async defer src="//" My Enchanting Cottage Garden: May 2014

About Me

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Gardening is my middle name. I have been an avid gardener for 50 years.  My goal is to help anyone who wants to start a Cottage Garden, be able to do so without the expense and frustration of beginning gardeners. I hope to encourage readers to share their thoughts and experience and help make this blog a knowledgeable and fun read.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Are You Crazy in Love with Containers?

image0-007Containers are a great way to try new plants and the world of perennials has never been so diverse or so useful. New varieties offer more colorful foliage and longer bloom times and dwarf habits that are perfect for small container gardens.

         Artful Container Combinations
Match Plants.  Assemble Plants with similar growing conditions, with as succulents in a terra cotta pot on a sunny porch, or shade loving hostas, and bleeding hearts.
Connect colors.  Try choosing pot color and plant colors to give a unifying thread in the collection.
Provide steady maintenance: To get the most out of your containers you must pay attention to watering, fertilizing and grooming.  Most soilless mixes' don’t container enough nutrients to support plant growth for any le3ngth of time and frequent watering quickly washes out whatever nutrients are present.  At planting time sprinkle with a slow-release fertilizer onto the soil surface.  When you water take time to groom, remove any spent blossoms and brown leaves.
Experiment.  Containers are a great way to try new plants especially ones that need a little more attention than traditional landscape plants.  Do your homework and research growing needs and care.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How to Grow Dipladenia and Mandevilla

Dipladenia or MandevillaDipladenia is actually a member of the mandevilla family. It is widely thought that mandevilla and dipladenia are the same plant, but while similar, dipladenia foliage is somewhat smaller and the plant is more shrub-like.

Mandevillas will require some special attention because they cannot remain outdoors all year round in most parts of the country. When planting in containers or in a garden outdoors, use a rich soil mixture of sand and humus and ensure good drainage. A container with a hole in the bottom and a trellis, frame or stake for support is the best situation for this vine. The North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension says mandevillas need 6 full hours of direct sunlight as an outdoor plant.

However, both plants have the same care and growth requirements and are very similar. These gorgeous, vining plants have soared in popularity and can be used in mixed containers, hanging baskets, or on their own in a container. They are easy to grow and should flower their heads off all season long.

Mandevilla and dipladenia look great on their own in a pot or as the centerpiece of a mixed container. I like to grow them in a large and have them climb up a trellis, obelisk, trellis. I like to surround with a contrasting annual or foliage plant. I have also planted them in pots with oregano and coleus.


Mandevilla's care requirements are similar to hibiscus and will flower best in full sun, but will tolerate part shade. However, if you live in a really hot area, mid-day shade is recommended.


Drainage and Watering - Unlike many flowering plants, dipladenia or mandevilla will tolerate some dryness and continue to flower. That said, they prefer a consistent level of moisture and you should try to keep the soil damp, not wet. When watering, make sure to water slowly to give the soil time to soak up the moisture. When watering with a hose, spray the leaves too. Also, make sure that your pot has good drainage and that you use a good quality potting mix.

mandevilla 2

Pot Size - For consistent production of flowers, don't transplant your dipladenia into too large a container. If you do, it won't hurt your plant, but it will spend more energy producing roots and top growth than flowers, so you may see fewer flowers until the roots have hit the bottom of the pot. If your plant is root bound and does need a bigger pot, look for one that is wider, but not much deeper.


Fertilizer - Most plants you buy at the nursery have a slow release fertilizer already in the soil so you probably don't have to worry about feeding your plant for the first few months. After that you will need to fertilize it regularly. You can either use a diluted, plant food every other week or add a slow release fertilizer to your soil. Always follow directions on the package.

mandevilla in a pot

Overwintering Dipladenia - If you live in a cold climate (anything lower than zones 9-11), it is possible to overwinter dipladenia indoors. Take in your plant before evening temperatures dip below 50 °F. Put it in a place with as much direct sun as you can, though it may even survive if you can provide lots of indirect light. Dipladenia doesn't like the cold so protect it from drafts. Don't be alarmed if your plant doesn't flower or sheds some leaves in the winter. In the fall, you may see long shoots or sprouts, which you can trim back lightly or train onto a trellis or support. Stop feeding through the winter. Though plants generally need less water in the winter, central heating can dry the air and your plant very quickly. Keep your plant on the dry side during the cold months, but make sure it doesn't dry out too much. In the spring, increase watering and resume fertilizing. Don't cut the plant back, or you will miss out on next seasons flowers. You can put your plant outside once the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50°F.

mandevilla 3

Diseases - Red spider mites, mealy bugs, fulsarium and cercospora are the most common problems you may run into.

Information gathered partially from

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Best Flower for Spring the Iridescent Iris

iris tradesecret_web1Irises are exotic looking perennial flowers that offer a huge range of colors and patterns, heights, and bloom times, with variations on a common theme of flower shape and plant form. They have a lovely sweet spring scent. By far the most popular group is the large collection of hybrids termed the “bearded” irises, named for the hairy caterpillar-like tuft creeping out of the center of each fall. They bloom in late spring and early summer, from 2 inches to nearly 5 feet above stiff, sword like leaves. A number of cultivars rebloom from late summer into fall, to double the show; these reblooming cultivars are worth seeking out. The USDA Zones chart says they grow in zones 3–8, but I live in Las Vegas zone 9b and they grow proficiently in our dry hot climate.

How to grow Most bearded irises are easy to grow, but they do have specialized needs. Plant and divide every 3 to 4 years in summer or early fall, splitting them into individual “fans” with the rhizome attached, or into divisions with a few fans. Trim leaves back before planting to make up for root loss. They grow best in full sun or very light shade and average to rich, well-drained soil. Barely cover the rhizome and point the leafy end in the direction you want it to grow, ideally out from the center of a group of three to five of a kind. DSC02555 Bearded irises tolerate drought very well when dormant (usually beginning about six weeks after bloom), but water them well up to the time dormancy sets in and after division. Fertilize routinely in spring and early fall, keep weeds and other plants away from the rhizomes, mulch loosely the first winter after division, and be ready to stake the tall cultivars when they bloom. Soft rot attacks during wet seasons in poorly drained soil, entering though wounds in the rhizome made from premature leaf removal or too-close cultivation; it can also be carried on the body of the iris borer. The eggs of this pest hatch in spring, producing 1- to 1½-inch-long, fat, pinkish larvae. The larvae enter a fan at the top and tunnel down toward the rhizome, where they may eventually eat the whole interior without being noticed. In fall, remove dead, dry leaves, which often carry borer eggs, and destroy badly infested fans in spring. You can also crush borers in the leaves by pinching toward the base of the telltale ragged-edged leaves or by running your thumb between the leaves and squashing any borers you find. They are also vulnerable when you divide the clumps; check every rhizome for this pest. If you find a few borers, try cutting them out, but destroy badly infested rhizomes. Landscape uses: Smaller bearded irises are perfect in rock gardens and along paths and beds. For mid- to late-spring bloom, plant taller ones in a perennial border, or in a separate bed to provide optimum conditions. They also look splendid among garden ornaments and along patios. armageddon_web1chuckwagon_web1devilsriot_web1

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Why You Should Grow “Zebrina” MalvaThe Other Hollyhock

zebra hollyhock 2

Smaller and more refined than regular hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), zebra hollyhocks (Malva sylvestris "Zebrina") grow 2 to 4 feet tall and half as wide. Although not true hollyhocks, they are related plants and share the same trumpet-shaped blooms that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Zebra hollyhocks have 2- to 3-inch-wide, lavender-pink flowers with purple throats and pronounced purple veins that give them their common name. They're a good choice for sunny perennial borders and for hummingbird gardens. Also called zebra mallows, these plants are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant zones 4 through 8. I live in Las Vegas zone 9b and I have no trouble growing Malva and it comes back every year as a sturdy little bush.

Zebra hollyhocks  can bloom as early as May in warmer climates and as late as July in zone 4 to 5. They give good color and bloom to the late summer garden
when other plants die back. Plants grow 18 to 45 inches tall in clumps that spread through perennial root systems and by self-seeding. The lavender flowers with deep purple stripes bloom from June into late October. Plant zebra hollyhocks in perennial flower beds, rock gardens, cottage gardens and border areas. The long-blooming flowers attract birds, bees and butterflies to the garden.

zebra hollyhock

Planting Instructions Grow zebra hollyhocks in full sun for the best flower production. They'll tolerate partial shade, but the plants will lean toward the light, so stake them to keep them upright. They'll need at least five or six hours of sunlight daily to bloom well. Amend the soil in the site with organic material such as compost or aged manure. Like true hollyhocks, zebra mallows are heavy feeders and grow best in rich, loamy soil. Spread a 2-inch layer of organic material over the planting area and mix thoroughly into


Check the soil pH with a test kit or pH meter after mixing in the soil amendments. Malva grows best in soil with a pH of 7.0 or a bit higher, which is neutral or slightly alkaline. If the soil is below 7.0, add lime to the planting area to compensate; a local garden center or extension service will advise you on the amount to add, which varies depending on soil composition and climate. Dig a planting hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Remove the plant from its container. Set the plant in the hole, making sure it's at the same depth as it was in the container. Backfill around the roots with the amended soil, then water to settle the roots and remove air pockets in the soil.


Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch over the root zone to keep the soil moist and to discourage weeds. Renew the mulch each spring. Fertilize Malva plants in the spring when new growth emerges and again when the first flowers appear. If the garden is in sandy soil, give the plants a third feeding in mid-summer. Always use a fertilizer formulated for flowering garden plants. The amount of fertilizer to apply will depend on the product chosen, so follow the package directions carefully. Too much fertilizer can damage the plant or promote foliage growth at the expense of flowers. Water when the top 2 or 3 inches of the soil feel dry. Apply enough water so that the top 6 to 8 inches of soil are moist. The actual amount to apply depends on the weather and soil structure, but for most gardens 1 to 2 inches of water per week is sufficient. Zebra mallows are not drought resistant, however, so they need extra water during dry spells and windy weather. Remove flowers as they fade to encourage reblooming. Zebra hollyhocks will continue to bloom until fall if regularly deadheaded. Cut the plants back to ground level after the first frost. Remove all debris from the garden to keep insects, rodents and disease spores from overwintering near your plants.

  • Zebra mallow can be short-lived, but it self-seeds readily, so once it's planted, plenty of plants will grow every year. The little seedlings are easy to move around and re-establish themselves quickly.
  • Malvas are rarely subject to disease, but leaf-chewing insects can be a bother. Japanese beetles, in particular, find them tasty. Light numbers can be washed off with a garden hose or picked off by hand, but an insecticide will be needed to control heavier infestations.

Picture of Zebrina in my garden