Summer Maid

Looking lovely in the early fall garden are the xAmarcrinum. These are man-made hybrids between Crinum lilies and the South African Amaryllis belladonna. Despite the later not growing well here, the hybrids are quite amazing with their sweetly-fragranced flowers. All xAmarcrinum are somewhat similar in growth, with greatly reduced foliage from most crinum parents. The cultivar below is xAmarcrinum ‘Summer Maid’. Hardiness is Zone 7b-10.

xAmarcrinum 'Summer Maid' is a man made hybrid between Crinum and Amaryllis belladonna.

Another Summer Snowstorm

Looking and smelling wonderful in the garden this week is our 2022 introduction, Hosta ‘Summer Snowstorm’. We love late-flowering hostas with large fragrant flowers, and this one doesn’t disappoint, with foliage that still looks great in late summer.

Hosta ‘Summer Snowstorm’

Lavender and White

On my very short commute home, we’ve designed beds along the way that help relieve the stresses of the day. One of my favorite beds in summer is this combination of Allium ‘Millenium’, Sinningia tubiflora (white), Verbena bonariensis, and Pervoskia atriplicifolia. Both the sinningia and the verbena can be a bit aggressive in some areas of the garden, but not here, where they’ve all reached a happy equilibrium. Not only are they visually attractive, but this bed is awash with pollinators, despite none of these plants being southeast US natives.

Lily of Formosa

The Taiwan endemic, Lilium formosanum is just wrapping up its summer floral show in the garden. I’d be hard pressed to imagine a garden without this garden showstopper. The cluster of huge fragrant flowers top the 6-7′ tall, sturdy stalks, starting in early August. We allow a few seed to drop each year, which results in patches scattered around the garden. The fragrance is as sweet as any honeysuckle you can imagine. Soon, you’ll have enough to also fill your home with cut arrangements. Hardiness Zone 6a-10b.

Lilium formosanum

After the flowers fade, the seed pods turn upward, making a classy candelabra that dries atop the stalk for a great winter ornament in the garden or they can also be used in dried arrangements.

Oh Lily!

We always look forward to the start of summer, when the summer lily show begins. These summer lilies include mostly Asiatic lilies, and their hybrids. Our particular interest are in lilies that are taller than 4′ and have pendant flowers. The shorter Asiatic lilies, and those with upright-held flowers may look great in a container, but they have little design value in a naturalistic style garden. Since some of the lilies are top heavy due to the massive weight of the flowers, we recommend varieties with sturdy stems.

Be sure you can stand the fragrance, since most hybrid lilies are so fragrant, they blow gardenias out of the water. Because these lilies have little foliage, they can be planted into masses of other plants without any detrimental effects. The flower stalks seemingly appear out of nowhere in early July, and fade into obscurity when they are finished.

Below are a few favorites we photographed recently in the garden.

Lilium ‘Miss Libby’
Lilium ‘Ortega’
Lilium ‘Passion Moon’

Fab in the Garden

Flowering now in the garden is the little-known South American (Chile/Argentina) cousin of tomatoes/potatoes, Fabiana imbricata. This oddity doesn’t have anything that we’d call true leaves. Instead, the upright stalks are clothed in evergreen green scales, and the stalks are topped with clusters of these unique honey-scented flowers. We found that dry, well-drained, partially sunny sites work best in our climate. This is a fun plant to take to Master Garden class and see who can identify it. It’s sometimes seen under the name South American False Heather, although it’s no relation to real heather. Hardiness is Zone 7b-9b.

Thus, Diane

In the hot, humid south, the word Dianthus is jokingly translated as “prepare to die”. As of this spring, we’ve grown 169 different dianthus taxa (different accessions). Of those, most are dead, a few are hanging on, and then a much smaller subset are absolutely thriving. Below are a few images from the spring garden of some (but not all) which are thriving spectacularly.

The first image is Dianthus anatolicus, planted in 2020. Virtually unknown by most gardeners, this species is native from the Black Sea region into the West Himalayas. Typically, plants from this region don’t thrive in our heat and humidity, so this was a pleasant surprise. This is growing in our typical compost amended garden loam.

Dianthus anatolicus

Dianthus arenarius is a Baltic Sea species that has thrived for us since 2018 in our crevice garden.

Dianthus arenarius

Dianthus Dianthus kuschakewiczii, aka: D.tianshanicus, a Central Asian native, has also fared amazingly well in our compost ammended beds since 2015. The idea that this tolerates our heat and humidity is quite shocking.

Dianthus kuschakewiczii

Dianthus plumarius is a well-known garden species, originating from the Northwest Balkan peninsula. It has been grown as a pass-along perennial throughout the Southeastern US for over a century. This species has been cultivated in the UK since 1100AD, and in the US since 1676. Our clone is one that has been passed along in the Birmingham, Alabama area.

Dianthus plumarius ‘Birmingham’

The horticultural world has been replete with an array of dianthus hybrids through the years. We’ve managed to kill quite a few, but the ones below have been exceptional in our tough conditions. Dianthus ‘Bright Light’ (aka: Dianthus Uribest52), is a Korean hybrid from the breeding firm, Uriseed, which was derived from crossing Dianthus alpinus (from the Alps) with Dianthus callizones from Romania. Our clumps have been in since 2018, and excelled in unirrigated sections of the garden. This is one of the finest garden dianthus we’ve ever grown.

Dianthus ‘Bright Light’

Dianthus ‘Cherry Charm’ is a Dutch hybrid of Dianthus gratiopolitanus , which has been every bit as exceptional as Dianthus ‘Bright Light’. Our clumps, which are now four years old are nothing short of outstanding.  

Dianthus ‘Cherry Charm’

Dianthus ‘White Crown’ is the smallest of the excellent performing selections in our trial. We have had this in the crevice garden since 2017, growing in 3′ of Permatill, so we doubt this would thrive in typical garden soils. This is a Wrightman Gardens introduction of unknown parentage.

Dianthus ‘White Crown’

Add a little variegation–

We have really enjoyed the sprig foliage show of Osmanthus fragrans ‘Qiannan Guifei’ for the last few weeks. This spring-emerging variegated foliage adds a whole new level of “wow” to the sweetly fragrant tea olive shrub, Osmanthus fragrans. This new selection, introduced from China to the US by our friend Ted Stephens of Nurseries Caroliniana, is from Qiannan-based plant breeder, Tan Zhi-ming. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b-9b.

Osmanthus fragrans ‘Qiannan Guifei’

We have a hunch you’ll like Quasimodo the Witch

Flowering now is one of our favorite native witch hazels, the semi-dwarf, Ozark witch hazel, Hamamelis vernalis ‘Quasimodo’. This amazing gem was discovered and introduced by the late Dutch nurseryman, Pieter Zwijnenburg. I would argue that this is a far more significant introduction than his much better known Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’. Our 8-year-old specimen is now 5′ tall x 5′ wide. Not only does the compact size fit in most gardens, but the density of the deliciously fragrant flowers is unparalleled in the genus.

, Hamamelis vernalis ‘Quasimodo’
A close up view of the winter blooming flowers.
, Hamamelis vernalis ‘Quasimodo’.

South of the Border Beauty

Flowering today is the deliciously fragrant Mahonia gracilis, a little-known species from the mountains of northern Mexico. Maturing at 8′ tall x 12′ wide, this evergreen species burst into full flower usually in late January/early February. The flowers buds have great resistance to cold snaps after they open, and the overpoweringly sweet fragrance is legendary. Virtually all of the mahonias in commerce in the Southeast US are from China, so this is quite different from those. In 30 years of growing these, we have never seen a single garden seedling. Hardiness is Zone 7b-9a, at least.

Mahonia gracilis in flower in February.
Close up of Mahonia gracilis flowers.

The Sight and Smell of Orange Peel

Looking and smelling scrumptious in the garden today is Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’. This splendid hybrid of Hamamelis mollis (China) x Hamamelis japonica (Japan) comes from Belgium’s Kalmthout Arboretum. I don’t know that I’ve ever smelled a witch hazel this sweet.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Orange Peel' in the winter garden.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

Escallonia in NC

One of the nice surprises after our 11 degree F freeze was how well our Escallonia ‘Iveyi’ fared. Few people on the US East Coast are familiar with these South American woody members of the Escalloniaceae family.

Escallonia ‘Iveyi’ is actually a hybrid that originated at the UK’s Caerhays Castle, where it was discovered as a seedling between Escallonia rosea and Escallonia rubra. Our plant should mature at 10′ x 10′. In mid summer, this amazing selection is smothered in fragrant white flowers.

All the literature we’d been able to find, indicates it is only hardy to 14 degrees, but that’s another reason we don’t let our plants read gardening books or browse the Internet. Our plant was grown from cuttings from an old specimen at the SC Botanical Garden in Clemson.

Image of Escallonia 'Iveyi'
Escallonia ‘Iveyi’

“Little” Hariyama

Looking quite lovely atop our crevice garden is Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Hariyama’. This incredibly heavily-spined seedling of Osmanthus ‘Sasaba’ was brought to the US by plantsman Ted Stephens, who acquired it from Ishiguro Nursery in Japan. Our 15 year old plant has topped 10′ in height. Earlier in the fall, it was adorned with small, fragrant white flowers. Despite the small congested foliage, this is not a small plant, but where an oriental specimen plant is needed, this is very special.

Image Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Hariyama'
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Hariyama’

December Daphnes

I’ve posted about daphnes a couple of times this year, but can’t help post again now that we’re in December and still have two daphnes in full flower, despite two nights at 25 degrees F.

The top is Daphne collina from Southern Italy, and the bottom is Daphne x napolitana ‘Bramdream’…a hybrid of Daphne collina x Daphne cneorum var. pygmaea. These are growing in our dry crevice garden in a soil mix of 50% Permatill gravel. It seems obvious that the Daphne collina is the source of the continuous bloom. Winter hardiness is Zone 6a-8b (top), and Zone 5-8b (bottom).

Daphnes in the crevice garden
Daphne collina
Daphne x napolitana 'Bramdream' in the rock garden
Daphne x napolitana ‘Bramdream’

Soooo Sweet!

Have you ever been seated by someone who exercised no self control when it came to their application of perfume to the point that they left you gasping for fresh air? Well, there’s a shrub with the same degree of insanely sweet scented flowers, Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Kaori Hime’.

This fascinating Japanese selection of the Japanese/Korean/Taiwanese native shrub is renown for its tiny foliage as well as the multitude of tiny white flowers with an over-the-top perfume sweet fragrance. Our plant has been flowering for nearly a month…an incredible treat for the fall garden. Our 10 year-old specimens measure 7′ tall x 12′ wide…much larger than most on-line vendors indicate.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Kaori Hime' - a shrub with sweet scented flowers
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Kaori Hime’

The Un-Buddleia

Most folks have grown butterfly bushes in the genus buddleia, yet few garden visitors recognize this fascinating species from our 1994 botanizing trip to Northern Mexico. I should add that most buddleias on the market are developed from the Asian species, and virtually none from the less colorful North American species.

Buddleia cordata ssp. tomentella grows in rocky, bone-dry hillsides in the mountains of Northern Mexico near the town of Los Lirios at 7,000′ elevation. I was only able to find a single seed, but fortunately, it sprouted, and 28 years later, this amazing specimen is the result.

One of the cool things about Buddleia cordata ssp. tomentella is the insanely fragrant flowers, which start for us in early fall, and continue all winter…a trait you won’t find in any other temperate shrub of which we’re aware. As you can imagine, it is awash with an array of pollinator insects The flower color is a dusty white, so this will never be a plant that will make it to the shelves of your favorite box store. That said, it’s a plant we wouldn’t be without in our garden.

Image of Buddleia cordata ssp. tomentella blooming in the garden.
Buddleia cordata ssp. tomentella

Flaming Torch

In flower this week is the amazing ginger lily, Hedychium ‘Flaming Torch’…our 1999 introduction, with its’ fragrant peachy flowers is still looking great! This is another of those plants that never sold particularly well, so we haven’t offered it since 2016. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.

Hedychium Flaming Torch in the garden
Hedychium ‘Flaming Torch’
Close up of Hedychium Flaming Torch
Hedychium ‘Flaming Torch’

Crinum Time Again

Re-appropriating a line from the late Buck Owens, it’s crinum time again. Crinum lilies begin their flowering season in our climate around April 1 (frost permitting). Some bloom for a short number of weeks, while other rebloom for months. Depending on the genetics, some crinum hybrids start flowering in spring, some in summer, and others in fall, and a few flower during the entire growing season.

Crinum ‘High on Peppermint’ is one of our newer named hybrids, which starts flowering for us around June 1, and hasn’t stopped yet.

Crinum 'High on Peppermint'
Crinum ‘High on Peppermint’

Crinum ‘Superliscious’ is another of our new hybrids that starts flowering July 1, and has yet to stop. Now that our evaluation process is complete, we’ll start the propagation process.

Crinum 'Superliscious'
Crinum ‘Superliscious’

Crinum ‘Southern Star’ is an incredible hybrid from the late Roger Berry, entrusted to us to propagate and make available. That’s a tall order since it’s one of the slowest offsetting crinum lilies we’ve ever grown. Crinum ‘Southern Star’ is a hybrid with the virtually ungrowable, yellow-flowered Crinum luteolum, which hails from Southern Australia. For us, Crinum ‘Southern Star’ doesn’t start it’s floral display until August 1.

Crinum 'Southern Star'
Crinum ‘Southern Star’

Suckin’ Daphnes

I’ve been surprised to see the black swallowtails regularly enjoying the nectar of the summer-flowering daphnes…in this case, Daphne x napolitana ‘Bramdream’. Our plants are thriving, growing in our full sun rock garden.

Image of a Black Swallowtail feasting on the nectar of one of our summer flowering daphnes
A Black Swallowtail feasting on the nectar of Daphne x napolitana ‘Bramdream’

Eau de Chocolate

One of the most amazing summer perennials we grow is the native Berlandiera pumila ‘Chocoholic’. It is unfathomable to us, why this isn’t grown in every full sun garden where it’s winter hardy. The flowers, which smell like milk chocolate, top the 3′ tall clump nonstop from May until October. In the wild, Berlandiera pumila can be found from NC south to Texas, so its drought tolerance is excellent. We rate this as Zone 7a to 9b, but that’s only because we don’t have feedback from folks in colder zones yet. Please let us know is you have this survive temperatures lower than 0 degrees F without snow cover!

Nectar tubes

We always look forward to late June with the patches of Sinningia tubiflora burst into flower. This rhizomatous perennial, first cousin to African Violets’, is rock hardy to 0 degrees F. This South American native (Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) forms a dense deciduous groundcover, topped with these long-tubbed, honeysuckle-fragranced flowers that attract nocturnal moths with a really long proboscis.

For Crinum Out Loud

Our OCD is on full display with many of our plant collections including the summer-flowering Crinum lilies. Our collections here at JLBG have now topped 400 crinum taxa. In addition to collecting the best plants from other breeders, we have also been making a few of our own selected hybrids. Below are a few photos of plants we have recently selected and named. None of these are available yet, and most will still be a few years away, while we build up enough stock to share.

If you’ve never grown crinums (first cousin of hippeastrum), they form huge bulbs, and thrive in full sun in average to moist soils.

Crinum ‘Americana’
Crinum ‘Floral Bouquet’
Crinum ‘Happy Times’
Crinum JLBG21-01
Crinum ligulatum ‘Shooting Stars’
Crinum macowanii ‘Flowerama’
Crinum ‘Merry Me’
Crinum ‘Out Loud’
Crinum ‘Passionate Kisses’

Around the world with 130 Styrax

We’ve had a longstanding love affair with the genus styrax, thanks to their amazing spring display of fragrant white bell-like flowers. Of the 130 recognized species, we have so far tried 22, of which 9 remain alive.

The first featured below is Styrax japonicus ‘Evening Light’. This amazing, black-foliage form of the typical green-leaf Styrax japonicus appeared as a seedling in Holland at the nursery of Henny Kolster. When I first saw the photo, I assumed it to have been “photoshopped”, but after growing it for several years here at JLBG, the foliage is indeed jet black. This is one of the most stunning small trees in our collection.

Styrax japonicus ‘Evening Light’

Styrax formosanus, which hails from Taiwan (Formosa) is undoubtedly the most floriferous species we’ve encounterd. Here is our garden plant this spring. For us, this generally tops out at 15′ to 20′ tall.

Styrax formosanus

Styrax americanus (Illinois south to Florida) is one of only four native US styrax species. Usually topping out around 10′ tall, this form introduced by Woodlanders Nursery has foliage with a lovely blue cast.

Styrax americanus var. pulverulentus ‘Baby Blue’

Oh, Daphne

My visit to Crete in 2010 was eye-opening when I observed that most native daphnes of the region grew in full sun among rock, in the driest conditions imaginable. That prompted us to re-try many of the daphnes that we’d killed years earlier…obviously, with too much kindness. Now, all of our daphnes are planted in baking sun in our crevice garden, or similar rock garden conditions. Here are a few photos at JLBG from early April.

The first is the Mediterranean native, Daphne collina, which most authorities now subsume under Daphne sericea. All daphne pictured below should be hardy from Zone 6a – 8b.

Daphne collina

Daphne ‘Rosy Wave’ is a Daphne collina hybrid with Daphne burkwoodii

Daphne ‘Rosy Wave’

Daphne x napolitana ‘Bramdream’ is a hybrid of Daphne collina and Daphne cneorum.

Daphne x napolitana ‘Bramdream’

Sweet as Snow Cream

Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Snow Cream’ is a 2000 Juniper Level Botanic Garden/Plant Delights introduction that has proven to be one of our most popular introductions. We made the original selection from a group of seed-grown plants, imported from China by Canada’s Piroche Plants in the late 1990s. We were drawn to this seedling because of the particularly large flowers, and large leaves that reminded us of a plumeria. Let me be clear that all Edgeworthia chrysantha seedlings are nice, but there is certainly a significant difference between flower and leaf sizes of seed-grown plants.

Below are photos from our winter open nursery and garden days this year, where our garden specimens never cease to amaze visitors with both its sweetly scented flowers and amazing floral show. Sadly, no matter how many we propagate, it never seems to be enough to meet the demand. A more open site results in a much better floral show. Hardiness is Zone 7a – 10b.

Canary Treasure

This is our first flowering of Dracunculus canariensis, the rare cousin of the more commonly-grown aroid Dracunculus vulgaris. Dracunculus canariensis hails from Madeira (reportedly extinct) and the nearby Canary Islands, all off the coast of Morocco.

We inherited our specimen from the late plantsman, Alan Galloway, who planned to cross it with Dracunculus vulgaris. The task now falls to us. Both species have a similiar chromosome count of 2N=28, so this should be a easy cross by saving pollen. To us, the flower smells like watermelon rhine, which is a nice change from the more offensive smell of its sibling.

Cherry Bomb

The superb (and spineless) Ilex ‘Cherry Bomb’ is looking amazing in the garden this week. Our specimen is now 22 years old, and measures 35′ tall x 15′ wide. It originated at the US National Arboretum as part of Dr. William Kosar’s breeding program, and is a 1959/1960 seedling from Ilex ‘Nellie R. Stevens’, most likely a hybrid with the spineless Ilex integra.

It was sent around to different growers for evaluation trials under a code #, and was later determined to not have enough value for northern US growers, so a destruction notice was sent by the National Arboretum.

Like some characters in the slasher flicks, it wasn’t completely destroyed, as propagations from the holly managed, quite improperly, to make its way to the deep south, where growers found it quite extraordinary, and in the 1980s, it was given the name Ilex ‘Cherry Bomb’ by Dr. Dave Creech of Steven F. Austin University. This wonderful plant is now a staple in the Southern nursery industry.

Winter Sunburst

Pittosporum tobira ‘Kansai Sunburst’ is looking lovely in the mid-winter garden. This Japanese selection emerges with brightly cream-edged leaves which age to green. This selection came to the US, via the former Asiatica Nursery, which brought so many wonderful Japanese selections to American gardeners.

This native of China, Japan, and Korea should mature around 10′ in height. Pittosporum tobira is prized for its spring-produced, intensely-fragrant small white flowers that smell like orange blossoms. We’ve had our plants in the ground since 2007, so they’ve passed the survival test of two winters with low temperatures in the single digits F. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.

High on Loquats

We truly love loquats…both to grow and consume. I first met Eriobotrya japonica in 1976 on a walk around the NC State campus with the late Dr. JC Raulston. I was amazed to see a mature 30’+ specimen growing against one of the campus buildings. I was determined to grow one of our own, so in the mid 1990s, we planted our first specimen here at JLBG.

Loquats, a Chinese native member of the rose family, makes a lovely small tree with large, evergreen foliage that resembles a corrugated Magnolia grandiflora. Another exceptional feature is the fragrant white flowers that start to open around Christmas. These are followed by delicious orange fruit in early spring, when winter temperatures don’t drop below the mid-teens F. Loquat foliage is also brewed as a tea, in addition to its numerous medicinal benefits. We have always found loquats to be much more winter hardy than most of the literature indicates. Our oldest specimen planted in 1997, has never experienced any winter damage. Hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.

Perfume of the Princess

Quite a few really smart horticulturists told us we didn’t have a chance of succeeding with Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ in our climate. We’ll, we’re almost 2 years in the ground with this New Zealand hybrid of Daphne bholua x Daphne odora. It’s already full of flowers, where it’s thriving in our crevice garden. In the sense of full disclosure, we’ve never been able to keep the Daphne bholua parent alive. Hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer to at least Zone 8b.

Cantab-ulous

In full flower now at JLBG is Mahonia x lindsayae ‘Cantab’, a hybrid of Mahonia japonica and the virtually unknown Mahonia siamensis. The intensely sweet fragrance is truly intoxicating…the strongest in the genus Mahonia. Sadly, you’ll rarely find this available for sale, since it’s somewhat gangly form doesn’t curry favor with most nursery growers. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.

The Osmanthus continue

The fragrance of the fall-flowering osmanthus continues. First, we saw good rebloom on Osmanthus fragrans ‘Tianxiang Taige’. This amazing cultivar has the largest flowers of any of the selections of this species.

Osmanthus fragrans ‘Tianxiang Taige’

The overpoweringly sweet fragrance of Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Kaori Hime’ has been hard to miss over the last couple of weeks. Despite having tiny leaves, this is not a dwarf. Our 8-year old garden plant is 6′ tall x 7′ wide.

Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Kaori Hime’

The Fragrance of Fall

Perfuming the garden this week are the amazing Osmanthus fragrans. This Chinese native evergreen shrub is unquestionably the most fragrant flowering plant in the garden. When the clusters of small flowers open early October, they emit a sweet fragrance that can easily waft for 200 feet. While we have nine clones in the gardens at JLBG, our oldest/largest two are Osmanthus fragrans ‘Conger Yellow’ (yellow flower) and ‘Aurantiacus’ (orange flower)…both pictured below.

Our sister institution, the JC Raulston Arboretum probably has the largest collection in the country of these amazing plants. For those old enough to remember, Osmanthus fragrans was a personal favorite of the late Dr. JC Raulston. If you are looking to purchase plants and can’t find them locally, our friend Ted Stephens, who runs a SC mail order nursery certainly has the largest offering in the country of these amazing plants.

Old Fashioned, but not out of Fashion

Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Daffodil’ was introduced in 1949, but remains one of the most incredible daylilies we grow here at JLBG. The 3′ tall, branched, sturdy, upright stems are topped with an abundance of amazing highly fragrant yellow flowers starting in July.

Shaking up Saxatile

For two decades, we’ve grown the amazing Chinese jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema saxatile with its delightful lemon-fragranced flowers. The most frustrating part was its slow offsetting nature, which meant we rarely had any to share.

Arisaema saxatile

Eighteen months ago, we dug our main clump and moved most of it from a well-shaded site to a location that would get a couple of hours of afternoon sun. To our surprise, it loved the new site, where this summer, it produced two large seed heads which will be harvested shortly. This is the first sign of seed in 20 years, so hopefully in a few years, we have some good numbers to share.

Arisaema saxatile in seed

Pick Pink Pockets

Sinningia ‘Pink Pockets’ was a Plant Delights/JLBG introduction in 2011…a hardy gesneriad that had thrived in our in ground trials. Here it is this week, planted in 2005 and still performing superbly in part sun. We love plants that stand the test of time in the garden.

Goin tubing in the garden

We’ve got a different take on going tubing. For us, tubing is something we do, starting in mid-June each summer, when we sit and enjoy our patch of Sinningia tubiflora. This amazing South American (Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) gesneriad (African violet cousin) forms masses of underground potato-like tubers, which produce these amazing stalks of sweetly fragrant flowers for months each summer. These are reportedly pollinated by sphinx months. Sinningia tubiflora is insanely drought resistant and so easy to grow if given enough sun. Since it forms a large mass, don’t plant it near smaller, less-aggressive neighbors.

Kale for Life

Blooming now in the crevice garden is one of our favorite edimentals. If you haven’t heard this word before, it’s the new combo term for edible ornamentals. Crambe maritima, known as sea kale, is a plant we first grew for its fragrant flowers, only to find it incredibly tasty, both fresh and cooked. We are constantly grabbing a leaf for a garden snack. Best of all, Crambe maritima is a perennial that doesn’t need to replanted yearly. We can’t imagine why every lover of kale doesn’t grow this. Dry full baking sun is all that’s required.

Crambe maritima

Winter Bridal Bouquet

Flowering this week is our selection of Magnolia floribunda ‘Bridal Bouquet’. When we visited Yunnan, China in 1996, we were able to return with three seed of Magnolia floribunda, a species which seemed completely absent from American horticulture. The resulting seedlings were planted into the garden, where two promptly died during the first winter. Thankfully, one survived and is still thriving today 25 years later.

Magnolia floribunda ‘Bridal Bouquet’ forms an upright, somewhat open evergreen that sometimes starts flowering as early as mid-January. This year, thanks to our consistent cold, it waited until early March to start its floral show. The flowers have a distinctive and fascinating fragrance that we find unique among our magnolia collection. We have shared cuttings with several woody plant nurseries and donated plants to a few rare plant auctions in the hopes of getting this more widely cultivated.

Magnolia floribunda ‘Bridal Bouquet’
Magnolia floribunda ‘Bridal Bouquet’

Tubing! Hummers! Summer!

The genus Sinningia is a South American gesneriad (African violet and gloxinia relative). Hummingbirds and butterflies just love the tubular flowers of Sinningia, and several species including Sinningia tubiflora, are quite fragrant.

Sinningia tubiflora

Sinningia flowers come in a wide array of colors from white, to yellow, pink, red and all shades in between. Sinningia species are drought-tolerant and heat loving…perfect for hummers and the southern garden.
We hope you will join us in our excitement over the wonderful perennial sinningia.

Sinningia ‘Cherries Jubilee’

Hymen Flowers

Hymen flowers (aka Hymenocallis) are still going, as the Northern Mexican species now perfume the garden. The genus begins flowering in spring, and if you grow a wide range of species, you can have flowers until late summer/early fall. Here’s a photo we recently took of Hymenocallis pimana in the garden.  While many hymenocallis prefer very moist soils, we grow this in a dry bed with agaves and cactus.  Starting in early evening, the flowers emit a honeysuckle-like fragrant to lure evening moths for reproductive activities. While we also like the more commonly sold Dutch hybrids, which are actually intergeneric crosses with the South American Ismene, we think the North American native species are far superior as garden plants, so we’ve always wondered why these don’t sell nearly as well as they should. 

Crinum ‘Improved Peachblow’

Crinum Improved Peachblow

Early June is an amazing time for crinum lilies in the gardens here at Juniper Level and here’s one of our favorites, photographed yesterday. ¬†Crinum ‘Improved Peachblow‘ is simply amazing…great flower form, sturdy stems, pink buds that open white, and a fragrance that’ll make a honeysuckle jealous. ¬†Crinum lilies are very easy to grow, but flower best in a moist, sunny location.

Sweet box begin sweet

Sarcococca hookeriana v. humilis purple stem in flower closeup

One of the great winter-flowering evergreen perennials is in full flower now.  Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, aka sweet box is a fascinating boxwood relative that forms a dense groundcover in shade.  What make sweet box special are the intensely fragrant flowers toward the end of winter.  All sarcococca are similar in form and flowering, varying mainly in height and fruit color.

Photos from the winter garden

Erythronium mesochorum A1AR-037b in flower

The native midwestern trout lily, Erythronium mesochorum showed it’s lovely face for the first time this week.  We sowed lots of seed last year, so hopefully we’ll have enough to share in a couple more years.

 

Helleborus niger Jesko forming seed

Even after the early flowers of the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, finish, the lovely green petals and developing seed pods are quite attractive.

Iris unguicularis v. cretensis Katsifu Gorge flower

The Iris unguicularis have been amazing this winter.  This is our collection from Crete, where they grew in large grass-like masses.  Although this clone isn’t as floriferous as some we grow, the intensity of the color is quite special, and like all of the forms from Crete, the foliage is quite short.  We may have enough of this for a 2017 introduction.

Pachysandra procumbens Angola in flower

For the first time in several years, we are able to share our superb collection of  the native, evergreen Pachysandra procumbens ‘Angola’, that we collected near Angola prison.  This is the earliest, most vigorous, and most fragrant flowering form of this superb native that we’ve ever encountered.

 

Silene virginica Jackson Valentine winter rosette

 

Not only is Silene virginiana ‘Jackson Valentine’ superb in flowers, but it’s also pretty nice with its purple winter foliage.

Hosta ‘Sugar and Spice’

Hosta Sugar and Spice in flower2

We’ve been enjoying the late-flowering hostas over the last few weeks, with many just beginning.  One of our favorites is Hosta ‘Sugar and Spice’…a stunning sport of Hosta ‘Invincible’ with fragrant flowers and variegated foliage.  We put this as one of the best performing hostas we’ve ever grown..great foliage, great flowers, and great vigor in the garden.

Crinum lilies in the garden

Crinum x baconii Maurine Spinks5

 

This has been an amazing summer for crinum lilies at Juniper Level.  These mostly African species and their hybrids are wonderfully fragrant, hard-to-kill bulbs for the sunny garden.  Above is Crinum x baconii ‘Maureen Spinks’…one of the showiest summer-flowering hybrids.Crinum x digweedii Stars and Stripes5

 

Another of the milk and wine striped crinum lilies is Crinum x digweedii ‘Stars and Stripes’…here’s a recent photo from the garden.  It just oozes with fragrance!Crinum Rose Parade5If rosy pink is your thing, Crinum ‘Rose Parade’ is looking quite nice in the garden.  Crinum winter hardiness ranges from Zone 6 to Zone 8, depending on the species used in the cross.  You’ll find the hardiness zones for each in our on-line catalog, where we offer 40 varieties…probably one of the largest selections you’ll find.  Enjoy, and have a great weekend in the garden!

 

30′ tall Flowering Agave – a pollinators dream

Agave Grey Gator in full flower at top with ladderIt’s been absolutely amazing to watch the swarm of honeybees, ants, and hummingbirds feeding on our giant 30′ tall flowering agave.  Here’s an updated photo of the blessed event from yesterday.  This weekend’s final summer open house is the last chance to see it in person.

 

Giant Agave flowering

Agave Grey Gator flowering with ladder and staff4

Here’s our research staff getting the giant ladder in place for breeding as the giant Agave salmiana x asperrima begins to open. Agave Grey Gator flowers with Jeremy on ladderAnd here’s Jeremy, who heads up our Research Division, gathering pollen and making crosses.  Breeding agaves is a little different from breeding daylilies, iris, and hostas. We hope you’ll join us during our summer open nursery and garden to see this monster in person.

 

Magnolia lotungensis flowering at JLBG

Parakmeria lotungensis flower

Here are photos of our lovely specimen of Magnolia (Parakmeria) lotungensis that flowered extremely well this year.  This evergreen magnolia is one of our favorites and has never shown a sign of winter damage here.  Fingers crossed for good seed set.

Arrangements to perfume the garden

Helicodiceros muscivorus arrangementI was recently looking for some flowers to put in a vase for our patio and got thinking…what would you use if your dinner guests were the type of people you wanted to eat and leave…quickly.  The answer was right before me…Pig Butt Arum, Helicodiceros muscivorus.  So, here’s my creation…also perfect if your child has a “favorite” teacher who they want to be sure remembers them over summer vacation.

 

 

Dianthus ‘Feurehexe’ (Firewitch)

Dianthus Feurhexe8

Here’s a shot of our patch of Dianthus ‘Feurehexe‘ in the garden…such an amazing display of insanely fragrant flowers…smells like spicy chocolate to me.  Good drainage and bright sun are the key to success, so their perfect for a rock garden.

Cora Stubbs Peony

Paeonia Coral Stubbs single flower7

The peonies were insanely beautiful this weekend for open house.  Here’s one of the stars, Paeonia ‘Cora Stubbs’…great sturdy stems and huge, fragrant flowers. We only offer peonies that we’ve trialed here at Juniper Level Botanic Garden for heat tolerance, great flowering, and good stem sturdiness.