Three Garden Surprises To Be Thankful For - 27 East

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Three Garden Surprises To Be Thankful For

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This summer I kept Adlumia trained along the porch railing though we were in constant conflict and it really wanted to sit in my chair.  ANDREW MESSINGER

This summer I kept Adlumia trained along the porch railing though we were in constant conflict and it really wanted to sit in my chair. ANDREW MESSINGER

Late in the summer the monarch butterflies visited Adlumia regularly for snacking.

Late in the summer the monarch butterflies visited Adlumia regularly for snacking.

The climbing bleeding heart started its journey at the concrete footing of the porch. It then climbed up to the railing where half of it took a right turn and the other half took to the left.

The climbing bleeding heart started its journey at the concrete footing of the porch. It then climbed up to the railing where half of it took a right turn and the other half took to the left.

The left portion of this year’s Adlumia in full bloom in mid-August. Blooming begins in mid to late June and continues well into September.

The left portion of this year’s Adlumia in full bloom in mid-August. Blooming begins in mid to late June and continues well into September.

From bare roots to blooming stems in less than eight weeks, this grandiflora rose, Sweet Spirit, has been another rose that makes me think the newer varieties have great promise

From bare roots to blooming stems in less than eight weeks, this grandiflora rose, Sweet Spirit, has been another rose that makes me think the newer varieties have great promise

While the name may be confused the flower is quite clear. Alcea zebrina flowers are about 1 inch in diameter in a striking mini-hollyhock like display.

While the name may be confused the flower is quite clear. Alcea zebrina flowers are about 1 inch in diameter in a striking mini-hollyhock like display.

Just to the right of the fire hydrant the mystery plant emerges then gives some hints with its large yellow flowers.

Just to the right of the fire hydrant the mystery plant emerges then gives some hints with its large yellow flowers.

In just days the flowers revealed a small yellow squash then more for weeks to come

In just days the flowers revealed a small yellow squash then more for weeks to come

The flowers of A. zebrina occur along a central stem. However, if the stem is pinched at an early stage the flowers will cover a small and bushier plant.

The flowers of A. zebrina occur along a central stem. However, if the stem is pinched at an early stage the flowers will cover a small and bushier plant.

A first-year plant of the Adlumia fungosa that showed up in the long perennial border.  About 18 inches in diameter it will send out its wonderful vines early next summer.

A first-year plant of the Adlumia fungosa that showed up in the long perennial border. About 18 inches in diameter it will send out its wonderful vines early next summer.

Often growing as tall as 5 feet, this A. zebrina blooms up the center stem. A single seed from years ago germinated to provide this wonderful plant next to Rudbeckia triloba.

Often growing as tall as 5 feet, this A. zebrina blooms up the center stem. A single seed from years ago germinated to provide this wonderful plant next to Rudbeckia triloba.

The French Hollyhock got so large it had to be staked, and in this photo it’s pushing over 5 feet tall.

The French Hollyhock got so large it had to be staked, and in this photo it’s pushing over 5 feet tall.

Autor

Hampton Gardener®

This past gardening season was one of so many delightful surprises, so the following thoughts seem to be appropriate for Thanksgiving.

The copious rain had me cutting the lawn twice in most weeks — and that was a real drag — but not once did any part of the lawn turn brown for lack of water, and that was a first. I also had some astonishing incidents that reminded me that one of the miracles of gardening is that no two years in the garden are ever, ever the same.

My first treat was with a plant that I’ve noted and swooned about in this column several times. It’s a native but rare wildflower, or to be more precise, a native vine that few gardeners get to enjoy. While some of you could easily look at it as a weed, it is indeed a plant that more of us should at least experiment with. It goes by the name of Adlumia fungosa, but its common name is much more descriptive: the climbing bleeding heart.

Adlumia had probably tried to establish in one spot in my garden years ago, but I suspect that when I saw it growing among the Hostas, Hibiscus and Korean mums I pulled it out. However, three years ago the weed got ahead of me. From the crown came a series of thin vines that crawled up toward the porch then inched up the cement block wall, over the floor boards and in no time were well entwined in and out of the porch spindles and rails, up the support column. The vines began to entwine my favorite chair where I sit to watch the hummingbirds. The chair belonged to Adlumia for most of that summer.

It’s quite amazing because you can sit and watch the vines sway to and fro as their tendrils seek something to attach to so the vines can continue to extend. As if that isn’t amazing enough, the vines become covered with 6-inch clusters of pale pink, heart-shaped flowers that bloom all summer and into the early fall. The flowers are visited by all kinds of pollinating insects that seek the pollen and nectar with the hummingbirds visiting as well.

I was surprised this spring when the crown of a plant showed up again. As a biennial it should only have a crown in its first year that’s about 18 inches in diameter. Then the following year it returns to its vine stage, flowering stage then it sets seed. Apparently, my digging around the soil to move other plants around had resulted in seeds germinating two years in a row so the plant, still a biennial, has been able to return every year.

This year I was ready. As the vines sought out my favorite chair once again I was able to coax them along the spindles and rails along the porch so the plant grew up from the ground then split, sending the vines to the left and the right.

Ah, but there was one more surprise. Sixty feet away at the bottom on my long perennial island a new Adlumia became established and quietly, without fanfare, it made an airy mound of feathery foliage and was left alone. Next summer, as the vines emerge, I’ll tease them up the trunk of the nearby lilacs and by early summer the lilacs will be in full bloom, with tiny bleeding hearts.

On a smaller scale of garden miracles, I planted my first bare root rose in over a half a century. I had long given up on roses with their disease and insect issues, but I had been reading great things about this one, Sweet Spirit, which is a grandiflora rose. Much to my chagrin, by the time I’d decided to try this variety the only place I could find it was from the White Flower Farm. I despise their high prices, but the truth be known, you can often get plants from them a year or two before they show up at garden centers.

The plant arrived on my office step via UPS and the box was immediately opened. Inside was a well packed bare-rooted rose plant with a few 6-to-8-inch stems and a root mass packed in moss. I found a good spot for it, got it planted and in just a few weeks it was sending out new shoots from the dormant stems. I was delighted at the plant’s vigor but even more delighted and surprised when only weeks later it began to bloom in a spectacular display.

The plant got tired after its first blooming flush but late in the summer it budded all over again and was in bloom for six weeks late into the summer and fall with gorgeous flowers, many of which made it into the kitchen vases. The whole experience was a great surprise, and kudos to WFF. I can’t wait to see how it performs next year. I want to go through one more growing season before I recommend this rose, but other reviews have been glowing.

I passed on the vegetable garden last summer. There was just too much work to do in the perennial gardens so I harvested my two rows of garlic (one German and one Italian red neck) and seeded a small area of salad greens while the carrots, beets and radishes are still in the unopened seed packets. Then, in mid-August something quite remarkable happened.

I’ve got a big old spruce at the beginning of the driveway, and its days are certainly numbered. At the base of the tree a clump of wild, perennial sweet peas (Lathyrus latifolius, which is not native) cover the ground every summer with some moth mullein pushing through as well as some weeds. About 8 feet away is a red fire hydrant. I pass this spot several times during the day to walk the dog and visit neighbor Nancy. While returning one afternoon I noticed some large leaves emerging from the ground at the hydrant. Each day there were more and more leaves until there were at least a dozen and then large yellow flowers began to appear. I could only think that the chipmunks had planted some seeds from Nancy’s annual pumpkin display on her front yard.

Then the greatest surprise of all. The large yellow flowers were visited by slugs (who ever knew that slugs would be pollinators?) and I presume some bees because deep inside the foliage I spied a tiny squash. A beautiful yellow squash. Then another and another. We had yellow zucchinis fresh picked from the fire hydrant for the next six weeks.

Not a clue in the world where the original seed came from or who planted it. The closest yellow squash I could think of was two years ago in Nancy’s raised planters on a vacant lot at least 500 feet away. Maybe there is a bright side to her incessant feeding of the chipmunks who may have been the planters.

Lastly, the French hollyhock. Or is it the stripped mallow? Or is it really Malva sylvestris var. Mauritania Zebrina? This plant has so many bastardized names that it makes my head spin but I see it most often referred to as Althea zebrina or Alcean zebrina. The texts and articles and nurseries all too often refer to it as a perennial. It is not.

It’s been in my garden in one area off and on for years and I remember growing it decades ago at the Jacob’s greenhouse gardens at Southampton College. While the literature says it will grow from 2 to 4 feet tall, the one that showed up this year in the perennial island was 5 to 6 feet tall. In late summer I noticed its familiar hollyhock-like foliage when it was about 18 inches tall then as it reached for the sky its 1-inch, wonderfully striped flowers of shades of purple, mauve and pink began to appear and the flowering continued until the frost did the plant in.

I surmise that while not a perennial, the seeds are hardy and can remain viable in the soil for several years. In our area we’d refer to it as a seed hardy annual. When we work in the garden, the dormant seeds can be exposed to the right amount of light and moisture and voila, Althea zebrina emerges once again.

The plant seems to be disease and insect resistant, and in late summer the flowers will set seeds in small, green clusters that turn brown when ripe in a small doughnut shape. It’s easy to collect the seed, hold it over in a plastic bag in the refrigerator then sow some in small pots in April. They will flower the first year from seed and once you have an established plant or plants you should expect them to return, but on an irregular schedule.

And did I tell you about the flowering quince that had white berries in September? Another garden mystery but for another time. Keep growing.

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