Most of us being ‘normal’ humans can get hooked on popular crazes. It seems to happen in all phases of our lives, whether it is a food, a book, a movie or a popular celebrity. But after a while, our fascination fades and the craze is just a memory. Sometimes, the waning popularity is caused by discovery that the object of our fascination is not perfect — spouses and friends excluded. But, as I always say, “perfection is elusive.”
The same is true in the plant world. Right now, there is a fascination with the gardening world’s re-discovery of the ‘succulent plant’ world. We are in the middle of the “Knockout” rose craze. We are ending the craze of planting and growing the Bradford pear, exemplified by the local “bounty” for dead, and removing Bradford pears from our landscape. It is like your mother or grandmother always said, “Too much of a good thing can turn out bad.”
You may remember the red tip photinia craze of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Photinia were in many landscapes and used as hedges and screens. Nurseries couldn’t keep up with the demand. That craze was ended with widespread photinia death from entomosporium leaf spot which became endemic. All living things are susceptible to maladies and diseases, which can spread when you get a large enough critical population of that living thing populating an area. Hence, viruses and bacteria for human maladies. Plants don’t move around like animals and humans, so you need to get large populations of specific cultivars of plants in regions for a pandemic. We are just now starting to see the spread of the Rose Rosette Disease virus of the Knockout rose, for which there is no magic cure. Knockout rose is the most prolific and dramatic bloomer of any low maintenance rose. Spread of the rosette virus has spread due to large plantings being infected by a mite vector which carries the virus. The mites are spread by wind and human landscape workers. University entomologists recommend digging up the entire plant and destroying it and placing it in the trash for removal if it becomes infected. You can recognize the disease if the tips or new growth of the canes become shrunken and twisted looking.
Instead of planting just one plant variety for color and blooming, try planting annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that will bloom throughout the growing season. I don’t have a perfect landscape and have often planted ‘one of a kind’ to see how it performed so I could recommend it for my readers or customers when we ran a nursery. Right now, here is a list of these plant categories that are blooming to some degree in my landscape. In some cases I may have only one of a kind.
Petunia and calibrachoa; actually look-alike, but different plants. Petunias are fragrant and both attract hummingbirds, full to part sun.
Begonias love the sun and bloom all summer. Many colors are available from white to red and pink.
Tropical hibiscus; yellows, pinks, reds and bicolors of the same. Dramatic and prolific bloomers all summer with blooms up to six inches across; loved by hummingbirds. Plants grow up to two feet tall.
Calla lily, with several colors available; we have pink and red. Great for cut flowers.
Asiatic lilies, with many colors available. It’s fragrant; great for cut flowers and grows 2-3 feet tall.
Tritoma, with yellow, orange and red available. Good for cut flowers; unique panicle bloom shape.
Tradescantia (spiderwort), with all shades of purples and pinks. Reseeds itself.
Crocosmia (montbretia), with all shades of orange, red and yellow. Reseeds itself; wonderful cutflower. Grows 12-18 inches tall with sword-like foliage.
Hosta, with so many shades, shapes of leaves; blooms of white or blue, some fragrant. Great specimen plant or shade low grower.
Amarcrinum (Crinum, Amaryllis Belladonna, Crinodonna), with shite, pink, bicolors of pink and white; some fragrant, dependable bloomers. Grows 2-3 feet tall; each of our plants had 10-15 successive bloom stalks over several months.
Rudbeckia daisy (Black-eyed Susan), yellow with black eye, reds, yellows, bicolors and mahogany color. Loves full sun; great for cut flowers.
Lavender (Herb, many cultivars). Purple lavender blooms, fragrant when held or crushed. Great in recipes; loves dry sunny spots.
Pink oxalis (Wood sorrel, Rosea). Grows in slow-spreading low clumps; prolific bloomer in full sun with six-inch small blooms. Has some red varieties.
Dianthus (Pinks, Sweet William), low growing foliage, with bloom stalks 6-10 inches. Butterflies love them; very fragrant, white, pink, shades of red and bicolors of the same. Drought tolerant.
Gardenia jasminoides. Many varieties of different heights of shrub, from 2-5 five feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. Abundant white flowers of single or double petals depending on the variety. Highly fragrant and make great corsages, vase cut flowers and floats in bowls of water. Blooms most of the summer. Butterflies and hummingbirds love them.
Roses (Old English and Knockout). Pink and red knockout roses bloom all summer, as well as pink Old English roses. Great for cutting and Old English is very fragrant.
Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon). Many shades and bicolors of white, pink, purple and red. We have white and pink. Grows 6-9 feet tall and half as wide. Blooms are similar to tropical hibiscus, but not as trumpet shaped. Loved by butterflies.
Hydrangea. Several varieties with white, pink, or blue blooms. Loved by deer. Blooms are made up of flat or ball shaped many petalled flowers. Great for cutting.
Nandina (domestica). Plumes of white bloom atop reddish new growth. Followed by autumn and winter red berry clusters. Grows to four feet tall and as wide.
Macrantha pink azalea. My last late-blooming variety of the year, other than Encore azalea, which will bloom again in autumn. Double pink blooms 2-3 inches across.
Hypericum (St. John’s Wort). Sunny-yellow five-petalled flowers all over 3-4 feet wide by same width shrub. Blooms all summer and home for butterflies.
Southern Magnolia (Little Gem cultivar). Glossy evergreen foliage with brown fuzzy underside each leaf. Large white fragrant blooms with a lemony, sweet fragrance. Blooms are 6-8 inches across and great for floating in bowls of water for table use. Grows 20 feet wide by 30 feet tall.
So there are many plants to choose from for beauty and blooming for long seasons, so everything doesn’t have to be Bradford pears and Knockout roses for landscape beauty and enjoyment.
Gwyn Riddick is a North Carolina Certified Plantsman and former owner of Riddick Greenhouses & Nursery. He is a Fellow of the Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NCSU). If you have gardening questions, send them to Gwyn Riddick at The High Point Enterprise, 213 Woodbine St., High Point, N.C. 27260, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.