Thursday, June 20, 2013

Les fleurs (the flowers)

The garden is now popping with color. The Butterfly weed, balloon flower and daylillies are stealing the scene from the rampant greenery. The humidity has eased a little but the temperature today is 96F (36C), so all my gardening activities are taking place in the evenings. There are a few more honey bees but I suspect the drought last summer and then the especially long, snowy winter might have killed off some local hives when they ran out of honey. There are only a couple of hummingbirds this year too, so no squeaks or aerial fighting at the two feeders I put out. I wonder if the late cold snap affected their migration? Global climate change doesn't just mean heat, I think it causes extremes in temperatures too.

Balloon Flower just before it pops open
Anyway back to the blooming business... Yesterday I re-fertilized the tomatoes and peppers and there is fruit setting on! I truly enjoy this season when you see your hard work come to fruition. I also have time to sit on the front porch with a wine cooler and the garden journal, making notes and plans for next year's bigger, improved garden. Gardening is a compounding hobby, it always grows!

Here's a Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) bud just before it pops and opens as a brilliant blue star. I have transplanted these around the garden in late spring, shortly after they first come up. Dig deep to get their long white, tubular roots in total.  If you grow them you know how important it is to also mark their spot with a stick or decorative rock because their late sprouting in the Spring makes it easy to forget where they live in the garden.

Ahh, the daylillies... I love them so, they have such deeply colored blooms and their foliage covers a lot of garden space. I tend to opt for the colors that are not just all yellow (like Stella d'Oro), instead favoring the richer pinks, burgundy and bronzes. A local gardener has fields of them which she sells for six dollars a trashbag full. Consequently, I do not know the names of all the varieties in my yard; this may bug folks more botanically garden oriented, but I plant clumps of the  Hemerocallis family for blasts of color only.

 As you can see the background planting of mint with the red/yellow daylilly and the Russian sage with the pinker daylilly are quite robust as well. I regularly divide and transplant my many daylillies, whenever I need a filler or to disguise a problem area in the yard. They are such low maintenance for the impact they impart to the garden.

Butterfly Weed
The Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is the only brilliant orange flowering plant I grow in the garden. My son, started these two from seed and it was a bit difficult. I started 12 more seedlings in peat this Spring with some seeds I purchased from I was in a hurry so I only refrigerated the newly planted seeds in the peat pods (I found while cleaning the basement) in a ziplock bag for three days. I watered them lightly and set them in the sun and I now have 100% germination and am looking forward to spreading these beauties around the garden. The Butterfly Weed is a native prairie plant, related to the Milkweed family and is drought tolerant. I am hoping to see a few Monarch butterflies flocking to it, but so far the yard is lacking these lovely insects. I have planted these near the yellow Yarrow (Achillea grandifolia), which has the lovely feathery gray foliage. I am smitten with gray foliage but will leave (ha ha) that topic for another post. I noticed this year, the wren, who took up residence in one of the birdhouses, stripping leaves off the Yarrow and taking them for her nest. Doing a bit of research on this curious behavior I learned that Yarrow leaves repel mites, smart bird.

The blue spikes of Speedwell (Veronica spicata) are another of the blues I like to spread throughout the garden. This variety does well in full to partial sun. It is planted beneath a red Knockout rose and when both are in bloom it is a stunning combination. I've had variable luck with this perennial. This clump has lasted for years with just occasional watering. Some of my other Speedwell plants only lasted a couple of seasons then disappeared. I have divided some plants, but they don't always thrive. I find it's easier to buy a few plants, and just plant them where you want them, then leave them alone.

Lavender is one of my all time favorites. It has the whole appeal package: gray foliage, scent and purple flowers that the bees love. I am attempting to water root a few spikes of spring growth to propagate a few more. Not that I need more, I have many plants, but I love it so! There are many types of  Lavender (Lavandula), I prefer the English and Hidecote varieties for their vigor, large fragrant foliage and prolific purple flower spikes. The ones in the front yard gardens winter over well with leaf mulch, but I have a woody monstrous sized plant in the backyard that needs no attention at all. It's so old it doesn't flower much anymore but oh the leaves smell divine!

Finally, the lone Cleome (Sparkler variety in hot pink), locally known as "Turkey snout" or spider flower. I only plant a few annuals in the garden (zinnias, marigolds & bachelor buttons mostly) and this is one of them. It spreads and is lovely for it's unusual flowers, it's leaf structure gives me a laugh too if you look closely. So I give a nod to Thomas Jefferson and his magnificent gardens by planting this near the herb bed.

I'll certainly be doing more flower filled posts. The gladiola leaves are three feet tall now and the Butterfly bushes will be blooming soon. There are also a few disappointed plants that didn't make this post but will surely show up later. Of course the raised beds with the vegetables and herbs will need some time in the spotlight too, when they start to put on the harvest.

I truly love the seasonal markers the garden provides. For me there is no more calming a place than amongst the plants in the yard. Sarah Warner Brooks definitely had it right when she titled her 1904 book, A Garden with House Attached. A lovely garden read for the front porch/ wine cooler moment. Reprints are a bit hard to find, but available at my favorite used book site found @ . I hope everyone will get a chance to enjoy some peaceful moments in a garden this summer, if not your own, then one of many public or botanical gardens available in most communities.

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