Tuesday, August 27, 2013


It wouldn't be summer, especially the month of July, without daylilies in bloom in my opinion. Even though they aren't actually "lilies" (Lilium), but rather "hems" (Hemerocalis), they are charming perennials.
 Each flower opens, blooms, and finishes in a single day, thus giving them the common name daylilies. But an individual plant can have lots of blooms and keep putting new ones up for a long period of time. Some blooms, as you can see in the photo above, have a colored "eye" and they often have delightful names (I think this one is called Strawberry Candy.)

 There are lots of folks all over the country who get impassioned about breeding daylilies, and so there are plenty to chose from. Also, a big mature plant can be easily divided, so gardeners can share as well. I got quite a few like that myself.

 The color range is pretty amazing. There are some that are almost pure white, many shades of yellow, apricot, salmon, orange, and red. And then there are purples, lavenders, plums, and many shades of pink, not to mention bicolors and combinations.

 The flower shape differs quite a bit too. Really pointy petals are called spiders, and some have ruffled edges called piecrust.

 They like full sun, as do most heavily flowering perennials. But they are easy and tolerant plants, not requiring much extra pampering. These along the south sidewalk are in too much shade to be ideal, so they flop over but still bloom.

 Some daylilies are quite fragrant while others seem to have no scent at all. This yellow one is lemony.

 This photo above shows some undeveloped buds in the background. They get quite big just before opening into the bloom itself.
 Here's a nice apricot/salmon color. Off to the right, you can see the finished bloom from the day before. I usually try to remove those. It looks nicer that way and it prevents unnecessary effort for the plant to make seed. They don't usually reseed, however. So you need to start with plants.

 The yellow "throat" makes a nice contrast with this rose/lavender one.
 Some of my favorites are the "eye zone" daylilies like this one.
Bright, cheerful, and undemanding, daylilies also tend to help with weed problems because their foliage spreads out and shades the ground underneath them. The daylily is a good perennial for beginner and longtime gardeners alike and one of the joys of July.

Well, it's almost the end of August right now and the we're suffering another heat wave and drought here. The garden is looking very tired and stressed, so I'm not sure if the next blog will include new garden photos or some other topic altogether. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer Perennials Abound

Lots was happening in May, June, and early July in the garden in terms of summer perennials of all sorts.

We have two honeysuckle vines here. The one shown above is called Dropmore Scarlet. It's a beauty and sometimes attracts hummingbirds.

The Buddleia or Butterfly Bush is a wonderful plant. They don't really start to grow until the summer is already underway, but then the blooms come on and are great and last well into the autumn. In the spring, the woody stems need to be cut back to about eight inches. We have this dark lovely one called Black Knight and a white one and a rose-red one and a dwarf blue one.
This is Incrediball ... and it is amazing. It's a hydrangea of the so-called snowball type, but I wouldn't want to face an icy snowball of this size, believe me! It has bloomed all summer long with huge flowers galore. Even the heatwave at the end of July didn't stop the blooming (maybe the flowers were slightly smaller then). The blossoms age to a pale green. Very charming.

The Asiatic lilies are a nice bunch. They are much easier to grow than species lilies and are short, three feet or so, compared to the tall trumpet lilies that need staking. They aren't fragrant for the most part (thus the horticulturalists are working on hybrids between them and the Easter lily), but they are upward facing, quite hardy, and come in a wide range of lovely colors. It's a big bulb and it needs to be planted deep, but they will return year after year.

Although it doesn't look especially small here, this is a mini-rose in the raised scree bed. The minis are what is called "own root" roses, that have not been grafted. As a result, they survive the winters much better than hybrid teas for example. The good drainage in the scree beds has also probably helped them survive heat and wetness.
This big beautiful pink hydrangea in Invincibelle Spirit. It's in the same bed with Incrediball and they make a great pair!

Here's a tall trumpet lily leaning over the east fence. The pollen is very orange, so when you smell their sweet scent, try to keep your nose clean.
I think I started these from seed originally and they have reseeded and show up here and there in this bed ever since. They are rose campion, Lychnis coronaria, and their intense color is not exaggerated at all in the photo. They light up the garden. The foliage is a dusky whitish grey and somewhat hairy. They get a little leggy and reseed, but I wouldn't be without them.
Penny Mac, a long-flowering and very reliable hydrangea of the "mophead" sort. It's short and very well behaved.
The orange-red here is an Achillea. The white is cupid's dart, and the foliage is from the German iris that has finished blooming.
Garden phlox are a mainstay in summer. The paniculata kind are usually pretty tall, but this cutie is a dwarf only about a foot high. But what color!
The black and blue salvia from Brazil isn't reliably hardy, although my friend Frank has one near a shed that lives over each year. Hummingbirds love them, and the blue and black combination is so striking. So I plant one each year like an annual, hoping it will live over.
Tradescantia or spider lilies aren't really lilies at all, but they are charming. They tolerate a fair amount of shade, heat, and drought and are quite undemanding. We have a dark blue one as well as the one shown above and one with chartreuse foliage.

The red bee balm, Monarda Jacob Cline, was stupendous this year. It has spread all along the area on the north on the outside of the east cyclone fence. It bloomed a long time and stayed very very red the whole time. It's actually in the mint family, so has square stems.
 Here's another Achillea, sometimes called yarrow. This is so bright and cheerful and blooms a long time. Achilleas are very tolerant of drought and heat, thank goodness.
 The Geum don't have very big flowers, but the color is intense and the foliage is attractive as well.
 I can't praise the double Knockout rose enough! I love it!
 This lacecap hydrangea is called Blue Billow, but it isn't very blue this year. The color depends on the soil chemistry and the weather.
 The oakleaf hydrangea has turned out to be a wonderful and very easy shrub. It had tons of blooms this year and they lasted a long time.
 Moving in closer to show the cone shape of the trusses.
 And a big close up. As they age, the flowers take on pink hues and finally, in the fall, a rusty reddish color. Beautiful!
One of the few David Austin English roses that has survived and enjoyed the wet cool spring this year. These are crosses of the hybrid tea roses and old venerable shrub roses.

Next time: the perennials movie stars of July, the daylilies.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Container Annuals in Our Garden

Well, we have survived a "week from Hell": my husband was in the hospital three days with severe bronchitis, released a bit too early (to free up a bed). Then I, the sole caregiver, came down with the bronchitis just when he came home and needed extra care! I'm much better today and he is slowly getting stronger.

But now I am finally ready to continue the gardening blogs, this time with some photos and comments about the annuals I grew in containers this spring/summer.

I love having bright annuals all summer and into the fall to complement the shrubs, vines, ferns, and perennials. I have a mix of containers, maybe 50 or so, ranging from large styrofoam/fiberglass planters to rectangular terra cottas, and various small pots as well.

This year I planted the containers in the first week of May, about two weeks later than usual. The timing depends on several factors:  the weather on the day (and week ahead) of the planting, my energy, health, and time available to do it, and the availability of the plants from local nurseries. I usually do the sunny plants first because the shady coleus and impatiens are less tolerant of unexpected last frosts.

In the beginning, the pots aren't all that full, by design, to leave room for spreading later. Five plants are fine for a big pot (maybe 24-inch diameter), four for smaller, and even just one plant for a terra cotta pot of coleus, for example.

On the east side, I have pots on both sides of the front walk. So I mix different heights, colors, and types of annuals in each pot but match up the same ones on both sides for a nice symmetric look but tons of color.

There's not a lot of space between some of these pots because I'm greedy for lots of annuals, but once the annuals get growing there is no space at all ... they overlap each other, especially the trailing ones like petunias and calibrachoas.

In the north yard where it is shady, I usually use wax begonias, impatiens, or coleus.

I used to plant hanging baskets with annuals, but they never have time to fill out as nicely as the ones you buy that have been planted early in greenhouses. This double bicolor impatiens is great and I can see it from the kitchen window over the sink.

This was my first year to find and try so-called Rieger or Rhine begonias. This one has bloomed constantly and brilliantly since the first of May and is still gorgeous. I hear that the trick is not too much water.

The smaller wax begonias are good in shade in these old terra cotta pots. Because the pots are small and dry out fast, I keep them under the bird bath for easy watering.

We had quite a few of these whiskey half barrels of wood when we set up this garden 17 years ago, but only one is left. They last pretty well, but eventually they rot out. I know the pansies always give out once the Midwestern heat begins, but I can't resist their sweetness. I replaced later with wax begonias in this shady spot on the west side.

The only tuberous begonia I've had luck with in the past is the so-called non-stop begonia. It did stop this year when we had a very hot week at the end of July, but was quite pretty before that and is still going so it may bloom again in the fall when it gets its second wind, so to speak.

Here's a shot showing the front walk earlier this summer. It's more full now but starting to look a little "fatigued."
This isn't an annual but rather a houseplant from South Africa called Clivia. I put out the houseplants on a table in the shady north in late May until late October each year so they can enjoy some fresh air and rain and I have a break from watering. This plant loves to be pot bound and blooms every summer without fail.

In the shady north I used a nice combination of orange wax begonias and white and orange bicolor impatiens.

Here impatiens and coleus team up for some brightness in the shade.
I love the color of this coleus and had to have a pot with it by itself too!
The Martha Washington geraniums are a different sort than the common annual geraniums (actually pelargoniums from South Africa) or the perennial cranesbill geraniums. I have tried them before and lost them to heat. This year being wet and with cool nights, I was lucky. They have the lovely foliage and the most beautiful colors in the blossoms.
I found three different Marthas this year and all have done well.
This bicolor petunia was great ... bright and spreading like crazy.
I also love the petunias with deep colored centers like this one.
The calibrachoas are like small petunias. Very nice and bright. This one is called Lemon Slice.
These three different colored petunias were actually planted in different pots, but all have spread and overlapped the boundaries.

This Cherry Bells calibrachoa is a nice new one for me.
Here's the common annual geranium with white lobelia for good contrast.
The annual vincas are lovely and can take the heat and drought quite well. This year I discovered the salmon colored ones as well as white, pink, and rose red.

The best know annual salvia is the red one, St. John's Fire, but the blue Victoria is also very good. It grows more slowly and blooms later, but it is hard to find good blues in annuals and this one fills the bill.

Of course, I have to have the red salvia too and it sometimes reseeds itself in the pot.
They keep filling out more and more throughout June and July.

Here's another new coleus that has grown fast and been delightful.
The white flowers here are angelonias. They give a bit of height to contrast with the spreading petunias and calibrachoas. They come in purple and lavender too, but the white is nice to bring out the bright colors of the other annuals in the same pot.

Behind this mix of reds and whites in pots is the Penny Mac, a very reliable pink hydrangea.

Next time: more perennials!