Monday, March 30, 2009

Dig It-Iris Pallida Variegata

Pallida Variegata

As lovely as bearded iris are when in bloom, many people are put off by the very less attractive foliage. The dull green spears are not very exciting to view in the garden, especially when the flowers are gone and green begins to fade to brown. This is why John and I have made Iris Pallida Variegata a major player in our perennial beds.

The bluish-green striped leaves are outstanding in the garden, both prior to and after the blooming period. The light, lavender blue flowers are among the longest lasting of the bearded iris. Available in green and white as pallida alba, or green and yellow, pallida aurea, these 34" iris are considered one of the most reliable, disease resistant, and easy to care for of the Tall Bearded Irises.
Pallida Variegata Aurea

The flowers have a pleasant fragrance, and in addition, the rhizome is also used as a base in the perfume industry where it is known as orris root. Orris root can also be found in the production of natural toothpaste and as an ingredient in gin, specifically Bombay Sapphire, which at least one member of our family (who shall not be named) should find quite interesting!

Pallida Variegata Alba

Also known as Sweet Iris and by some as Dalmation, Iris Pallida Variegata should fill the bill for folks like me who have a love for the variegated form of just about any plant whether it is an iris, geranium, or boxwood.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dig It - Banquet Tree Peony

Banquet Tree Peony
I just finished planting the last of our tree peonies for the year. All of the buds on our display and potted tree peonies are really beginning to swell and you can expect to see blooms on tree peonies before their herbaceous relatives begin to flower. Although their bloom time is short lived, they retain their attractiveness throughout the summer due to their interesting foliage.

What fabulous plants to have in your garden. They last for years and get better with age with larger and more abundant flowers. (My wife tells me she is getting better with age---who knows???). Once planted a tree peony often will out live you (something else the wife is planning to do!).

Banquet tree peony is one of the first generation hybrid seedlings from Saunders in 1941. Any plant that is still around that long deserves a place of honor in your garden! Large semi-double flowers of a strawberry red with touches of gold on the undersides of the petals and cut-leaved foliage make this a landscape standout.

Tree peonies are grafted on herbaceous peony roots and need to form their own roots. Therefore, make sure you plant your tree peony deep enough so it will begin to form roots from the top graph.

Centuries ago the Chinese dubbed the tree peony the "King of Flowers" and once you establish one in your garden, I'm certain you will agree.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dwarf Iris-Sarah Taylor

Being "vertically challenged" myself, I have a natural affinity for the petite. My sons will attest to the fact that while watching some of my favorite movies I get most excited at the appearance of the Munchkins, Ewoks, or R2D2. The appearance of our dwarf iris in early spring brings similar excitement.

Sweet Sarah Taylor is this week's feature and rightly so. This pale yellow , blue-bearded little iris mimics its tall-bearded cousins, but pops up in the garden well before them which will extend any iris lover's season. Dwarf iris are easily grown under the same conditions as taller varieties, but due to their height are suited to even more locations. Consider placing them in borders or in rock gardens, naturally in full sun in well-drained soil.

Sarah Taylor and our other dwarf (also known as miniature or lilliput) iris generally are in bloom here in central NJ in mid to late April and usually are done blooming before their taller counterparts make their appearance.

Do yourself and your garden a favor by inviting little Sarah Taylor and her family into your life. They will surely bring you pleasure for many years to come.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Flower Shows Struggle to Take Root in Tough Economy

I know, I know, not another downer story about the economy; however we thought it only right to talk about how the recession has caused numerous flower shows to wilt all across the country. The New York Times posted an article late last week about how the New England Flower Show that existed even through the Great Depression has been canceled in addition to the shows in Bangor, Me.; Allentown, Pa.; Cleveland, OH and various shows all across the county.

While many have died on the vine, we were proud of the hardy souls in NJ and Philly that decided to go on with the show. When propogating seedlings, the weaker plants are often sacrificed to give way to stronger ones. In this case, we hope that the excitement that grew from the NJ and Philly shows can bloom into a successful spring for everyone that is passionate about gardening...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dig It - Pseudacorus Variegata - Pond Iris

We are starting a regular weekly post called "Dig It," which will feature some of the plants that we "dig" (pun intended) and grow at the farm. This week's favorite, Pseudacorus Variegata, yellow flag iris.

The Pseudacorus Variegata is a very vigorous grower that has light green leaves and yellow flowers. We have Pseudacorus Variegata growing along the edge of the pond at the back corner of the farm. It is a native grower that thrives in moist to wet conditions and can tolerate submersion. The Pseudacorus Variegata is primarily aquatic but can survive long dry periods. This yellow flag spreads quickly and is a fast grower.

It adds great color blooming in Mid-May for us in New Jersey. It also offers interesting foliage growing to 36 inches. During the spring we sell it in 1 gallon containers, that when planted will take off quickly.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Looming Snow and the Philadelphia Flower Show

Just as John and I thought an early spring might be on its way, March again roared in like the proverbial lion. I awoke to what the weather forecasters predict may be our biggest storm of the winter with up to 12" of snow possible in our area. The other day, we were busily cleaning up the iris beds, pruning shrubs, and raking leftover leaves. Today it will be back to snow shovels and most of you along the east coast will follow suit. This February was reportedly one of the driest on record and the weathermen state the snowfall is really a welcome gift for parched soil. Remind yourselves of that as you set about the backbreaking chore of removing this "gift" from your driveways and sidewalks!

After digging out, you might want to head to Pennsylvania for the Philadelphia Flower Show, this year entitled "Bella Italia". The show kicks off today and runs through March 8. There is no better cure for the winter blahs than a walk through the lush garden displays of this fabulous show. Our advise if you go would be to try attending mid-week during the late afternoon when the morning attendees are on their way home and before the after work crowd arrives.
2008 Flower Show

John and I will have to content ourselves with paperwork and indoor cleanup instead of uncovering our peonies, which have to continue their winter nap under their blanket a little longer. And even though the garlic already sprouted in the vegetable garden, we'll have to put off starting lettuce in the new cold frame. We won't lose heart though, nor should you, for even though the lion has arrived, we are confident the lamb will soon prance back into our lives bringing with her the joyful colors of spring!