Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Little plant, big flower

2021 has already been a banner year for flowering in our gardens, and this includes a couple of frosty nights.  In particular the flowering shrubs have been amazing especially with respect to the masses of flowers produced.  A few herbaceous plants have also been notable for their displays, a sadly disappointing lack of flowering for our pear trees is the only dnf (did not flower) of note.  After last week's FFF, a couple of readers wanted to know what the flower looked like after the "candle" stage, but circumstances prevented getting a good image of that flower stage.  However, their curiosity can be somewhat satisfied by substituting another big leaf magnolia, Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei, the ashe Magnolia from the Florida panhandle.  The plant is tougher than you might think considering its limited southern distribution.  This is TPP's second try, the extreme of a polar vortex proved too much for my first plant.  But it survived zero degrees at least twice.  It flowers in a similar manner to M. tripetala, starting with a candle stage, but then when it reaches the stamen shattering stage (just started), the 6 tepals all open widely making the flower about a 10-12" creamy white saucer, with red coloration at the base of the three inner tepals. The plant is barely 3.5' tall at present, so pretty impressive.  Oh, yes, one big leaf species has auriculate lobes at the base of the blade (M. macrophylla), the other's blade narrows acuminately to the petiole.

Friday Fabulous Flower - What big leaves you have.


As is usually the case, a coolish, wettish, spring switched over to summer dry heat over night.  So the strawberries will start to ripen (a good thing) and the last of the spring flowers will bloom, for our gardens this is a large, old-fashioned looking Rhododendron (close to a wild type) that flowers now.  A nice-sized (small tree) big-leafed Magnolia also flowers about now, Magnolia tripetala in a couple of days Magnolia megaphylla var. ashei will also flower; it's basically a shrub.  When tripetala flowers, the flowers look like big white, candles (about 6" tall) at the ends of the branches.  So this is a brand new just-opened flower bud.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - yellow tree peony

 Here we are half way through May, and right on time TPP's favorite peony flowers, Paeonia suffruticosa, and it has never looked better.  It is Yellow, the herbaceous peonies don't come in yellow except for the now common Itoh hybrids.  This particular plant is just outside of the kitchen window so no one sees it just passing by.  It was absolutely covered in flowers which open just a week or so later than the pink to purple tree poenies featured in this blog just recently on May 5.  Even Mrs. Phactor, who is a bit jaded about tree peonies admitted that it was gorgeous this year.  It took quite a few years to get this big, about a 4 foot diameter rounded shrub.  Hope everyone enjoys this FFF.

Peony for your thoughts...

 As loyal readers you should be aware that TPP has a thing for Magnolias.  And he also has a thing for tree peonies.  They aren't really trees, but they have rather short-lived woody stems.  They also have some pretty spectacular flowers, huge flowers and in vivid colors.  TPP discovered tree peonies while in grad school, when he pruned a much over grown peony (the foliage is similar to herbaceous peonies) and it burst into flower the very next year and a botany professor with horticultural leanings explained what it , a new discovery.  TPP has to say that tree peonies are not easy to grow and they tend to be a bit expensive.  Oh, did TPP mention that some of them have yellow flowers!  Wow!  Yellow varieties tend to bloom a bit later.  Here's a bouquet of some of three pink to coral-colored flowers. Each flower is about 9-10 inches in diameter.  The Itoh hybrids between tree peonies and herbaceous varieties are now pretty common and pretty easy to grow (although still pricey).  The flowers are pretty big, some are yellow, but not quite the same as tree peonies.