Archive for May, 2012

I am a large perennial shrub or tree growing to 35 ft, and am a member of the Magnoliales order.  My native habitat stretches from the Southeast, through Pennsylvania and the East Coast and parts of the upper Midwest.  I am often found growing in deep fertile bottom lands, as well as hilly upland areas.  My growth pattern is to form a dense thicket of tall slender trees and often provide an understory component in my preferred habitats.

I have large, simple leaves and the largest edible fruit indigenous to the US.  My leaves cluster symetrically at the ends of my branches.  They are wedge shaped at the base and are alternate and spirally arranged.  Being deciduous, my leaves turn a rusty yellow in the fall.  Otherwise they are wedge shaped at the stem, with a grey rusty underneath and a hairy upper surface.

My flowers are quite unusual, in fact I often resemble a maroon Campanula when in bloom.  They are 1-2″ across, rich red-purple or maroon in color…and are produced in spring from April to May just before the leaves appear.  My flowers are composed of three sepals and six petals, arranged in two tiers and are pendulous.

Pollination is somewhat different for me in that the yeasty smell of my flowers attracts more blowflies, fruitflies, carrion beetles than honey bees.  I am reasonably shade tolerant and my leaves, twigs and branches have a slight disagreeable odor when handled.

My fruit has been described as being showy and the main distinguishing factor in giving me my common name.

Please post your answers as a comment.  The usual bragging rights go to the one with the correct answer.

Read Full Post »

In design we often add collections to an interior to accessorize our rooms.  A collection will be an item of similar content, shape, or maybe color.    There are numerous variations to a potential collection.

This is true also in our gardens.  We all have favorites for our garden.  There are popular favorites of well-known plants such as hosta, roses, herbs and succulents that we often find in gardens.  There also are collections of more rarely known plants.  This summer I hope to post information on some of my favorite collections.  These collections will vary in categories for species, color, texture etc.   I’m hoping you will enjoy this series of articles and the information added about my experience with the collection.

My Favorite collection:

One collection I have in my Garden is the Peony (genus Paeonia.)  I have a few varieties of the Herbaceous type, but also collect the more rarely grown Tree Peony and Itoh Peony.  The one surprise is that most people feel that this species are more difficult to grow.  By far, they are extremely easy to grow and bless you with the largest most fragrant blooms.  I have found that they are less susceptible to disease as well, such as Powdery Mildew often associated with the Herbaceous varieties.   Although it is best to plant and transplant them in the Fall, they easy adapt to Spring planting with frequent watering.  It’s best to water them as you would a newly planted tree.   The Tree Peony grows on hard wood and is a deciduous shrub.  It does not die back to the ground as the more common Herbaceous peony or the more recent introduced Itoh Peony.

Hu Shui Dang Xia

In my collection of Tree Peonies is this pink variety named Hu Shui Dang Xia.  A year ago last fall I moved two from either side of this one to new locations.  They were gaining such height and width in this small area.  Most will grow up to 40″ high and 30″ wide.   So if you add one or more to your garden plant with it’s growth in mind.

   The Itoh is a cross between the Herbaceous and the Tree Peony.  It incorporates the best of both, but it does die back to the ground.  Both the Tree Peony and the Itoh Peony are more expensive than the standard Herbaceous; but you must agree they give you your monies worth in a beautiful flower.

Itoh Kopper Kettle

I have had great success growing these in even partial shade.  Often one plant will have as many as 20-25 buds that will bloom into various size flowers.  Most opening to 6″ or more.  They are great survivors of hard winters as well.  Most are good to Zone 4.

You will notice that the Tree Peony does not have that same round bud as the more popular Herbaceous peony.  It has a large more pointed shape.  Since they are on a hardwood, they also hold up better after a hard rain.  Often a good shake after a rain is needed just to open up the bloom petals that the rain cause to stick to one another.   With it’s stronger stem, the Itoh holds up much better to the rain as well.


Shimanishiki :  A semi double with red and white stripe.  You will notice some flowers come through with just red and others stripe.  It is very interesting to see what you will get from each bloom.  The colors are due to mutation, thus, no two are identical.

They make great cut flowers. However, You must cut the stem short on the Tree variety, so you avoid cutting next years bloom.  Cut only down the stem to where you see a newly forming node.  That is where the new bloom will develop for next year.  Since Itoh die back to the ground you need not worry about the length on these cuttings.  They last a good while in a vase with fresh water and will fill the room with an aroma you will never forget.  Oh yes, the plus…no ants to deal with in the flowers.  The photos are from last year (except the one of buds).  I will post photos on Foto-Friday when they bloom this year.

Naida Albin has photos of her Tree Peony to share.  I’ve attached them below:


Read Full Post »

We all have one or two all-time favorite tools. (You know, the ones you don’t loan to the neighbors because you know you’ll never get them back.) As we all burst into spring gardening chores, we’d like to know your favorite tools, brands, best price, why they are your favorites, etc. For starters, what are people’s choices for bypass pruners?

I remember Jennie showing us her scuffle hoe in a master gardener class. The closest I’ve found to it is the Flexrake CLA110 Classic Triangle Weeding Hoe that I found on Amazon for about $30. It seems very well made, has a nice feeling wooden handle, and works well. I just bought it last year so I can’t endorse it yet for longevity.  I’ve also heard people raving about the Hori-Hori knives, but I’ve never seen one. I found a youtube video comparing them to a similar, less expensive tool.

What are your favorite tools? What are are your likes and dislikes? How expensive are they? Where can we find them?

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts