April 28, 2012

Plant of the month: Lily-of-the-Valley

Convallaria majalis

Do you have memories of specific plants from your childhood? One of my all-time favorites harkens back to about age 7. Out the back door, surrounding the entrance to my family’s home was a healthy patch of Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis).

When it was in full bloom, nothing smelled sweeter! I have extremely pleasant specific memories about that specific plant in that specific spot. So when the time came for me to pick a spring ground cover for a garden bed at my own house, it was an easy decision.

Here are some specs on Lily-of-the-Valley from the Missouri Botanical Garden:

• Grows well in zones 3 to 8;
• Prefers part shade to full shade;
• Requires little maintenance;
• Prefers medium moisture levels; and
• Tolerates clay soil, dense shade, deer, and rabbits.

I can vouch for that last point! Aside from my childhood memories, rabbit-resistance is a top reason I chose Lily-of-the-Valley for my garden. Any plant this pleasant that also repels rabbits is a winner by me.

Here are other things I know about Lily-of-the-Valley:

• Blooms in Wisconsin’s zone 5 anytime from late April through May, depending on the weather;
• Dominates a garden bed when in bloom; fades back a bit in mid-summer when other plants take the stage;
• Is a great companion for Hostas, and grows well in the same conditions;
• Thrives in gardens with dappled morning sunlight;
• Takes a few years to establish (like other ground covers it tends to sleep, creep, and then leap);
• Enjoys the rich, loamy soil in my garden (but it would probably grow well in any soil type); and
• Is especially lovely when spring raindrops dot its foliage.

One thing to keep in mind is that Convallaria majalis is not native to the U.S. It was introduced from Europe. There is a variety native to the Appalachian mountain area: Convallaria majuscula. But apparently it’s hard to find at garden nurseries. Most advice I’ve read says to keep Lily-of-the-Valley contained, so it doesn’t spread to woodland areas, where it can become invasive. Mine is limited to two small perennial beds near my house.

All I can say is that when it’s in full bloom, it really takes me back to pleasant memories. What plants are favorites from your childhood?

[On another note: PlantPostings is honored to have been nominated an eCollegeFinder Top Garden Blog! (A hearty thank-you to the person who made the nomination!) I’m honored just to be listed with some very distinguished garden bloggers. The vote is on for the top three gardening blogs, and I sure would appreciate your vote.

You can vote by clicking on the badge at the top right of this page, or at: http://bit.ly/Icakzk. Each visitor can vote once during the voting period, which ends Monday, April 30, 2012, at 5 p.m. EST. Thanks!]

April 24, 2012

Wish you’d been with me in New Orleans

I thought about all of you garden-lovers during my recent trip to New Orleans. Seriously. I wish you’d been there, so we could have shared it all! I’ve been to several southern cities, but there was just something about New Orleans—especially its gardens. Amazing plant displays were around every corner.

The hanging baskets on the decorative balconies in the French Quarter…

The Garden District with its fancy homes and elaborate private gardens…

The little side gardens, visible behind locked, decorative gates…

The Louis Armstrong Rose Garden I described in a previous post

And then we saw the New Orleans Botanical Garden. Wow. A short bus ride ($2.50 round-trip per person) from the French Quarter delivered us to the City Park entrance. The botanical garden inhabits just one section of this amazing 1,500-acre public facility, full of Live Oaks, lagoons, and an arboretum.

The New Orleans Botanical Garden opened in 1936 as the city’s first public classical garden. Unfortunately, the garden was severely flooded after Hurricane Katrina, and the majority of its 2,000 varieties of plants were lost. But with volunteer assistance and donations from people throughout the U.S. and worldwide, the botanical garden reopened to the public just six months after the flood.

The day we spent in the garden ranks right up there among favorite days, ever. A few like-minded plant fans shared the pathways and facilities, but we nearly had the place to ourselves. (I think it was a Tuesday.)

Now to the reason we visited…the plants. I captured more than 300 photos in the botanical garden, alone. The hubby patiently tracked the plant names, and we both marveled at the selection. Obviously, I can’t share them all in one post, so I’ll just show a few highlights (hopefully most of these IDs are correct).

Lantana and Oxalis growing like weeds, both in the botanical garden and elsewhere in New Orleans.

Lantana camara

Oxalis triangularis

Oxalis crassipes

Several personal favorites that don't survive cold Wisconsin winters, including Bougainvillea and Citrus trees.

Bougainvillea spectabilis

Citrus limonia

Plants that commonly bloom in Midwestern gardens during the warmer months—among them Aster, Indian Blanket, Freesia, Poppy, and Canna.

Stokesia laevis

Gaillardia pulchella

Freesia corymbosa

Papavar nudicaule

Canna indica

Some incredible trees—huge Live Oaks with Spanish Moss, Cypress, and Japanese Maple.

Quercus virginiana

Taxodium distichum

Acer palmatum

Numerous previously unfamiliar (to me) plants.

Indigofera decora

Homalocladium platycladum

Justicia betonica

Mismarked--any ideas???

Bauhinia variegata

Tea Roses of numerous varieties.

A conservatory full of Orchids and other tropical plants.

And last but not least, a massive trellis of Hyacinth Bean Vine, which reconfirmed my intentions to plant it.

Lablab purpureus

For a slide show featuring these and many more plants on display at the garden, click on the collage below.

The New Orleans Botanical Garden is a must-see for any gardener traveling in the area. I can’t wait to visit again.

April 15, 2012

Mayapples in April

April is behaving like April. By that, I mean the weather is closer to the normal patterns we’d expect for this time of year. But because we had an extended stretch of summer in March, the plant growing patterns are way off base.

In a normal year here, the Redbud tree would bloom for about a week in mid-May, around prom time. This year it began blooming toward the end of March, so it has given us a vibrant show for nearly three weeks.

The Daffodils I planted in the fall have been blooming that entire time, too.

Crabapples of all shades are in their prime.

Other lovelies in full bloom include Lamium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, blue and yellow Wood Violets, and Vinca.

I wasn't sure the Dicentra would survive several nights in the high 20s without cover, but they're coming on strong now.

Some blooms are past prime, but still sweet, including the Flowering Almond.

Many flowers—most way ahead of schedule—are just about to pop. The Mayapples emerged in mid-March, and are now about to bloom.

Others gearing up for bloom time include Dwarf Korean Lilacs, Trilliums, and Lily-of-the-Valley.

It’s a strange spring. But it sure is putting on a fabulous show! Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day on the 15th of each month!