Monday, April 25, 2011

Scilla vs Chionodoxa

I love seeing the little blue flowers that appear in the spring. They often appear naturalized in the lawn or showing up in the garden bed among the daffodils and hyacinths. But which are they - Scilla or Chionodoxa?

The main difference is the direction the flower head faces.
Scilla have electric blue flowers that are bell-like, drooping downward.

It's six blue petals surround stamens that have thread-like filaments and are not clustered together. Scilla can grow 3-6 inches high and each bulb produces 3-4 stems with medium, strap-like leaves. It's very tough and cold hardy that easily naturalizes by bulb offshoots and self-seeding. 

Chionodoxa is commonly called Glory-of-the-Snow because it is among the first bulbs to bloom in the spring. Each bulb produces six petaled, soft blue flowers with white centers that face upward and are surrounded by narrow, basal leaves.

If you look closely, you'll notice the stamens have very flattened white filaments arranged close together, giving the appearance of a central white cone.  The plant naturalizes easily by bulb offsets and self seeding.

Both these bulbs are planted in the fall and during the late winter/early spring months begin to bloom. They may be small, I think they are both adorable and beautiful!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day from a Child's Perspective

Happy Earth Day! To celebrate the day, my town is holding a "Clean Up Main Street" event next weekend. To promote the event, they asked children to create posters using whatever design and text they seemed fit. I just spent the last hour walking through town admiring all the posters with my children, while my 5 year old took pictures of them. He learned about Earth Day in his kindergarten class and was telling me how important it was to pick up garbage, recycle and turn off lights when we are not in the room. It was too cute but I love that he's being taught the importance of keeping our earth green at such a young age.

So in honor of Earth Day, here are few of the posters we found in town. I hope they inspire and delight you as much as they did us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ornamental Oregano

Oregano 'Kent Beauty' (Origanum rotundifolium) is an ornamental oregano plant with pretty pink bracts that look somewhat like hop (Humulus) and heart-shaped blue-green leaves.

To maintain the pink flowers, provide bright light and cool night temperatures, if possible. Once established, it is cold hardy.

Kent Beauty enjoys temperatures 55-70°F but will tolerate 20-80°F. Prefers well to fast-draining soil that is kept evenly moist (never soggy). Bright light will maintain pink color but direct afternoon sun may be too hot.

Because of it's cascading fashion, Kent Beauty is lovely in a hanging basket, window box, container or over rock ledges.

In late fall, it's recommended to cut the plants to the ground. The bracts can be cut anytime of year and dried to use in floral arrangements.

Have you grown this plant with success (or failure)? I think its so lovely and unique - I'm going to try it in a few different locations this year.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Daffodils: Symbols of spring and rebirth

Daffodils are popping up everywhere around town these days. Some are all yellow, others are white with yellow middles and still others are yellow with orange middles. Some have long, tubular trumpets, others have short, round trumpets. Some plants are tall and slender, others look like miniature versions. To me, all are beautiful.

Many people wonder what the difference is between a daffodil and a narcissus. In a word... nothing. Daffodil is the common name for the plant, while Narcissus is the Latin/botanical name for the genus. Occasionally, I'll hear someone refer to this plant as a jonquil. But jonquil refers to a specific kind of narcissus and not a correct term for the group in general. True jonquils usually have several, very fragrant flower heads, to one stem. 

Symbolizing rebirth and new beginnings, the daffodil is virtually synonymous with spring.

I think the miniature varieties are so cute, especially when they are planted with the vibrant blue Scilla siberica.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2011

Thank you to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting the monthly Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I'm very excited to be participating for the first time.

Spring is bursting out all over town here - daffodils, hyacinth, forsythia and weeping cherry trees. Here at my house, I have mostly containers filled with pansies. As the weather continues to warm up, these pansies will be replaced with summer annuals and a few perennials. But for now, here's what's blooming at my house:

The cute little faces of the pansies greet me by the front door

A little green caterpillar has joined the purple pansies

And an orange snail has nestled into the smaller flower box on the patio

A yellow mushroom and little "flying" bugs adorn the container in the corner

The rose bush my hubby gave me as a gift a for Valentine's Day last year has started to show some new growth. 

The strawberry plant is showing more and more blooms each day. My kids are so excited for the strawberries to come!

I have eight new impatiens plants I made from cuttings this year. One of them is blooming! I'm so excited these are doing well and can't wait to see them in the garden next month. 

Hope you enjoyed the little tour around my yard and I look forward to seeing you again next month for the May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

After reading my post, be sure to head on over to May Dreams Gardens to check out Carol's April Bloom Day post to see what's blooming around the world!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Containers: Think outside the bulb

Early spring containers can sometimes be a challenge if you don't have or don't want to show off bulb flowers such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths.

I came across a beautiful alternative the other day:

I just love the juxtaposition of the tall, dark stemmed Pussy Willows, standing tall behind the low, bunchy, pink mounds of the Heath.

The Pussy Willow branches were simply stuck into the ground in clumps behind the Heath.

But, you might ask, am I sure the pink plant here is Heath and not Heather?

Yes, I'm sure. Though, it took me a long time to get it right!

Both Heath and Heather are part of the Ericaceae family which includes plants such as cranberry, blueberry, azalea and rhododendron. The botanical genus for Heath is Erica and Calluna for Heather.

A few of the main differences:
  • Bloom time: Heath blooms in late winter/early spring; Heather blooms midsummer through the fall
  • Leaves: Heath has distinctive single needle-like leaves; Heather has compact scale-like leaves

But for the most part, both Heaths and Heathers are nearly identical in form and growth habits, and both are evergreen, low maintenance plants.

The Heath and Pussy Willow combination could be great for a large container or even a bed that hasn't quite burst into bloom yet.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A School Garden

This is my first year as a volunteer on the Garden Committee at my son's elementary school. The garden was created about eight years ago and continues to be a source of fascination and learning for the children.

We just started cleaning up the beds, pruning and preparing the soil for planting.

The garden consists of four raised beds with another bed going around the perimeter by the fence. It gets mostly full sun except for the southwest corner which gets shade from the tree outside the fence.

The far bed above is typically planted with strawberries on one end and garlic on the other.
The other bed is planted with various vegetables, some sown by seed, others planted by seedling.
There are also three compost piles that are maintained and used in the garden.
There are two more beds on the other side of the path that will be planted with vegetables. The children have already planted seeds for radishes and carrots at one end. At the far end of the photo, along the fence, is a raspberry bush. It's one of three that we have in the garden. And just outside the photo, on the right, is the herb garden filled with all sorts of wonderfully smelling plants, even in their dormant state.

Outside the garden entrance and along western wall of the school is the Rose Garden. It's been weeded since this photo was taken (a big job as you can see!) and now we can see the pansies and daffodils that are also sharing the space with the roses. The water feature in the center was created a few years ago by the art teacher and his fifth grade class. Each child designed one of the tiles. I think it is so cool.

Last weekend we weeded more of the beds, tilled the soil and pruned the raspberry shrubs. Once the beds are ready, the children will be invited outside and given seeds or seedlings to plant. It should be fun to watch them get their hands dirty and also learn about growing their own food. I'll keep you updated on the progress!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bright Color Combinations

Main Street Nursery in Huntington, NY had this display of pansies out front by the road. I had to stop and take a photo because I loved the color combination so much! The deep burgundy really gives some depth to the bed and makes the yellow color pop.

Often in the spring we see only pinks, whites and blues. But I really like the vibrant color scheme they have here - and probably would also look great in the fall!

Be sure to check out the Garden Party happening over at Fishtail Cottage today!

Monday, April 4, 2011

My New Raspberry Shrub

I am volunteering at my son's school to help work in their school garden. This is my first year both at the garden but also at the school, so I'm curious to see how the garden looks in mid summer when everything we planted in the spring with the children is growing rapidly. It's mainly a garden full of vegetables and fruits with some attractive flowers and herbs planted among them. The garden has three raspberry bushes and because they send up shoots seemingly everywhere, the committee coordinator told me to take a few home.

I know they need a lot of sun, so I put it in a container so I could move it around as the surrounding trees begin to leaf out. I'm hoping it will survive and flourish in a container!

All the shoots have lots of new growth, so it certainly seems promising. Anyone ever grow these in the garden and/or in a container? Any tips you can offer me?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hicks Nursery Flower & Garden Show

Hicks Nurseries in Westbury, NY is one of the oldest nursery and garden centers on Long Island. I love going there to just wander around the vast array of indoor and outdoor plants - and maybe pick up a few plants for myself!

In March, they hold their annual Flower and Garden Show to welcome spring and show off what's new for the season. This year's theme was "Outdoor Garden Rooms" and as always, showed some incredible garden designs and plant combinations. Here are just a few: