Saturday, November 28, 2015

Planting Perennials

A little over a week ago, we were expecting a rainy Wednesday, so I hurried to get some things planted on Tuesay.  (Why not let Mother Nature help out with the watering/settling in of new plants?)

The focus that day was the flowerbed expansion along the back of the house, but a few things found new homes in existing parts of the flower garden.

First, I moved the last of that row of crinum lilies.  Whew.  Those things are not easy to get out of the ground!  And they're heavy, too.  I wasn't bothered by wasps, at least, despite my worries (after having seen one or two hanging around the area, earlier).

Planting the Flowerbed Expansion

Then I chose places for the new plants, starting with three types of clumping ornamental grasses.

The muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) went more-or-less between the tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) and the unknown "too-red" rose, in the garage-side flowerbed.  Everyone seems to agree that it looks its best when the light shines through it, so I hope this position will provide a nice view as we walk down the path toward the backyard.  If not, well, I can always move it!

The unspecified Pennnisetum went into the leftmost front corner of the newly expanded bed.  I'm not sure exactly what it is, beyond Pennisetum, so I'm a little nervous about its chances.  I've learned that purple fountain grass, which may be what this is, may survive in zone 8b, but just as many (if not more) report that it usually doesn't come back in spring.  If we get the colder/wetter-than-normal winter predicted (because of El NiƱo), tender plants may have a harder time surviving, this year.  Since nothing I've read about overwintering grasses in the garage or house has been very encouraging, I guess I'll leave it where it is and hope for the best.  (And next time, do a little more research!)

Way on the other end of where the expanded bed will eventually be (though I haven't gotten that far, yet), I planted the Miscanthus sinesis 'Gold Breeze' (maiden grass/zebra grass) Mom gave me.  This grass can get quite tall-- up to 7 feet, for some-- but it sounds like it takes years for it to reach that size.  I'm hopeful that it will do well in this spot, but I'm new to ornamental grasses, so I'm a little uncertain of how much sun, humidity, and drought they can take, and in what combination.

Planting the Flowerbed Expansion

Next, I planted the three new salvias in the expanded bed:
--Salvia leucantha 'Purple on Purple' (Mexican bush sage, all-purple)
--Salvia leucantha 'Waverly'
--Salvia 'Pizzazz Purple'

Salvia leucantha 'Purple on Purple' is also known as Mexican bush sage.  The velvety-textured flowers and calyxes are purple, and the foliage has a fuzzy, silver-dusted appearance.  Basically the whole plant looks (and is) soft.

Salvia leucantha 'Waverly' is sometimes known as white Mexican bush sage, but while it shares some features of the purple Mexican bush sage, it's definitely its own plant.  It has velvety white flowers with purple (or purple-green) calyxes, and the fuzz on the white flowers gradually ages to a rosy-purple tint.  The leaves, however, are nothing like the fuzzy, silvered foliage of the all-purple Salvia leucantha.  The foliage is green, relatively smooth, and the individual leaves are broader and flatter than the narrow, plump leaves of the all-purple salvia.

I haven't been able to find Salvia 'Pizzazz Purple' on many websites.  What I have read is that it grows to 3-4 feet in a mounding habit, with stalks of purple flowers.  (And I've seen it bloom, so I can confirm that they are indeed purple-- a very vibrant dark purple.) It blooms spring through fall, is hardy in zones 8 and 9, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and needs either full sun or partial shade.

Planting the Flowerbed Expansion

Other perennials I planted at the same time:
--Chinese foxglove (Rehmania elata)
--Alabama ox-eye daisy (Heliopsis helianthoides)
--ox-eye daisy/marguerite/moon daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare 'May Queen')

Chinese foxglove is not related to "real foxglove", but as you might guess, its pink flowers bear some resemblance to those of digitalis.  It grows 2-3 feet tall and blooms in spring and summer.  It may be invasive in some places (but is supposed to be easy to pull or dig up), and it is poisonous.  I had some misgivings over that last part, but it's far from the first or only poisonous plant growing in our yard, so I decided to go ahead with it.  If the dogs seem to pay too much attention to it, I'll banish it to the small flower area outside the fence, but I hope that won't be necessary.  I tried to give it a little extra shade to keep it from drying out too easily, but the "even moisture" requirement always worries me.  We'll see... Some soil amendment may be in order, or I may move it to a still shadier spot, at some point.

The Alabama ox-eye daisy is a native wildflower.  Some spoilsports warn that it's invasive, but others prefer to say that it is exuberant and good for filling in an area.  It forms large clumps up to 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  The 3"-wide, yellow, daisy-shaped flowers appear from July until frost in full sun or part shade.

The 'May Queen' ox-eye daisy has even more of a reputation as a spreader.  Native to Europe, it's drought-tolerant and hardy over a wide range of zones.  It likes full sun, grows 1-2 feet tall, and blooms spring through fall with 2-4" white-petaled/yellow-eyed, daisy-style flowers.  It will self-seed unless deadheaded.  I may eventually regret planting this in a flowerbed... But I have several months to change my mind and move it before it even starts blooming.  If nothing else, I'm sure I can find another part of the yard to let it grow-- somewhere it won't be as likely to interfere with more timid plants...

With the new sun-lovers planted, I decided to fill in some of the empty spots in the expanded bed (and the newly-emptier garage-side bed) with some of this year's daylily seedlings.

I'd been on the fence as to whether to plant them or leave them in pots until spring, but I think most of them are big enough to go into the beds, now.  The puny ones probably aren't going to be wildly successful, anyway-- and maybe they'll do better in the ground than in pots.  Based on my experience with last year's seedlings, we won't see any flowers from these next year.  Maybe the year after.  But in the meantime, the foliage bulks up the flowerbed.

Planting the Flowerbed Expansion

I also planted a few pots of perennial coreopsis divisions/cuttings.  Some of them had roots, but others... Well, I'm honestly not sure how they've stayed green all this time, on the covered patio, because I surely didn't see roots... Maybe they'll "take"; maybe not.  Either way, they needed to go in the ground.

There are still quite a few things to plant-- small trees, shrubs, shade-lovers, vines, and an array of home-propagated plants.  Some of them will be okay in their pots, for a while, but others really need to be in the ground before the cold weather settles in.

Then there's the mulch.  All these expansions need mulch, and most of the existing flowerbeds need a new layer to make up for what has broken down over the past several months.

In other words, there's work to do!

Planting the Flowerbed Expansion

(The photos are from today, so the salvias, crinums, and a few other things have been a little touched by the near-freezes we've had recently.)