Thursday, July 30, 2009

New plants this season

I have to turn the dreaded word verification back on, much as I hate to do it. Someone is determined to advertise in my comment space and we can't have that kind of thing. Nobody at this site is interested in his hobby! I hope it won't be for long and ask that you put up with the inconvenience for a brief time.

This season I added a few plants I've never grown before. It's always fun to try something new and hope they do well in my garden.

Since I have a spot of very heavy clay in one small area, I decided to move the Morning Light miscanthus which was struggling and replace it with two eupatoriums, Phantom and Chocolate. Neither of these is drought tolerant which goes against the prime directive, but they may do well enough in this moisture retaining clay. Phantom has grown very well and is beginning to bloom. Chocolate has nice dark foliage that will make a good contrast even when not blooming.

Stokesia, Peachie's Pick, was an impulse purchase. My garden needed more late blooming perennials and this one is drought tolerant. Pretty colored blooms and a very neat habit. It's a big advantage when I can buy a plant already in bloom. No discovering later it was mislabeled or just not the color I had hoped for.

My daylilies from Gilbert Wild arrived right on schedule. Nice large roots. They always include a free one too. Thought I'd have to wait until next summer to see the first blooms but one promptly sent up a bloom scape the minute it was in the ground so I may get a preview. I considered cutting back the scape to conserve the plant's energy but decided it wouldn't matter much in the long run so I'm going to let it bloom. These are the only plants in this group that are not loved by butterflies and bees.

Boltonia Jim Crockett is a pretty, pale blue shade and not nearly as large as the common boltonia. Another plant to give me some late season color. The two I purchased are blooming now a little ahead of schedule. The flowers are bluer than they appear in this full sun photo.

I love goldenrods but the beautiful plants growing wild in the fields and roadsides are a little too rambunctious for the perennial border. I bought Firecracker at a plant sale this spring. It is the tallest and will bloom later in August and September. Found a second smaller cultivar, Golden Fleece, in early summer and yet another, Baby Gold on sale just a week ago. The photo is of Baby Gold. I like it so well, if I had room I'd add a couple more.

Here's an example of buying a plant not in bloom and then wondering what it is. This achellia was labeled Terra Cotta but I don't think so, too pink. What ever it is, I like it. The blooms fade as they age and make an interesting variety of color. Next year maybe I'll stumble across Terra Cotta and try again.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Energizer Bunny Award

This year my Energizer Bunny Award for the hardest working, longest blooming, most carefree plants in the garden goes to the following. All were chosen for drought tolerance, excellent health, and long bloom time.

Agastache Blue Fortune. It begins blooming in mid July and will continue through the fall. A favorite of bees and smaller butterflies.

In the past I've had some disease problems with coneflowers but not this year. I should have cut these plants back by about half in early June. That would have prevented the tendency to bend that they have in very wet years. Never the less, the coneflowers are doing exceptionally well this summer and deserve the award. They also attract bees and butterflies which is a big plus.

Coreopsis Moonbeam sometimes tends to take a back seat to the showier bloomers but it's value comes as a filler covering the ankles of taller plants. Some of the coreopsis are brighter yellow but I like the muted, buttery shade of Moonbeam.

Daylilies, every imaginable color and shape. They provide a huge return in blooms for the small investment in space they require. Night Embers below has a pretty white edging around its double petals. A dull red in full sunshine it looks much darker in the shade or on cloudy days.

In my garden, hardy Geranium Rozanne serves the same purpose as coreopsis Moonbeam. It looks nice around the feet of taller plants and provides constant color. She also works well planted with spring blooming bulbs.

Rudbeckia deserves its popularity. It looks great in small clumps with other plants and in huge drifts by itself. It has the informal charm of the sunflower with a much longer bloom time. Attractive to some butterflies.

Gaillardia, I've read that this plant literally blooms itself to death. Usually not a long lived perennial for that very reason. Even when treated like an annual and replace every year or so it's worth the small trouble and expense. New colors and sizes are marketed frequently, so if Goblin is too bright for your taste, choose the wine red or the sunny yellow instead.

Last my favorite garden plant, phlox paniculata, Volcano garden phlox. Not a speck of diseased foliage on this long blooming plant. Twice the flower power of David with a much longer bloom period. Only two thirds as tall as David so Volcano never flops or requires staking or caging. Best of all it is a magnet for Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bugs, sweat and tears

"Mosquito is out,
it's the end of the day;
she's humming and hunting
her evening away.
Who knows why such hunger
arrives on such wings
at sundown? I guess
it's the nature of things."
- N. M. Boedecker,
Midsummer Night Itch

This post comes with a warning. Do not read while eating. The photos below could cause serious digestive problems.

I hate bugs that eat me and my plants. The tipping point has almost come. The weeds can grow tall, and the Japanese beetles can get fat, I'm sealing myself inside away from the biting bugs. I can't stand to douse myself down with oily, stinky bug spray one more time. Earlier in the spring it was the gnats, swarms of them everywhere. You couldn't speak without swallowing several. Now its the mosquitoes, and they are especially blood thirsty this summer. This weak and listless feeling must be because I'm low on blood;)

It seems the Japanese beetles are expanding their menu every year. At first it was just the roses and the grapes. Then they discovered the coneflowers and the red clover that the Monarch butterflies depend upon. Today I see them devouring a clematis.



Roses are of course the special favorites of the beetles. This is why I have a short rose season. On July 1 the hordes arrive and the roses are cut back to make sure they don't bloom. Not until mid September will these unwanted guests be gone and I can enjoy a few late blooming roses before the October freezes.

Here comes the tears part--well, maybe not tears just disappointments. Below is Moses' Fire. Last year was the first year it bloomed after planting the summer of 2007. I was very disappointed in it then and am not much happier with it now. The red seems muddy and too orangey, not bright, clear orange but dull, drab orange. It might improve if I could just find the perfect companion bloom that would compliment the color. I'm partial to lots of petals and ruffles and it does fit that criteria. No such thing as too frilly in my garden.

Still more tears;) These tomatoes have been sitting here with big green fruit forever. They should have been ripening weeks ago. There must be some kind of color deficiency in the soil that is preventing them from turning red. Or maybe it's the sunflower-- that might be inhibiting the ripening process;) I do have a few tiny Super Sweet Hundreds that are ripe and I've been making the most of them, but they just aren't the same as a huge, juicy Kellog's Breakfast or Black Krim. I'm hanging on to my fried green tomatoe recipes.

Mr McGregors Daughter invited us all to review our annuals and comment on the best and worst of 2009.

Cosmos were a success but not the ones I sowed myself. Tina of In the Garden was kind enough to share cosmos and nigella seeds. The cosmos did not survive long enough to be transplanted outside (sorry Tina). The nigella is growing but not blooming. Anyway back to the cosmos. I was determined to have cosmos after seeing them in everyone else's gardens and blogs so I took myself off to my local greenhouse and bought several flats. I won't be without them again no matter what I need to do to get them growing. Keep them deadheaded, the plants I neglected did not continue to bloom.

California Poppy--pretty but the blooms are small, few and far between. This probably isn't a good year to judge these poppies since it has been unusually cold and wet. If they selfseed, I may have a better idea next year. These plants are meant to grow in the heat and drought of California.

Victoria Blue Salvia, how well this does in the northern garden is proportional to how large the plant was when set out. Three of the plants I bought were over a foot tall when I got them. The smaller pants are very slow to establish and bloom. Again, this may not have been the best year to judge a plant that loves heat, sun and dry conditions.

Salvia Lady in Red, not showy enough to warrant planting here and truthfully, not showy enough to warrant a photo. I thought it would attract butterflies or hummers but other plants including perennial salvias and agastaches have proven much more attractive to insects and hummers than Lady in Red.

I always plant a few nicotiana in hopes of luring some sphinx/hawk moths to the garden. This is the low growing variety that comes in reds, pinks and whites. It always performs well and provides late season color in shadey spots but has no fragrance. Next year I want to try the tall white nicotiana .

Old faithfuls that add much needed purple and silver and never fail. I wouldn't be without these fillers stuck anywhere a patch of soil can be seen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The telephone rings, It's the call of the wild

A brief departure from the usual topics of gardening and wildlife. Went to a concert the other night-- my all time favorite band, Mark Miller with the group Sawyer Brown. I've seen them perform dozens of time over the last 20-something years and always had a fantastic time. This was an outdoor concert and the lightening was difficult so regretfully, I didn't get any really good photos.

Betty’s out being bad tonight
Betty and her boyfriend had a big fight

Well I ain't first class
But I ain't white trash.
I'm wild and a little crazy too.
Some Girls don't like boys like me
Aww, but some girls do.


Monica, at Garden Faerie's Musings, had a good idea when she originated her Mish-Mash Monday posts. That's what I have today, a collection of unrelated thoughts and photos.

First of all a view from my back yard. Everything is lush and vivid green. The rain and record breaking cool temperatures have affected our corn crops. Many farmers were a month late getting their corn planted. Driving to Monroe Center last week I noticed several large fields that never did get planted, some still have standing water. On the other hand, we are growing a world class crop of mosquitoes. I'm buying enough Off spray to keep our economy healthy;)

Erigeron or Fleabane hitchhiked in on a plant purchased at a plant sale. I know nothing about these--have never grown them, but there are some species plants in the fields around the farm. It seems like it would be a nice little filler plant if it doesn't surprise me by doing something completely obnoxious;) Anybody who has grown it, please let me know if I should leave it in the garden or rip it out. The airy little white blooms are kind of pretty, like a early blooming aster.

One of my hybrid tea roses, Heirloom. This rose is the prettiest lavender color and smells nice too. Like the corn, my roses got off to a late start this spring so their season was very sort. Thursday I'll post an explanation of why everblooming roses have a 'short season' here.

Along the drive this bed is seriously neglected. The Tall Bearded Iris, purple coneflower and Siberian Iris are overrunning it and needed to be divided and moved last spring. My number one priority this fall or next spring is to thin these beds and introduce a little more variety.

The lovely Tiffany, many people will tell you this is one of the very best roses for fragrance. It's an older hybrid tea like Heirloom. For me scent is important. Isn't it just natural to see a lovely bloom and bury your face, feeling the silken texture and inhaling that warm, sweet smell? By the way, all the rose photos you see on my blog were taken prior to July 1.

Exquisite Peace with it's wonderful story of war and peace. This rose is loved by most everyone, including me. The blending of pastel colors and the sweet fragrance make it a must have for rose lovers.

Will be back Thursday with another post. Meanwhile, I'll be visiting my blogging friends for updates on what's going on in your gardens;)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A flower's appeal is in its contradictions

... so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect. ~Adabella Radici

(Cherry red and very tall)

Plant of the month. Thank you Tina at In the Garden for suggesting this topic. Usually it would be impossible for me to choose only one plant for an entire month. Not so this year. The daylilies are really outdoing themselves in this unusually wet July. I may regret this choice in a week. My volcano phlox is about to bloom and I can't say enough good things about this phlox. Toward the end of July another phlox, David, should be covered in snowy blooms. If at the end of July you see another plant or two spotlighted as the plant of the month, don't be surprised--I'm fickle;)

(One of my favorites this deep wine colored small plant.)

June has fled, but this year the weather remains relatively cool and wet. Record rainfalls recorded for the month of June and we experienced a record low temperature on July 7 when the thermometer stalled in the mid sixties. Unusual weather for a prairie state but beloved by almost every plant in my garden.

Many years ago I ordered a 'collection' of daylilies from Gilbert Wild. It contained about 15 varieties, pinks, peachy blends, purples, yellows, deep burgundies and cherry reds. Over the years they have been moved around and divided and their names are lost in the mists and the mud and the winter snows. These are all older varieties that don't rebloom. Even so, for a few weeks in July they take center stage.

(Kwanso with its triple tiered bloom)

Occasionally I'll give away daylily plant or division. Usually I just dig up another patch of grass and plant the surplus daylilies that have become too crowded. They are much less trouble to tend than grass, they have no serious pests or disease here. Breaking off the hundreds of spent blooms is the extent of the care they require.

The daylily season really starts in June with golden Stella outshining the summer sun and continuing well into July. Siloam Double Classic follows in mid June and it too blooms on into July.

(Siloam Double Classic)

(Prairie Blue Eyes)

In the last five years, I've begun to lust after the newer doubles and pie curst edged types, all rebloomers. First I added Siloam Double Classic, which is a fantastic bloomer. Night Embers and Moses' Fire came three years ago. The last two are red doubles and disappointing in my garden. Neither has a high bud count and the flower color is muddy on both.

I just placed my 2009 order with Wild for three new plants:

An almost white
single, Joan Senior,

(Gilbert Wild photos)

a bright yellow
double, Siloam Peony Display,

and Sabine Baur, a gorgeous peachy cream with a deep purple eye and heavy purple pie crust edging. Isn't she pretty. (Gilbert H. Wild Photos)

I'll have to wait until next July to see these bloom in my garden.

Last and certainly least, is my very own daylily born and bred on my farm. I'm not a daylily hybridizer, never even thought about trying to create a new variety. This was just one of those things that happen in the garden. In the midst of my Kwanza patch, where no hybrid daylily has ever been planted--up popped a creamy white single bloom (similar to Joan Senior which I ordered last week and never grew before). This has to be a daylily that started here from seed and wasn't noticed until it bloomed. So, since it's my very own, original daylily I'm going to name it Plain Jane;)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The countless wings that from the infinite Make such a noiseless tumult over it... ~ Robert Frost

I stepped into a patch of purple milkweed (Asclepius purpurescens) to get a few pictures and then stood absolutely still as its wonderful fragrance rose up around me. It must have been a trick of the weather, just the right humidity and temperature, but it seemed the entire field was fragrant with the sweet smell.

These plants can grow as tall as six feet but seldom reach that height. Along the roadsides and in fields, mowers at some point always cut them back. The one above in my pasture is about four feet tall now.

I've decided to grow a few of these in my gravel garden. I wouldn't recommend anyone turn them loose near a group of perennials. They have a very long taproot and also spread by horizontal roots which could cause a problem if they aren't isolated. On the other hand, friends of mine grow them in a butterfly garden with mixed perennials and annuals and they remain quite polite and get along well with their neighbors. They would certainly work well in a bed with mostly annuals.

The flowers are really lovely and did I mention the fragrance, sweet, intense, maybe a hint of honeysuckle and vanilla.

On my farm, the pasture and hedgerows have many milkweed plants but in urban areas where there are few, growing a couple plants in your yard will likely bring you monarch butterflies. Milkweed (there are over a hundred native species) are the only plant the monarch lays its eggs on. You may well find yourself the host of monarch caterpillars (which will eat the leaves of the plant but not kill it). Bees, butterflies and approximately 400 species of insects use the common milkweed as a food source, so planting a few should make your yard a very popular dining area.

I've read that dead heading the blooms before they set seed will cause the plant to produce more flowers, perhaps as many as three flushes in a season.

I'll direct sow seed this fall where I want the plants to grow. With the long taproot, milkweed resents being moved. The seed needs a period of cold weather before it sprouts so planting in the fall will work very well, otherwise I'd have to put the seed in the freezer for a couple months. I have an excellent, sunny location where the plants can grow and be enjoyed, but they can't get tangled with the perennials.

From somewhere
a froth of seeds drifted by touched
with gold in the last light
of a lost day, going with
the wind as they always did.
~ Philip Levine's poem Milkweed

Asclepius tuberosa (above) is another form of milkweed and one that grows well with other perennials. It requires well drained soil and full sun but does not spread beyond a tight clump. It grew very easily from the seeds I purchased and started indoors. Some I transplanted near a patch of yellow daylilies and others went near some nepeta. I've read that the tuberosa is the variety preferred by butterflies. I've also read that it is short lived but self seeds if allowed.