Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August Bloom Day

It's high summer here, and in the Chicago area we've been getting some welcome, and much needed relief from this year's record heat and drought.  The garden is grateful, and so am I.  

Salvia x sylvestris 'Blue Hill' has been oblivious to the weather, maintained its clean foliage as usual, and as long as it's deadheaded regularly, it keeps blooming all season.

Here in a small corner in front where lava rock has been pushed away and the ongoing battle with a neighbor's ivy is waged, an unnamed phlox, Sedum 'Matrona' , a seedling baptisia, and young native grasses grown with seeds from Monica this spring have done well with little rain.  

These are the delicate seedheads of petite purple love grass.

 Here's the whole little plant, along with a couple of flopping phlox stems. This, along with four other kinds of grasses, are my first forays into native grasses.  They were  all easy to start from seeds, and didn't need much coddling in spite of the hot, dry weather.  I kept them in gallon pots until mid-July.  Now in the garden, they're all growing and thriving.  I'm loving this little native grass and hoping the other larger grasses will bloom this year too.

Thank you for the seeds, Monica!

'Happy Returns' daylilies were sheared to the ground about a month ago to clean up the yellow and brown foliage.  Within a week they were back up, and blooming again a few days later.  Still blooming now, they're looking a lot better with clean foliage.

 I wait for angel's trumpet blooms all summer.  They're exquisitely fragrant,

 and beautiful too, don't you think?

Combined with the fragrance from Hosta plantaginea, 

Hosta plantaginea 'Aphrodite' (fully-open bloom further down, below,) and Sambac jasmine (not pictured,) the evening through early morning scents on our patio and floating on light breezes through open windows are simply divine.

Double impatiens are staples in a couple of hanging baskets almost every year here.  I like them with the airy blooms of Diamond Frost euphorbia.  Is there anything Diamond Frost doesn't go well with?

 We like impatiens in multiple colors.

Purple coneflowers are still looking fresh.  So far this season, the goldfinches haven't pulled off all the petals.

Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' is about a foot shorter, with fewer blooms than usual.  Pollinators ignore these cultivars.  I'm thinking we need the natives.  Starting native plants from seed takes patience, but it's rewarding, cheap thrills. 

Here's Hosta plantaginea 'Aphrodite,' the morning after the first-ever bloom opened.  They open at night.  They're notoriously slow to bloom after planting.  It took seven years for this one. Unlike most other hostas, The scapes barely rise above the foliage. The foliage is solid, deep green. I love the texture, elegance, substance, shade, and shape of it.  The flowers make lovely icing.

Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel' is a new introduction this year.  All of us who attended Walters Gardens' Media Day last week got to bring one home.  How thoughtful it was to obligingly open its first bloom just in time for Bloom Day.  

I've made peace with Agastache 'Blue Fortune's' grey-blue foliage.  It performs well in our garden, returns faithfully each year, and while it's not as full as usual, it's tolerated the heat and drought here well.  Although they're cultivars, pollinators are all over them.

Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne' is a cross between two native rudbeckias.  Pollinators love them in our garden, but they haven't performed nearly as well as they usually do in more normal summer weather.  The plants are severely stunted and not blooming as much as usual.  The two smallest plants have powdery mildew.

Hummingbirds visit this fuchsia multiple times every day.

Cardinal flowers are another hummingbird favorite here.  They look better most years.  I'm glad they survived the hottest summer here on record.

Here's 'Midnight Marvel' fully open a few hours later.

Late summer is one of my favorite times in our garden.  This month, with it's milder temperatures and good rains so far, has been beautiful here.  I hope you're enjoying beautiful weather, enough rain, and lots of blooms in your garden this month.

Happy Bloom Day, and to see what's blooming in gardens everywhere today, please visit our host, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Peppers in a Grow Box

We grow lots of veggies in our two side-yard raised beds.  The beds are relatively small, but since the soil is rich, we use succession planting, and we plant our veggies intensively, we're able to get a lot out of those beds even though they each get only part sun.

We extend our veggie-growing space using containers.  This year we're trying out Grow Bags and Grow Boxes, compliments of the companies that make them.  I'll show you what we did with the Grow Bags in a future post.

Last May, we were lucky enough to attend Garden2Blog 2012, hosted by P. Allen Smith and sponsored by a number of garden industry companies he partners with.  After the event several of those partners shipped us free products to trial.  The Grow Box, along with Black Gold organic soil we received from event sponsors were used to grow these peppers.  

For the second year, our peppers are growing in our front foundation landscape where we actually have full sun.  We've grown peppers successfully in our part-sun veggie beds, but they ripen quicker and are more productive out in front.  

We had a bumper crop of all sorts of colorful peppers in individual pots last year.  The downsides of individual pots were how much time it took to water them, how much water it took, and the amount of space needed for all those pots.  All the downsides are solved with the Grow Box.  

As unbelievable as it seems, there are eight pepper plants jammed into this planter, and they are easily as productive, if not more so, than they were last year in individual pots.  Thanks to the unique design of the Grow Box with it's very efficient use of water, they've needed a lot less water a lot less often.

today's harvest

After trialing our Grow Box with peppers this year. I'm sold.  They're a fantastic option for small-space veggie gardeners.  They'd also be great for gardening with children, an easy-care option for patio and balcony gardeners, and wonderful for older folks who find traditional vegetable gardening too physically taxing.  For me, they add precious space to our veggie-growing real estate and are attractive enough to plunk down amidst the flowers growing in full sun in our front foundation landscape.

Our veggies are grown organically, so naturally we use organic soil in containers.  I've been pleased with the quality and performance of Black Gold.  I love that Grow Boxes offer organic fertilizer as an option for their kits.  New fertilizer and organic jute covers can be ordered separately, and the box and soil can be re-used in future gardening years.  

Many thanks to the nice folks at Black Gold for the soil, and Garden Patch who makes the Grow Box for letting us test their products.