Begonia Grandis

ベゴニア/Begonia grandis by nobuflickr

This past weekend TheGardenLady visited a lovely garden in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. The owner wanted to show me what she had in bloom. Under the trees in the shade and growing in the pachysandra were her hardy begonias – begonia grandis. She especially wanted to show off these plants that were now in flower because she had learned about Carolyn’s Shade garden from the TheGardenLady’s recommendation. This is where she bought these begonias as well as all her other healthy shade plants. And these hardy begonias were not only hardy because they overwintered but because when they are happy and they were so happy in her garden that they are popping up all over. And the flower display was so lovely – flowers with the bonus of a light fragrance.

TheGardenLady had always loved begonias and was familiar with annual begonias, Rex begonias and tuberous begonias but it was only a few years ago that I learned that there was a hardy begonia that would overwinter in zone 6. This was when a friend gave me a baby begonia grandis plant. This plant grew in my garden for a few years but this year’s drought killed it. I am so sad and plan on getting another next year.

Begonia grandis originated in East Asia – China and Japan and is the most cold hardy of all the begonias. It grows as a perennial in temperature zones 6 through 9. In zone 5 it is considered a tender perennial which means that it might survive with a good covering of mulch but you would be safest to take it indoors for the winter. Hardy begonias bloom in late summer and autumn and will propagate itself by seed and bulbils formed in the leaf axils. The plant grows about 2 feet tall and likes part to full shade – it does not really want afternoon sun. It tolerates morning sun and this allows you to see the red veins in the leaves. Begonia grandis seems to tolerate all soil types but likes woodland soil best and tolerates all pH levels though it prefers neutral to slightly acid soil with good drainage and average watering. It can be used as a ground covering.

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Aster Amellus ‘King George’

This photo of Aster amellus “King George” is from

TheGardenLady received this question from Doug.

I am particularly interested in the “perennial Aster amellus ‘King George.’”. As I was informed by my grandmother that her father had cultivated this or a similar plant. Please could you provide me with any information you have on the subject. (her maiden name was “White” from “Crayfoots Haven” in Kent)

There are many perennial Asters. Aster amellus ‘King George” is an Italian aster, a reliable old cultivar that has prolific lovely large violet/blue-purple daisylike flowers that grow in clumps blooming in August, September and perhaps October. I believe this is the aster that has the common name Michaelmas Daisy.

King George aster is a very popular variety in the United Kingdom.  The Royal Horticultural Society had given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) and it seems to be sold all over the UK, but whether they ship outside the UK is the question – some of the sites said they no longer sold them outside the European Community. See here. TheGardenLady has not found “King George” for sale on line in the US, perhaps because of its being an older variety.

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Sending Photos to TheGardenLady to Identify Plants

Photographer / 写真家 by sakichin

TheGardenLady received this question from Amanda.

I love houseplants and have several.  I have a few that I just can’t seem to find the names of.  Could I email you pics?

TheGardenLady would love to have photos of your plants. Be sure they are clear. More than one photo is preferable: Perhaps a close up of the leaves, a photo of a flower if the plants have flowers, and a photo of the entire plant- as close up as you can get.

Also, if any of TheGardenLady readers can identify the plants, please don’t hesitate to write to TheGardenLady telling us what it is.

Getting Pricked by a Rose

Drop of blood by sudesh

TheGardenLady received this question from Gary.

I pricked my finger on a rose thorn a few weeks ago. I wore gloves but the thorn still went right through. There was very little bleeding, no infection, swelling or itching. The wound has since healed but I can still see a dark dot under the healed skin and there is still a tiny bit of soreness when I touch it. What is this dark dot? Is there a chance that part of the thorn broke off inside the wound or would it definitely have become infected in that case?

I am so sorry to read that you had a thorn go through your gloves. I wish I could help you, but this GardenLady is NOT a physician, nor do I know any physician who would diagnose a problem from an email. If you are concerned about the soreness and dark dot, I would recommend your going to see your local physician. Good luck.

Let the readers and TheGardenLady know what your doctor tells you and what treatment you are given.

Two interesting websites about problems with rose prick infection are this and this.

As interesting as those websites are, remember NEVER self medicate and Never ask someone who is not a physician for medical advice. Be on the safe side – GO TO A Doctor.

A Rock Garden Question

Rock Garden in Fall by Calendar Garden

TheGardenLady received this question from Malcolm.

We have a rockery in part of our garden.  We sit a lot opposite to it.  In Spring it’s lovely, but the rest of the summer it’s dull.  I want to start again with the rockery.  I will remove all the rocks, dig over the ground adding multi-compost.  Then I want to replace rocks and plant in-between, but with plants that flower throughout summer and will not grow too big. The area has morning sun.  It’s well drained, shaded by noon in May, and by 3pm July.

How lovely to have a rockery or rock garden in your yard. It is a lot of work but the results can be stunning.

Have you ever thought of under-planting early blooming bulbs for spring flowering and then over-planting the bulbs with later blooming  bulbs for a longer show of flowers? See here.  Or you can over-plant the bulbs with summer perennials plants that bloom later on.  When under-planting, be careful of the type of bulb you choose.

Blooming rockery by Owl lover

Some daffodils become very bushy when in the ground for a few years and the leaves will take up a lot of space before they die back. Tulip foliage does not seem to take up as much space after the flowers die. The perennials should not be planted directly over the bulbs so that the root mass of the perennials do not block the bulbs sending through their flowers; plant the perennials slightly to the side. The foliage of the perennials will hide the greenery of the bulbs after the bulb flowers die. (You know that you never cut the foliage of bulb plants after the flowers die.) Some of the species of daffodils or miniature daffodils would be lovely in a rockery.  See here.  This GardenLady loves species tulips.  If the squirrels on my property didn’t love to eat them, I would fill my property with species tulips. There are a number of bulbs that might meet your needs for blooming at different seasons. See here.

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Lou Manfredini’s Advice about How to Make a Raised Garden Bed

Our Suburban Garden by SteveSJ76

TheGardenLady has invited people with horticultural interests and expertise to contribute posts to this blog. The following post is about how to build a raised garden bed and was submitted by Lou Manfredini.  Lou is Ace Hardware’s Home Expert.  He is a nationally recognized DIY expert, hosting his own home improvement call-in radio show on WGN Radio in Chicago and a nationally syndicated home show, HouseSmarts. Lou is also the official home improvement expert for NBC’s TODAY Show. To learn about more tips and projects from Lou visit here.

Raised garden beds provide great advantages over traditional gardening areas. For instance, they provide more flexibility to grow flowers or vegetables in spots where the soil or ground is not ideal. With a raised bed, you can control your soil conditions and pick what type is best for what you’re growing, and by keeping your garden off the ground you can keep out pests and wildlife that might see your garden as a delicious lunch.

Ready-made garden beds and containers are available at hardware and home improvement stores, but if you don’t want to spend the money it’s simple to build your own!

First select a location for your garden. You’ll want to pick an area in your yard or deck that gets at least 5-6 hours of sunlight a day for ideal growth of your plants. Use painter’s tape to define and mark off your area. You can choose to make your raised garden bed as long or wide as you like, but make sure you can reach all plants.

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Coleus Plants at Atlock Farm

Smallwood’s Driveway by eskinola

Yesterday was a gloriously beautiful day, so TheGardenLady and her friends decided to visit Atlock Farm, an outstanding nursery at 545 Weston Canal Road in Somerset, NJ.  If you see a house surrounded by topiaried or sculpted trees, you know you are next door to this wonderful nursery.

Besides selling really excellent and unusual plants, Atlock Farm also has one of the largest displays of topiary trained plants that are for sale. Among all the plants, they sell a lot of coleus (see photo above), one of the easiest to care for and most decorative plants to add to your garden or your container garden. Coleus need little maintenance besides watering and has few pest problems. This plant can be raised easily from seed, though most people prefer to buy the plants so that they can choose from the amazing variety of leaf coloration and decorative leaf shapes. Coleus is an annual but you can take snips of leaves and root them in water and when they root can keep them over winter in a container to plant outdoors the following spring. Atlock Farm has many coleus to choose from and they even make topiary out of coleus.  See here.  Besides the plants for sale, Atlock Farm has a small show garden and this year they have lots of vegetables, all which seem to be heirloom vegetables, growing in their show garden. They sell these vegetables plus some wonderful gifts for plant people.

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The Honey Bee Conservancy

Lustrous Spicy Jatropha and a busy shiny-winged Honey Bee by jungle mama

This is an update on honey bees.

This summer TheGardenLady saw numerous bees on all her flowers. It is delightful to see how happy the bees are. However, when I looked at the bees, I rarely saw a honey bee. I think I could count the number of honeybees I saw on one hand. So I have been trying to find out what is still happening to the honeybees. I haven’t read anything optimistic.

But I did find a new site called The Honey Bee Conservancy. This site was formed in response to the bee crises.  It has excellent links to other bee sites. And it recommends things that you can do to encourage honey bees and other pollinators. For example, The Honey Bee Conservancy recommends planting a garden with native, single top flowering plants that are blooming all season long.

I hope all TheGardenLady readers will become proactive in joining the bee movement. Please check out the Honey Bee Conservancy site.

Pennisetum – An Ornamental Millet

Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’by SS&SS

TheGardenLady received this question from Patti.

I was at my local home store yesterday and saw a beautiful ornamenatal grass in a pot. Of course ‘no one’ who worked there knew what it was! They had tag on for the container, nothing about the contents.

The plant to me looked like several mini corn stalks. They were a deep burgandy color. The heads on the plant looked like cattail heads. PLEASE can you give me an idea what this was so maybe I can get some for my house. I have been searching pictures on line and seen nothing like it yet.

It always helps for identification purposes if a reader would email a good, clear photo or photos of a plant or whatever needs identification. I am sure the store wouldn’t mind your taking a picture of the plant. Send the photo/s with your question. The more information TheGardenLady gets, the better she can answer your question/s.

Without a photo, the first plant that jumps into this Garden Lady’s mind is an ornamental millet – Pennisetum. There are a number of different ornamental millets, so my first guess is that the one that interests you is Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’. For good photos of this plant check out this website.

Pennisetum glaucum can be bought as seed and planted.  See here.  But it might be too late to plant it outdoors in your area this year. If you buy the plant you can save the seeds to plant next year. People love to add this plant to gardens or pots for the color of the leaves and texture of the seeds.  See here.

Of course, it could be Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ commonly called Red Fountain Grass.  See here.  But this Pennisetum did not quite fit your description.

Please let TheGardenLady know if Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’ is the plant that you like.

Shrubs that Grow in Little Sun

Aucuba japonica by heathervhogg

TheGardenLady received this question from Kelly.

I live in Georgia where it can get really hot and dry at times. I have a space in back against my house which gets little or no sun during the day. I would like a shrub or two which may live in these conditions. Can you help?

This is a good but difficult question because most plants want some sun and some water. But I think gardeners will be looking for more plants that will thrive in this heat and drought.

One suggestion is Japanese Aucuba – Aucuba Japonica which does best in little sun and will live in semi-arid conditions.  See here.  This plant NEEDS shade in the south. There are a few different Aucuba japonica plants to choose from including a Variegata form that would really brighten a shady area.  See here.

Rhodotypos scandens flower by tmoertel

Another shrub that seems to be able to thrive under any condition, (it is considered an invasive in many states) is the Black Jetbead shrub Rhodotypos scandens.

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