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Summer???? Azaleas

Doreen admires the plumleaf azalea in my back garden.

A good many yeas ago I discovered that four native summer blooming azaleas will grow in my part of Mississippi.  Three of these species – swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), hummocksweet azalea (Rhododendron viscosum var. serrulatum) and sweet or smooth azalea (Rhododendron arborescens) – are actually native to parts of Mississippi.  A fourth, the plumleaf azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium), hails from only a few counties in Alabama and Georgia.

It took a while for these summer blooming beauties to grow on me.   At first summer blooming azaleas like the 1980’s fad of summer sweaters seemed not quite right – a concept out of sync with the seasons.

After living with the plumleaf azalea as a garden plant, I have changed my mind (about the summer azaleas anyway).

My point of view was altered after a visit to Callaway Gardens.  I became enchanted with Callaway’s signature plant, the plumleaf azalea.  I found a local nursery called Lazy K and bought several plants from the proprietor, Ernest Koone.

I planted my azaleas in filtered shade and slightly acid soil.

I had doubts about whether they would bloom or even survive in our ridiculously hot Mississippi summers.  The plants, however, thrived.

I learned later that the plumleaf azalea is normally found in steep ravines that tower over creeks or rivers.  If I had known this from the beginning, I would have probably never even tried to grow them.

This jewel was blooming today a few feet from my front porch.

But now, as July approaches, I walk out my front door and am greeted by crimson azalea blooms.  I have seen hummingbirds sipping nectar from the flowers as I washed dishes at the kitchen sink.

I wander through the back garden and am dazzled by a 12′ plumleaf azalea in full flower.

I’m glad I didn’t do more research and instead just took a chance and decided to grow an appealing flower.

But mostly I’m glad that the plumleaf azalea never saw a USDA Distribution map and learned that it was not destined to grow in Mississippi.


 

Further Adventures in the Bee Meadow

The Bee Meadow is surrounded by flagging tape to confuse the deer and keep my over zealous neighbor's mower at bay.

Last November with the help of my friend Tim Kiphart I gleaned a medley of wildflower plants from my nursery and installed them near my bee hives.

I called the planting a “Bee Meadow”.  It was planted in part to sustain the honeybees.  I also intended to learn to appreciate and identify the native pollinators that would surely visit.

The Bee Meadow was planted on an old vegetable garden site that is full of white clover.

So far, the meadow has been quite entertaining. Earlier this spring, prairie phlox (Phlox pilosa) mingled with the clover while yellow false indigo (Baptisia sphaerocarpa) bloomed in the background.

Much to my surprise, about a dozen larkspur plants (Consolida ambigua) volunteered. They were remnants of the old vegetable garden where I often planted flowers amongst the veggies.

This volunteer larkspur was a pleasant surprise.

I have really been enjoying the larkspur blooms.

I have noticed that a few honeybees and bumblebees visit the blossoms when they tire of the clover.

Last week, however, on a late afternoon golf cart cruise, I spied a flash of red.  I soon realized that a young male ruby throated hummingbird was visiting the larkspur.

I have seen him two or three times now.

Of course I didn’t have my camera.

But still he was beautiful in all his olive and ruby plumage sipping nectar from a deep indigo larkspur flower.

A couple of weeks ago, I pilfered the nursery once more and with the help of my friend Steve Strong added more plants to the Bee Meadow.  The new additions include New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), rough blazing star (Liatris aspera) and various asters, rosin weeds, obedient plants, ironweeds and grasses.

I’m seeing all sorts of butterflies and interesting solitary bees as well as the usual bumblebees and honeybees.

Now that the planting is done I hope to start identifying these strange visitors.


 

 

Trip Report – Part II

I had such a grand time on the Chunky River this week that I had to post more pictures.

It was a bit cold for me to swim but I did go wading.

The native wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) was in full bloom.

This red buckeye had was a startling rosy red color. The photo, by the way, was not color enhanced at all.

This was one of many interesting rock ledges.

Late in the afternoon the light was perfect. We were speechless - just floating silently down the river.


 

Trip Report – Part I

We were entranced by the wild azaleas. First of all they should have been through blooming and second they should have been pink. They must have missed that memo!

I took a trip on Monday.

I didn’t go far from home but I went in a canoe.

So… it seemed like an epic journey.

I went to see mountain laurel and found many other plant treasures.   I couldn’t have done it without my friend Marc.  We had a fine time botanizing.

I’ve decided to post pictures of my float down the Chunky River.  So for this week only – pictures mostly and not so many words.

As my new friend Monty might say (if he could talk) “And now for something completely different”

 

 

 

I had never seen Leucothoe racemosa blooming in the wild.

 

Meanwhile... Marc and Monty were having fun.

The banks were loaded with mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) just starting to bloom and native azaleas winding down.

 

Did I mention that Monty had fun?

 


 

An Eclectic Azalea Collection

This is how my indigenous wild honeysuckle azalea stand greets me in spring. I regret that there is no "scratch and sniff" option for this photo!

I have been m. i. a. from the blog pretty much since spring hit.   I’m busy in spring and like to be outdoors.  Also a WordPress upgrade went bad and I lost all my subscribers and could not blog for over a week.  So if you were a subscriber, please sign up again.

During that week I lost the blogging habit.

The good news though is that I continued to take photographs.

And so… even though the flowers have waned, I must blog about azaleas.  They are gone but not forgotten and I have the pictures to prove they were here!

First I must mention my favorite of all – the native wild honeysuckle azalea a.k.a Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens).    This is the native azalea in my neck of the woods.  It is found in large stands mostly along creeks and rivers.  The flowers are in rounded clusters with individual florets looking somewhat like a pink to white honeysuckle flower.  The scent is a heavenly honeysuckle like fragrance.

I have planted many nursery grown specimens in my shaded back garden but the showing I love the most is an indigenous stand near my old nursery.  These beauties came to us along with our first land purchase.  They are in bloom usually in mid-March for barely two weeks.  If I am busy and fail to give them the proper amount of admiration, I grieve for weeks after they are gone.

About nine of them live on the top of a hill – a remnant of the pre-existing woods.  I can barely see them through the trees from my back deck.  In full bloom they seem to cluster together like a bevy of teenage girls – all dressed up to go to the mall and claiming their space with a bit too much perfume.  Ahhhhhh!

Doreen rambles through the Florida flame azalea bed along our creek.

The Florida flame azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) is a similar native azalea with yellow to orange blooms.  I have not see this one in the wild in my county.  I have collected nursery plants from several locations and am establishing a bed that blooms yellow, orange and white near the creek.  The white comes from a few fledgling Alabama azaleas (Rhododendron alabamense) by the way.

During bloom season these golden beauties reveal themselves from a great distance and beckon me nearer.  They are loud for sure but I relish our time together.

My current favorite exotic azalea is an Asian hybrid with uncertain origins.  It is a lavender spider flowered azalea called ‘Koromo Shikibu’.   The unusual flowers sport narrow drooping petals that are marked with deep violet blotches.

The unusual 'Koromo Shikibu' azalea blooms in spring and fall.

‘Koromo Shikibu’ is very fragrant and has attractive velvety evergreen leaves.  Plants tend to bloom in fall as well as spring.  They also produce scattered red autumn leaves.

I am possibly enamored of ‘Koromo Shikibu’ simply because I look forward to sticking a few blooming stems in my autumn flower arrangements.

But… I do love the unique flower form and I must admit, that I just like saying ‘Koromo Shikibu’.

I do not have an azalea garden by any means.  Still these gems are an important part of my spring garden.

Each year I smile when the first blossoms of these azaleas appear.  I am happy to see my old friends decked out in their spring finery once more.


 

 

February Gold

Woodrow ponders a beautiful patch of 'February Gold' daffodils.

I am a fiend for daffodils.

This time of year I travel with a shovel.  I’ll stop in a heartbeat to dig heirloom bulbs from an old house site (with permission, of course).  I also have some regular digging spots – most notably my friend Stan’s kudzu patch.

I will fork out the cash to buy daffodil bulbs as well.  I add a few new ones every year and am already working on my list for 2012.

One of my favorite store bought daffodils is ‘February Gold’.

I purchased a huge sack about 15 years ago and they have grown without any care and never missed a season of bloom.  This is amazing because they are planted in heavy clay and part shade in an area of the garden that is often neglected.

These sort of growing conditions are deal breakers for many other daffodil varieties.

My research tells me that February Gold was introduced in 1923 and that it received a Royal Horticultural Society award.

According to the American Daffodil Society it is classified in Division 6 which makes it part of the Cyclamineus clan.  The ADS describes that Division as having “One flower to a stem, perianth significantly reflexed and corona straight and narrow.”  In plain English that means that the trumpet is straight and narrow and the petals are swept back.

This year ‘February Gold’ began blooming in January. It was the first yellow daffodil to bloom here this year.  It even beat out the Lent lily.

I look forward to filling my vases with these jewels for another couple of weeks.

My Favorite Meatball

Dotsie admires a mature winter daphne in my landscape.

Some of my favorite plants are those that bloom in winter.

Winter Daphne or sweet Daphne (Daphne odora) is near the top of the list.

As the name would indicate, sweet daphne is extremely fragrant.   Since insects are few and far between during the dormant season, daphne doesn’t play around.   Instead she emits an intense honeysuckle-type fragrance that wafts through the garden to attract any insect in the vicinity.

Profusions of daphne flowers are borne in small rounded clusters beginning here in February.  They are usually pink  and rarely white and are preceded by beautiful and colorful bud clusters.

Daphne has Asian origins and attractive glossy evergreen leaves.  The dark green leaves are a perfect background for the light colored blossoms.

The dark evergreen leaves are a perfect foil for the light pink or white flowers. Be sure to scratch and sniff!

Winter daphne is low and mounding – shaped somewhat like a low wide ottoman.   It is one of the few meatball shaped shrubs that I will allow in my garden.

I’ve found this plant to be quite easy to grow.  It tolerates all kinds of soil but seems to need some shade during mid-day in summer.

Unfortunately it is fairly short lived.   My original daphne lived for about five or six years before it died of a wilt disease called southern blight.

I was hooked, however, and so I quickly replanted.  Now I have about six daphnes scattered throughout my landscape.

They are just beginning to bloom now and will continue for about a month.

The smell of daphne ushers in the spring.


 

Garden Gifts

This beefy larkspur rosette will burst into bloom when spring rolls around.

Today my friend Rebecca had the day off.  She decided to come spend some time with me here at the place.

We rambled around and discovered some wonderful things in the garden.

Honeybees started buzzing after the sun warmed the hives.  I’m thinking that they were foraging for water and bolting broccoli raab flowers.  We assembled a feeder and concocted bee food to help them make it through the winter.

We spotted an Eastern phoebe.  This is a new bird that I have never seen before.  Rebecca noticed some tail wagging and that confirmed the id.

The cherubic pink daphne buds were quite stunning

A handsome larkspur rosette and plump budded daffodil reminded us that spring was in the wings.

We picked designer garden salads from the veg beds.

I think it’s safe to say that we had a grand time.

I think it’s safer to say that the dogs had a grander time!


 

Snow Day

The whole town of Meridian is shut down due to an ice storm.

Word on the street was that everyone mobbed the grocery stores over the weekend and stocked up on bread and canned chili.

I bundled up and harvested a couple of days worth of greens from the veggie garden before covering it for protection.  The walk down the hill was much more pleasant than a trip to Wal Mart!

Woody, Dotsey, Junebug, B and Doreen were eager to get inside by the heater.

This morning instead of the promised snow, the world is covered in ice.

During icy weather, the black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) that surrounds our deck bends under the weight.  Since bamboo has hollow stems, the plants can bend almost to the ground and often regain their upright stance.  It all depends on how long they stay down.

The black bamboo is weighted down by ice.

If they do not revert to a vertical position, the grove will be impassable until we do a good bit of clearing.

After an ice storm, we often have an exciting bonfire.  The hollow bamboo stems explode and, depending on stem girth, sound like fireworks or gunfire.

I’ve heard that the first fireworks were made from bamboo loaded with gunpowder.

I’ve also read that the word “bamboo” means “loud noise” and that primitive people would carry bamboo stems when travelling into unknown territory.  If something scary came along, they could throw a bamboo stem into the fire to frighten the intruder away.

At any rate, when I burn bamboo it makes for a lively fire.  The last time I did it the neighbors called the Fire Department.   I apologized to the Firemen and vowed only to burn bamboo on New Year’s Eve when the loud pops would blend in with the fireworks.

A tufted titmouse flies from a bent bamboo cane to snack at the feeder.

But… my timing is off, New Year’s Eve won’t roll around for a while.

I’ll worry about that later.

For today, the bent bamboo canes are serving as a dandy staging area for the birds who are visiting the feeder on my deck.


 

December in Mississippi

This is the site of my latest privet eradication efforts.

Oh yeah – today was one of those lovely sunny December days that we enjoy here in the Magnolia state.

I worked for a while this morning on my latest privet clearing project.

It is coming along nicely, if I do say so myself.

Now that most of the privet clutter is gone, I can see the lay of the land again.

It is a low drainage area or “Bottom” full of sweetbay magnolias and ironwoods.  The native plants should really thrive if they don’t have to compete with privet.

Woody relaxes with the catch of the day, his prized deer antler.

Richard and I went out on a golf cart ride this afternoon.  I wanted him to inspect my work and to be amazed at the space.

He was.

We sat in the golf cart and just gazed as if we were at at drive in movie.

The sun was shining and we stayed out until the shadows became long and the temperature began to drop.

The dogs had a grand time.  Especially Woodrow who headed out toward the deep woods and came back with a deer antler in tow!

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