Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday

On Wildflower Wednesday, the fourth Wednesday of each month, we join with Gail to celebrate and share the love of native plants and wildflowers across the blogosphere. Wildflowers are beautiful, easy-care additions to any garden, and there are wildflowers suited to any challenging combination of climate, soil, moisture, critter, and sun conditions you might have.

We have a little sunny space in our front yard, but most of our garden space is in back in beautiful, loamy soil. While the soil is great, we're challenged by gardening in the shallow roots of three mature silver maples, where there's little sun, the soil tends to dry out very quickly, and it can take years for new plants to become established. Many native plants and wildflowers have been equal to the challenge. These are the ones we find blooming here this month:

Allium cernuum, or nodding onions, came to live here last year, divisions shared with us by Monica. Tough, easy-care, and seldom bothered by animal or insect pests, their delicate blooms are a welcome addition. Nodding onions are attractive to pollinators and will thrive in full to part sun.

Eupatorium purpureum - Joe Pye weed is a tall plant excellent for the back of the border, with showy flower heads that last a long time. After the flowers fade, the seed heads can remain attractive well into the winter. Joe Pye weed is equal to the challenge of growing in a very dry area of our garden where the roots of the maples mingle with the roots of an old, mature arborvitae hedge.

Monarda fistulosa, a native bee balm, is doing well in its third year here. Although monardas are often plagued with powdery mildew, this one has shown no sign of it so far. Bee balm is a good name for it, considering how many bees visit this plant every day. We have lots of bunnies here, but bee balm is equal to the challenge they present, since our bunnies don't seem to like the taste of it's wonderfully fragrant foliage.

Phlox paniculata cultivars are abundant here. This seedling of unknown parentage turned up last year. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees don't care about its pedigree, and enjoy it just as much, if not more, than the cultivars. Phlox blooms well even in some of the challenging shadier spots in our garden.

Now that the main garden area in back is fully planted, in the last three years, we've expanded into the swale way in back. It's a mostly shady area where moisture conditions vary from a shallow area that never dries out to the deep end that goes from constantly flooded in winter and spring to bone dry in summer. We're still working out what, if anything we can plant in the deep end. The shallow area is perfect for moisture-loving, beautiful natives that don't mind the challenge of wet feet, like Lobelia cardinalis, or cardinal flower. Hummingbird magnets, cardinal flowers are hands-down their favorite blooms here.

Helenium autumnale, also called sneezeweed, was started from seeds last year. They bloomed their first year, and are budding again now. They're thriving in the shallow end of the swale too. They too like moist soil and don't mind wet feet. This one was pinched in early July as an experiment, while the others were left to grow as tall as they wanted. Next year they'll all be pinched. All but this one flopped, and it has more buds than the ones that weren't pinched.

Late last winter I ordered seeds for Lobelia siphilitica. Blue lobelia, cardinal flower's cousin, seemed a nice addition to the shallow end of the swale. From an entire packet of seeds, only two germinated, and only one survived the seedling stage. The little lobelia was carefully nurtured until, during it's first week outdoors, in a pot on the edge of the west veggie bed, some critter bit off its little crown. In the bed, wilted but intact, the severed section was found. After re-hydrating it in a cup of water, it was planted in fresh potting soil in a small nursery pot in hopes it might root itself in case the original plant didn't re-grow.

The original plant grew new leaves and survived, and the decapitated portion grew roots, so now we have two! Both are budding in their first season, despite their early trauma. Now they live in the shallow end of the swale, where they were transplanted back in June. I expect they'll be equal to the challenge of wet feet. Hopefully they'll survive the challenge of the bunnies. Maybe in September we'll see some blooms.

We added two little prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) plants three springs ago. One disappeared last fall, and the remaining one bloomed for the first time this spring. One of the blooms set seeds. A few seeds were collected, and started under the light in the basement. In the next few weeks they'll find homes in the garden near their parent that has so far proven itself equal to the challenges of dry soil and and not much sun.

Every garden presents challenges. Through research, trial and error, and experience, native plants can be found which will not only survive, but thrive in nearly any challenging garden conditions we may have.

For more Wildflower Wednesday posts, please visit sweet Gail at Clay and Limestone.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August Bloom Day

August has brought blessed temperature relief with highs mostly in the seventies and eighties, and refreshingly cool mornings and evenings. August is undoubtedly the bloomingest month of the year here.

Stepping out onto the patio with a cup of coffee early each morning is a olfactory delight with the scent of sambac jasmine filling the air. Even with only some morning sun, the jasmine, typically considered a plant for full sun, blooms prolifically, if sporadically, throughout the summer. Hummingbirds in twos and threes enjoy jasmine nectar several times a day.

This hanging basket seems the perfect spot for these Nonstop begonias, gifts from the Lawn Man back in late May. I haven't always had great luck with Nonstops. Some years they've rotted from too much rain. Other years their blooms have been more like Nonstart. The hanging basket is a moss-lined wire basket. They drain exceptionally well even after a few days in a row of torrential rain. This basket seems to be in a perfect spot for the perfect amount of sun. For the first time here, Nonstops are living up to their name.

Surprise lilies just started blooming a few days ago. The hosta camouflages the yellowing foliage as it dies back in late spring.

The hanging basket fuchsia is a delight to the hummingbirds and to me.

All of our coneflowers except one 'Magnus' were started from seeds. They are all unique, varying in plant size, bloom size and color. This is one of the taller ones. It has the palest of pale pink blooms that appear white in photos. Some of them have petals that stay like this, and others have the more characteristic drooping petals of most species coneflowers.

Red Dragonwing begonias bloom nonstop too. This one, along with two pink ones have overwintered indoors for three years, where they continue to bloom without ever taking a break.

The petite Crossandra was a gift from the Lawn Man when we were dating. It has overwintered indoors for eight years. It never gets taller than about eight inches. Each year it gets fuller and has more of these bright yellow-orange blooms. Back in July I was squashing mealybugs on it for the first time. Fortunately they seem to be gone now.

Nodding onions (Thank you Monica!) are blooming in shades of the palest pink.

Impatiens started from seeds indoors back in March are everywhere in urns, pots, and hanging baskets, bringing welcome color to our woodland garden and nectar for hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, and butterflies. I save seeds, and never know what colors I'll get. Last year they all turned out bright, and this year there are pastels in the mix. I like the color surprises. Since most of them aren't blooming yet when they go outside, we never know what color combinations we'll end up with.

Diamond Frost euphorbias perform admirably here in pots, hanging baskets, and even in the ground. Both drought and shade-tolerant, over a dozen of them are overwintered in the basement each year. Bigger and fuller each year, thanks to their drought tolerance they're easy to overwinter and eminently neglectable even outdoors.

Cardinal flowers, the most favorite blooms of hummingbirds in our garden, are blooming a month later than usual, probably due to our chilly spring. They were worth waiting for.

Joe Pye weed, and the tall, stately Herbstsonne rudbeckias in the background attract butterflies and other pollinators in droves.

Closeup of 'Herbstsonne' rudbeckia with great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)

Hummingbirds seem to prefer the red bee balm cultivars here, but every bee in the neighborhood loves these natives.

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' is the palest of gray-blues. I was disappointed in their pale color their first year here. They've been allowed to stay anyway. Bees love them, they don't seed all over the place, they're very drought-tolerant, very fragrant, and they bloom like crazy with only about three hours of dappled sun each day.

Another gift from the Lawn Man when we were dating, this mini-rose blooms a few times each season.

Black-eyed Susans bloom wonderfully here even with just a couple hours of dappled sunlight.

. . . more impatiens!

Hosta rectifolia 'Fujibotan's foliage is ordinary. The double blooms are, however anything but ordinary! Our hummingbirds love them too.

. . . more impatiens!

Phlox 'David' seen with pink phlox, black-eyed susans, and tall bellflowers. The bellflowers, from Mom's, have been blooming non-stop since May.

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' is a prolific self-seeder. New to our garden, this seedling is blooming sparsely in its first year. I'm looking forward to more seedlings, and watching them mature to show what they can really do. With bright chartreuse foliage, prolific blooms adored by pollinators and much brighter than 'Blue Fortune,' 'Golden Jubilee,' is still fragrant, drought-tolerant, and blooms beautifully even with very little sun. Though marginally hardy in zone five, the seedlings will help insure against any winter losses.

I love everything about calamint - the glossy, clean, fine textured, shiny, fragrant, dark-green foliage, the intricate, delicate, ornate, airy blooms, its shade and drought tolerance, and its value to our pollinators.

The showiest blooms in the east-side vegetable bed belong to this oregano. It draws an incredible number of pollinators to the vegetables and provides fresh and dried oregano all year.

Most of the gardening here happens in back and in the vegetable beds in our sunny side yards. There are some blooms in the full, blazing sun in front too, including the drought-tolerant, long-blooming 'Blue Hill' salvia. Hummingbird moths, hummingbirds, butterflies, and many kinds of bees visit these every day.

'Happy Returns' daylilies bloom all summer long in front.

Borage from Renee's Garden blooms in front too. Renee says pollinators love borage. It's true. She says the flowers are edible and make beautiful garnishes - true, and true!

Finally, like every other blooming thing here, the zinnias have a story. The Lawn Man brought them home from a big box store late in May, where they were displayed with the store's shade annuals. They stayed in pots in back in the sunniest spot on the patio until they started looking raggedy and stopped budding. Each successive generation of blooms got smaller and smaller. We enjoyed them in back for as long as possible, and now they're really showing their stuff after moving the pots to the front and into the blazing sun they need to thrive.

There are lots of stories I could tell you about our human babies. Each plant baby here has a story of its own too. That's one of the things I love about Bloom Day. Visiting other Bloom Day posts, I enjoy reading the stories of the blooms in your gardens as much as seeing the photos. Do your flowers tell stories too?

For links to other Bloom Day posts, please visit our host, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Veggie Gardens Video Tour

Come along with me for a tour of our veggie beds.

Many of our vegetables this year are courtesy of Renee's Garden. Renee sells a fantastic variety of vegetable and flower seeds. All of our lettuce came from Renee's Garden. Growing right now are 'Renee's Caesar Duo (red and green romaine mix,) 'Wine Country Mesclun,' and 'Renee's Stirfry Mix (Pan-Pacific Greens, which I've been enjoying raw in salads.) We're also growing Renee's 'Bright Lights' rainbow chard. The cherry tomatoes are from Renee too. We're growing her 'Garden Candy' mix. Each seed packet contains three varieties of cherry tomatoes - yellow, red, and orange - 'Sun Gold,' 'Supersweet,' and 'Sweet Gold' The seeds are color-coded with food-grade stain so the gardener can tell which seeds are which. They're all delicious!

Also from Renee's Garden we're growing fennel, blue borage, flat-leaf and curly parsley, 'Sweet Armenian' and Japanese 'Tasty Green' cucumbers, and 'Romeo' round baby carrots. Seedlings started in the basement for our fall vegetable garden include Renee's 'Crispy Winter Greens,' 'Green Fortune' baby pak choi, and 'Super Rapini' broccoli raab.

In this age of Monsanto buying out small seed suppliers, I'm very grateful for seed companies like Renee's Garden. Visit the link above for more information on how her seeds are selected and sustainably grown. Thank you Renee for the love you devote to what you do, for providing such an awesome selection of seeds, for your outreach to garden bloggers, and thanks so much for filling my vegetable beds with such wonderful, delicious food!