Everyday Gardeners

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Japanese Anemone tomentosa Robustissima

Hands down, my favorite late summer and fall perennial bloomer of all time is the Japanese Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’. An absolute non-stop flowering gobstopper for weeks on end by my front step from late August through October. Originally I chose this plant because it is known as the hardiest and easiest Japanese Anemone to grow, but soon it’s captivating wind Japanese Anemone tomentosa Robustissima  side view flowers and bee laden blooms became my favorite September flower-power plant.  In fact, bees can be found smothering the flowers the entire bloom season, so anemone is a lovely plant to attract pollinators to your garden. Best yet, this is the perfect perennial to toss in the ground then ignore for most of the season.

How To Grow Robustissima Anemone

While anemone love a rich, moist planting site, this particular variety will do well in average and even sandy soil. Add plenty of organic matter to enrich existing soil before planting. Robustissima Anemone is the most adaptable of all the anemone’s to drier conditions, but need more watering attention initially until they are established. Once established, plants form a low mound of green leaves with tall branching stems that produce interesting branches of bud balls that will develop into attractive soft-pink five petaled flowers.

Anemone Robustissima do well in full sun to part-shade and are tremendously easy to grow. I leave the seedheads up all winter for interest and clean the beds in early spring before green shoots redevelop. Divide every few years in the spring to keep the plants in check. Add additional organic matter like compost to the beds, mulching well, in the fall.

Japanese Anemone with Bee

Last week I was in Southern California surrounded by hundreds of blooming camellias at Descanso Gardens and the Huntington Botanical Gardens. Here are just a dozen of them. Which is your favorite?

Camellia japonica 'Commander Mulroy'

Camellia japonica 'Haku-Tsuru'

Camellia japonica 'Lady Clare'

Camellia japonica 'Little Susie'

Camellia japonica 'Margaret Davis'

Camellia japonica 'Margaret Walker'

Camellia japonica 'May Ingram'

Camellia japonica 'Royal Velvet'

Camellia japonica 'Silver Chalice'

Camellia japonica 'Yours Truly'

Camellia X 'Fire Chief'

Camellia X 'Senritsu-Ko'

My calamondin orange is famous! This photo of it appears in the February issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, in Debra Prinzing’s column, Debra’s Garden. I love how the morning light streams in through the sidelight windows next to the front door, highlighting the orange orbs and giving a golden glow to the foliage.

My indoor citrus grove also includes two Meyer lemons, a dwarf orange tree, and an Oroblanco grapefruit tree. These citrus trees spend most of the winter in my attached greenhouse. This week I noticed that the plants are loaded with flower buds. (One Meyer lemon has already started to bloom.) On sunny days, I open the  door into the greenhouse, letting the warm, moist greenhouse air drift indoors. A bonus is the scent of citrus blossoms that fills the house. What better way to lift spirits on a cold winter day than to breathe in the heady aroma of orange blossoms?

By mid-March the citrus trees get moved out of the greenhouse to make room for flower and vegetable seedlings that must be transplanted from their seed germination chamber. (If I could control my plant addiction, the citrus trees wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of a late winter move!) Usually the trees reside in the garage for a few weeks until the weather warms. Then, they’re moved to the parking pad next to the garage, in a sunny microclimate facing southeast, protected from cold northwest winds. On frosty nights they get wheeled back into the garage. I find that this routine allows me to harvest ripe fruits the following December or January.

I can’t always escape Iowa winters, but my orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees let me experience a touch of the tropics no matter how nasty the winter weather becomes.

Sure, I’d heard about the tuberous begonias from the world-famous English nursery Blackmore and Langdon, but I didn’t believe it until I saw them for myself in a greenhouse display during a visit last spring to White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. The plants’ luminous colors, flower size, exquisite shapes, and long season of bloom put lesser strains to shame. Here is their upright variety ‘Sugar Candy’ in a pot on my front porch yesterday. It’s been blooming its head off for at least three months now. It’s a fine, clear pink and extremely floriferous. All they need is well-drained soil and indirect light (and no extreme temperatures). Truly. And I adore begonias of all types—wax begonias, angel-leaf, fancy-leaf varieties—ever since my 7th grade science teacher dubbed me with the unfortunate nickname Begonia. Thank goodness it didn’t stick.

Filipendula rubra 'Venusa'Meadowsweet (aka queen of the prairie, or in Latin, Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’) has long been one of my favorite perennials.

This beauty features fluffy flowers that look like cotton candy in June and early July. It’s great for attracting butterflies, too! And it’s native to North America.

The foliage has a fun texture — the leaves are divided and toothed, so even when meadowsweet isn’t in bloom it looks great.

I took this picture in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden® this morning — you might be able to get a sense of size if you look at the arborvitae in the background; this meadowsweet can grow to 6 feet tall!

It grows best in full sun or light shade and moist soil. It’s handled drought okay in my yard, but performs best when kept moist. Like many perennials, meadowsweet forms a clump as it matures, so it’s easy to divide and share with friends or create more summertime pink exclamation points in your yard.

Stachys 'Pink Cotton Candy'

One of the great things about perennials is that there’s such a wide variety — it seems like there’s always something new to discover!

Take this plant: It’s common name is betony (Stachys ‘Pink Cotton Candy’ for those of you who love plant names in Latin). It’s closest common garden relative is lamb’s ears. Like lamb’s ears, it has great foliage — though it’s dark green and quilted instead of soft and silvery. Betony’s blooms are prettier, too — a delightful shade of soft pink.

The ‘Pink Cotton Candy’ variety blooms from June to August and grows 2 feet tall and wide. It loves full sun, tolerates poor soil and droughty conditions, and deer and rabbits pass it by. I’ve not tried it as a cut flower, but it seems like it would make a good one.

I’m thinking it would make for a great groundcover, too — the foliage stays relatively low so if you cut the dead flower stalks off you’d have an undulating carpet of those dark green textured leaves.

If you’re in the area, come by the BHG Test Garden on Fridays to see it in bloom for yourself!

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