cheyanne Sunset Echinacea

Hibiscus

Hibiscus

Mandeville

Mandeville

Cleome

Cleome

Flowering Thyme

Flowering Thyme

Trumpet Lily

Trumpet Lily

Trumpet Lily

Trumpet Lily

Passion Flower

Passion Flower

Heliotrope

Heliotrope

Some Blooms for the Start of June

The cool, wet weather of April and early May has finally come to an end. It’s June 1st and the flower garden is starting to come to life. Here’s a sampling of what’s in bloom!

 

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Salvia

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Salvia Close Up

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Iris

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Red Knock Out Rose

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Pink Knock Out Rose

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Calibrachoa

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Lantana

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Chives

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San Francisco Begonia

 

Night Sky – Not Your Grandmother’s Petunia

I haven’t grown petunias for years.

Back in the 60’s and 70’s,  I grew a lot of them, usually starting from seeds. I grew multiflora and grandiflora varieties, singles and doubles. They were such an easy plant to grow.

Then in 1989 the Wave petunias were introduced. These plants are short (6″) but they spread into huge sheets of color, sometimes reaching up to five feet across. They were, and still are, a great plant to grow.

But in time I lost my love of petunias.

One reason is that rabbits really love petunias. As the rabbit population increased, growing petunias got harder and harder.

The other reason is that garden centers and seed catalogs started to offer so many new and interesting flowers to grow that were never available decades ago. I found myself getting tired of petunias in the same way that I’ve gotten tired of geraniums. They’re so 20th century – flowers that your grandmother grew!

Night Sky Petunia

Night Sky Petunia

That is until this year.

I found a new variety of petunia that caught my eye. It’s called “Night Sky” and it’s something I’ve never seen before. The purple blooms are spotted with white and each one is different with a unique pattern.

night sky 2I’m growing it in a tall container so that the rabbits can’t reach it. It’s tucked in with calibrachoa, lemon grass and a marigold. I’ll be watching to see how it grows and holds up during the summer.

But for now, I like it. It’s a petunia, but it’s certainly not your grandmother’s petunia.

UPDATE 7/5/2016

I’ve heard from one reader who found that their Night Sky petunia was getting more white with time. I’ve noticed that the one I have is getting more purple. So what’s up with that?!

I found a video from the company that developed this petunia and it appears that temperature affects the flowers. Warm days and cool nights will bring about more white in the flowers while warm days and warm night will make the flowers more purple. Also there are some growth regulators that grower use to being about the “perfect” mix of white and purple. That’s why the plants have a great mixture of white and purple for a time. Once the growth regulators wear off, then the temperature will determine the combination of colors.

I’ll keep watching this plant to see what it does during the growing season. Even with the changes in color, it still seems to be a good petunia.

Flowers from the Mid-July Garden

‘Tis the season for a lot of the flower garden to be in full bloom.

Some of the best blooms are on the daylilies. This year, with lots of moisture and not too hot temperatures, has led to one of the best daylily displays in a long time.

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Another plant that’s looking especially good this year is the rudbeckia or black eyed susan. This little patch of flowers has been self-seeding for over a decade and they’re back again this year.

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And here are some of the other flowers that caught my eye:

Marigold

Marigold

Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)

Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)

Dahlia (Grown from Seed)

Dahlia (Grown from Seed)

Agastache

Agastache

Cosmos

Cosmos

 

Container Garden Failure 2013 – SunPatiens

What SunPatiens Should Look Like

What SunPatiens Should Look Like

While most of the container plants did well this year, there was one that was an utter failure – SunPatiens. This plant has been touted a lot lately as a great plant for containers and beds. It’s more vigorous than New Guinea impatiens and it’s also resistant to the fungus that’s killing standard impatiens. According to the growers web site, these plants are free-flowering and can grow to 2′ tall and 3′ wide.

My SunPatiens Plant in the Process of Dying!

My SunPatiens Plant in the Process of Dying!

I decided to give the SunPatiens a try this year. The plant did well for about a month but then is started to turn brown. This discoloration continued until the plant was dead. I know these flowers can be great container plants; a local garden center has pots and pots of SunPatiens decorating their entryway.

So what went wrong?

I’m sure it has to do with watering. While SunPatiens can take full sun and even a little drought, the one thing they can’t tolerate is wet feet. If the soil stays moist for too long, they’ll develop fungal root rot caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani. If the rot has just started you might be able to stop it if the soil drys out but most of the time, once the plant has it, it’s a goner. Rhizoctonia solani is present everywhere so the only way to control it in the home garden is through proper cultural practices.

I think I know the two things that cause the death of my SunPatiens. The first is that I used MiracleGro potting mix. While this is a fine potting mix, it tends to be a little heavy and dense. I noticed that when I watered the SunPatiens pot that was filled with MiracleGro potting mix, the mix compacted a lot and didn’t seem to provide much aeration to the roots.

The other issue is that the pot I planted the SunPatiens in had a saucer attached. This isn’t a problem for most plants but the saucer meant that when I watered, the excess water couldn’t fully drain out of the pot; instead some of it sat in the saucer, making sure that the soil was saturated. In the case of SunPatiens, saturated soil equals fungal root rot.

While this plant was a total bust this year, I’ll try it again. Next year I’ll be sure to use the potting mix from Esbenshades that stays open and light all season long. Also, I’ll only use pots without saucers; that way the excess water can drain and not keep the soil too moist.

Now that I know what I did wrong, maybe I can correct it and grow some large and healthy SunPatiens in 2014!