Six on Saturday: Rhody’s Rhodies 2022 – Pretty In Pink

There are too many rhododendrons here. Working with them in a landscape situation is very different from growing them on the farm. The farm generates hundreds of primary cultivars, with hundreds of others to potentially introduce. Thousands of plants grow in cans on much of forty acres. Ideally, most develop an abundance of floral buds, but then leave the farm prior to bloom. Here, only a few hundred rhododendrons bloom well and mature within their landscapes with no intentions of ever leaving. These are mostly pink with one that blooms pinkish red.

1. Mothers’ Day Rhododendron blooms reliably for Mothers’ Day annually, regardless of how early or late other neighboring rhododendrons bloom. No one knows its real name.

2. Now that I see this one in this picture, I do not remember if it was more rosy in color. It seems to be a simpler but bright pink now. I am not so proficient with analyzing color.

3. This one also seems to be a bit different from how I remember it. I thought that it was more like watermelon red, rather than reddish pink. This is why I will not choose colors.

4. Oh, I should remember the name of this one. My colleague grew it! I delivered it years ago. It looks like ‘Rocket’ but I do not believe that it is. I should have saved the old label.

5. Of these Six, this is the only rhododendron that I know the name of, and is one of only a few that I may identify here. It is one of the most common cultivars; ‘Mrs. G. W. Leak’.

6. Most of our rhododendrons here are pink or purple. Only a few are red. This might be the darkest red here. I refer to it as ‘Taurus’, but it is not. Individual flowers open widely.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

African Daisy

Modern African daisies are surprisingly colorful.

Only a few decades ago, the only familiar African daisies, Osteospermum spp., were the sprawling and often sparsely branched ‘freeway daisies’ with blue-eyed white or rarely light purple flowers. They made nice blooming ground cover that could be planted in drifts for a bit of color among the deep green of Algerian ivy on expansive freeway embankments.

Modern varieties are shrubbier perennials with more profuse bloom of white, cream, pink, purple, pale yellow or pale orange flowers, mostly with blue or purple centers. Some yellow flowers have yellow or cream centers. Some of the fancy types have spooned petals like some types of cosmos or chrysanthemums. After the primary bloom phase in spring, a few sporadic flowers may continue to bloom through summer until the secondary light bloom phase late in summer. However, the old fashioned ‘freeway daisy’ types do not always display a second bloom phase. Varieties with variegated foliage are still rather rare.

Even though African daisies can survive in inferior soil with minimal watering, they perform best with good soil and regular watering. Plants in containers can not disperse their roots like they want to, so are are more dependent on regular watering. Fertilizer prolongs bloom.

Calla

Few flowers are as elegant as callas.

If only it did not like such regular watering, the common white calla, Zantedeschia aethiopica, would be quite a sustainable perennial. Once established, it can be difficult to get rid of, particularly in well watered gardens. Even unwatered plants that die to the ground through dry summer weather are merely dormant and waiting for rain to regenerate and bloom.

The remarkably elegant blooms stand about two or three feet tall, each with a single spathe loosely wrapped as a flaring cone around a spadix that supports the indistinguishable diminutive flowers. The bright white spathe is often more than four inches wide, and can be twice as wide in shade. The spadix is only about three or four inches long, and as yellow as Big Bird. The spongy dark green leaves are about a foot or two tall.

‘Green Goddess’ blooms with a longer and recurved spathe with a green tip and margins. Colorful callas are actually different specie. All parts of all types of callas are incidentally toxic.

A Few Favorite Cut Flowers

Try unconventional cut flowers if you can.

Flowers add such variety of color and fragrance to the garden that it is no wonder that they are so popularly cut and brought from the garden into the home. Even though larger quantities of flowers can be purchased from markets or florists without depleting those blooming in the garden, growing our own can be so much more rewarding. We may not be able to grow all the varieties of flowers that commercial growers can grow in greenhouses or other climates, but we can grow many other varieties of flowers that commercial flower growers do not provide.

Many flowers can be grown specifically for cutting, like vegetables are grown to be harvested. Some, like cosmos and daisies, can be grown in such abundance in mass plantings that it is easy to cut a few without anyone missing them. Other flowers, like roses and New Zealand tea tree, are merely by-products of plants that also function as shrubs, vines, trees and even ground covers.

Peruvian lilies are some of the best cut flowers, not only because they last so long after getting cut, but also because they bloom so much through such a long season that there are usually enough flowers for the garden as well as the home. The taller and unfortunately rare types grown by commercial flower growers are better for cutting than the more common ‘garden varieties’ are.

Callas are likewise among the better prolific cut flowers, but only bloom white. The colored types are neither as prolific nor as reliable. Believe it or not, lily-of-the-Nile makes good cut flowers when they bloom white or blue in the middle of summer. They are just awkward because their blooms are so round.

Gladioli are good either as cut flowers or for color in the garden, but unless they are planted in large quantities, they are not prolific enough for both. Like vegetables, they can be planted in phases (in season) to prolong the bloom season. Unfortunately, they need to be planted annually because they do not often naturalize. Those that do naturalize will synchronize their bloom season after the first season.

Several types of iris bloom more generously, and some are happy to naturalize, but only a few types are good cut flowers like Dutch iris are. Some bearded iris wilt within hours of getting cut.

Gazania

Gazania is colorful until cool autumn weather.

The most familiar of the gazanias are the ‘trailing’ types commonly appreciated as ground cover. They are rather shallow, but dense enough to prevent most weeds from getting through. Their yellow or orange composite (daisy like) flowers bloom initially in spring, and then continue to bloom sporadically as long as the weather stays warm into autumn. Some trailing gazanias have interesting silvery foliage.

‘Clumping’ gazanias do not spread efficiently or thoroughly enough to be practical as ground cover over large areas, but bloom a bit more profusely with bigger flowers in shades of yellowish white, light yellow, bright yellow, orange, brownish orange and brownish red. The foliage gets a bit deeper to form irregular but dense low mounds. Clumping gazanias can be lined up as an informal border around blooming annuals or perennials, or incorporated individually into mixed urns or vertical gardens.

Gazanias are not too discriminating about soil quality or frequency of irrigation. They only need good sun exposure. Trailing gazanias are rather easy to propagate by cuttings made from scraps from pruning around the edges. Clumping gazanias do not get pruned as much, but are easy to propagate by division from dense clumps.

FLORAL FRAGRANCE IN THE GARDEN

The most fragrant flowers are generally smaller and less colorful than less fragrant flowers. This angel’s trumpet is an exception.

Attracting pollinators is serious business for flowers that do not rely exclusively on wind for dispersion of their pollen. Many flowers attract pollinators with flashy color. Some reward their pollinators with sweet nectar. Many prefer to use fragrance. Most flowers use a combination of two or more of these tactics.

Fragrances are designed by the flowers that use them to appeal to the discriminating taste of specific pollinators. Most are sweet. Some are more perfumed. A few are even quite objectionable to people because they are tailored to flies. Fortunately, flowers with foul fragrances are rare in gardening.

The most fragrant flowers are often less abundant than flowers that rely on wind for dispersion of their pollen, or less colorful than flowers that rely on visual appeal to attract pollinators. Yet, the fragrant flowers of wisteria vines and lilacs are both profuse and colorful. The surprisingly big and fragrant flowers of ‘Charles Grimaldi’ angel’s trumpet are bright yellow.

Mock orange (Philadelphus spp.) conforms to the stereotype of fragrant flowers a little bit better, with somewhat small white flowers that are incredibly fragrant. The small pale pink flowers of daphne are even less impressive and nearly hidden among their foliage, even though their fragrance can not be ignored. The sweetly fragrant flowers of Japanese honeysuckle vines are abundant but not too colorful. Star jasmine vines likewise bloom fragrantly and abundantly, and their bright white flowers contrast better against their glossy green foliage.

Night blooming jasmine is not appealing enough for prominent placement, and is not even fragrant during the day, but will be unbelievably fragrant on warm summer nights. Just as fragrances appeal to specific pollinators, nocturnally fragrant flowers specifically appeal to insects or bats who are active at night.

Freesia, hyacinth, lily,narcissus and some types of iris are very fragrant as well as colorful now that they are blooming for early spring. It is unfortunate that their flowers do not last long, and that there are not any comparable flowers later in the year. The same annual sweet peas and stock that bloom about now can be planted again later for autumn bloom. Sweet peas are easiest to grow from seed. Stock is easiest to grow from cell packs, and since it is actually perennial, sheltered plants can survives through warm summer weather to bloom again in autumn. Annual sweet alyssum can bloom anytime while the weather is warm.

Camellia

Many camellias have already finished bloom.

While other bloom might be lacking through late winter, camellia, Camellia japonica, can help compensate. Although generally not as profuse as spring and summer bloomers, its individual flowers display elegantly against luxuriantly glossy evergreen foliage. Lack of sturdy stems for cutting is no problem for a few flowers simply floating in a shallow bowl.

Centuries of breeding has produced more than two thousand cultivars of camellia. Floral form can be single, semi-double, double, formal double, paeony, anemone or rose, so is quite variable. Floral color ranges from pure white to deep red, with many hues of pink in between. Stripes, speckles, blotches or picotee margins are within the same color range. 

Camellia generally develops as nicely dense shrubbery that stays lower than the eaves. Some cultivars stay even lower. A few slowly mature as small and perhaps sparse trees. Individual flowers are about three inches wide. Some are smaller. A few are comparably bulky. Camellia sasanqua is a separate species with smaller but more abundant flowers.

Ranunculus

These potted ranunculus in a nursery are already blooming. Those planted while dormant last autumn may not have started yet.

If their dormant bulbs were planted back in October or November, ranunculus will soon be blooming. Those of us who missed the bulbs last autumn can already find blooming plants in nurseries. The bright yellow, orange, red, pink or white flowers are about three inches wide and seem to be outfitted with too many petals. They stand about a foot to a foot and a half tall, a few inches above the basal foliage that can get half a foot to a foot deep. The light green leaves resemble parsley, but are not as finely textured. Although perennial, ranunculus are most popularly grown as annuals because they tend to rot soon after bloom. They perform best with no more than a bit of shade, and rich but very well drained soil. They are more likely to survive as perennials if allowed to get rather dry as their foliage deteriorates after bloom.

Stock

Stock happens to excel at purpleness.

This is one of those annuals that could be a short term perennial if it gets the opportunity to do so. In most climates, stock, Matthiola incana, is a popular warm season annual that relinquishes its space to cool season annuals before it gets too worn in autumn. Locally, because it does not mind mild frost, it is more popular as a cool season annual for winter.  

Floral color ranges through both pale and rich pastels of purple, red, pink, yellow, cream and also pure white. Flowers may be single or double. In close proximity, bloom is richly fragrant. Foliage is light grayish green. Individual leaves are somewhat narrow. Removal of deteriorating floral stalks before they develop seed pods prolongs subsequent bloom.

Many garden varieties of stock stay relatively low and compact. Some may get no higher than a foot. Florist varieties that produce long stems for cutting might get as high as three feet. Overgrown plants get shabby after a primary season, but may regenerate from hard pruning. However, secondary growth is generally irregular and likely marginally reliable.

Tropical Hibiscus

This tropical hibiscus was found in Oklahoma, where it needs shelter from frost.

This humongous six inch wide tropical hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, looks like it might be from Hawaii or Florida, but was actually found in K and K Nursery and Landscape of Norman, just south of Oklahoma City, where winter nights are already seriously cold by our coastal California standards. It is happy to bloom so impressively only because it is in a greenhouse. Even here in our pleasantly mild climates, tropical hibiscus are happiest where sheltered above from frost, by eaves or evergreen shade trees that are high enough to also allow warming sunlight through. In the cooler spots, even sheltered plants occasionally get damaged by frost, and need some time to regenerate after winter.

Some of the classic tropical hibiscus that typically have smaller flowers can grow above single story eaves if not pruned down. Most modern varieties with larger or ruffly double flowers rarely reach the eaves, and many stay less than six feet tall even without pruning. The evergreen foliage has an appealing glossy sheen, which is an ideal backdrop for the red, pink, white, yellow or orange flowers.