Like other parts of the country, we're experiencing drought conditions here at Cottage-in-the Meadow Gardens. Watering has become a daily routine, the exception being a few showers several days ago. Despite the heat, our garden continues to amaze us, offering up unexpected color and fragrance.
This month's contest winner is none other than Dave Whitinger himself. Dave correctly identified the mystery flower as Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora', commonly known as Japanese Rose, Easter Rose, and-- appropriately in Dave's case--Yellow Rose of Texas.
I asked Dave our customary questions. Here is how he responded:
How did you come to be a gardener? How long have you been gardening?
I've always been a gardener. When I was a very young child, maybe a toddler, I remember planting an acorn in our backyard just outside Dallas. It germinated and turned into a little baby tree and that fascinated me. After marrying and when we bought our first house, one of my biggest excitements was to be able to grow a garden all of my own. It didn't take long, of course, for that hobby to spread into my work life.
Do you have a favorite flower?
Oh, there are so many, how can one choose? I especially love crepe myrtles and all their subtle differences between cultivars, and the delicate nature of their individual flowers. They are just now starting to bloom for us, so I will choose them today. Tomorrow it would be a different choice!!
|Vitex agnus-castus 'Shoal Creek'|
Why did you choose this particular photo for publication?
In last year's historic drought and heat wave, it was about the only thing we had that really thrived and bloomed all summer long! So to honor it for its amazing efforts I'd like it selected. I also love this plant for its lovely and long lasting blue flowers, and it is visited constantly by the bees from my hive.
Do you grow vegetables as well?
Of course! Tomatoes of every color, every kind of peppers, all squashes but especially those winter squashes like butternuts and delicious pumpkins, watermelons for refreshment in the summer, cantaloupes (which I particularly love at any time), sweet and regular potatoes for the deep fryer, greens for the salad bowl, purple hull peas, on and on and on. We have numerous vegetable gardens on our property here, and we also grow vegetables all through our flower beds.
If you had a chance to give just one piece of advice to a beginning gardener, what would it be?
Mulch! Every garden you have should be heavily and generously mulched. It preserves moisture, protects the soil structure, protects the biosystem under the soil, feeds the soil, and blocks weeds from germinating. Don't limit yourself to just one kind of mulch, either. Any organic matter makes good mulch. Leaves, spoiled hay, wood chips, pine straw, even dead weeds themselves make fine mulch, although perhaps a bit unsightly. Even vegetable gardens should be mulched just like your ornamentals would be.
|Dave with his herb spiral, which creates microclimates for the various herbs he grows|
Do you have any other hobbies?
I love software development, of course. Writing software that solves problems for people is something that I have always been keenly interested in. I am a creator and love making things. I can never pass up tools that improve my skills.
I built our chicken coop, well house, milking stanchions, and numerous garden structures, and I really enjoy the process. When I needed a milking stool, it never occurred to me to buy one. I went to my shop, selected wood, and made me a nice new stool. I took my time with it and made it really nice. I think woodworking is a lot like gardening and programming, they are all an art where you take individual building blocks and fold them into the shape you want them to have. Perfection doesn't cost any extra to achieve and I strive for it in my work. I get a lot of satisfaction out of activities that are productive and result in something useful and interesting.
I also like cooking some things, and the brewing of fine wines.
My last hobby, I suppose, is teaching. At least once a month, I give lectures about gardening to various groups in our area. I love the process of putting together a presentation with photos and notes and then tell people about new ideas of gardening that they've never heard before. If any of you get the chance to hear me speak to a group, you should come! I think you'd enjoy it, too.
|Blooming at Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens
(Please enlarge photos by clicking on them)
|These two lovely blue pansies are holding their own in the heat of the waning days of spring. They're sheltered under the canopy of a large clump of variegated Miscanthus sinensis grass. Daily watering keeps them looking fresh.|
|These tall spiky plants are Verbascum chaixii 'Sixteen Candles.' A member of the mullein family, they lack the gray fuzz that characterizes the leaves of the common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) that grows along dry road- and railroad beds. When the blossoms open, they reveal a reddish boss.|
|These two plantings of self-sown Rocket Larkspur (Consolidata ambigua) stem from seed I brought from my mother's garden in the 1980s.|
|The photo at left is of a hedge of Hydrangea arborescens that will serve as the backdrop for a wedding in our gardens at the end of this month. The pink hydrangea is a recently released Hydrangea arborescens cultivar called 'Invincibelle Spirit.' $1.00 from each Invincibelle Spirit sold is donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
|As I write this, the two daylilies above ('Destined to See' on the left, 'Beppie' on the right) and the two below ('Moonlit Masquerade' left and 'Rainbow Candy' right) are in full bloom. The crimped edges of 'Destined to See' add a frilly look to the petals. 'Beppie' is a mini whose blossoms measure only two to three inches across. I like the unusual color combination of this bicolor.
|There are now over 58,450 different named daylilies in the American Hemerocallis Society's database. As daylily cultivars continue to proliferate, physical differences in the blossoms of some varieties become more difficult to discern. The two cultivars above are a case in point. Confusion caused by this situation is reflected in the Google screen shots below.
Here is 'Moonlit Masquerade.' Except for differences in color (which can also cause confusion) the images match my image above.
Now take a look at 'Rainbow Candy.'
There is color variation here, too, but more importantly, according to my own plant photo, this daylily ought to have a purplish picotee edge along its crimped petals. Of all the images here, only the last one in the first row has this edge. Are the other images in this shot misidentified? Are they actually 'Moonlit Masquerade?'
|MYSTERY BLOSSOM FOR JUNE
This vine grows in the tropical forests and rocky habitats of Central America. Its delicately fringed blooms make it a sought after plant by gardeners who prefer something a bit exotic. In its natural habitat it forms a ground covering mat, but it adapts readily to pot culture and makes a lovely hanging plant.
HOW TO ENTER THE NAME THAT BLOOM CONTEST
Scroll down to the forum at the end of this article. Click on the thread, "June Contest Entries." (The thread may not appear immediately after the article is published. If there is no thread by that name, please start one titled "June Contest Entries" if you'd like to identify the mystery flower.) Enter the name of the plant pictured at left, either one of its common names or one of its two botanical names. It's important to also include one of its cultivar names, which appears in single quotes when it's cited. The winner gets to select a photo of a blooming plant from her/his garden, to be published in next month's What's Blooming article, along with a brief interview.
Check back often to see if the bloom has been identified. If readers are having difficulty, I may provide a hint.
ABOUT COTTAGE-IN-THE-MEADOW GARDENS
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, owned by Larry and Wilma Rettig, South Amana, Iowa, has been featured in local and national publications, on the Internet, and is listed with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in its Archives of American Gardens. Larry and Wilma grow over 300 varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, and vegetables. Since 1986, they have maintained a seed bank that preserves vegetable varieties brought from Germany to the Amana Villages during the 1850s.