Devils Workshop

has been moved to new address

Sorry for inconvenience...

E-Garden Almanac: September 2006

E-Garden Almanac

The E-Garden Almanac is the push-button, real human journal of Kelly D. Norris. All errors, grammatic grievances, and opinions are that of the author. Kelly is a freelance writer and Master Gardener from southwest Iowa. His passion and obsession with horticulture, plants, and gardening embodies nearly every function of his life. The E-Garden Almanac serves as the web extension of his columns, articles, and lectures.
Learn more here!

My Photo
Location: Iowa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Gold Fountain of Rudbeckias

My first encounter with Rudbeckia laciniata 'Goldquelle' was in front of my great-grandma's garage. The mass of five foot tall, cane-like stems bearing sizzling, double yellow flowers towered over me and drew an unfamiliar phrase from my lips: "What the hell is that?" In rural Stratford, Iowa grew this unfamiliar plant whose presence I had never noted before on visits to my great-grandma's rugged and vigilant garden. My first assertions were that it must be a Heliopsis or Helianthus, relying foolishly on the dazzling floral display alone. Several photos and a few pleading emails to perennials guru Allan Armitage turned up that it was likely Rudbeckia laciniata or Rudbeckia nitida.

Upon further investigation, seeing that I was not content until I had a name for the new addition to my garden, I discovered a sea of stale controversy surrounding the taxonomic organization of these two species. In horticulture, go figure! As it turns out most agree that the cultivar 'Goldquelle' is a hybrid of R. nitida and R. laciniata though most places elect to use the latter as the correct epithet. Regardless of the troublesome toil of taxonomists (how alliterative), no sweat or tears should be shed as this is a fine garden plant.

In a gardening society hesistant to use short plants, cutleaf coneflower is championed by those revolters who seek vision of the sky. Drawing the eye up to the double flowers of golden ray flowers with a contrasting green disc, this spectacle of the mid-July garden is native to roughly two thirds of North America. Long-lived in the wild and the garden, they provide a yearly treat when in bloom and serve as a striking structural element with deeply cut foliage. Plants must be placed in full sun as the slightest shade will cause that striking pillar to disintegrate into a floppy mess.

Outstanding grass sale to be held

It might be of interest to Iowa readers that the Iowa Arboretum is holding its annual grass sale this Saturday, September 23. Many hardy ornamental grasses will be featured as will guest speaker Dr. Lois Girton. For more information check out the Iowa Arboretum's website and click on "Events".

You can count on seeing me there!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

In Praise of Michigan Lily

One of our most beautiful and elegant native lilies rarely appears in American gardens. Lilium michiganense or Michigan lily is native to much of central and eastern North America calling prairies, savannas, and woodland margins its home. I have monitored several colonies in wild areas not far from my home in southwest Iowa for about five years. I've found the most detrimental factor to wild populations appears to be the encroachment of woody plant species thereby increasingly shading the populations. Stalk height decreases and flower size (those that are able to) diminishes significantly though most of these colonies are making slow comebacks after the removal of the encroaching species.

In the garden I would suggest a lightly shaded area with morning sun. Plants can easily reach four to five feet tall in a moist, yet well-drained soil. As the bulbs age and the colony increases, many of the stems will sport multiple reddish-orange pendant shaped flowers. The spotting is especially attractive as well especially on larger flowers that can span to four inches across.

If you are interested in trying this fair maiden in your garden, Tony Avent's wonderful Plant Delights Nursery offers nursery propagated stock. Please do not harvest this exceptional plant from the wild or condone such practices by purchasing from the few nurseries that continue to do so. I abhor such activity and shy not from calling those individuals idiots whose ruinous behavior only serves to widen the communicative gap between the ecologists who strive to preserve and the horticulturists who try to educate about the preserved.

All controversy aside, Michigan lily will make a great plant in your garden and will certainly give your yard a distinctly native conversation piece.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Virtuous Violet

"This unusual and beautiful violet was the first of the American violets to awaken the admiration of the European botanists."--Viola Brainerd Baird in Wild Violets of North America1942.

A virtuous plant worth noting is the Bird's foot violet or Viola pedata. This little gem of dry prairies makes a spectacular garden plant not only for it's variable flowers (several selections have been made including, 'Eco Artist Palette' (shown here at the Plant Delights Nursery website) but its tight little mounds of dissected, feathery leaves. If the flowers in their varying shades of violet and blue aren't enough to woo you, it is good to note that these plants will continue to bloom throughout the entire summer growing season. From early May through frost (in Iowa), Viola pedata puts on a continual show of blossoms on short 4-5 inch stalks.

Now that you are surely convinced to try this plant you need be aware of one thing regarding its cultivation. OVERCARING FOR IT WILL KILL IT. This species hails from sandy soil prairies and favors sunny, dry, and often rocky climes in the wild. This is not to say that the plant cannot be grown in garden soil amended with a little pea gravel and won't do well with other plants. In the Norris garden this non-weedy violet grows alongside miniature dwarf bearded iris and a few young clumps of Appalachian sedge. Full sun is a must for this little dear making it the ideal new addition to your burgeoning collection of rock garden plants.

Being an outspoken supporter of the genus Viola I sometimes garner unwanted criticism for touting the purported garden benefits of what many consider woodland weeds. Whatever their opinions with regards to the genus, few would be able to admonish the charm and ease of cultivation of Viola pedata.

E-Garden Almanac goes live!

Finally after much deliberation and procrastination, I have decided to go live with a new concept which you see is called the E-Garden Almanac. The purpose is stated above in the blog description. Some of the features that you will come to enjoy will be:

Plants Worth Noting
Garden & Nursery Events that Every Gardener Should Know About
Commentary on Garden Design and Plant Usage
Additional information on topics seen in my column in Garden & Greenhouse Magazine

Hang on gardeners. Here we go!