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Easy-Growing Plants Offer Colorful Excitement All Season Long

Goblet-shaped blooms of xeric Callirhoe involucrata adorn the garden from late May to October.

In an ideal garden, I suppose individual plants would bloom all season long, providing continuous color.  Here in Colorado, season-long bloom is rather uncommon, other than with annuals.

As for perennials, bulbs and shrubs, a long bloomer along the Front Range could be defined as one that produces flowers non-stop for four to six months.  Fortunately, there are a few stalwarts out there, including those mentioned below.

  • Catmint (Nepeta). My favorite catmint is little Trudy—a sterile, drought-tolerant cultivar that grows into a compact mound of lavender fluffiness lasting from May to October.  If Trudy begins to poop out in the summer heat, simply shear her back, and she’ll be fluffed out again in a week or two.  This perennial grows about a foot high and 1.5 feet wide.
  • Prairie winecups (Callirhoe involucrata). Winecups generates vines up to 2.5 feet long that are loaded with burgundy blooms about an inch in diameter.  This stalwart perennial grows about six inches tall and can handle the hottest, driest conditions in your landscape.  Like little Trudy, winecups blooms from May to October.

    Perky lavender Rozanne cranesbill lights up the landscape from June to September. When blooms start to fade, cut Rozanne back judiciously to encourage new bloom.

  • Rozanne cranesbill (Geranium ‘Gerwat’ Rozanne). If you love lush, lavender blooms, Rozanne is for you.  This hardy perennial grows in full sun to part shade and boasts blossoms about an inch in diameter.  The plant itself grows about 1.5 feet high and 2 to 2.5 feet wide.  Rozanne isn’t as drought-tolerant as catmint and winecups, so water it once or twice a week in hot weather. She’ll give you color from June to September.
  • Coreopsis and Blanket flower (Galliardia). These two beauties will bloom from June to September.  I’ve stopped growing them, however, because they require such frequent deadheading.
  • Stella de Oro daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’). Unlike most other daylilies, Stella d’Oro blooms from May to August, displaying soft yellow blossoms.  Stella grows about 1 foot high and eventually will spread to the point that you’ll need to divide her to make new Stellas.

    It’s hard to beat fire meidiland for sheer showiness. This tough, yet beautiful groundcover rose will delight you all the way from June to September.

  • Roses.  There are quite a few roses that will bloom from June to September.  One drought-tolerant favorite is Linda Campbell, which grows about 5 feet high and wide, with deep red flowers.  Long-blooming groundcover roses include sea foam, white meidiland, fire meidiland, scarlet meidiland, and magic meidiland.  When looking for long-blooming roses, check for “good repeat” or “continuous repeat” in the plant descriptions.

 

 

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What Now??? Rozanne Succumbs to Mosaic Virus

Cucumber mosaic virus, like other mosaic viruses, causes yellow mottling on the leaves and can lead to leaf distortion and plant stunting.

A couple of weeks ago while mowing my lawn, I noticed yellow splotches on the leaves of one of my robust Rozanne cranesbills.  “Looks like some kind of mosaic virus,” I thought to myself.

So I hopped on my computer and started googling away on cranesbill geranium issues.  Within minutes, I discovered that cucumber mosaic virus can attack cranesbills and that it’s often vectored by aphids.  So, I figure that an aphid probably visited the plant, sucked on it, and in the process, infected Rozanne.

Weeds apparently provide a great food and disease source for aphids, and I happen to live between the two weediest yards in the neighborhood.

The virus can also be transmitted via garden tools and gardeners’ fingers, according to The Royal Horticultural Society.  That’s why it’s important to clean tools and hands with soap and water.

Besides causing yellow mottling, cucumber mosaic virus can lead to leaf distortion and plant stunting.

It’s important to dispose of diseased plants to keep them from infecting other plants in the garden.

Worst of all, there’s no chemical control for the virus.

After reading all that, I raced outside, dug up the infected cranesbill, conducted a speedy funeral, and tossed the plant into the trash.  It broke my heart to destroy a gorgeous two-year-old cranesbill.  But it was the only thing I could do.

Next, I checked the four cranesbills surrounding the infected one.  Fortunately, I didn’t see any mottling on the other plants.

Normally, I blast a plant with water to dislodge aphids.  But in this case, I wanted to take more definitive action.  So I whipped out my Ferti-lome Triple Action insecticide/fungicide/miticide and sprayed all of my geraniums, roses and Pawnee Buttes sand cherries.  When I used Triple Action on my aphid-infested sand cherries last year, the plants recovered nicely.

I’ve been growing hardy geraniums, including Rozanne and bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum), for ten years or so, and have never had any problems with them.

My online research indicates that allium can repel aphids.  Interestingly, though, I did have one allium growing near the Rozannes, and still had this mosaic problem.  Maybe I need more alliums.

Other plants that reportedly repel aphids are catnip/catmint, garlic, chives and mint.

I grow Little Trudy catmint next to my roses, and so far, haven’t spotted any aphids on the roses.  All of my roses are own-root roses.  So fortunately, I don’t need to be concerned about another virus– rose mosaic virus—on those plants because that disease attacks only grafted roses.  It’s yet one more good reason to plant own-root roses, such as those sold by High Country Roses.

 

 

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Transform your Shady Rock Meadow into an Ocean of Color

Plumbago's gentian blue flowers, copper seed heads, deep green leaves and red fall foliage add up to a winner in a shady garden area.

Plumbago’s gentian blue flowers, copper seed heads, deep green leaves and red fall foliage add up to a winner in a shady garden area.

Last month, I wrote about ground covers you could use for covering sunny areas in a rock meadow. This month, I’m focusing on ground covers for shady, rocky areas. Growing ground covers among rocks will not only add color, but will help suppress weeds.

Here are several shade-tolerant ground covers that will grow tall enough to cover river rock:

  • Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides). The first time I saw a photo of this plant, I thought that the brilliant, gentian blue flowers couldn’t possibly be as gorgeous in real life as they appeared in the picture. But when I later spotted this ground cover in bloom, I realized its flowers really are that spectacular. When you add deep green leaves and copper-colored seed heads to the mix, the plant is downright startling. And if that’s not enough, the plant’s leaves turn bright red in the fall. Because it spreads readily when regularly supplied with medium water, it’s a good choice for covering a shady rock meadow. In Colorado, plumbago will grow eight to 12 inches high and two feet wide or more. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that plumbago is very slow to green up. So don’t assume that you’ve killed it if it doesn’t start popping up with your other plants in the spring.
  • Spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum). Years ago, a neighbor gave me some spotted dead nettle, which I planted in a moist, shady spot. Within days, slugs had decimated that plant. I haven’t grown it since. However, slugs are less likely to be a problem in a rock meadow, so I believe this plant would be worth a shot in these conditions. Dead nettle boasts lovely green leaves frosted with gray, and it grows 6 to 9 inches high by 2 to 3 feet wide. This groundcover likes medium moisture in well-drained areas. Although its flowers are relatively inconspicuous, dead nettle will produce clusters of tiny two-lipped white, pink or purple blooms in late spring or early summer. Popular varieties include Nancy, Wootton pink and orchid frost.
  • Creeping Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia repens). Talk about a plant you can just throw in the ground and forget—creeping Oregon grape holly will just take off on its own and envelop an area with its evergreen foliage. Once it’s established, it’s extremely drought-tolerant. I like this plant because, in addition to being outrageously tough, it’s always doing something. In the spring, Oregon grape sends up intensely yellow flowers, followed by clusters of deep blue berries, which mature in late summer. Although the berries are quite sour, they can be used in jellies. Then in the fall, the foliage turns reddish and provides a show throughout the winter. An individual plant will grow 12 to 18” high and about 24” wide, but it spreads quickly because of underground runners. If you want to control erosion, this plant is a great bet. The only down side is that Oregon grape’s leathery, spiny-toothed leaves tend to catch and hold onto litter.
  • Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum). This plant has the most adorable whorled leaves and fluffy, fragrant, white spring flowers. It grows about 6 to 12 inches high, and it spreads like crazy if it likes its environment. Although sweet woodruff prefers part to full shade and medium to wet conditions, I’ve grown it successfully in some dry, sunny spots. Pair this little darling with periwinkle (Vinca minor and Vinca major), which also grows 6 to 12 inches high and blooms at the same time as sweet woodruff. Seeing vinca’s purple blooms surrounded by woodruff’s fluffy white blossoms is a springtime delight.
  • Rozanne cranesbill (Geranium ‘Gerwat’ Rozanne). I mentioned Rozanne in last month’s post about ground covers for sunny areas. But this versatile plant will grow successfully in part shade, as well. Rozanne’s cousin, bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguinium) will thrive in both part shade and full sun, too. Whereas Rozanne generates large purple blooms all summer long, bloody cranesbill produces fuchsia blooms in the spring.

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Voles, Rabbits & Ascochyta Leaf Blight: What’s a Gardener to do?

Long-blooming Rozanne cranesbill edges the border in front of the Autumn Brilliance serviceberry, providing a focal point for passersby.

Long-blooming Rozanne cranesbill edges the border in front of the Autumn Brilliance serviceberry, providing a focal point for passersby.

Last September, I tore out my old landscaping and redesigned my front yard. The voles and rabbits wiped out some of my new plants, but most of the installation survived.

As you may be aware, it takes about three years for a new landscape to come into its own. I’m now almost one year into mine.

The Rozanne cranesbills in front of my Autumn Brilliance serviceberry have been real show-stoppers, blooming bright purple flowers since late May. They should continue blooming until frost. This morning, I cut some of them back because they had grown leggy. They’ll fill back in and rebloom. In the meantime, there are still some blooms for the bees to visit.

The pink and white soapwort groundcovers along my front foundation performed like the stalwarts that they are, and they set seed so for babies next spring. I’m aiming for a sea of tiny pink and white flowers along the foundation next spring.

Xeric plants, such as (front to back) Little Trudy catmint, Mojave sage and Sunset agastache make this arid corner look almost lush. My transplanted Genista Lydia (left) looks scruffy right now, but will eventually be beautiful again. The Pawnee Buttes sand cherry behind it is very happy in its home.

Xeric plants, such as (front to back) Little Trudy catmint, Mojave sage and Sunset agastache make this arid corner look almost lush. My transplanted Genista Lydia (left) looks scruffy right now, but will eventually be beautiful again. The Pawnee Buttes sand cherry behind it is very happy in its home.

In my front, dry corner, my Norbonne blue flax died, so I replaced it with Little Trudy catmint, which is very happy in its location. I also discovered that one of my Genistas Lydia survived the move from Denver, so I transplanted it from the trench in my sister’s yard to my front yard. Although Lydia resents transplanting, she did bloom in June. I’ve pruned her back some, but she’s looking sparse and ragged. Once she recovers, however, she’ll be her usual gorgeous self.

I decided to tear out two of my three existing Peking contoneasters because they were planted too close together. After digging and chopping on one of the stumps for about five hours, I received an offer of help from my neighbor, Teo, who owns a landscaping company. He kindly came over and used his winch to pull the stump out of the ground, saving me another three or so hours of labor. After that experience, I decided to simply recut my other stump and paint it with Tordon so that it will rot away.

Since installing my new plants, I’ve noticed a decided uptick in pollinators. The bees love the Rozanne cranesbill and agastache, in particular. As for the swallowtail butterflies, they were in flight when I spotted them. But given that they like serviceberries, I think it may have been the Autumn Brilliance that attracted them.

Now that I’ve cleared more rock mulch from the far side of my yard and done away with two of my three cotoneasters, I have a swath that would lend itself perfectly to creating a butterfly corridor from the public sidewalk to my serviceberry. I haven’t created a drawing for that area yet, but I already know that it has to have butterfly weed, which is a host and nectar plant for the monarch. So I’ve installed a Hello Yellow variety. Normally, I would have planted the orange variety, but I already have plenty of orange from the orange carpet hummingbird and sunset hyssop in that area.

The Color Guard yucca (foreground) contrasts with the orange carpet hummingbird groundcover. Eventually, the Color Guard will grow about 3 feet high and wide.

The Color Guard yucca (foreground) contrasts with the orange carpet hummingbird groundcover. Eventually, the Color Guard will grow about 3 feet high and wide.

All but one of my Pawnee Buttes sand cherries died from spending eight months in a trench at my sister’s house. With voles, bunnies and a lack of water, it’s amazing that any of them made it. So I bought three more sand cherries, as well as a Regent serviceberry, and gave them a home.

This fall, the reddish-gold foliage of the Regent serviceberry should complement the orange-red of Autumn Brilliance, the reddish-yellow of the Tiger Eyes sumac and the yellow of the Cheyenne mockorange.

The Color Guard yuccas near the front porch have grown more slowly than I expected. They’re only about four inches tall and wide. It’ll be awhile, apparently, before they reach three feet tall and wide.

The Tiger Eyes sumac, too, has grown more slowly than I anticipated. So although it should display outstanding fall color, it’ll likely turn into a brown fuzzy stick again this winter.

I’ve been waiting for my turf to recover from the ascochyta leaf blight brought on by a rainy spring, followed by a drought-like summer. As Gilda Radner used to say, “It’s always something.”

July 30, 2016 update:  Hummingbird sighting!  About 5pm this evening, I spotted a green-and-blue hummingbird feeding on my orange carpet hummingbird groundcover (Zauschneria garrettii).  The little darling chirped as it moved from blossom to blossom.  After several minutes at the Zauschneria, it moved on to the agastache for a brief snack.  It only goes to show that if you plant it, they will come!

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