Posts Tagged Tradescantia x andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate’
I know that most folks measure the beginning of summer from Memorial Day, which is still a bit more than two weeks away, but I’m thinking summer has gotten a head start this year. My evidence? Well, there’s Tropical Storm Ana, which hammered the NC coast just as Wonder Spouse and I were departing. We had a lovely, mild week of weather, and Wonder Spouse took hundreds of great photos, like the one above (Click on the photo to see a larger version). Let’s all meditate on that tranquil shot and say a collective “Aaaah,” before I return to the garden tasks now facing me.
The vegetables were very busy while we were gone. Wonder Spouse took one look at the growth of his beloved potatoes and immediately unfolded another level of his potato bags, so that he could tuck in more of his magic growing mix around his prodigies.
The Kipfel fingerling potatoes really multiplied:
I’m thinking their reputation for productivity is likely justified. If you’ve never eaten a fingerling potato, try some from your local farmer’s market when they show up freshly harvested in a month or so. Pure potato heaven awaits you.
The Purple Vikings are not as numerous, but the plants have really bulked up. I suspect their tubers are doing the same thing.
My beans germinated while I was gone. The Fortex pole beans came up enthusiastically, but the Jade bush beans did not. I wasn’t home to water the soil to keep it softer for germinating seedlings, and the Jades, which are not as robust as the Fortexes, may have suffered accordingly. Or the voles ate the seeds. I seem to have a bumper crop of voracious voles this year. I try not to hate any of Mother Nature’s creatures, but I’m still searching for a reason to appreciate voles.
The peppers and tomatoes are filled with flowers and tiny fruits. I spent a good half hour or so tying up tomatoes that shot up a foot while I wasn’t home to watch them. The squash seedlings now have multiple leaves; they’re still safely tucked beneath their Reemay tents until they begin flowering.
The bed of greens needs a good harvesting before the heat turns them bitter. The dill, chives, and parsley really filled out, and enhance just about every meal we eat (I don’t put them on my morning oatmeal, but they make scrambled eggs sing).
And, of course, I can’t close without showing you some of the fabulous flowers currently adorning our five acres. The Fraser Magnolia finished blooming while we were gone. I can just see small seed cones beginning to develop. Currently, the Ashe Magnolia is showing off, and I do mean showing off. This shrubby small tree decided to bloom from top to bottom this year. And when I say bottom, I mean touching the ground.
I could smell the sweet perfume of this magnolia before I got within 20 feet of it.
The Ashe Magnolia’s bigger cousin, Bigleaf Magnolia is full of buds. It will complete the native deciduous magnolia show in another week or two.
The deciduous azalea show is winding down, but the cultivar of Rhododendron flammeum — Scarlet Ibis — is peaking this week. The blooms don’t look scarlet to me, but they are indisputably spectacular, with a subtle perfume that adds to their wow factor.
A few more currently blooming floral highlights before I close this post:
The two Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ plants I added some years ago have become a Sweet Kate horde, and that’s just fine with me. They will bloom off and on until frost, barring severe heat waves/droughts.
To close this update, let’s meditate once more on the peace and tranquility that only a spring trip to the NC coast can provide. Wonder Spouse took this shot from the deck of our rental cottage. After several hours of rain, the sun returned on the final day of our visit and painted the sky with a rainbow framed against departing clouds (Click on it to fully appreciate the shot).
Twenty years spent packing as many wonderful plants as possible into five acres is starting to pay off big time, especially during spring blooming season. I truly cannot keep up. The plant above grows in my front garden, and those pops of purple against chartreuse leaves are too eye-arresting to miss. But other plants sited in more out-of-the-way corners of our yard sometimes manage to finish blooming before I notice. My umbrella magnolia did that to me this year.
A recent heat wave required me to pay careful attention to the lovely bearded irises in my yard.
The black walnut trees are some of the last native trees to leaf out in spring. Their dangling flowers are usually still clinging to the branches as the leaves emerge.
The terrifying enthusiasm of blooming poison ivy in my yard this year leaves me itchy just thinking about it.
Already here when we moved in 25 years ago, the Rhododendron catawbiense exploded in blooms this spring. All parts of this shrub are poisonous, and it’s kind of tricky to grow here, but the specimen we have is thriving.
I can’t close without mentioning the deciduous magnolias. The Ashe Magnolia is blooming prolifically. I expect the Bigleaf Magnolia to follow suit in a week or so.
Of course, there’s more, but I have to give you a reason to come back, right?
Color in the garden is a personal choice, and you will find entire books devoted to this subject. Personally, my eye is not offended by a rainbow of blooms of many species decorating my landscape, but I know that some gardeners with a perhaps more finely tuned aesthetic sensibility prefer to coordinate flower colors with more precision. In my landscape, however, pretty much anything goes.
That being said, I do have a special fondness for the color purple in all its myriad shades. Purple has always been a favorite color of mine, and because it is a mix of red and blue, I think it serves to help many other colors blend harmoniously in my landscape. Truthfully, I don’t much think about harmony when I add another purple-blooming and/or purple-leaved plant to my landscape. I just don’t seem to ever get enough variations on purple to stop me from wanting more.
The chive flowers above are on the lavender side of purple, but they still say “purple” to me. The red flowers in the distant background are those of Crimson Clover, a winter cover crop I sow to protect and enrich dormant vegetable beds.
The bit of delicate bronze/red/purple foliage in the back right corner of the photo is Bronze Fennel. The leaves of this herb are a subtle purple-red. The plant grows to about three feet, then sends up zillions of flower stalks that add another two feet to its height. Leaves impart a delicate anise scent/flavor to the nose and palate. It draws admiration from all visitors and requires no work on my part. I grow it for its beauty, and to serve as a food source for the caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail. We have a deal: they leave my carrots and dill alone, and they can have all the Bronze Fennel they want. The fennel always survives without significant impact, and I get more butterflies — win-win!
Today, I want to show you some of the purple plants currently (or recently) showing off in my landscape. I think they all bring passion to my garden.
Spring is iris season in my yard. I love all of them, but the three main types I grow are Siberian, bearded, and Louisiana. I’ve lost track of the name of the cultivar of the above Siberian iris, but its gorgeousness doesn’t need a name, does it? Irises thrive in my yard, I think because they receive nothing but benign neglect from me. If you make sure their rhizomes aren’t too deeply buried and that they get at least four hours of sun a day, the Siberian and bearded varieties do the rest of the work, multiplying steadily every year.
Here’s another Siberian iris whose cultivar name I’ve lost:
Bearded iris remind me of my mother and her mother. Both always grew lovely irises, mostly the pale lavender ones that smelled like bubblegum to my nose. I grow somewhat fancier ones. I invested in several varieties about twenty years ago, and they’ve been multiplying and beautifying ever since.
And here’s another one in the purple family:
I’ve showed you my other bearded iris variety before. This one’s name I remember, because it is named for how it looks:
My bearded irises are just finishing their bloom period, and the Siberians are about half done. But just yesterday, my Louisiana iris cultivars began their blooming cycle. Louisiana irises originated from that part of the US, but I’m not clear on the history of this type. I do know that they thrive in wet conditions, which is why I added them to some of the soggier parts of my floodplain, and one cultivar is planted beside the water feature in my front yard, where I can be sure it gets extra water.
The Louisiana iris by my front water feature is especially lovely. Its first bloom opened yesterday during a brief sunny spell between rain showers.
Although it looks a bit pinkish in this photo, its color is really in more of the magenta family. I think it looks especially fabulous surrounded by my Tradescantia cultivar ‘Sweet Kate,’ which is in stunning full bloom right now. A happy accident on my part is the way the yellow center of the iris echoes the color of Sweet Kate’s foliage.
Here’s a close-up of the flowers of Sweet Kate, so you can more fully appreciate them:
After I noticed the above iris blooming, I made a quick hike to the floodplain and discovered that the water-loving varieties down there are just opening. They will bloom in waves for several weeks, especially if the wonderful rains keep coming.
I don’t just love purple flowers, however. I’m also a huge fan of purple-leaved plants. Most of these have new leaves that start out purplish, then morph into green that might be tinged with purple. But some plants retain leaves that are distinctly in the purple family. Take for example, this ridiculously enormous Loropetalum:
Many Piedmonters have fallen in love with the native Redbud cultivar, Forest Pansy. If you site the tree so that it doesn’t get too much direct afternoon sun, the leaves will remain purplish all season.
One other purple-leaved beauty that I haven’t written about yet is Cotinus ‘Grace.’ It has been adorning my landscape for at least fifteen years now, and I really must show you its flowers and cotton candy puffs of pale pink seed heads when they appear this year. The contrast between leaves, flowers, and seed heads is made more dramatic by the distinctly purple color of the leaves.
These are a few of the purple highlights of my landscape at the moment. Even the wildflowers get into the act this time of year. The Lyreleaf Sage, for example, is currently adorning all parts of my lawn. But for now, I’ll close with another favorite purple perennial:
This cultivar was developed by the talented folks at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, then introduced into the horticulture industry, so that gardeners everywhere can enjoy it. The only trick to this beauty is to plant it exactly where it will thrive, because it doesn’t do well when you try to relocate it. Baptisias thrive in sunny, well-drained sites, reflecting their heritage as prairie natives. Site them wisely, and your reward will be ever-expanding, trouble-free plants adorned by long-blooming spires of lovely lavender pea-like flowers. What more could anyone afflicted by a passion for purple desire?
This accelerated spring — with the occasional blasts of arctic air thrown in for fun — has made it difficult for me to keep up with everything blooming in my yard. I’ve missed showing you quite a few deciduous azaleas, for example, but I showed them all to you last year, when they politely bloomed mostly one at a time, so search on deciduous azaleas within this blog if you want to see what they look like.
We went down to 32 degrees at my house this morning. Last week, we dove to 28. Most of the flowers survived, but I am sad to say that my Magnolia ashei was most definitely a casualty this year.
Current bloomers that have weathered the weather include:
Tradescantia x andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate.’Here’s what the entire plant looked like this morning, where it flourishes beside our little front water feature:
And here’s a closer view so you can better appreciate her flowers:
The chartreuse foliage does a great job of accentuating the purple flowers.
My umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) is blooming thirty feet up at the top of the tree, but I couldn’t get a shot of the open flower. I settled for a nearly open bud:
When fully leafed out, this plant does provide excellent shelter from sudden rain storms.
The fringe trees — both native and Chinese varieties — are at peak bloom right now. Here’s the top of the native tree:
And here’s a close view of part of the Chinese species:
The wetland at the edge of my property is still full of blooming Jack-in-the-Pulpits, and a few Atamasco lilies still bloom too. The spore-producing fronds of the Cinnamon Ferns that give them their common name are just beginning to fade, as you can see here:
The Red Buckeyes are still blooming, although some of the flower clusters are showing signs of seed production.
Abundant and terrifyingly vigorous poison ivy is everywhere. Here’s a stem showing flower buds about to open:
Makes me feel itchy just looking at the stuff, so I think I’ll close for now with the one deciduous azalea currently about to reach peak bloom in our north-facing garden: Rhododendron flammeum ‘Scarlet Ibis.’ It’s already taller than me. In a few more years, this one in bloom will be so magnificent that it may stop traffic.
Despite the ups and downs of our temperatures, I am making progress in the vegetable garden. I’ll update you soon.
My advice to all this year: Walk outside as often as you can if you want to be sure you see every new blooming plant before it starts and finishes. Blink twice this year, and you’ve missed half the show.
That’s right — I used the R word, as in rain, liquid precipitation, glorious fat drops of falling water. It has been many, many months — since last year some time — that we received over an inch of rain from one precipitation event on our five acres. Many areas quite near by got plenty of rain, but not my house, not my increasingly thirsty yard.
Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, my yard got its turn. About 12:45 a.m., a storm slammed into us, bringing ferocious, house-shaking winds, room-illuminating lightning, and a grand total of 1.10 inches of rain. Hallelujah!
Of course, I was a nervous wreck when the pounding winds and lightning rained branches down onto the roof. Fortunately, they were small branches; they only sound like logs when they’re hitting the roof in the dark. And, of course, Wonder Spouse slept through the entire storm.
The number on the rain gauge made my sleep deprivation worthwhile. This was not a drought-breaking event. We would need about one of these events every week for several months to bring us back to optimum wetness. But it’s a tiny soggy step in the right direction — finally.
Now I must redouble my gardening pace. The summer garden must be planted before the weekend is over, so that the plants can settle into pre-moistened vegetable beds. The spring garden must be harvested and fed to encourage continued production. The rain will have made the sugar snap peas swell. The greens will all be larger. I see more tasty salads in our imminent future.
Of course, weed growth will outpace the growth of desired plants, making my chore list that much longer. And the “lawn” that we mowed on Sunday will now shoot skyward sooner than we’d like. But I’ll take more weeds and a taller lawn as long as the blessed rain keeps coming.
All of last night’s liquid goodness will make my lovely Chartreuse Spiderwort, ‘Sweet Kate’ even lovelier than she was when I took the above photograph a few days ago. She’s mingling with some of the other perennials that surround our little water feature that I told you about here.
Sweet Kate was developed in England, and she’a hybrid between two native US species, so I consider her one of us. She thrives on neglect, even multiplying enthusiastically but not excessively. Several of the small speciality nurseries in my area sell this plant. Even when she’s not blooming, she makes her presence felt with those knockout leaves.
As spring morphs into summer, Sweet Kate will continue to show off her vibrant flowers sporadically until frost. But I’ve no time to admire her many fine qualities when I have all of these plants looming large in the greenhouse, waiting for relocation to their permanent summer homes:
I think I’d best get busy…