Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And they call me Mellow Yellow..

Welcome back, as you know May is a trans-formative month, the weather still isn't stable and yet June is lurking around the corner not unlike a cop waiting to deliver a speeding ticket.  If anything May is the last of the spring months where there is some cool weather and the mosquitoes have not taken over the yard, and most insect pests on your plants are not yet a problem. Thankfully so far we have had a bit of rain and especially thunderstorms. The latter is dangerous but with the rain they deliver nitrogen which in turn spurs a measurable growth boost for your plants.  The plant subjects for this week are Star Coreopsis and the Cardoon.

Coreopsis pubescens - Star Coreopsis

Star Tickseed can brighten any partial shade corner quite effectively.

The Coreopsis family is a crowded one with many differing types and growth habits, though mist if not all do prefer a well drained soil with good amounts of organic matter and reasonable amounts of water. Few Tickseed thankfully demand fertilizer as they can make do most of the time without. As you may already know the grandiflora and vertcilliata types tend to get the most attention and for good reason. However the subject here is Coreopsis pubescens or Star Coreopsis. This particular Coreopsis has fuzzy leaves and a mounding habit. To say it's foliage is somewhat dull is an understatement, it's real attraction is it's prolific flowering. Starting in late april through ought the summer star Coreopsis puts up large numbers of flowers which vary in shades of yellow or orange with regularity. The wispy stems are thin enough to not be seen and thus the bright flowers appear to hover over the foliage. The flowers themselves are interesting because the petals in in jagged tips and resemble to some degree the sun depicted on the New Mexico state quarter. But wait, here is the catch, Star Tickseed can do what grandiflora and vertcilliata can do but it can also grow in light to medium shade. In fact it seems to prefer it. In full sun star tickseed seems to get powdery mildew by late may but this is not fatal to it. If star Tickseed gets some shade it skips the disease and forms dense colonies no weed can penetrate. And your reward is a array of bright flowers in an location that lacks bright color options. Paired with some Grecian foxglove or chamomile your garden visitors might trip over something while staring at it.  I also should mention that it also seems to spread  by semi-stoloniferous means.  While transplanting four clumps to the shady rock garden I noticed little stolon-like bits left in the holes. Upon moving and planting those separate they came up and now are clearly Star Tickseed and not something else. Either way if you see this one give it a go, but remember, it stresses if it has poor soil and tends to get the mildews, nurse it a bit the first year and it'll be worth it.

Cynara cardunculus - Cardoon

The Cardoons pictured above are second year plants, note the some what irregular lobes on the leaves.

The Cardoon is a relative of the better known globe artichoke. While some experts will often  state they are the same plant however globe artichoke is Cynara scolymus.  Cardoon is noted historically as a food staple in Greek, Roman and Persian cuisine dating bak to it's first mentions in the fourth century. As a food plant Cardoons require a long cool growing season but will still produce floral heads in the warm weather of the south if it is provided some light shade against afternoon sun. Cardoons prefer a soil with good drainage and good amounts of organic matter, as well as periodic fertilization and regular water. While most recommendations state that Cardoons should be planted in full sun, this is a recommendation best heeded in more northern climates where as in the south full southern sun can be a bit much. For most purposes Cardoons are grown as a foliage accent plant as their silver-green leaves contrast well against darker foliage. Even as a stand-alone 'exotic' the lobed leaves of a Cardoon are quite dramatic  and can stand as a interesting focal point or foliage anchor for defining the edge of a garden bed.

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