June 28, 2011

Itoh Peony 'Kopper Kettle'

Like 'Keiko' (see post here), 'Kopper Kettle' is another intersectional or Itoh hybrid peony. These plants have large flowers held up on strong stems like their tree peony parents, but their foliage dies back to the ground each winter.

My plant was purchased last spring without any flowers, and it gave three blooms this spring. At first I thought there'd just be one, but two more buds were hiding under the foliage.

You can see the interesting color combination of peach, rose, copper and cream that gives this flower its name.

While visiting my local nursery a couple of weeks ago, I heard the owner mention that they would no longer be carrying 'Kopper Kettle', since it has proven to be less vigorous than hoped. He said Monrovia will be introducing a newer Itoh with similar coloring called 'Picasso' or 'Picassa'.

So here's another lesson on the virtue of patience - it's always wise to wait a few years to see how a new introduction does before buying it for your own garden. But us gardeners (ahem) sometimes have more enthusiasm than wisdom.

I'm certainly not ready to rip out this plant and replace it with another expensive Itoh hybrid. I'll just give it some bloom booster fertilizer and enjoy the flowers it puts out, even if there aren't as many of them as one would like. In the photo above you can see how the color has faded after several days in the sun.

This photo shows one of the blooms that showed up under the foliage. Its coloring is especially vivid since it didn't receive any direct sun.

I cut the flower and enjoyed it inside for several days. The color didn't fade, and the bloom put out a spicy fragrance. When 'Keiko' was blooming (it bloomed earlier since it had been in a greenhouse all winter), I cut a bunch of flowers and was impressed with how well they held up in a vase (see below). Their color holds up much better inside, so in future springs I'll probably cut most of the flowers from my Itohs for vases and show them off indoors.

Recently I have also been researching tree peonies and have decided to try a few in my yard. I placed an order from Cricket Hill Gardens for a couple of red-flowering tree peonies to arrive this fall. I was very impressed with the gorgeous photos of both tree and herbaceous peonies at the Peony's Envy website - check it out if you have time to enjoy some vibrant, luscious flower images.

ADDED May 2012 - 'Kopper Kettle' has 20 buds right now, which is nothing to complain about!  'Keiko' has fewer than last year, maybe 10 total.  One long-time grower of intersectionals suggested that these plants can be inconsistent with their flowering while young.  They live for a long time, though, so there's plenty of time ahead for more flowers.

June 20, 2011

Love You 'Melba Higgins'!

When I listed the flowers blooming in the garden last week, I did not mention 'Melba Higgins' aquilegia (columbine), but this little plant is the biggest thing going on right now in the backyard.

A few years ago I planted three tiny plants from Bluestone Perennials, then saved the seeds that formed and sprinkled them through the garden. Last year these seedlings were too small to bloom, but this year they're blooming their heads off.

The Melba Higgins show is especially noticeable this year, since the cool spring has kept so many other things from blooming so far. Delphiniums, iris and peonies would usually be full of flowers by now, but many of them are still sitting in bud stage. 'June Bride' heuchera, shown above, is an exception.

There are a few other blooms in the backyard, like this red peony from my friend Cindy. Glowing, rich blue-violet Melba Higgins complements these other flowers nicely. MH blooms spring to summer for four weeks or more, once established.

This columbine grows 24-30" tall and 20" wide. It's happy in full sun to mostly shady areas in zones 3-8 and handles a range of soil types. The delicate, lacy foliage fits in well around other plants, and its wide tolerance of sun conditions makes it a nice plant to add continuity to both sunny and shady areas of the garden.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of my Melba Higgins show is that it came (mostly) from seed. Big output from a small input! Seedlings will come true if it's the only type of columbine in your garden, but if you have several types then they'll probably produce hybrid seeds.

Since MH has been blooming for several weeks already, the show will soon finish up and I'll deadhead the plants to encourage them to save energy for next year instead of making more seeds. I'm very grateful for MH's ability to fill a blank spot in the blooming calendar, though!

June 13, 2011

Brunnera, Aubrieta, Lilacs, Lewisia, Bleeding Heart, Carnations

Here is a roundup of some of the blooms in my garden lately. These first three are flowers on Brunnera 'Jack Frost'.

They remind me of forget-me-nots and are very true blue.

No doubt there'd be more flowers if my plant wasn't growing in full shade. Some morning sun would do it good.

I picked up some Aubrieta 'Axcent Antique Rose' at the nursery last month. It's more lilac than rose.

My clearance-rack 'Katherine Havemeyer' lilacs put out more blooms than last year, but still not a ton.

It's interesting to watch how the warm lavender buds open into cool silvery lavender flowers.

Holy cow, the Lewisia put out a ton of flowers this year. I forgot to get a picture when they were in full bloom, but it was impressive.

My white bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis alba) is gigantic this year, sprawling over its neighbors.

It gets plenty of water and shade in its position, so the leaves hang around until fall instead of going dormant in summer as they would usually do.

I brought home a few carnations from Lowes last month. Above is 'Ruby Tuesday'. Light clove scent, pretty bright red flowers, very nice for cutting.

Here is 'Rosy Cheeks'. No doubt these would not be in bloom yet if they had spent the spring in the ground instead of at a greenhouse.

This plant has a delicious clove fragrance and vivid cool pink blooms. I'm amazed at how many flowers it's putting out . . . of course that means a lot of deadheading, oh well.

Despite our unusually cool weather, the iris and early peonies are blooming and Asiatic lilies are ready to pop open soon. 'May Night' salvia didn't bloom in May, but it's blooming its head off now. I'll have to grab some pictures of the enormous 'Walker's Low' catmints with the fluffy big bumblebees that cover them on warm days. And that brings us up to date on what's blooming in the garden.

June 7, 2011

'Bright Parrot' and 'Salmon Parrot' Tulips

Parrot tulips are some of the showiest of bulbs. These first three photos show 'Bright Parrot' and were taken at my dad's garden in mid-April.

This fiery red and yellow flower is a bold way to celebrate spring.

'Bright Parrot' is a mid- to late-spring bloomer and its height is 12 to 24 inches. Unfortunately, parrot-type tulips do not return well year after year, so you have to plant fresh bulbs each fall to get a great show each spring.

These next photos show the bloom progression of 'Salmon Parrot' tulips in my front yard.

The blooms start out with plenty of cream and soft, warm salmon.

The colors intensify as the bloom ages.

This bulb blooms mid-season and tops out at about 20 inches tall.

The salmon, cream and green flames are so pretty together . . . and then the salmon changes to a true pink.

Here you can see the color starting to cool off.

Eventually the blooms are cream, green and pure, cool pink with not a hint of salmon left.

Quite a show, eh?