Outside

Good Afterjune

The planting season is beginning to wind down, but if you’re still looking for some allstars to add to your garden, here are a few of my new favorites from this year.

 

At the top of my list are Rex begonias, also known as painted leaf begonias. This semi-tropical perennial is exotic looking, but easy to grow and looks great in a container outside. It thrives in bright indirect light, and as a bonus it can be brought inside in the fall as a houseplant. It’s a plant even a beginner will love, just let it dry out between waterings and provide some humidity. Grown more for its foliage than its flowers, the leaves come in a wide variety of colors and textures. My current favorite is called Escargot, named so as the leaves turn back on themselves to make a spiral pattern like a snail shell. 

 

Another suggestion is the Iceland poppy Champagne Bubbles. I picked this up on a whim, but it’s a beautiful garden workhorse. The flowers are cup shaped and one plant will produce a multi color bouquet of flowers in shades of pink, yellow, red, orange and white. A sun lover, the plant blooms from May through June, the fern like foliage is attractive, and it will come back each year. 

 

One of my favorite annual vines is the moonflower. This night-blooming morning glory has big showy flowers that open at night and has a lovely smell that’s a cross between vanilla and jasmine. They require a little patience because the seeds have a hard shell and can be tough to germinate. To speed that along, using a file or sandpaper, smooth down a small part of the shell until you reach the seed, then soak them for 24 hours before planting. Something in my garden finds the seedlings irresistible, so protect the new shoots from hungary insects with some screen or insecticide until the plants get established. They are a little extra work to get started, but little compares to seeing those big fragrant blooms open at night.

 

Another great addition to the garden is Malabar spinach. I first saw this in the kitchen garden at Barboursville Winery, it's a pretty vine with green leaves and a red stem. Not a true spinach, it loves hot weather and thrives right when regular spinach goes to seed. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and the taste is like a mild spinach with a little pepper and citrus. It grows fast and all season and will need some type of trellis for support. Try it in a stir fry with shiitake mushrooms. 

 

Another favorite is Japanese sweet flag Ogon, a versatile ground cover that resembles a variegated green-yellow grass, and is great for a variety of uses. It can be planted in rows to define a border, individually in the garden for a pop of color, or planted in beds where it can flow in the wind. I’ve discovered it’s a forgiving plant, it prefers a wet location, but mine have been thriving with a once a week watering. A perennial, it maintains its shape and color through the winter. 

 

Finally I’d suggest Confederate jasmine, one of the few vines that keeps its leathery green leaves all year long and provides sweet smelling blooms May through June. It’s a good pick for fences, walls and pergolas since the vines don’t cling, but they are sturdy and can be easily pulled back for painting or maintenance. If you’d like some visual privacy on your front porch but don’t have much room for planting, this is a great pick.

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