Sunday, March 22, 2009

Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic'

Since my week got away from me last week, I'm posting a second post tonight. Hope you don't mind! I've promised a new plant or product post each week, too, so here's the new plant that I'm most excited about this week. (Since you're gardeners, you do understand that my favorite plant changes at least once a week!)

Corylus avellana. "Where have I heard that name?" you may ask yourself. (Or maybe not.) Well, it may sound familiar because it's the plant that many gardeners know by its common name--Harry Lauder's Walking Stick. Actually, it's Corylus avellana 'Contorta', if I'm being 100% correct. The species itself is not contorted, only the cultivar. For many years on my trips to Europe I have lusted after the many colored-foliage forms of filbert that are grown there--particularly in the cooler parts of Europe--Holland, Germany and so on. There were golden forms, purple forms, red forms, and others, but in the heat and humidity of the southern U.S., they were crispy by the end of June, if not sooner. Not so, now.

With the introduction of Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic', we finally have a colored-leaf form of the filbert that will withstand our heat and humidity--or so they say. Time will tell, but all the reports I've heard and read so far have been very positive. And not only are the leaves red, but the stems are also contorted and twisted! The vast majority of ornamental filberts whose foliage is colored have straight stems, but not this one! It's as curly and contorted and twisted as any "Harry Lauder's" I've ever seen--like a really good "bad hair day"! Well anyway, I'm excited about it. We received 6 plants at the garden center on Thursday--apparently they're extremely limited in their availability this first year on the market, but keep your eyes peeled. You might give a quick call to your local garden centers and see if they're going to carry it. If they are, I'd suggest getting your name put on a "Wish List", if they do that sort of thing. Otherwise, you may miss out.

'Red Majestic' grows just like the green Harry Lauder's Walking Stick--about 10'-12' high and wide, preferring full sun (though I'm guessing that just a little afternoon shade in the south might be beneficial), moist but well-drained soil and some occasional pruning to help shape it (and so that you can have those fabulous branches to use indoors!). If there is any drawback, it is that the plant is grafted. This is the quickest and most efficient way to propagate this plant and get it to market, but it has one negative. The rootstock is from the regular filbert (non-contorted) and the thing suckers like mad! My new plant is in a 3-gallon pot and is only about 24" tall and already it has suckers sprouting from the base. I chose one that has about 4" of trunk at the base of the plant so that I can plant it deep and bury the graft. Hopefully, that will help reduce the amount of suckering somewhat, but I'm sure that it won't eliminate it completely. Occasionaly sucker removal is a small price to pay though, for such a beautiful little garden plant! Get on the phone first thing in the morning and track one down!
Photo from Hale and Hines

In The Garden 3/22/09

Tsk, tsk! I've been bad. My week has been a little crazy for a number of reasons and so I have not posted the way I promised I would. So tonight you're getting two! First, the garden update.

Things are coming along, I have to say. We spent about 5 1/2 hours out in the yard last Sunday and finished 95% of the leaf/acorn/hickory nut pick-up. You simply cannot imagine how many wheelbarrow loads of acorns and hickory nuts I'm talking about--over 100 wheelbarrows full, but in all honesty, I've lost count now! The squirrels keep to themselves in the forest and don't seem to care that there is an absolute smorgasbord awaiting them at the top of the hill. Honestly, I don't really mind. I'd rather not have them tearing things up. But if they did decide to move up the hill, I'd have squirrels the size of raccoons by the time they helped themselves to this buffet!

Monday I had to work. I had been gone to Memphis for two days the week before and spent half the day on Saturday with a client/friend in Giles County working on a plan for their farm, so Monday I had to play catch-up. If I'm being completely honest, though, there was another reason I gave up my Monday gardening day last week---because the Tuesday forecast was for sunny and 74, and boy was it ever beautiful! I did work in the yard that day, putting down lawn fertilizer and spraying a full (and smelly) batch of Moore's Mix (from the garden center whose design work I do (, a concoction of beneficial bacteria, humic acid, seaweed extract, etc. that goes down in liquid form and boosts the biological activity in your soil. Heaven knows my soil needs some biological activity! It has pretty good texture in most places, at least where I've been diggin' around, but it seems to be absolutely dead--not so much as an earthworm. So I'm trying to rectify that.

Late in the day, my landlady came up and we burned off the remainder of the big garden bed that had gotten so wild by the time I moved in at the end of summer last year. It really was a mess and it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders now that it is cleaned up. A little RoundUp to kill the clover that has made itself at home and I'll be ready to start gardening! Finally! Normally, I would weed it by hand, but the space is so big and the clover so prevalent (almost a solid groundcover over about 1500 square feet) that I'm going to have to do it the other way, just to get ahead of it. Then it won't be so bad to maintain.

Late this afternoon I spent about 2 1/2 hours outdoors getting a bunch of the tender plants that I had overwintered either in the garden shed or in the store room out, cleaned up and repotted. I still have a ways to go, but I'm getting there. I'm sure we'll have another cold snap and I'll have to haul everything back in again, but it feels good to be getting things ready for the growing season. I'm having to work again tomorrow (Monday), so probably no post tomorrow night, but if I'm lucky I'll have a few more hours to spend in the garden on Tuesday, so maybe an update then.

Oh, I almost forgot. We went on our first spring hike today and the woods are beginning to come alive. Fabulous little spring ephemerals emerging everywhere--false rue anemone, liverwort, trout lily and more. I can't wait to see what pops up in the next few weeks!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Walkin' In Memphis

Good morning! It's about 1:45 a.m. on Friday the 13th and I'm blogging to you live from Memphis, TN! I spoke to the Hosta Society here tonight and promised that I would post a list of sources for some of the plants that were included in my talk. I figured that while I'm doing that, now is as good a time as any to remind everyone that spring is just around the corner and if you haven't gotten those spring plant orders placed, you'd better hurry up! The good stuff will be gone before you know it.

So where are some of my favorite places to shop? Here's a list. Mind you, it's not all-inclusive or in any particular order. And first and foremost, don't forget to shop your local nurseries, greenhouses and garden centers! Lots of cool new stuff will be hitting the shelves over the next few weeks.

Raising Rarities--Hybrid Hardy Lady's Slipper Orchids, one of the few nurseries in the country specializing in these plants.

Seneca Hill Perennials--Lots of GREAT perennials, new as well as tried and true varieties and some really hard to find things.

Plant Delights Nursery--The weird and unusual, and Tony has great plants, too.

Forest Farm Nursery--Amazing selection in all categories, but particularly phenomenal in the woody plant category.

Cistus Nursery--Lots of west coast things, but some really cool tropicals, succulents and other plants that will thrive in the south.

Rare Plants Nursery--This used to be "Paul Christian Rare Plants", but I've noticed of late that they are now referring to it just as "Rare Plants". They DO ship to the states, if you're willing to pay the phytosanitary fees, etc. It's expensive, but they have plants that almost no one else in the world has. The array is mindboggling, to say the least.

Yucca Do Nursery--For those of you into succulent and dry garden plants, this is your source. They really know what they're doing.

This list doesn't even scratch the surface, but includes a very small handful of my personal favorites. There are many others. Also, while you're at it, go ahead and check out the websites for some of the wholesale places, such as Terra Nova Nurseries, North Creek Nurseries , Shady Oaks Nursery, and others. These are just a FEW of the folks who are introducing new plants to the market and supply the growers, who then supply your local greenhouses and garden centers, so a LOT of their plants can be purchased through your regular retailers.

And don't blame me when your garden budget suddenly dwindles! (And again, a special thanks to the Memphis Hosta Society for hosting me this evening.) Happy Gardening!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hellebore Fever

Well, March has certainly come roaring in! For those of you who didn't see it on the news (or experience it personally), parts of Tennessee received nearly a FOOT of snow last Saturday and Sunday. A FOOT!!! I know that to some of you that's pretty average, but in the South, where people (cities) are ill-prepared to handle such events, that's a LOT of snow. Imagine Buffalo or Chicago getting 5-6 feet of snow all at once and that's what we're talking about here. I may be wrong, but I believe I heard that the city of Memphis doesn't even have a snow plow--and they got 6 inches of snow! Snow plow or not, we're just not prepared to handle that kind of snow event around here. I'm still miffed, however, because the entire thing missed Nashville. I'd be hard pressed to call what we got a good dusting. Figures.

Snow aside, the garden is really starting to come to life now. It has been slowly awakening over the past several weeks, but now we're to the point where everyday something new pokes it's head out of the soil. I'm still learning my way around at the new place. I haven't done much digging yet because I still don't know what might be lurking underground, waiting to make its appearance. For instance, what I thought was going to be a convenient path from the front walk to the sideyard appears to have Virginia bluebells planted in it. All winter long I've been trampling a path through the area and now I find little purplish-red sprouts pushing through the soil. They're going to have to move. The path is staying. Same for a couple of clumps of daffodils that have shown themselves in the middle of the path going into the main part of the yard. They won't mind being dug, divided and relocated once summer arrives. That path is staying, too.

The hellebores that survived the winter (the ones in containers took a real beating) are looking glorious. 'Ivory Prince', pictured here, is truly an outstanding garden plant. Its vigor, I'm finding, is second-to-none. The same is true for many of the newer hybrids. Excellent parents have led to excellent progeny and the growth that I'm getting out of many of my new hellebores is nearly double what I'm accustomed to from this group of plants. Some of my favorites are the plants from hellebore guru Marietta O'Byrne, which are being introduced by my friends at Terra Nova Nurseries. The colors are exquisite and the vigor is astounding! A few particular favorites are 'Golden Lotus', the 'Brushstrokes Strain' and the 'London Fog' series. There are several others, too, and there's not a dog among them!

Another group of hellebores that I've been most impressed with is the Brandywine series from good friend and plant guru, Dave Culp. His eye for color, flower size and plant vigor is extraordinary. This is a mixed color strain, but the colors are clear and delicious--I've been like a kid in a candy store--and my very best yellow-flowered plant to date has come from Dave's group, flowering in a clear, unspotted limey-yellow with flowers almost 3 inches across. It absolutely glows in the garden!

The weather forecast is sunny and 70 for Monday, so I'm looking forward to an entire day in the garden! I'll let you know what happens!