Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Prickly Ash Tree

(Xanthoxylum clava-herculis L. or Xanthoxylum americanum or Xanthoxylum hirsutum)
Another unusual tree at Bartram’s Garden and one I have never seen before is the Prickly Ash.
Sometimes called the toothache tree, we were told the leaves have a numbing effect and were used by Native Americans for toothache pain. This thorny, small tree is a member of the citrus family and is sometimes used as a natural fence.
The lumpy bark is quite distinctive. I can see why it is also called “Hercules Club”
More information through Google books from Mississippi State University Extension here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Franklin Tree

Franklinia alatamaha

Discovered in 1765 by John and William Bartram growing near the Altamaha River in southeast Georgia, this understory tree was named for John’s good friend Benjamin Franklin. The Bartram’s saved it from total extinction. It is extinct in the wild. Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia has several specimens (pictured here) of this rare tree.
Grown for its late summer, fragrant camellia-like flowers and brilliant red-orange fall color, Franklinia requires even moisture, slightly acid, well-drained soil rich in organic matter, and full sun to part shade.

I have heard from other gardeners that Franklinia is difficult to get started. The Franklin tree has a reputation as a fussy tree. Some say the northern winter’s freeze/thaw cycle adds to the difficulty.
Here, in its third year, a Franklin tree is planted in the Miller’s House Garden by the Bethlehem Garden Club in Historic Bethlehem’s Industrial Quarter.

It grew to about 4’ last year but died back for the second time. This year it is starting out again. All 6” of it is nestled in its wire cage under a blanket of pine needles. It would be wonderful to have this specimen tree in a public garden for all to enjoy. Time will tell.
More information from Virginia Cooperative Extension .

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bulb Sale (part 2)

In May, I planted the 12 for $25 bulbs I bought at the Philadelphia Flower Show – 6 Casablanca and 6 Stargazer Lilies. (See May 4 post.)

When I bought the bulbs, I didn’t mark them so “Since Casablanca blooms white, I rationalized that the bulbs would be white.” I planted the white bulbs with the other beautiful Casablanca lilies from Breck’s (3 for about $20).

As you can see the 2 foot lilies are not white next to the 4 foot Casablanca lilies. In fact they barely resemble the Stargazer lilies pictured here at Dave’s Garden dot com. I can’t detect any scent.

This is one time when buying on impulse didn’t work out so well. I can’t wait to see what the other 6 lilies look like when they bloom.

They should be Casablanca. They are now about 1 ½ ft. tall and have a few buds.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Meadowbrook Farm

J. Liddon Pennock a floral artist, landscape designer and former chairman of the Philadelphia Flower Show started this little jewel of a garden center in the 1970’s. The 25 acres includes an English Cotswolds style house, display gardens and garden center. After his death in 2004, the property became a non-profit affiliate of Philadelphia Horticultural Society.

The house, with a beautifully manicured garden view from every room, is a testament to Mr. Pennock’s eclectic decorating talent. A few of the garden’s gazebos were used in displays at Philly flower Show.
It was difficult to get the exact name of plants in the display gardens. We were told this stunning grey/green edging shrub was called “Curly Top”. I’m guessing Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Curly Tops' and the delicate 2 foot plumes “Feather Grass” (Nassella tenuissima?)

The garden center greenhouses force thousands of plants for Philadelphia Flower Show. If you admire a plant in the PHS display or one of the displays that Meadowbrook supplies at the show, you can usually find it in the garden center in spring.
Don’t miss the begonia and fern greenhouse. Meadowbrook has over 150 varieties of stunning begonias including a large silver and red leaved plant that caught everyone’s eye. The greenhouse also contains exotic ferns, extraordinarily colored elephant ears, and much more. It’s worth a trip to see Meadowbrook Farm. You most likely won’t come away without a new plant or two.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – June 2011

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia spp.)
I don't have this cactus in my garden any longer. However, it is blooming beautifully in my neighbor's garden.
The blooms are gorgeous but the spines are wicked. There is no glove I know of that will keep your hand's safe from the miniature barbs. The spines don't come out of the skin easily. Sage advice says to use tongs or newspaper folded several sheets thick when handling this plant.
I takes someone much braver than I to weed a patch of prickly pear.
(A different color Prickly Pear in Bartram's Gardens in Philadelphia.)
Check in with brave Carol at May Dreams Garden for a peek iinto more June gardens. Carol hosts Bloom Day on the 15th of every month. Thank you Carol.

University of Arizona Cooperative Extension “Prickly Pear: Handle with Care”

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Creeping Sedum

There is always a lot of interest in my August 7, 2010 post (with the June 2007 picture) about creeping sedum (Sedum acre) at its best.

In the efforts of full disclosure, I thought a picture the sedum at its worst (above) was appropriate.

The weather here shifts from cool and wet to hot and dry. I’m not sure how much that affects the sedum. I haven’t had time to hoe out the excess so the sedum has been walked on for weeks. Some has gotten leggy and flopped over. Some has been squished from being stepped on.

I’ll try to get it cleaned up this week but I am so far behind this year that any thought of catching up is laughable. I’m sure it will recover and I’m not about to give up on this ground cover.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Another old plant with a brief bloom time is this iris. It was a pass along plant from a generous neighbor about 20 years ago. The bright yellow blooms light up a couple weeks of May. The large, heavy flowers tend to flop and the rain knocks them every which way.

The plants have spread over the years. They have never been divided. In October, I’ll cut them back to 6 inches.

The green foliage is a stately backdrop all summer.

Planted in full sun and on a very slight slope, the conditions are ideal for growth with adequate drainage. They are drought tolerant after established. I have never had problem with leaf spots or borers.
It is an easy plant. Sometimes I think about dividing them. Then I come to my senses and leave them alone. Doug Green in his “
Gardening Tips” says, “You can't kill an iris by digging and dividing it.”

I may do something in fall before they take over the world.

Saturday, June 04, 2011


I’ve been temporarily sidelined by a cranky muscle. All I can do is enjoy looking at the garden and try not to obsess about the work that needs to be done.

The peony’s brief bloom time is spectacular. After a one week and one rain storm, the blooms are gone. They need to be deadheaded. Most years I tie them up to keep them from flopping over. Some gardeners remove side blooms to produce single, larger blooms. Usually, by the end of summer the leaves are covered with a mold but it doesn’t seem to affect the plants. In fall, I’ll cut them to the ground and discard the cuttings.

The white peony came with the house and has been here for at least 40 years. I added the red about 20 years ago. Now that’s a long-lived perennial.

More information on Paeonia hybrids from Ohio State University .

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Iris and Allium

Not a lot of garden work got done over the holiday weekend. The weed trees maple, oak, dogwood and chestnut have been poking their heads out here and there. I’ve been yanking them out for weeks thanks to Mother Nature and some over-zealous squirrels.

The yellow Iris, bloomed about two weeks ago. The cut, spent flowers were sent to the compost bin.
Allium Giant Persian Blue has finished blooming. The white Allium mulribulbosum blooms a little later. The blue was cut and added to the compost. The white will be around another week.

I hope you had a good holiday as we honored our troops.


And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
~Lee Greenwood