In a Vase on Monday: Welcome May

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Red hot poker (yellow flower), butterfly bush, ice plant and Carolina snailseed

This week, vibrant new blooms join the spring party and the Carolina snailseed is being super clingy.

Today’s post is part of “In a Vase on Monday,” a weekly meme hosted by Cathy on her blog Rambling in the Garden. Give her a visit to see what she and other gardeners around the world have put in a vase today. But first, here’s what’s in my vase on Monday, May 7, 2018, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria ‘Grandiflora’)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Red hot poker

Also known as torch lily, this perennial is another purchase from the Birmingham Botanical Gardens fall plant sale in 2017. This is its first (and only) bloom, so I hope more blooms are on the way. It’s a native of Southern Africa, and from what I read, its blooms are often bi-colored in combinations of yellow, orange and red. I’m not sure if my plant will offer only yellow blooms, or it’s going to surprise me.

Butterfly bush (Buddleja)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Butterfly bush

We planted a butterfly bush under our kitchen window last year. True to its name, it attracts lots of butterflies. It’s covered in green buds this week, which will soon turn into dark violet-purple blooms. Although not fully bloomed, this one was far enough along to demonstrate its color.

Ice plant (Delosperma cooperi)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Ice plant

I also featured this succulent ground cover in my IAVOM post on April 23.  It’s really doing well this year, so you will probably see it in my arrangements throughout the summer. Look how the petals shimmer in the sun.

Carolina snailseed (Cocculus carolinus)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Carolina snailseed

When looking for vase ideas today, I was taken by how these young shoots of Carolina snailseed twisted together to achieve verticality. It reminds me of Jack and the Bean Stalk.

Thanks for dropping by my blog today, and don’t forget to visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for more IAVOM posts.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the Carolina snailseed as English ivy (Hedera).

 

In the Garden with Betty

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018

This week, I sipped lemonade with my friend Betty in her garden. She has some lovely things in bloom this April in Alabama.

Betty wore a wide-brimmed hat and greeted me in the driveway. We used to work together, and she advised me when I began gardening and landscaping in earnest. I’ve mentioned her before in this blog, though not by name. She’s the friend who suggested loropetalum as a privacy border and who told me that dogwoods in bloom should look like floating clouds.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Lemonade with Betty on the back porch after the garden tour

When I asked if I could write about her garden, she suggested timing our visit with one of her showiest April displays: purple irises blooming in front of a Crimson Queen Japanese maple.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Crimson Queen Japanese maple and purple irises

When she bought this tree, it was small enough to carry home in the backseat of her four-door sedan. She’s nursed it through two droughts. “Only in the past couple of years has it really taken off so that this time of year it is really gorgeous,” she said.

The irises are passalong plants from her younger sister, a master gardener. Her sister helped teach Betty about gardening when she first moved into her house. Now Betty is passing along her knowledge to me–what a nice way for things to come full circle.

Here are a few other highlights from my visit.

“Souvenir de la Malmaison” Rose

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
“Souvenir de la Malmaison” rose in bloom

Betty purchased this rose from the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas. Its name comes from the Paris home, “Malmaison,” of French empress Josephine Bonaparte. “The Russian emperor came to Paris to visit, and he saw this rose in her garden and named it,” said Betty.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018

From bud to gracefully aged bloom, the flowers of this antique rose look pretty at every stage.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018

Betty noted the blackspot, a fungal disease, on the leaves. (She said she forgot to spray the rose with anti-fungal solution before it leafed out.) The blooms are so pretty, I barely noticed.

Blue Pin Flower or Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Blue pin flower

“I like things that are perennials that will come back another year and I don’t have to replant them” said Betty, whose goal is to have something in bloom at all times, spring through fall.

This cheerful blue pin flower is a prime example of a hard-working spring perennial. I also like how the creeping Jenny in the background fills in the bare spots between plants.

Clematis

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Clematis buds

Seeing clematis thrive in this sunny location at Betty’s house confirmed for me that the clematis I planted at the base of my fence does not get enough sun. I must find a new spot for mine because these flowers are lovely.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Clematis flower

After the garden tour, Betty invited me to stay for lemonade. We chatted on the back porch enjoying the view and soft light of early evening.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A lovely backyard view

When I left, she sent me home with a pot of pink muhly grass (an extra patch dug up from her yard) and two of her favorite gardening books, Founding Gardeners and The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, on loan. I will find a sunny spot for the pink muhly grass, and I hope to show off its blooms late summer or fall.

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed this post. I’ll close with one more photo of the irises and Japanese maple–because, frankly, I could not choose a favorite.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Purple irises and Crimson Queen Japanese maple

Walk in Kaul Wildflower Garden

Take an evening stroll with me through Kaul Wildflower Garden, one of more than two dozen gardens at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden Blog, 2018
Red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) stands almost as tall as the longleaf pine sapling behind it.

Alabama’s state tree is the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), and many young specimens grow along Kaul Wildflower Garden’s trails. This strong native tree is resistant to both disease and hurricane-force storms compared to other pines in the Southeastern US. I must also say that the young trees look a bit like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A young longleaf pine–does it look like Cousin Itt, or is it just me?

I especially love the shady areas of this garden, where ferns and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), with its distinctive leaf shape, thrive. 

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A new fern frond unfurls.
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Look for bloodroot growing along the path–and sometimes on the path!

A special mid-April treat for me was the mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) on the cusp of full bloom. The light was a bit low for a photo, but the end result looks like a pink firework against a night sky.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Mountain laurel about to bloom

If you have an opportunity to visit Kaul Wildflower Garden, you’ll find many plants growing in abundance, but I encourage you to keep an eye out for the oddballs, such as the drawf crested iris (Iris cristata) below. You won’t have any trouble recognizing it as an iris; it’s just smaller. It’s endemic to the eastern United States, which means you won’t find it anywhere else.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Dwarf crested iris is truly petite!

Another sighting on my walk was the red flower below, which I believe is a scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata). I spotted this plant only once in the garden, but it was close to the trail.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata)

There are also habitat-specific plants, such as the statuesque pitcher plants and stonecrop in the next two photos. Stonecrop is so named for good reason. Here it makes a home on a small boulder.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: White pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophyll)
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Stonecrop, also known as sedum (unidentified species)

I’ve only scratched the surface of what there is to see at Kaul Wildflower Garden, much less the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. And of course, its offerings depend on the time of year. For now I will close with the masses of yellow flowers blooming in the bog and surrounding area.  Based on the leaf shape, I believe the plants are butterweed (Packera glabella), but I am not positive.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Fallen tree in the bog
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: Butterweed (Packera glabella)

As usual, I used inaturalist.org software to help me identify plants to the best of my ability. If the iNaturalist community of citizen scientists corrects any of these IDs, I will update this post.

Thanks for stopping by!

In a Vase on Monday: Sense and Sensibility

 

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Purple bearded iris, dalmatian bellflower, autumn sage, lavender, ice plant and thyme arranged in a Waterford posey vase.

I began this post with the most sensical intentions. Then my sensibilities took over.

It’s been a while since I’ve read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (or watched Emma Thompson’s movie adaptation), but my takeaway from the story is that we need to embrace a balance of both qualities in our lives. I relearned that lesson this week.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted each week by Cathy on her blog Rambling in the Garden. I missed it last week, and I was determined to be “sensical” and work ahead so my post would be ready first thing this Monday. However, I got distracted by my sensibilities. It was warm and sunny. The birds were singing, and the breeze was rustling in the trees. I decided to do my arranging outside.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden Blog, 2018
Dappled shade on the patio gets me every time.

Just when I was about happy with my arrangement, the breeze shifted all the stems. I moved inside. Once again, I had everything photo-ready, and I made a snap decision to go outside for more bellflowers. I was outside no more than 30 seconds when I heard the crash inside. So much for being sensical.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Chester the Tailless Wonder is quite possibly an evil genius, but we love him.

One of our cats, Chester, had taken down the small table I use when photographing flower arrangements. The vase was in pieces on the floor. The irony was not lost on me that just two weeks ago I wrote about exercising caution when it comes to cats and plants. I suppose I had it coming.

I cleaned up the broken pieces of pottery, salvaged the flowers from floor and started again. Without further ado, here’s what’s in a vase on Monday April 22, 2018.

Purple Bearded Iris (Iris germanica)

I thought my purple irises were not coming up this year, but it turns out they were just on a different timetable than the white irises. Snipping the stems released an aroma like slicing green onion tops for a salad.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Purple bearded iris–don’t miss the ladybug!

Autumn sage (Salvia greggii)

The leaves of this evergreen herbaceous perennial offer a heavenly, lightly sweet scent year round. It’s just beginning to flower and will continue through the year until first freeze. I purchased mine last year at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens fall plant sale. 

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
autumn sage

Dalmatian Bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana)

I planted bellflower last fall as a perennial ground cover in a terraced area of the backyard, where it gets part shade. It’s just now beginning to take off, and I love its tiny blue-violet blooms.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Dalmatian bellflower

Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, hardy ice plant is a succulent ground cover that can take the sun on full blast in the front yard. The blooms shimmer in the sun, giving the plant an “icy” look. This is another Birmingham Botanical Gardens plant sale purchase.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Ice plant flower

Lavender (Lavandula angustiflolia)

I planted lavender in my sunny front yard last year, and it has done well. I’ve divided it successfully and now have two plants.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Lavender

English Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme and I have a checkered past. I’ve killed it as a houseplant on several occasions. Most recently I killed lemon thyme in an outdoor pot (I’m not sure why but most likely because I left it out to overwinter). Elfin thyme looked terrific between the patio stones, but the environment was ultimately too harsh in the summer, even with lots of shade. I have, however, had success with regular garden thyme outside year round. It might not be the obvious choice for a flower arrangement, but I like effect of tucking in a couple of wild, graceful sprigs.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Garden thyme, also known as English thyme

Vase

The vase that survived this post is a Waterford posey vase (a gift from my parents on some birthday past).

Thank you for stopping by. To see what other gardeners around the world have put in a vase on Monday, please visit Cathy’s IAVOM post and don’t miss the comments below it.

Correction: The original version of this post misidentified the autumn sage (aka salvia) as “Hot Lips” sage. I have both varieties in the same bed, and I mixed them up temporarily.

 

Wednesday Walk

To capture April in Alabama I’m venturing beyond my garden. I took these snapshots during a recent neighborhood walk in Birmingham.


(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
This oak-lined street is a piece of Americana perfection.

When oak trees first leaf out, their young green leaves shine in the sun as if golden. It always makes me think of Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” which begins “Nature’s first green is gold.” I love the sight of a huge oak five times the size of the house it grows beside.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A tree-lover’s ideal tree-to-house ratio
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Oak tree canopy against a blue sky

The wildflowers (or weeds, if you rather) are out.

The flattering name of this plant is, wait for it, Philadelphia fleabane. I saw this member of the daisy family today blooming along nonresidential roadsides and in natural areas. It may look a little weedy, but it’s native to North America. (In Europe and Asia, where it has been introduced, it’s considered invasive.)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: Philadelphia fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)

A friend once told me dogwood trees should look like clouds in the landscape.

I have to agree. This dogwood in bloom looks exactly like a cirrus cloud floating in the sky.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Dogwood tree in April
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Dogwood blooms

Japanese maples offer vibrant color at a time of year when most everything is green, white or pastel.

I recently wrote about my Shaina Japanese maple, which is a dwarf variety. On today’s walk I encountered medium and large varieties.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Japanese maple with tall sculptural trunk
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Japanese maple
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Maple, sidewalk understory view, in April

Magnolias bloom in the summer, but their dark, glossy leaves and massive trunks are beautiful all year.

The low-hanging branches of the magnolia below are so inviting. I will be sure to revisit this tree in the summertime when it is in bloom.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Magnolia tree
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Another example of a tree-lover’s ideal tree-to-house ratio (magnolia edition)
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
My mom carried a bouquet of magnolias at my parents’ June wedding decades ago. This photo, taken this April, shows a bud in progress.

I believe I encountered an azalea that is native to Alabama!

If my ID is correct, this azalea is a pinkster flower (Rhododendron periclymenoides). If I get another ID from the iNaturalist community, I will update this post. I spotted this small shrub growing wedged in a tall, groomed evergreen hedge. It seemed out of place in the best way possible. 

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: pinkster flower (Rhododendron periclymenoides)

The topography of Birmingham can vary fairly dramatically within a small radius.

My neighborhood is all steep hills. The area I walked today (the adjacent neighborhood) is flat and carved with natural creeks and urban waterways.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Urbanized creek bed
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
This creek bed is nearly dry, but it must carry a lot of water during storms.
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
What if this were your driveway?
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A rocky outcropping and babbling creek belie the residential setting (see the street view below).
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Can you spot the hidden creek? (Hint: It’s to the left of the sidewalk. I drove on this road for years without noticing it.)

Thanks for visiting. I’d love to see what spring looks like in your neighborhood, wherever that may be.

 

In a Vase on Monday: Foxglove, Rosemary and Heuchera

IMG_5292 2

Manny (“Best Kitty Ever”) photobombed this week’s In a Vase on Monday post.

Don’t worry, I took the vase way before he had a chance to eat anything and make himself sick. In our house, the arrangements travel with me so they are always in my sight, or I close them up in the guest room where the cats can’t get to them. [Update: A vet friend reached out to me to let me know foxglove is cardio toxic for kitties. To reiterate, Manny nosed in during the photo shoot, but he was NOT allowed to chew on the plants. Please be always careful with your fur babies and what plants you allow them around.]

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Camelot lavender foxglove, rosemary and heuchera ‘Mocha’ (coral bells)

This post is part of a weekly meme hosted by Cathy on her blog Rambling in the Garden.  Give her a visit to see what she and other gardeners around the world have put in a vase today. But first, here’s what’s in my vase on Monday, April 9, 2018:

Camelot Lavender Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea): This is my first time planting foxglove. When the creamy white blooms first started coming in, I did not believe the color would be purple, as advertised. But as you can see in the lower blooms, the purple develops after the blooms open.

IMG_5289
Close-up of Camelot Lavender Foxglove

Rosemary: A long stem of rosemary is sturdy enough to stand upright alongside the foxglove. I have a couple of rosemary bushes. They are reliable providers of greenery all year long, and I love running my hand over them to release their smell.

Heuchera ‘Mocha’: Also known as coral bells, heuchera is primarily grown for its beautiful foliage. Its blooms are not much to talk about. However, both the foliage and the flower stems contribute to this arrangement. The broad, dark leaves provide an anchor that calls attention to the fully open foxglove blooms at the bottom. The  spindly burgundy flower stems, which match the height of the rosemary and foxglove, bring in complementary color and texture.

Repurposed glass Evian bottle (vase): I drink tap water most of the time, and I can’t remember the exact occasion when I drank Evian. But the bottle was definitely worth saving as a vase.

IMG_5291
Overhead view

I will close with one last picture of sweet Manny getting a good whiff (before he was removed for his own safety)!

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Manny loves to take in outdoor smells, but I whisked this vase away before he could start eating the flowers. Foxglove is toxic for cats, so always watch your fur babies around plants.

Native Woodland Garden (Part 1)

I love the urban wilderness of our backyard, but the truth is it’s filled with non-native, invasive plants that have been left to their own devices for decades.

DSC00285
My woodland garden against the backdrop of an urban wilderness

Close to the city, shaded by trees, private. There are many reasons I am fond of our little chunk of paradise. Thickets of Chinese privet, blankets of English ivy and roving wisteria vines are not among them. (These plants are pretty, of course; they’re just not so great in a foreign land where they compete fiercely and choke out everything else.)

The journey to restoring the back section of our property to something resembling a native Alabama woodland will be a long one. I have a lot to learn and even more to do. For the time being, I am doing the only thing I can—starting small. The tiny patch you see in the photo at the top of this post has been one year in the making. It’s a humble beginning, but I hope it will be the first of many chapters in this story.

Before I tell you about the plants, I’d like to point out two events where you can purchase native plants, for shade or sun, if you live in or near Birmingham, Alabama.

To date, I’ve planted the following native Alabama perennials in my woodland garden.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum): This was my first purchase for the woodland garden last spring, and I’m happy to see it back and thriving this year. You can see flower buds hanging from the largest stem. I can’t wait to show it again when it’s in bloom.

  • Light requirements: shade/part shade
  • Soil requirements: moist
  • Size: 1-3 feet
  • Flowers: white, April-May
  • Rhizomes
  • Attracts birds and butterflies
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Purple trillium (Trillium cuneatum)

Purple trillium (Trillium cuneatum): I have long observed and admired this plant along nature trails, and I’m a little giddy about having one. Plus, it has cute nicknames, including little sweet Betsy, toadshade and whip-poor-will flower. I just purchased it, so I missed bloom season this year.

  • Light requirements: shade
  • Soil requirements: moist, woodsy humus
  • Size: 10 inches
  • Flowers: maroon, March
  • Rhizomes

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Bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia)The blooms are small, but so pretty. The foliage is delicate and feathery. I accidentally broke off a stem during planting, and I am now attempting to root it.

  • Light requirements: shade
  • Soil requirements: moist, rich woodlands humus
  • Size: 18 inches
  • Flowers: pink, spring-summer
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Alabama phlox (Phlox pulchra)

Alabama phlox (Phlox pulchra): I purchased three of these when I found out they are rare in the wild. This species will have a little haven in my yard.

  • Light requirements: shade
  • Soil requirements: average
  • Size: 12 to 14 inches
  • Flowers: pink, April-May
  • Rare in wild
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora): I planted this shrub off to the side of the garden since it will grow quite large in the years to come. It’s in the sun at the moment, but won’t be once the oak tree above it leafs out.

  • Light requirements: part/full shade
  • Soil requirements: average, humus rich
  • Size: 8-10 feet
  • Flowers: white
  • Deciduous multistem shrub
  • Attracts butterflies
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides)

Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides): This is the one plant I did not buy. It fell, along with the branch, from an oak tree in the yard about a year ago. I actually have a few such branches, and I placed the two largest on either side of the woodland garden as a border. This fern shrivels in dry weather and bounces back after a good rain. I feel pretty confident about this ID, but I will update this post if the iNaturalist community produces another ID.

I hope the plants I’ve introduced to my woodland garden thrive and multiply as I continue to clear invasive species and bring in more native plants little by little. What native plants do you have in your gardens at home?