Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Garden
Big Red/Bronze Leaf Begonia
Begonia Evolution

Wax begonias (Begonia x semperflorens) are popular summer annuals in flower gardens and containers. Over the last few years new interspecific hybrids have changed how we garden with wax begonias.

Hybrid begonias bloom non-stop for almost six months (mid-May thru October (USDA hardiness zones 6 and 7). Plants stand up to summer heat, humidity, and dry spells, and the foliage stays mostly pest and disease free.

Plants grow vigorously, 18 to 24 inches tall and wide by the late summer/early fall. This means fewer plants to purchase to fill the garden space which will save you money. Space hybrid begonias around 15-18 inches apart depending on which of the three series that you plant.

Hybrids boast larger and showier flowers than the traditional wax begonias. Flower size varies from 2 to 3 inches across. The brightly colored blooms are visited by many kinds of butterflies over the long bloom season. Flowers are self-cleaning and require no deadheading. Plants are compact and well-branched.

Bronze-leaf types grow best in full sun, and green leaf cultivars thrive in partial shade.

Begonias need a well-drained soil with lots of well-rotted compost added. Green leaf types tend to scorch under intense sun.

They perform best with moderate fertility and are not heavy feeders. At spring planting, feed with a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote™ 14-14-14 or Nutricote™ 13-13-13. Add 1 to 2 feedings in mid-summer with a water-soluble fertilizer (such as Miracle-Gro®, Schultz®, or Jacks®) southern climates (zones 6-9).

Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch for weed suppression and to conserve soil moisture. Irrigate during extreme dry spells to maintain plant vigor, and flower numbers.

Intersspecific Hybrids Begonia Cultivars:

Big™ series are available in bronze-leaf (full sun) and green leaf (part sun) forms; flower color choices are red, rose and pink.

Whopper™  series come in red and rose colors only and are available in bronze-leaf and green leaf types. Whopper plants tend to grow 20-25% larger than Big.

Megawatt™ series. Current varieties include 'Red Green Leaf', 'Pink Bronze Leaf', 'Rose Green Leaf', 'Red Bronze Leaf' and 'Rose Bronze Leaf'; new color choices will be added in 2018.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

'Bluebird' Aster A Top Coice In Mt. Cuba Evaluation Trial

Bluebird aster (Symphyotrichum leave 'Bluebird') is a top selection of U.S. native smooth aster. Bluebird was found in 1988 in a Guilford, Connecticut garden and introduced by Dr. Richard Lighty who at the time was working at Mt. Cuba Center in Greenville, DE in 1994. This tall, vase-shaped wildflower produces large 1 inch wide violet blue flowers on 3-4 feet tall stems. It has attractive, slightly glossy, blue-green foliage that is highly disease- and pest-free.

Bluebird smooth aster thrives in full sun to light shade with a broad tolerance of soil types and moisture levels. Bluebird aster will grow and bloom in part shade, but flower count will be less. In 2016 Bluebird aster was ranked as the #1 aster in an evaluation study at Mt. Cuba Center.

Spring-summer care tip: Prune off old growth from last fall and feed with 10-10-10 or equivalent granular fertilizer. Supplement with water-soluble Miracle-Gro once in mid-summer. Pinch back the young shoots in June for develop a dense plant habit and more flower buds. If left alone, the plant gets too tall and require staking in late summer as flower buds are setting up.
Bluebird aster is a great nectar source for migrating monarch and other late season butterflies.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

'Misty Blue' White Baneberry is Doll's Eye

Discovered at MT. Cuba Center in Delaware is a striking mult-stemmed woodland perennial with soft bluish-green finely cut foliage. Plants flower white in April snd white doll's eye fruit form in the fall. The snow white berries are clustered on bright red pedicels. Each is marked with a distinctive black dot. Fruit persists for 4-6 weeks. This long-lived perennial thrives in moist, well-drained, rich woodland soil. Plants grow 2-3 feet tall and are best grouped en masse. Actaea is reliably hardy through USDA zones 3-8

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pruning Hydrangeas

Photo: Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

PeeGee or panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) or the native Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) are pruned in early spring because they bloom on the current season’s wood. If you feel the need, these plants could be cut to about 4 inches from the ground in early spring and will produce new shoots and blooms during the season.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

New Website at!

I've been working on my new website, What Grows There and have moved this blog over to that location. All new posts will be there. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

New Intersectional Peonies Deserve A Wow!

Photo: tree peony at Staten Island Botanical Gardens
Itoh or Intersectional Hybrid Peonies (Paeonia spp.) represent a huge breakthrough in tissue culture propagation. Inherited from the tree peony is attractive dissected foliage. They are extremely winter hardy like the herbaceous types.

Plants grow two to three feet tall and wide. Strong sturdy stems support the huge flowers which size up to 10" across. Flowers are single, semi-double or double, and available in a wide range of colors including yellow. Flowers stand upright even in heavy rain and require no staking. Bloom time is longer due to additional flowers being produced on side shoots.

Peonies are long-lived, growing in the same location for decades. They need to be properly nourished annually. Peonies prefer full to part sun (minimum of 6 hours per day), average moisture and well-drained soil which is enriched with compost or mulch annually.

Bare-root peonies should only be planted in the fall as this coincides with the time that their tubers develop most of their feeder roots. Container-grown peonies can be planted at any time. Itoh hybrids demonstrate good resistance to peony blight (Botrytis paeoniae).

Proper planting depth is very important for peonies. The crown should be planted 1½ - 2 inches below soil level. If the eyes have already begun to grow, the new growth may be set slightly above the surface.

Itoh peonies are now available through e-commerce nurseries.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tips on Planting Peonies

Peonies (herbaceous types) are old-fashioned perennial favorites garnering new attention from 21st century gardeners. Their gorgeous spring flowers stand tall above the lush shrubbery growth.

This fall, plant dormant bare-root divisions of herbaceous peonies purchased from a mail-order nursery or a nearby garden center. Each division must exhibit 3 to 5 eyes (buds). Space plants a minimum of three feet apart.

Good air circulation around plants is important to prevent potential foliar and flower diseases. Avoid windy areas and shelter plants from harsh summer sun and heat in warmer climates (USDA zones 7-9).

Peonies thrive in gardens for 20 or more years. Select a sunny spot with well-drained garden soil and enrich with generous amounts of compost or well-rotted manure. A soil pH between 6 and 7 is ideal. Feed peonies with a slow release fertilizer in early spring the same as you would nourish flowering shrubs.

A critical digging step is the planting depth. Do not cover the growing eyes with more than 1 inch of soil. Setting the new plant too deep may delay or even prevent flowering. Water the newly planted peonies and cover the bed with 2-3 inches of loose ground up leaves or bark mulch. Likely, the peonies will bloom next spring and many years thereafter.

Tree peony culture will be discussed in a future blog.