Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Oooo oooo that smell" Part 2

This is the Dranunculus vulgaris bloom I find more familiar (see last post's photo of the version with a lighter sheathe: this one is burgundy on burgundy). Don't know if the other one I got was a sport, or if I ordered a variety when I got my 5 bulbs? Note to self- WRITE THIS STUFF DOWN!
Happy gardening!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Oooo oooo that smell"

I was on my daily walk today and 5 houses away from home I knew that my Dranunculus vulgaris (a voodoo lily, a type of arum) was in bloom. How did I know? Voodoo lilies are not for the faint-of-heart gardener. These exotic, gorgeous flowers (to my eye at least) are fly pollinated. Which means...they smell. Bad. The bigger the flower, the badder the smell (IMHO and experience). Voodoo lilies (which can be from the Dranunculus, Saromatum, or Amporhophallus species, among others) are relatives of the skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) are also called corpse plants or carrion flowers. It is also a relative of the tallest flower on earth, A. titanium, one that causes longs lines at conservatories when it is in bloom. I think they smell like across between fresh manure, rotting dead animal and garbage (don't plant them too near your house or under windows!). But they pass the "totally cool" test for me! The second photo above shows the arrival of the flies. The flower bloom time is short and the "scent" fades after the first 24 hours. The plant produces lovely (and unscented) spikes of exotic green leaves, adding a tropical look to the shade garden, that last all season. It is generally care free. I got this new variety from Brent and Becky's Bulbs in Gloucester, VA (but don't judge this bulb company by this one plant- they have excellent flowering bulbs that smell way nicer!)
Happy gardening!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My pond

The photo above shows some pond plants I am trying this season. Some are hardy perennials, some tropical (check back later in the summer to see how they look). Near the waterfall on the right is pike pickerel- I have had this hardy plant for two years. It sends up thick spikes of purple flowers in summer. Next to it is taro, or "Rhubarb" colocasia- a staple in ornamental gardens as a potted plant, admired for its leaves, it is really a water garden or bog plant. Coming down the right side is water clover, a plant that resembles clover, but in two tones, green and reddish green. These babies sent up leaves fast, the leaves lay across the surface of the water for a nice effect.

Across from the taro and pickerel is Louisiana water iris- I bought it last year and divided into into three pots this year, one is in another bucket garden. Water iris is a wonderful plant, with delicate looking, colorful flowers. I just put in water poppy and water snowflake which are near the iris. Both are tropicals, and the snowflake started blooming in one day after planting! Parrot feather is next, not recommended for natural ponds, because it can spread a lot- this is a liner pond and I am fairly sure I can keep it under control. Parrot feather is a submerged plant that acts as an oxygenator. A Virginia native is next, star flower, a grassy plant that has pretty, pointed- white flowers with dark centers when it blooms, the flowers are held high above the water. Last is a true floating plant, the tropical water hyacinth. This plant is illegal in many far southern states, as it can choke waterways, but is no threat here in Virginia. I also have some other submerged plants to keep the water clear.

All of these plants are in pots that either have no holes or are lined with plastic- this keeps dirt out of the pond. Potting them up is straightforward- just use heavy garden soil or water garden planting medium, plant into it and cover with a half inch of washed gravel, again to prevent soil from washing out, and to anchor the plant. Slowly lower the pot onto a shelf or other structure to the proper height (some plants like no water on the surface, others an inch, other 9 inches- follow specific guidelines for your plant).

So, I will post more photos as the season progresses and let you know how these plants perform!

Happy gardening!

Plant Protection

I just planted my eggplants. Have you ever planted eggplants, only to find them riddled with small holes a week later, each leaf looking like lace? That is the work of the efficient flea beetle, which seems to be able to find an eggplant anywhere. Though sometimes a large, sturdy transplant can outgrow the damage, many plants suffer the rest of the season after an attack. One season, I tried hand picking (rather squashing) the little beetles, and I got pretty good at it, but I had to do it twice a day to make a dent! So now I cover the plants with floating row covers suspended on hoops and the edges weighted down with bricks. This keeps the beetles out, as long as it is pretty secure, and has the added benefit of adding some extra warmth to the heat loving plants. Row covers do need to be removed when the weather really heats up, but I have kept them in place until it hits about 82 degrees regularly. At that point, the flea beetles may be gone, and the plant is large enough to withstand some damage and still produce fruit. I have written about these row covers before. Their main disadvantages are price and longevity- I can seldom get them to last more than one season. I am still interested in trying to use old sheer curtains instead, but need to prowl the thrift stores to find some.
Happy gardening!