Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
October, 2006
Regional Report

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Cup-and-saucer vine is a beautiful vine with flowers that are great in bouquets.

Favorites of Summer 2006

Bringing in bouquets of flowers before the hard frosts take their toll always helps me think about the pleasures and gardening successes of the past season. This year saw some old favorites return, as well as some new plants that just might become mainstays. Of course, there were also some plants and flowers that probably won't appear again, at least for awhile. Even if you're not an inveterate note-taker, it's a good idea to jot down at least a few brief observations about what worked and what didn't in this year's garden. Following are some of mine.

Cup-and-Saucer Vine
Only sloth has kept me from once again growing Cobaea scandens, a vigorous annual vine with stunning, 2- to 3-inch, bell-shaped, honey-scented flowers in purple or white. Growing to 15 feet by means of tendrils, cup-and-saucer vine has lush foliage that quickly covers anything it climbs on. The vine is adaptable to any average, well-drained soil.

Morning Glory and Moon Vine
This year I grew only morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor), but I sorely missed the related moon vine (Ipomoea alba), with its pure white flowers that open in the evening when I'm often working outside. My favorite combination is to interplant white morning glories with moon vine, thereby giving myself almost round-the-clock blooms.

Cardinal Climber and Cypress Vine
Related to morning glories but with 1-inch, bright red flowers that bloom throughout the day, cardinal climber (Ipomoea x sloteri) and cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) have small, fine-textured foliage on annual vines growing to 10 feet or more. Among the bonuses of these vines is that the flowers attract hummingbirds.

Lonicera 'Graham Thomas'
As long as I'm on the subject of vines, it makes sense to include Lonicera periclymenum 'Graham Thomas', a noninvasive honeysuckle that bears fragrant white to yellow flowers from May until frost. While gardening near it at dusk, not only can I enjoy the scent but also the hummingbirds that come to savor the nectar.

Marigolds may not be the most sophisticated of plants, but they are easily grown and bloom nonstop. I hadn't grown them in years, but the color and cheerfulness they brought to the food garden convinced me they will now be a consistent part of my plantings.

Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'
Found among the ever-growing choices for annual plantings, 'Diamond Frost' is among those plants chosen for the Proven Winners designation: "faster growing with amazing season-long color." An annual able to grow in full sun to partial shade with heat and drought tolerance, it reached 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide in a container planting this summer. The small, white flowers were produced continuously, intermingled with fine-textured foliage. Next year, I plan to use it massed in my white garden.

English Butterfly Series Butterfly Bushes
Most butterfly bushes tend to be large, gangly plants, but not the English Butterfly series. Developed in England, the breeder's goal was to create shrubs roughly one-third smaller than the typical Buddleia davidii cultivars. My grouping of three plants of 'Adonis Blue' proved quite successful. The plants grew to about 36 inches tall, were extra bushy, and bloomed nonstop all summer. 'Adonis Blue' is hardy in Zones 4-7. Pink-flowered 'Peacock' and 'Purple Emperor' are hardy in Zones 5-7.

Heuchera, also known as alumroot or coral bells, is a native North American plant that has garnered a great deal of breeding work and publicity in the last decade or so. 'Palace Purple' and 'Amber Waves' are just two of the hundreds of cultivars that have been developed. Similar in appearance and lesser known is tiarella, another native, commonly called foamflower. In growing some of the newer varieties of both heuchera and tiarella over the past several years, the tiarellas have far outperformed the heucheras.

Tiarellas are great plants for the shade, and the spikes of tiny white flowers grace the garden for a long period from spring into summer. Among the standouts are 'Iron Butterfly', with large divided leaves adorned with purple to black stripes in the center, and 'Black Snowflake', with highly dissected foliage with dark markings in the center.

Long gone are the droopy pink petals of our native echinacea, or purple coneflower. Breeding work done with the yellow species, E. paradoxa, has yielded dozens of cultivars in pastel oranges, peaches, and yellows, such as the Big Sky series, with orange 'Sundown' and bright yellow 'Sunrise', among others. Although the jury is still out on how well these plants will thrive, what I find particularly interesting about them is how well the colors go with daylilies. I can envision spectacular plantings that combine these two workhorses of the garden. Besides blooming for long periods; attracting bees, butterflies, and birds to the garden; and being easy to grow; echinaceas have the bonus of being fragrant.

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