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June 2011
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Annuals vines give a quick cover of seasonal beauty

<p>Hyacinth bean vine. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Hyacinth bean vine. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

If you are looking for a quick, seasonal cover up, grab a packet of annual vine seeds and sow them.

Annual vines grow from seed to 8 feet tall or more and bloom in one season, offering quick coverage of an unsightly fence. Or, they add height to the garden when grown on a trellis, obelisk or other device.

Most gardeners are familiar with morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea), especially the old-fashion blue varieties. There are many other colors of morning glories to choose from, including pink, white, red, picotee and striped. Morning glories usually bloom in late summer, but ‘Early Call’ is an early bloomer.

Morning glories, like most annual vines, do not like to be transplanted, so it’s best to sow the seed directly in the soil. Or, start seeds indoors in peat pots in mid-spring and transplant — pot and all — according to seed packet instructions.

<p>Scarlet-runner bean. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau</p>

Scarlet-runner bean. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

Another favorite is sweet pea (Lathyrun odoratus), a cool season fragrant annual in pastel and jewel tone colors. Sow seeds directly in the soil as soon as you can work it in spring. Shorter sweet pea types can be grown in containers for spot fragrance at the doorstep.

For fast summer growth and quick blooms, you can’t beat scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) and hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab). These seeds should be sown outdoors when nighttime temperatures remain above 50 degrees F, about the same time you’d plant green beans in the vegetable garden.

<p>Black-eyed Susan vine. Photo courtesy Swallow Tail Gardens</p>

Black-eyed Susan vine. Photo courtesy Swallow Tail Gardens

These beans, though, are grown for their flowers. The scarlet runner bean has bright red flowers and the hyacinth bean has pink blossoms that dangle from purple stems. The seed pods also are purple.

The climbing black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) has 2-inch wide white, yellow or orange flowers with dark centers. This one looks great in a hanging basket.

Tips for keeping flower pots blooming

Shape up, water and fertilize hanging baskets and other containers of flowering plants for a summer of color. Plants: plants are fuschia- and purple-colored petunias, lilac-colored verbena and blue lobelia. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Shape up, water and fertilize hanging baskets and other containers of flowering plants for a summer of color. Plants: fuschia- and purple-colored petunias, lilac-colored verbena and blue lobelia. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

As summer gears up, pay special attention to the hanging baskets, window boxes and pots you carefully purchased or planted a few weeks ago.

With just a little effort, these blooming containers can look beautiful all season. Here are some tips:

Water

Make sure the containers have adequate water, but are not over watered. Adequate water keeps plants blooming. Too much and the plants drown.

Depending on their construction, material, size, plants and location, some pots may need to be watered every day. Hanging baskets may need to be watered twice a day.

Stick your finger in the container and if the soil feels dry, water until the liquid flows from the drainage holes. If the water immediately pours through the pot, place it in a bucket or tub to allow it to wick up the moisture to saturate the soil.

Fertilizer

Ever week or two apply a water-soluble fertilizer. This may be necessary even when a potting mix with fertilizer or a slow-release encapsulated fertilizer was used at planting time. Too much rain can dilute those products.

Deadheading perennials and trimming back million bells, petunias and other annuals keeps plants blooming and containers looking tidy. Plants: plants are yellow million bells, yellow perennial sunflower and reddish pe coleus. Photo courtesy Proven Winners urpl

Deadheading perennials and trimming back million bells, petunias and other annuals keeps plants blooming and containers looking tidy. Plants: yellow million bells, yellow perennial sunflower and reddish purple coleus. Photo courtesy Proven Winners.

For annuals, consider a fertilizer with a higher middle number. The three number fertilizer code indicates the percent of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), in that order. Nitrogen encourages foliage growth. P supports root and flower development. K promotes overall plant growth. Always read and follow the label directions on the product you use.

Tidiness

Although most plants in containers are self-cleaning, it doesn’t hurt to shape them up, especially in mid-summer if they get leggy. Trim back plants by one-half or more. This tidies up summer annuals, such as petunias, million bells (Calibrachoa), verbena and impatiens. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer and the plants will be blooming again within a few weeks. Perennials in pots should be deadheaded to keep them blooming.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, June 2011

Purplelicious veronica and an unnamed tithonia. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Purplelicious veronica and an unnamed tithonia. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Filed July 3, 2011

Ok, I know I’m late, very late, but I wanted to file a brief report for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

I was finishing a manuscript for a tourism book of garden in the United States and Canada…I think about 440 gardens, or somewhere near that number.

The weather was just so very gorgeous the whole time my butt was glued to the chair, but I stayed disciplined.

Before I started the big writing venture, I snapped a few photos of what was going on here in Indianapolis.

Oakleaf hydrangea. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Oakleaf hydrangea. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The hydrangeas, especially the oakleafs (H. quercifolia) and ‘Annabelle’ (H. arborescens) have been spectacular. With my laissez-faire attitude and practices, the H. macrophylla did not seem to fair as well during the colder than normal winter. The H. paniculata are budded up and read to go, even one that’s only a foot tall that I got to trial last year…I need to find that plant tag!

Invincibelle Spirit. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Invincibelle Spirit. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

However, I must report that Invincibelle Spirit has never looked better. This is the third year in the garden and it’s gone from a spindly, weak-stemmed, dusty pink plant to one much more upright and a brighter pink.

The early blooming hostas are the dominant perennial in the shade garden, but my favorites are the fragrant, August blooming ones. The tall, early perfume-laden lilies (Lilium) are blooming filling the yard and my house with an incredible fragrance. Who would think the natural world could be so intoxicating.

All of the rain has created and nourished a bumper crop of weeds of all types. You can almost hear them grow.

Hosta and astilbe. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Hosta and astilbe. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Also in the bloom category: ‘Papaya,’ ‘Double Pink’ and the species coneflowers (Echinacea). The Big Sky Sunrise is wilted and not looking good at all. This is the second or third one I’ve planted that has not done well. Two new daisies (Leucanthemum), Daisy May and Banana Cream have been spectacular. So has ‘Jacob Cline’ Monarda. And, for the second year in a row, the ‘Mardi Gras’ sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) is in full bloom, even though it’s supposed to flower later in the season. Last year, it bloomed forever.

These are today’s favorite plants for the Indiana garden

<p>'Caradonna' salvia. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

'Caradonna' salvia. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A lot of times I get asked, “What’s your favorite flower?” My response is usually something like “whatever is blooming.”

However, on this day if I had to pick only one hard working:

Perennial for sun, it would be ‘Caradonna,’ a long blooming salvia with spikes of dark blue flowers and purple stems. ‘Caradonna’ (Salvia nemorosa) is a clump grower that gets about 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide. If it gets lanky, cut it back and it will rebloom the rest of summer. It is drought tolerant.

Perennial for shade, it would be fairy flower or barrenwort (Epimedium). A four-season plant, epimedium blooms in early spring with yellow, red, pink or white flowers. The green, heart-shaped leaves turn purple in fall and winter. This clump growing plant does exceptionally well in dry shade.

Angelonia.

Angelonia.

Annual for sun, it would be any Angelonia, including Angelface Blue. Orchid like flowers bloom all summer along tall stems, making this ideal as a centerpiece in containers or as the backdrop in a window box. It gets about 18 inches tall. Angelonia can take the heat and sun and they are drought tolerant.

Annual for shade, it would be Impatiens. This long blooming annual comes in lots of colors, which brighten the shady spots in the landscape in the ground or in pots.

Spring bulb, it would be daffodils (Narcissus) because they are reliable year after year. Many of them are fragrant and they bloom in early, mid or late spring, depending on the cultivar. Gardeners with shady landscapes can plant early blooming daffodils. All daffodils are poisonous and shunned by deer and other wildlife.

Ask me this tomorrow, though, and a different list of plants might appear. Regardless, these plants are definite winners in the Indiana landscape.

Colorful cones decorate conifers for the spring season at Hidden Lake Gardens

Korean spruce. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Korean spruce. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Tucked in the Irish Hills region of southeastern Michigan is Hidden Lake Gardens, a mecca for Midwesterners interested in conifers, in Tipton, Mich.

Planted throughout the 750 acres are pine, spruce, fir, false cypress and juniper trees and shrubs in settings that give gardeners a good idea of what these plants look like as mature specimens in the landscape.

Most of us buy small evergreens in pots and have no idea how big they will get. Mugo pine, for instance, is marketed as a dwarf plant, but it can get six feet tall and wide within a few years.

We may buy a cone-bearing plant because it is evergreen, but there are other attributes the discriminating gardener may want to consider.

Alcock's spruce. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Alcock's spruce. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Depending on the species, the cones can be the common brown, or they can take on distinct blue, red or yellow hues in spring. Think of a gorgeous evergreen filled with dots of color on upward or downward facing cones. There are male and female cones, too, and as they ripen they release their pollen, turn brown and form seeds deep inside.

Spring also sparks new growth on conifers just like the season does on other plants in the garden. The new growth on the tips of conifer branches is usually a brighter, contrasting color and the needles are usually soft and pliable.

Among the tips gleaned on a recent visit to Hidden Lake Gardens is to plant conifers in spring. “They don’t put roots out in fall,” said Steve Courtney, manager of the gardens in Tipton, Mich. Even healthy plants growing in containers may struggle to get established when planted in fall, he said.

Hidden Lake Gardens, which is part of Michigan State University, also features several beautiful hosta gardens and a conservatory. It’s about a four-hour drive from Indianapolis.

HortusScope for June 2011

HortusScope, a checklist of garden and nature related things to do in Central Indiana has been posted. This calendar is compiled by Wendy Ford of Landscape Fancies as a pubic service. Click on the link below to download your copy.

HortusScope for June 2011