Hortitopia has been jam-packed in past weeks with news of my latest garden tour to France (w/highlights of the best gardens yet to come), but today—Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day—is an opportunity to catch up with my home garden in the Upstate.
First, though, I have to mention the torrential rains we’ve experienced this summer. In April, the South Carolina Climatology Office announced the long-standing drought was officially over for every SC county, with all areas measuring between 100% and 225% of expected rainfall for the first quarter of 2013.
Those amounts are nothing, however, compared to what we’ve seen since the first of June and particularly in the last two weeks. On Friday (July 12), The Greenville News reported our area had received 43 inches of rain to date, quickly approaching our annual average of 47 inches. Later that day and through the night, we had yet another deluge with Clemson and other communities just west of Greenville receiving 8 to 9 inches of additional rain by Saturday morning.
Sadly, the South Carolina Botanical Garden was hard hit with flood waters. The new trail and mountain meadow of the Natural Heritage Garden was completely scoured. Several bridges were damaged or washed out and garden staff had to act quickly to secure the foundation of the Hunt Cabin. The garden is closed until safety can be assured, but I hope to visit tomorrow and bring you more news soon.
Now for the blooms…
While late winter and spring are admittedly the glory season for shade gardens, there are still a few things worth sharing now. Though flowers are quickly fading from excess moisture, the hydrangeas have been especially lovely.
When I moved to my new home (built in 1952), I was happy to find two species of hydrangea already growing here. The front garden includes a trio of common bigleaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla), while the back garden features two cultivars of oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia), the full-size ‘Snow Queen’ and the dwarf ‘Pee Wee’.
The oakleaf types feature elegant, elongated clusters of white flowers that fade pinkish as they age. The bigleaf hydrangeas, however, must have a split personality disorder, as some of their round clusters of flowers are pink, while others are purple and blue.
Split personality disorder?
The pH level, or relative acidity of the soil, has a major effect on the color of bigleaf hydrangeas. In simplest terms, acidic soil makes blue flowers and alkaline soil makes pink flowers. If the soil is nearly neutral, between 6.5 and 7.5, the plants can produce both colors of flowers.
Most soils in the Upstate are acidic, but my garden is located within one of the scattered outcrops of mafic rocks that create more basic soils. In general this is a good thing, as these areas are also rich in nutrients and plant species. However, the bi-colored hydrangeas are driving me a bit batty, so I plan to lower the acidity of the soil in this bed with repeated top dressings of recycled coffee grounds.
I’ve added a third species of hydrangea to the garden—an improved selection of the native smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens) called ‘Incrediball’. This unique cultivar, a Proven Winners plant developed by Spring Meadow Nursery, is stealing the spotlight from ‘Annabelle’ and others of its type with extra-large flower clusters on thicker, sturdier stems which prevent flopping. Since their planting in 2011, the shrubs have quadrupled in size and are now 4 to 5-feet tall. The flowers, which began to bloom in early June, open lime green before turning pure white, and then fade to various shades of green until they dry to a parchment color. The long-lasting clusters then persist through winter unless cut for dried flower arrangements.
Sturdy stems keep the large flower clusters of ‘Incrediball’ from flopping.
In recent days, several hosta (unknown, as they predate me) have begun to flower. Some are only decorative, while others are also sweetly scented.
This purple-flowering hosta adds a touch of much-needed color to the shade garden.
The white flowers of this hosta scent the secret garden with their sweet perfume.
Geraniums are flowering now too. The blooms of my favorite, ‘Rozanne’, recently named as Plant of the Centenary at the Chelsea Flower Show (London), are intertwined with the low-hanging white blooms of a bigleaf hydrangea.
‘Rozanne’ geranium, RHS Award of Garden Merit, 2008 (US) Perennial Plant of the Year, and now Plant of the Centenary at the Chelsea Flower Show.
And I’m quite pleased with my front-stoop containers, which feature pink ‘Dragon Wing’ begonias and ‘Grape-O-Licious’ torenia mixed with an array of interesting foliage, most notably ‘Henna’ coleus.
Clustering containers, like these on my front stoop, makes watering easy.
To see what’s flowering in other gardens around the world, visit the host of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.