It is so pleasant outdoors this time of year; it is difficult to stay in front of the computer. A couple of weeks ago, I spent some valuable time outdoors removing the "Blackie" sweet potato vines from the front yard beds. These turned out to be the vines that ate the garden.
They started out innocently enough. Instead of my usual bright colors out front, I went with a black and white scheme. I was proud of the shiny black foliage as it wound around the bright white flowers of petunias and vinca. Since I wanted instant gratification (almost unheard of in gardening) I planted a few too many of these wandering vines.
I became a bit concerned as the vines quickly spread like the plague up and over the petunias and vinca. I headed them back with nippers. Next time out of the driveway I discovered black leaves climbing over the spreading evergreen junipers. (The junipers might be "Webber". They were here when we bought the place.)
At any rate, I had to get busy with my nippers again. Spring turned into summer, and the "Blackie’s" just kept on growing longer and longer. They rooted along their stem as they crossed over and finally smothered the white petunias.
The vinca fared better. I uncovered it in time to save it.
After finally mucking all of the vines out, I have dug out the sweet potatoes themselves. I have been asked if these potatoes are edible. I’ve not tried them myself, but I have read that they are edible, but don’t bother. The taste is less than "sweet". They were bred strictly as ornamental plants.
I now have changed out the front beds. Husband pulled out diseased Indian Hawthorns with the car last fall. Now I have more sunny room for my newest shrubs.
The beautybush, Kolkwitzia amabilis Dream Catcher™ is a beautybush that doesn’t need any flowers to be beautiful. Its springtime yellow and peachy foliage is striking. Underneath, for the winter, yellow pansies turn their sunny faces up to the sky.
Here I also found room for a ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata Pinky Winky PP#16,166) and a variegated holly leaf tea olive, Osmanthus variegatus, too. This tea olive looks like a holly, can take full sun, and is smaller than other Osmanthus species.
On the other side, blue violas and one of my favorite dark winter annuals, purple Redbor kale (Brassica oleracea Redbor Hybrid), star in the new evergreen bed centered with a winter honeysuckle shrub. A couple of purple ornamental cabbages are added for some short appeal.
I added a grouping of white blooming glossy abelia even though abelia used to be called a gas station plant here in the south. I like its small foliage, easy care, and drought tolerance. If it was good enough for gas stations, it’s good enough for my curbside.
It is middle November and Hydrangea paniculata ‘The Swan’ is still blooming in one of these front beds. In the fall, her gorgeous pure white flowers take on a pink tinge. I have to say I love this ungainly flat shrub. I talked with a grower, who said they were trying to improve her so she wouldn’t flop. That’s what I love about her. She makes a mound rather than an upright shrub. If you like her that way, too, order her before she is "improved". I hope that Wayside Gardens will have her in stock next spring.
The Big Daddy hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Big Daddy'™ PP#14527) have been a wonderful addition out front, too. The huge flower domes opened white, turned greenish and then finished with deep red tips. I love hydrangeas - Just can’t get enough.
I had cut back and divided an overgrown clematis that runs atop low growing dwarf gardenias. Its huge flat sky-blue flowers (Clematis 'Will Goodwin') were lovely in the spring. Now, in late fall, it is blooming again. The flowers are a bit smaller but not enough to complain about. This was an existing treasure. I was able to share large clumps with gardener friends.
The pink flowers of an angel trumpet (Brugmansia) have been hanging off a 7-foot plant all late summer until now. It had spread so much that it engulfed two double pink Knockout roses. They have valiantly bloomed in this shady area, under the trumpets and behind another hedge of dwarf gardenias.
Fall is grand. Cool days and cold nights help us get in the mood to put the garden to bed. This year, even the trees are cooperating with the best foliage color in years. We will have 100-degree days again. For now, it’s cool and the annuals that ate my garden are gone.
---Posted by Anne K Moore, November 17, 2008---
NASA Seeds in Space
"Vines provide a distinct ornamental touch; while their versatility in size, texture, color and bloom time artfully blends architecture with the landscape," Natural Life, Guide to Landscape Plants-Second Edition.