On my first day working at Montrose, I made a trip to the compost pile in the woods, where I found these charmers blooming:
Scilla latifolia is an autumn-blooming Scilla. Like many of Montrose’s plants, I had never seen it before. Nancy Goodwin graciously allowed me to scavenge them from the pile and take them home, where I transplanted them high on the bank of my rain garden. I’ll pot a few up to grow indoors, for insurance. Nancy grows them in a greenhouse, but they may also be elsewhere in her garden.
So far, it’s been hard to track down information on this plant. It may be native to the Canary Islands, or it may be native to Greece and Turkey. It may be renamed Prospero autumnale, although those flowers seem to be more on the rose-purple segment of the spectrum. This one produces offset bulbs and may also reseed. I have lots of questions to ask Nancy when I get to work.
These blooming now are short–six inches tall, perhaps–but Nancy’s greenhouse specimen is tall and regal. It looks exactly like this.
I’ll update you with more as I learn details myself. I love getting acquainted with new bulbs!
I have always felt ambivalent about asters. They bloom at a time of the year when things are winding down, so their bright colors are welcome. They provide choice food for bees. But I haven’t often seen them grown well enough (certainly not in my own garden), I suppose, to firmly persuade me that their autumn benefits compensate for their rangy, dull, and unattractive appearance during the rest of the year.
Nancy Goodwin’s aster border at Montrose may have changed my mind.
One side of a long border holds masses of Symphotrichum oblongifolium ‘Fanny’s Aster.’ Pruning the plant aggressively in summer before the flowers set encourages dense growth and lots of blooms. Just across the way, a combination of smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve or Aster laevis ‘Bluebird’) and Chrysanthemum x morifolium ‘Ryan’s Pink’ blazes so intensely you forget that summer is over and frost is in the forecast.
These might be worth a little square footage in the garden after all.
It’s Camellia sasanqua season. Mine have just started to bloom.
These evergreen shrubs, which are hardy in USDA Zones 7-9, are less well known than their spring-blooming counterparts, Camellia japonica. Typically, sasanqua leaves are slightly smaller. They are less prone to many diseases than their japonica brothers and sisters. I’ve only ever seen camellia leaf gall on mine, and that disease is easily controlled by plucking off the swollen leaves. Never compost leaves infected with leaf gall, or the spores may overwinter and spread.
In the way of care, Camellia sasanquas appreciate light pruning for shape, as they get leggy on their way to 6-10′ high and 5′ wide. Feed with an organic, slow-release fertilizer like cottonseed meal or a fertilizer indicated for azaleas, and mulch with compost a few times a year. They do require acid soil (a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is recommended), and prefer light shade to direct sun exposure.
These lovely shrubs bloom throughout the fall and winter and into very early spring. To my mind, this makes them indispensable. If your winters are relatively mild (lows to 5 F or -15 C), Camellia sasanqua is well worth its space in the garden.
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