Posts Tagged With: the garden maiden

The Many Beautiful Azaleas Blooming Today in My Mississippi Yard

 

This post will be brief. It is azalea season throughout the South. Even ratty, unkempt, abandoned homes, boast some gorgeous flowering azaleas right now. In the rear of the above photo is a deep burgundy-colored azalea. I forgot to get a close-up this morning.

Right now I feel I should be hosting a garden party every day. The vast array of colorful azalea flowers makes my head spin on a good day.

 

Most of the azaleas in my yard were here when we moved into the home; however, we have planted perhaps another dozen. Two dozen? Maybe.

 

Early morning and evening as the sun goes down are the most breathtaking, especially when you observe the flowers with the light coming through the petals.

I even enjoy “plain” white. It provides good contrast to all the other colors and is brilliant in its own right.

My favorite by far is my native Florida flame azalea (Rhodendron austrinum). It is a deciduous azalea and has grown quite a bit in the last five or six years. I haven’t babied it.

I keep it mulched and have fertilized it maybe twice since I planted it. I never water it, other than when I first planted it. A great return on the investment of a one gallon plant.

A lot of people here cut their azaleas back, I guess to renew them. It isn’t necessary, but to each their own. I’ve seen folks cut back 8′ tall plants to a foot or so. The horror! But eventually they leaf out, produce a lot of new growth, and flower again.

Maybe some of mine could use a whacking. But even my leggiest azaleas grow to their own heart’s desire.

I do have two plants that I prune back a bit every other year or so but that is because they are planted in a bed and have thinned out to the point where you can “see under their skirt”. And they are planted with other ornamentals that have suffered when they are shaded by the straggly and rapidly growing azaleas which tower above. So I give them a little chop chop, after they finish flowering in April.

I have quite an “investment” in azaleas now.

Many of them I received for free from a friend. So I do not know “varieties”. Sometimes that is a bit irksome. Indeed, I do have a few young plants with the tags still attached and I need to write those down and transfer the names to a metal sign.

Some of these larger azaleas are so commonly seen around, I figure they must be old varieties that were very popular in the 70s and 80s.

One color I am lacking is lavender. But I’m okay with that.

Well, what do you know. I found a photo of the deeper burgundy azalea from yesterday! See below.

One nice thing about the azaleas is they grow easily here. My soil is pretty terrible for trying to grow a vegetable garden. But the azaleas? Other than those I watered at planting, fuss-free. I don’t do anything and they reward us every year.

I hope you are enjoying your own azaleas, or perhaps planning to take a spring Sunday drive around the South to view others flowering azaleas. There are some real showstoppers out there.

 

Yours in Gardening,

The Garden Maiden

All images and text copyright 2019 The Garden Maiden

@thegardenmaiden

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Categories: Observations from My Garden of Goods & Evils, What's Blooming | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Early Spring Walk at Sandhill Crane NWR in Gautier, Mississippi

 

For the first time in a year or more, I was able to spend a couple of hours at the Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge in Gautier, Mississippi.

I’ve been going there for six or seven years. They have a wonderful visitor center with educational displays and a gift shop. Hubby bought me a new pair of earrings from Jabebo. I love their recycled earrings and own several. The site has some areas for picnics too.

On this day, a viewing platform was located out behind the visitor center to enable guests to view several of the Sandhill Cranes were are being acclimated to their new home. Unbelievably, it was my first time to actually see any of the cranes at the refuge. Unfortunately, it was too far for me to photograph, even with a telephoto lens.

It was a lovely day to take a hike on the trail which winds through the pine savanna.  Longleaf pine savannas are endangered ecosystems and harbor many wonderful native plants and provide habitat for countless wildlife species.

We have hiked the trail at this location many times with our dachshunds, but not since losing our male last summer to cancer.

Our female was not feeling up to the walk and she preferred to ride in her backpack. Heck, at nearly 17 years old, she is certainly entitled to off days.

I always appreciate signage of the plant material. Identified here is rattlesnake master. I love that name!

Notice the different colors of the carnivorous, pitcher plant flower heads!

The pitcher plants were showing well-formed flower heads that will soon open.

Many dried flowers were to be found. Some with interesting character that would be beautiful in dried arrangements.

Chaptalia tomentosa (wooly sunbonnets) were in full bloom.

 

 

Parrot pitcher plants, sundews, and other carnivorous plants were to be found. I think parrot pitcher plants are my favorite. They look like little parrots laid over in the grass. They have ten carnivorous species in their refuge.

Be sure to walk slowly and look closely so you don’t miss the tiny sundews!

As a horticulturist working for a blueberry breeder, I also enjoy observing the native Vaccinium species when we are hiking.

Again, thanks for the signage!

Could anything be cuter than a root named candy? Orange candyroot/milkwort flowering here: Polygala lutea

Even the simple, delicate coastal violet gets a sign!

I think this is a southern fence lizard?

The native longleaf pine has giant pine cones.

 

“In the wild Mississippi sandhill cranes can only be found on and adjacent to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR. There are only about 100 individuals remaining.” Stop by if you are even along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Check out their calendar of events or sign up on their email list to stay up to date with future programs.

 

The Garden Maiden

All text and images copyright 2019 The Garden Maiden

@thegardenmaiden

Categories: National & State Parks, What's Blooming | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do You Know the Muffin Man? New Mississippi Blueberry

Early last week I was out in the blueberry plots at one of the research stations collecting samples. I was instantly enamored, if not surprised, by the outstanding pink ambiance given off by a few large blueberry bushes.

Muffin Man blueberry

 

I was not out to collect from this selection, but I was drawn to it. This blueberry was without a doubt the most gorgeous in the entire field.

 

PINK! So much pink. Pink flowers, pink buds, pink calyx, warm pink hues on the stems, pink color on the new, emerging leaves. Perfect for Valentine’s Day. As you can well imagine, I meant to do this post last week on Valentine’s Day, but time got away from me.

 

As a horticulturist with a background in ornamentals first, I was impressed with the idea of what a wonderful edible hedge this would make in someone’s yard. Not to mention that at this time of year, when things are just beginning to get going in south Mississippi, it makes a grand ornamental entrance into the landscape.

 

This blueberry was recently released as ‘Muffin Man’ from the Southern Horticultural Research Laboratory in Poplarville, MS. You can read a bit about it on this USDA ARS page. Members of the American Society for Horticultural Science who subscribe to the Hort Science Journal can also read more about this blueberry in Volume 53 issue 10

To promote fruiting, you’ll need a pollinator, rabbiteye blueberry that also flowers early. In ornamental design, I would suggest planting a smaller, early flowering, rabbiteye blueberry behind the hedge, or flanking the ends, so that ‘Muffin Man’ in all its glory is not obstructed.

If you are looking for the perfect Valentine’s gift for next year inquire, then do as this little honey bee did, seek out, and find ‘Muffin Man’ to give to your sweetheart.

 

 

Congratulations to the team for traditional, old fashioned plant breeding!

What does this mean, traditional plant breeding? Select potted blueberry plants are brought into the greenhouse in winter and “crossing” begins by a biological science technician when flowers open. That is to say the pollen (collected from the anthers of the male part) of one desired flower is used to fertilize the stigma (the sticky end of the female reproductive part) of another desired blueberry flower.  This takes quick work to be sure that no insects happen to be pollinating the flowers in the greenhouse and the greenhouse is checked almost daily. Fertilized flowers are protected while the fertilized flowers develop blueberry fruit, and after fruit set and maturity, the fruit are collected, cut open, and the seed harvested and stored in refrigeration. In summer, seed are planted out in trays in the greenhouse. When seedlings reach several inches tall, they are transplanted into individual peat pots. Those little babies are nurtured in the greenhouse and the following spring/early summer, they are planted out into field plots (generally by this time they are 12-24″ tall). The young plants are closely monitored by the breeder over several years for a variety of desirable traits. (Just imagine that when two humans procreate, every baby the same two humans produce is different. Right? The same is true here.) Those that make the cut are transplanted out to long term fields for continued observations over several more years. The plants may be propagated and then planted at several sites to test their desired traits, growth, cultural habits, fruiting, qualities, etc.  Then if all has been successful, after many years since cross pollination in the greenhouse, that selection may be released for public use or plant patented. Technically, traditional plant breeding is genetically modifying plants (organisms). It is however, not genetically engineering plants-GE (basically something which could never occur naturally- a fish will never make love to a tomato). An unfortunate use of the term GMO, that is now commonplace and causes confusion.

Man, I must have had some good coffee this morning!!!! Oh, wait, I did. Three Peckered Billy Goat. I love Raven’s Brew Whole Bean Coffees. USDA Organic. Roasting facilities: Ketchikan, AK and Tumwater, WA.

Yours in Caffeine-Induced Writing & Gardening,

The Garden Maiden

All images and text copyright 2019 The Garden Maiden
@thegardenmaiden

 

 

 

Categories: Fruit Crops, Research, What's Blooming | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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