Sunday, May 22, 2011

Oh, Look What Bloomed!

I’m always pleased when plants don’t die on me.  That shows a certain amount of skill, I think, to be able to keep it alive.  But when a plant blooms, then I take it as a compliment - because not only has the plant survived, it has thrived! 

When I noticed a few weeks ago that my Red Yucca was going to bloom, it reminded me of plants that have delighted me over the years.  Here are a few of my success stories from the past few years.

Hesperaloe parviflora
Photo by S. Honeycutt

The Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) is a plant that I purchased about 4 years ago in an effort to create a tropical look around the swimming pool. I have it in an arrangement with variegated Yucca filamentosa.  It is native to Texas and is considered a “false yucca”.  It bloomed the first year but then took several years “off”.

Decumaria barbara, 2010

I have the “climbing hydrangea” vine all over my yard but until 2010 I had yet to see it bloom.  Decumaria barbara is a deciduous vine in the Hydrangeaceae family.  It had scrambled up the fence next to the pool for several years, in full sun, but would not bloom.  Then I saw a TV show where the featured guest recommended pruning it across the top so that the vine would “think that it had climbed as high as it could go.”  The vine had indeed reached the top of the fence so I pruned a few tips off.  Voila – it bloomed the very next year and is on track to bloom again this year.

Magnolia virginiana, 2009
Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is a real sweetie.  One of our evergreen native magnolias, this tree can grow up to 60 feet in ideal conditions which includes very moist areas.  The silver color on the back of the leaves is a very distinctive characteristic.  The bloom is much smaller than the other magnolias, but the fragrance is just as nice.  I was thrilled when the plant I bought several years earlier bloomed in 2009.

Some years have produced more than one surprise. In 2008, a Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) that was given to me by a friend bloomed for the first time.  It has bloomed each year since then but has yet to set viable fruit.  I don't know if cross-pollination will help it, but I've brought in a few more plants to keep it company.  The other plant to bloom in 2008 was my Copper Iris (Iris fulva).  I had bought it at a plant sale several years earlier but kept it in a pot in the shade until I found a good spot for it.  Well, obviously I found a good spot because it took off the very next year.  Now I get lots of blooms and have divided it several times for friends and plant sales.  The flower is amazing!

Cornus alternifolia, 2008

Iris fulva, 2008

Rhododendron maximum, 2007

It is especially nice to have success with plants that have good memories for me.  In 2004 I went up to Maggie Valley, NC with my mom and my daughter to visit my mom's friends.  Their property was a heavily wooded 6 acre tract, and they allowed me to dig up a few plants.  I got some Rock Cap fern (Polypodium virginianum) and a small Rhododendron maximum.  I was unsure if the Rhododendron would make it so I kept it in a pot for a year while the roots recovered.  My patience paid off, and I was able to plant it in 2005. I was thrilled in the fall of 2006 to see it set buds, and it bloomed in the spring of 2007.

That same year one of my rescued Magnolia macrophylla trees was also mature enough to bloom.  What a great year that was for boosting my gardening confidence!
Magnolia macrophylla, 2007
Hymenocallis caroliniana, 2006

The previous year (2006) had the most spectacular bloom in June.  My spider lily (Hymenocallis caroliniana), a gift from my friend Murrel, bloomed.  I had planted this next to the porch, which was a most fortunate decision.  I am pretty sure that I didn't realize at the time that the area was so moist.  This lily loves moist areas!  When the first bloom popped out, I thought I would pass out from delight.  My husband could not believe it: "That's native?", he said.  Absolutely!  The plant set seeds that year, now I have several more plants.

If I go back one more year to 2005, the only other noteworthy garden item that I recorded (via photos) is that I designed a native mailbox garden.  I wanted to show the neighbors, especially the ones that walk by, that one could create an attractive mailbox arrangement using native plants.  Here you can see red Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'), Heuchera americana 'Dale's Strain', Broad beech fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera), Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron), Mouse-eared coreposis (Coreopsis auriculata), some deer-munched Gaura, and Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red'. 
Mailbox in 2005
The Gaura didn't make it and it was too dry for the Cardinal flower and Broad beech fern.  Everything else is still there and has increased in size.  I tried adding some asters one year but rabbits chewed them until they gave up. This year I added a few Penstemon smallii, and their purple flowers make a nice addition.

I hope things are blooming for you too.  But if not, just consider this quote by the late J. C. Raulston:

~ If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener. ~


  1. Ellen, I love the quote! I must be REALLY stretching myself this year!

  2. Ah Michele, I'm sorry to hear that. I really could do a whole post on things that have died, but who wants to read that? Here's hoping there are better days ahead.