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Wine cups for your garden

Image Source: Missouri Botanical Gardens

Image Source: Missouri Botanical Gardens

Don’t go grabbing a bottle of wine just yet! These wine cups, Callirhoe involucrata, belong to the Malvaceae, or the mallow family. It is native to many of the plains states, including Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. This is a drought tolerant plant that does well especially during hot summers without much rain and in the sun. It will also tolerate some partial shade. Due to the overall tolerance of the plant, it is recommended that one does not try to transplant as it will give resistance. The resistance comes from the long taproot of the plant. The plant prefers well-drained sandy or loamy soils but will tolerate clay. It can rot if the soil is poorly drained.

Wine cups is a purple flowering perennial that is also known as the purple poppy mallow. Its low and mat-forming habit makes it a great groundcover plant that does well in Zones 4-8. Eventually, this plant will spread to about 3 feet wide and about 6 to 9 inches tall. It can easily be used for naturalized areas but can also easily fit in amongst formal areas. Palmately arranged leaves and magenta flowers help characterize the plant. Each magenta colored flower has five petals in an upward cup formation and can be found from mid-spring through fall. Each flower will close in the evening and open again in the morning. Once a flower has been pollinated, it will remain closed.

Image Source: Missouri Botanical Gardens

Image Source: Missouri Botanical Gardens

This plant is great sprawling over rock walls, in rock gardens, and elsewhere. Plant individual plants only several inches apart so that they will mat together. One can plant with a variety of plants depending on the purpose of the garden. Some suggested plants to plant with the Wine Cups are Veronica, Stachys (lamb’s ears), Hemerocallis (daylillies), and Aquilegia (columbine).

 

Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture, Oldfields

 

Two Indiana plants

There are multiple plants throughout the gardens that are native to Indiana, others to the United States, and still many more from other countries, as well as those of a cultivated origin. With this wide array of possibilities, it is nice every now and again to focus on something found originally in the state of Indiana. Two native Indiana plants are Spigelia marilandica and Delphinium exaltatum. These two flowers bring color to the garden, and can be used in various places, especially when trying for a more naturalized appeal. Seasonal horticulturalist Helen Morlock considers Spigelia marilandica to be her favorite flower while I really enjoy seeing Delphinium exaltatum amongst many other native Indiana plants.

Spigelia marilandica (Indian pink) Photo courtesy of North Creek Nurseries

Spigelia marilandica (Indian pink)
Photo courtesy of North Creek Nurseries

Spigelia marilandica is known as Indian Pink. This shade loving plant is great for many homeowners’ shady areas created by windbreaks and other trees and shrubs. This woodland native loves moist and rich soils that have good drainage and some organic matter present. It is a perennial native, growing well alongside the native Aquilegia canadensis (columbine), or in among other summer blooming perennials, such as salvias and geraniums. One can also plant it beside or among a variety of hostas, lungworts, and other shade perennials.

In the spring, the plant should be divided if already present, or planted as transplants. It will self-seed, as the mature seeds will pop out of their seedpods and onto the ground around the plant. Maintenance-wise, this plant requires little once it is in a shady spot with a moist, well-drained soil. (Try to help keep the soil moist during the hot summer months!) Just remember to cut the plant back to the ground in the fall for winter protection.

Red and yellow tubular shaped, star flowers (two inches in length) can be found in early summer on plants that can be up to 2 feet tall and wide. These plants have opposite glossy green leaves that can get up to 4 inches long. The flowers for the Indian Pink are one-sided as well. The best flower display occurs in June, with blooms reoccurring throughout the rest of the summer. Right now, we have some blooming on the museum grounds along the tennis courts. This is along the drive of the Lilly house, where the tennis courts used to be located.

Delphinium exaltatum (tall larkspur) Image courtesy of Mt. Cuba Center

Delphinium exaltatum (tall larkspur)
Image courtesy of Mt. Cuba Center

Delphinium exaltatum is known as the Tall Larkspur. It is named thus due to its height of 4 to 6 feet, whereas many others in the Delphinium genus do not reach such heights. Flowers occur on terminal racemes, being gentian blue in color. Others might consider this color to be more of a purple than a blue. So be sure to know that sometimes when you ask for blue flowers (especially from a florist) that they might actually be closer to what you consider as purple. Larkspur comes from the shape of the flower, which looks like it has a spur. Dark green leaves are palmate, each with three to five lobes.

Protect the tall larkspur from the winter winds. In summer, color might fade in hotter weather but usually does better here in the north than further down south, so give it some afternoon shade from the hot summer sun. Flowers bloom during the summer, later than others of the same genus. Overall, this native plant enjoys full sun, well-drained fertile soils, and can be 4 to 6 feet high, as mentioned above, and 1 to 2 feet wide. Once the flowers have finished, remove the stalk so that the plant has a chance to produce more flowers for you to view and enjoy.

Delphinium exaltatum (tall larkspur) Photo by Audra Franz

Delphinium exaltatum (tall larkspur)
Photo by Audra Franz

Here at the IMA, the tall larkspur can be found in the more naturalized area of the Formal Garden. Facing the entrance to the Formal Garden with the lawn area (tennis court area) to your back, the larkspur can be found on the left, before getting to the pots sitting at that entrance.

Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture, Indiana, Oldfields

 

Excited about Echinacea

Echinacea "Sundown"

Echinacea “Sundown”

What can you find in the garden that is tall, purple, and named after a hedgehog? Echinacea, of course! Echinacea comes from the Greek word echinos, meaning hedgehog, because of the spiny centers of the flower heads. I am sure that many are familiar with the purple coneflower because of its popularity in the Eastern United States. What makes it so special? Echinacea has become a very commonly used flower because it is so easy to grow and very tolerant of weather conditions and garden pests that we are all too familiar with here in Indiana.

Echinacea purpurea, also known as purple coneflower, is native to meadows, prairies, and woodland edges where they are able to receive the most sunlight. It is drought tolerant, heat tolerant, deer tolerant, and even tolerant of clay soil. With just those three factors it is easy to see why the use of Echinacea is so widespread. As long as your coneflowers are in a spot where they can receive full sun, you will have the benefit of their summer long bloom time usually from July until September. Pruning before flowering will delay bloom time and allow you to have fresh, new blooms later in the season. Most people like to cut back all of the dead heads at the end of the flowering season to prevent the massive amounts of reseeding. However, if you like to help feed the birds in the colder months, leaving the seed heads on the coneflowers provide plenty of seed for birds such as golden finches and juncos. Just be sure to prepare yourself for all the coneflower seedlings that will show up in the spring if you do not remove the seed heads.

Echinacea "Sundown" with bee.

Echinacea “Sundown” with bee.

Not only do coneflowers benefit the bird population in the fall, but they also aid the insect population during its flowering season. During the summer, bees and butterflies can be spotted feeding on the nectar and, in late August, you may even find soldier beetles. The soldier beetle is a beneficial insect that feeds on those pesky aphids as well as other soft-bodied insects. So be sure not to harm these particular beetles as they are causing no harm to the plant itself. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Japanese beetles. If there are signs that something is eating away at your coneflowers, it is most likely this pesky critter. Along with Japanese beetles, aphids and eriophyid mites are also problematic to these plants. Sadly insects aren’t the only force of nature that coneflowers have to contend with. Some disease problems to watch out for are powdery mildew, anthracnose, and aster yellows. But, as with any other type of plant, proper care and maintenance can help prevent your coneflowers from falling victim to these diseases.

On the much brighter and more beautiful side, the Echinacea have eight to none different species to choose from that are all tough plants which can withstand the weather conditions in the Central and Eastern United States. Echinacea is no longer just purple coneflowers, but pretty pinks, reds, oranges and whites too. Here at the IMA, you will see the first clusters of Echinacea as you walk down the mall. Walking down the sidewalk past the overlook you will notice the bright pink ‘Southern Belle’ cultivar. The Garden for Everyone has a nice section devoted to ‘Sundown’. And you can’t miss all of the coneflowers in the Four Seasons Garden. It is a beautiful summer with so many wonderful Echinacea to see.

Filed under: Greenhouse, Guest Bloggers, Horticulture, Oldfields

 

Lilies in bloom

Now that it is officially summertime, I can begin to look forward to seeing all of the colorful combinations of lilies. From 12 inches tall to 7 feet tall, lilies know how to steal the show. More than 80 species provide a variety of colors, heights, and bloom times to choose from. Whether they bloom at the beginning of the summer to welcome you to warm weather, or late fall to say farewell until warm weather returns the next year. With so many different species and hybrids, the North American Lily Society has developed eight divisions to help classify them based on parentage, as well as the position and shape of the flower. The different divisions of hybrids are as follows: Asiatic, Martagon, Candidum, American, Longiflorum, Trumpet and Aurelian, Oriental, and Miscellaneous. I want to focus more on the Asiatic and Oriental lilies because they are the more popular hybrids.

Looking around the grounds at the IMA or anywhere else that you may be visiting, you will notice that the most commonly used lilies are Asiatic Hybrids and Oriental Hybrids. Asiatic lilies are one of the earliest to bloom as well as easy to grow. They can grow in almost any soil type just as long as there is no excess moisture that would cause the bulb to rot or acquire a disease. Orientals need a soil that is high in organic material as well as a low pH. Oriental lilies are easily distinguished from the Asiatic hybrids because they are taller, have larger flowers that are more fragrant as well as having wider leaves. Asiatics and Orientals are more popular because they are less susceptible to acquiring a number of troublesome diseases.

Since the beginning of their cultivation, lilies have acquired fungal diseases, basal rots and viruses that distort the plant. What I find interesting about the lilies is that, in medieval times, the bulbs were used for medicinal purposes. Lily bulbs were used to try to cure, or at least diminish the affects of ulcers, scurvy, dropsy and corns. Although using the bulbs for medicines sounds like a good idea, I would prefer to keep them in the ground so I can see and smell the lilies they produce.

When it comes time to choosing which type of lily to grow in your garden or to put in a centerpiece at a wedding, it is best to see and smell them in person before making a decision. Some lilies have a very strong scent, and some have no scent at all. When choosing for the garden, height and color have to be taken into account as well as scent. Though for some, scent may be an afterthought if their garden is already filled with plenty of sweet fragrances. Having lilies indoors is the tricky part for some. When hosting a wedding reception or any other gathering where lilies are in the centerpiece, it may be a wise decision to choose one with little to no scent. It all depends on personal preference. Some really like the fragrance lilies give off while others may despise it. Whatever your preference, it is always an enjoyable experience seeing these large and brightly colorful flowers throughout the gardens. To start off your garden tour at the IMA, stop in to the Garden for Everyone to see the tall yellow Orienpets (combination of the Oriental with the Trumpet and Aurelian hybrids), Lilium ‘Yelloween’, as well as the shorter Orienpets, Lilium ‘Algarve’. As you continue your tour it would be hard to miss any other outstanding lilies.

Filed under: Greenhouse, Guest Bloggers, Horticulture, Oldfields

 

The Real Deal

Baptisia is often called false indigo. I fail to see how remembering false indigo is easier than remembering baptisia (and I don’t care if you pronounce it bap-tees-ee-a, bapteesha, or bap-tis-ee-a). I suppose one could say calling baptisia false indigo ties it back to its historical use as a substitute for true indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) that was THE dye for blue fabric until synthetic dyes took over. You will also find baptisia listed as wild indigo sometimes.

Traditionally, we have used Baptisia australis as an ornamental. Its deep blue flowers and tough-as-nails disposition have earned it a place in gardens for a long, long time. Occasionally you might find one of the white flowered species, on rare occasions the bright yellow B. sphaerocarpa.

Two factors have changed how often these plants are used today, which is much more often than in the past. One is the increased interest in native plants. All baptisias are North American natives with four native to Indiana. Many gardeners want more natives in their landscapes and the baptisias provide beautiful tough plants for this. This beauty comes not only from the flowers but also from the attractive disease and insect free foliage and seed pods which turn dark gray/black when they ripen. The larger types act as shrubs in the landscape until late fall/early winter.

The other factor that has increased the use of baptisias is the hybridizing work done by multiple plant breeders. The first commonly available hybrid was ‘Purple Smoke’, a cross of B. australis and B. alba. This was just a chance seedling in the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Probably the second available hybrid was ‘Carolina Moonlight’, a yellow flowered plant from the same cross. Both cultivars present their flowers well above the foliage increasing their ornamental value.

It was not long before breeders saw the potential of this genus and work to create more hybrids went into overdrive. Dr. Jim Ault and the Chicago Botanic Garden introduced the PRAIRIEBLUES™ series and Walters Gardens introduced the DECADENCE® series by Hans Hansen a few years later. Both of these series involve multiple baptisia species. I should say the two I mention are not the only people working on baptisias. They do have the most hybrids on the market and the most readily available currently.

So many hybrid cultivars are available now but I can still remember when we first ordered ‘Purple Smoke’ for the Formal Garden. The plants were so small and cost so much it was like one almost felt guilty buying them. They were well worth the investment. Few perennials will give you so many months of ornamental value for so many years.

I also want to mention Baptisia sphaerocarpa ‘Screamin’ Yellow’ even though we don’t have it here at the IMA (though it and many of these may be available for purchase at our Greenhouse).This is a smaller plant than some of the hybrids but I love the name and the bright yellow flowers. The seedpods in this species turn tan and are round (sphaero – round/spherical, carpa – fruit). The cultivar is supposed to bloom heavier than the species.

Sources often say do not disturb baptisia once established, however my personal experience suggests you can dig and divide without too much worry. Admittedly I dealt with plain B. australis but that plant was dug then sat outside for a week or two before I got around to dividing it. I made a lot of plants from the mother-clump and all did fine. I would definitely do dividing in fall or early spring (don’t leave the plant laying around like I did) with my preference being spring as soon as you see shoots poking through the soil.

Below are some photos of our baptisias blooming in the Gardens right now.  As you can see there is nothing false about them. They’re the real deal.

 

Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture, Oldfields

 

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