Here's the proud mama, the daughter of the first hybrid I ever made, a cross between the wonderful native US swamp rose, Rosa palustris and a beautiful rugosa rose hybrid called 'Apart'. She's an incredibly tough little lady, a vigorous, incredibly thorny bush that laughs at disease and, thanks to the fact her grandmother lived in a bog, thrives in heavy, poorly drained clay soil. In contrast to her tough-as-nails constitution, all summer long she unveils these delicate, fragrant, exquisitely crafted flowers that I adore.
This is the daddy, the classic, and classy, rose 'Golden Wings' one of my favorites with pale yellow blooms on a large, vigorous bush.
I'm so proud to welcome their first child into the world! More should be popping up soon, and I can't wait to see what they look like and how they grow. So much beauty and anticipation packed into a tiny speck of green!
I love plants that suck me in with
glorious, unique flowers, and then win my heart forever by also being
tough and carefree. 'Atom' fits the bill perfectly. The flowers are a
vivid, shade of red, with each petal edged in the faintest possible
line of white, somehow at once brash and elegant. All gladiolus are
pretty much trouble-free during the summer, unless they need staking,
which this one is thankfully short enough to avoid, but 'Atom' takes
that all to another level by also being completely zone 5 hardy.
That's right, no digging and storing the bulbs, just plant it and
enjoy year after year! Even better, it multiplies pretty quickly, so
from one plant you'll soon have a mass to enjoy and plenty to share
Mint "Sister Julie's Wintergreen"
I talked about these mints when I first
purchased them, an amazing array of gourmet mint varieties bred by a
chef. After eating my way through the varieties I tried for the
summer, I've settled on a clear favorite. Quite unlike the standard
mints you might have grown, 'Winter Green' packs an enormous punch of
menthol, the compound which stimulates the temperature sensitive
nerves in our mouths to create the sensation of cooling, much as
chili peppers do to produce the feeling of heat. That makes this mint
a perfect counterpoint to intensely spicy dishes, and I love this
particular variety in the Indian sauce Raita. It is simple to make –
plain yogurt, cucumber, handfuls of fresh mint, and a little salt.
Dip some naan in it after a mouthful of fiery curry, or even a
tortilla chip after a mouthful of hot, hot salsa. The contrast of hot
and cool is wonderful, soothing, and primes your tastebuds for the
next hit of heat. I got mine from Richters Herbs
Primula x pubescens
Like most American gardeners, I've
spent most of my life being jealous of England. It seems, with their
mild summers and winters, that they can grow everything better than
we can. Well, now I've found something for them to be jealous of.
Look up Primula x pubescens, the auricula primroses, online or in
reference books, and you'll find all sorts of nonsense about how
finicky they are and how carefully they must be cultivated. Turns
out, all they really want is to be living in Michigan. Plop these
babies in anything from full fun to bright shade, and watch them do
their thing. Lovely, thick, fleshy leaves all year, topped with
incredible clusters of fragrant blooms in the most delicate shades
imaginable. I got mine from the always wonderful Arrowhead Alpines
Sometimes the best plants are right
under our noses. I'd seen gazanias countless times, and never given
the much thought. Little daisies... okay, whatever. But this year, on
a whim, I bought a packet of seed and grew out a patch of them, and
once I got down and looked closely at the flowers, I was amazed. Each
flower is incredibly intricately marked with the most mesmerizing
patterns of spots and stripes. Like most mainstream annuals, they
bloom profusely all summer, but unlike some, they are also require no
pampering whatsoever being wonderful heat and drought tolerant. It is
time I explored this group some more and gave this marvelous little
blooms the respect they deserve.
I'm always going on about plant breeding. I love it. It is a blast. I'm writing a book about it. It is also sometimes incredibly easy, as easy as letting violas self sow and picking out your favorites as they bloom. To see how much fun (and how lovely) that can be, go check out Faire Garden's gorgeous (and amusing) Viola Beauty Pageant. Anything with some variability that self-sows in your garden -- be they violas, columbine, or even lettuce -- can be treated the same way to create your very own strain. Collect some up, let them get down and dirty together, and pick out your favorites!
I try lots of new plants every year. It
is one of my favorite things about gardening, so I thought I'd share some of my very favorites of 2011. Not all of them new in my garden this past year,
but simply things that made an impression on me.
Beautiful, hardy mums.
I've talked about these before, and
I'll keep talking about them because I can't believe so few people
grow them. Fully winter hardy, amazing range of forms and colors.
Don't think you have to limit yourself to the boring not-very-hardy
cushion mums from the big box store, or the few hardy, daisy-form
varieties that are more widely available. Sheffield Pink and Will's
Wonderful are great, but why stop there when you can ALSO have
something like Peach Centerpiece? Get them all from Faribault Growers. Oh, and in my original post I didn't give a great review of 'Matchsticks'. Well, that was because I hadn't been patient enough. Early in their development, the flowers are okay, but once the open fully, they are stunning as seen in the image above.
Kale 'Gulag Stars'
I'm a huge fan of basically all kale,
but this beatiful and incredibly diverse mix of kales won my heart.
Actually a fascinating hybrid of different brassica species rather
than a regular kale, the result is masses of frilly, slightly spicy
leaves on robust plants I harvested from constantly the entire
summer. Any vegetable that combines easy of growth, great flavor, and
beauty is a winner in my book. As far as I know, available exclusively from Adaptive Seeds, which is a crazy cool source for crazy cool veggies you should really check out.
Previously mentioned in the blog, I
love this plant. So clearly a salvia, and yet so unlike any salvia
I've ever grown. This is my first year with if from seed (it was
completely easy to germinate and grow, by the way) and it started out
as a rosette of gloriously big, bold, textured foliage. Usually, when
a plant starts as a rosette, it stretches out dramatically into a big
leafy pillar when it flowers, but this one is different. The leaves
stay nice and compact at the bottom, and up goes a tall (almost 4
foot), slender, leafless stem topped with an utterly charming
upside-down cluster of lavender flowers. I could see this being
stunning in the front of a mixed border, the basal leaves looking
great at ground level, and the dancing flowers making a wonderful
see-through effect like the always great Verbena bonariensis. I got mine from Gardens North.
When it comes to fall blooming
crocuses, I'd pretty much written them off several years ago when I
tried – and failed spectacularly with -- Crocus sativus, the
saffron crocus. It hates my cold, wet garden and promptly died. But
in the fall of 2010, I decided to give this group another try, and this time planted Crocus speciosus. It bloomed that first fall, which was nice,
but I more-or-less expected it to rot out in the wet of winter and
spring. To my surpise, and delight, however, it showed up happy and
more numerous in my garden this fall! The large blooms are wonderful,
and such a lovely contrast to the red and yellow tones that dominate
that time of year. I was also impressed with the length of the bloom
season – flower after flower opening for quite a few weeks. I'll
certainly be adding more to the garden in future years.
I've grown this for several years now,
and I love it more every year. People seem to love or hate it –
brown is a wonderfully strange color for a grass, and you may dismiss it
as looking dead, but I love how it sets off
other colors around it so vividly. The real surprise to me on this
species is that it is hardy. I'd grown other species of brown sedges
as annuals, so when I saw Arrowhead Alpines listing this as hardy here in zone 5 Michigan, I was stunned. They are, as always, totally correct. Sails
through every winter without a scratch. For something completely
different, tough, and care-free, give it a try.
Okay, full disclosure: This isn't in my
garden yet, though I've got seeds on order. I fell hard for this
little beauty at the Indianapolis Museum of Art gardens, where it was
self-sowing enthusiastically through a lovely shade garden. I'm not a
big fan of they typical Impatiens walleriana, all dumpy little lumps of flowers. This one is a completely different beast: a looser,
more natural looking habit between one and two feet, and loaded with
marvelously intricate blooms. Everything I've heard and saw in the
gardens tells me that it is perhaps an overly enthusiastic
self-sower, but the nice thing about impatients is they are soft and
easy to uproot where not needed. Hopefully my seeds will germinate
without any fuss, and I'll be able to establish them in my garden.
I'll keep you updated.
I've got more favorites coming, so stay tuned for the other things I loved last year!
In case you missed it, there is new
research out on yet another possible cause of Colony Collapse
Disorder killing honey bees. This time it is a parasitic fly.
Previously, researchers have also found a fungus and a virus that,
together, seem to be another major contributing factor. Stress from
infections with varoa and tracheal mites may well be increasing
susceptibility to these other problems as well.
The picture that is emerging is not of
one single cause, but a network of interacting pests and disease that
are taking the hives down. And this growing group of bee problems may
well have at their root a perennially problematic part of modern
Virtually all of our food today is
grown in giant fields of a single plant variety. Where those plants need bees
to pollinate them, that presents a problem. Take almonds for an
example. For just a brief time each spring, acres and acres of almond
trees are in flower in California, and they all need bees in order to
make almonds. All that bloom is a giant bonanza of food for any bee
in the area, but all the rest of the year, they are a wasteland,
because there are almost no other plants to bloom at different times and
support the bees once the almond bloom is over. So bees get shipped
in, huge truck loads of
them criss-cross the country moving from field to field as different
crops come into bloom. All that moving around works very well to
effective pollinate the crops, but it makes for a major problem. New
pest and disease show up all the time, that is the nature of the
world. Pathogens evolve and migrate, and their hosts evolve to
tolerate and resist them. We've seen this already with the older mite
problems with bees. At first it was devastating, but newer bee
strains are more and more resistant thanks to breeding and simple old
fashioned natural selection. But when bees move around so much, they
move with them all their local pests and diseases. The very pattern
of colony collapse disorder – many problems, each individually more
or less manageable, but devastating in their sum – is exactly what
we would expect from this sort of mass movement of bee hives. Every
new problem can become, almost instantly a national, even global
problem, and join forces with other pests before the bees have a chance to develop resistance.
What is particularly interesting, and
surprisingly rarely mentioned, is that here in the United States all
these honey bee problems are a significant economic issue, but not necessarily an ecological one. Honey bees are native to Europe, and are in fact
one of the first non-native invasive species Europeans introduced. We
have a whole host of native, pollinating species, which are not very
closely related to the honey bee, and have radically different life
cycles and hive structures, so there is no reason to assume the honey
bee problems will translate into bumble bee or wasp problems. In
natural areas, or your own diverse backyard, the loss of feral honey
bees will probably actually allow your native bees and wasps to
thrive, and completely step in to fill the gap left by the honey
bees. A gap, after all, the filled for thousands of years before the
honey bee arrived. Hopefully, sometime down the line, we'll be able
to figure out a economically feasible alternative to monocultures,
but until then, expect to periodically pay a lot for almonds, and to
hear about the latest devastating problem for honey bee