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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at  gardengurumontreal.ca

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Entries in glossy foliage (2)

Monday
Oct312011

My Lemon Lights Azalea Blooms Whenever it Pleases

It’s no secret, I love rhododendrons and azaleas. Watching them bloom in early summer gives me goose bumps. Part of the excitement lies in the fact that this family of vivid, lush-flowering plants did not grow in my area when I was young. I could only drool over them in garden magazines, catalogues, and photo journals such as Life Magazine and National Geographic.

The available varieties during the 1950’s and 60’s were too tender for my climate. Those that I can grow today ,because they are bred to withstand the winters of USDA Zone 4, are relatively new to my area. Nevertheless, I still bear the emotional scars of rhodo-depravation and when confronted with an assortment of blooming varieties at the nursery, I go berserk, not knowing which variety to select first.

Two additional factors that bring these plants close to heart are the luxurious, glossy texture of the rich, green foliage in summer and the intense, vivid, neon-like shades of the flowers that appear in late spring - early summer. No one in my growing zone is immune to the power of these colors. Yet, I have learned that in warmer climates, where this plant is ubiquitous, some gardeners have become indifferent to it. I suppose that is what happens when one experiences too much of a good thing.

Not having had any experience in growing rhodos and azaleas in my youth, I am learning about them as time goes on. Fortunately, my friends and family in Boston, who have been enjoying these plants for generations, have been able to give me the guidance I need. I have watched them vigorously trim their mature rhodos down to half their size with no apparent damage to the plants health, appearance, or its ability to re bloom. Now, that’s saying a lot about an ornamental shrub.

The root system of these plants grows horizontally and close to the surface of the earth, which makes transplanting easier than other ornamnetal shrubs. In addition, they take quit well to uprooting and re planting, even though the foliage may appear traumatized during the following season. They prefer an acid soil, which is not a problem in my area. However, when in doubt, I will spread a layer of cedar mulch around the shrubs, in autumn,  to supplement the acidity in the soil. Homeowners need to be cautious about placement in the garden because the roots of vigorously spreading mature cedar trees, that might grow nearby, will choke out the roots of rhodos and azaleas and cause them to die.

The one issue that is stymieing me is the fact that one variety of Azalea, Lemon Lights, has decided that one bloom season in my garden isn’t enough; every late September, it breaks out  with a few additional, new blooms that last until end October. The photo above is an attestation to this phenomenon. What the reader sees is the yellow flowers in their last few days of glory, on October 25th 2011, to be exact.

If I were as innovative as some of my colleagues, I might place a burlap sack over this plant in August, to trick it into thinking that it is wintertime. Perhaps then, it might save its blooming energy for the following season. However, I am not that ambitious. By end August, I am happy to leave my garden untouched until it is time to cut down the perennials. Instead, I will live in harmony with this renegade plant and enjoy its lemon-yellow flowers whenever they decide to appear.

Sunday
Jul052009

Bergenia, the Perennial with the Patent Leather Leaves

Plant green leather and watch what it does to the texture story in the garden.Bergenia cordifolia, is a leathery-leaved, part-shade perennial that prefers moist soil. An elegant glossy leafed plant, it serves as a great foil for the silver-freckled foliage of Pulmonaria, feathery Astilbe, multi-green Hosta or the enchanting Heuchera Hercules. Plant several of these perennials together in a shade garden to create a symphony of textures..

In early spring, Bergenia produces purple, pink or white flowers. It is disappointing that the visual impact of this perennial is not evident for the first few years, especially if one purchases a small-sized plant. Perhaps that is why it is not used more widely. It’s worth being patient because a mature clump of Bergenia can produce a rich, almost iridescent, flower bouquet, when very little else is blooming in the garden. In autumn, its evergreen leaves may turn bronze or red, adding its own drama to the changing of the leaves. Bergenia is hardy in zones 4 to 9. Depending on the cultivar one chooses, it will grow from 8 to 24 inches in height, and from 1 to 2 feet wide.