Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer (not so) dolrums

There was a time when July and August seemed interminable and dull. Not at the botanic gardens where I work (where summer has always been high season) but in my various home gardens. If I only grew a few more annuals, daylilies or giant phlox, perhaps things would be different. But alpines just seem to want to bloom in April and May (with some notable exceptions) and fall is a second spring. This, at least, has been my conventional wisdom...but suddenly I've noticed that summer isn't quite so bad. There are all those plants from monsoonal climates (the American Southwest, the Himalayas and South Africa) and lots of other anomalies that wait till the hot season to bloom. Once you pack enough of these among your spring and autumn blooming minions, the summer can be quite colorful. The colors may be neoclassical, but the Origanums blazing in my rock garden are primo: in fact, the whole garden is amazingly trim and attractive right now...

I should have placed the Platycodon grandiflorus 'Astra Blue' a tad closer to the Helichrysum plicatum: who thought they would bloom at the same moment? Both are stellar plants that would shine in any month...

I am amazed how many cacti bloom mindsummer: this morsel I got from Harlan Hamernik at Bluebird is one of the best: Escobaria sulcata (or is it Coryphantha now again?) is near the top of my list of favorites...although it does look like a greener, less spiny E. echinus....How could a plant frome east central Texas be so tough? Mammillaria wrightii was blooming a day earlier a short distance away.

Most garden visitors would hardly notice it, but this tiny Himalayan gentian is the sort of thing alpine gardeners coo over: Gentiana stipitata is one of innumerable treasures I've gotten from Beaver Creek Nursery, that purveyor of marvels...

Last year Jim Borland gave me seedlings of Campanula americana (now classed as Campanulastrum americanum in some places...not on my inventory however...). I had heard it was big...but I was not expecting 5 or more feet tall! I have known abbout this amazing plant for years, and am thrilled to finally bring it to bloom--and have it grace my midsummer garden: wait! I haven't shown you the edelweiss, or the masses of Mondarda pectinata blooming alongside the Tansy daisy, nor the sunflowers tangled with cowpen daisies and the deep maroon red orach everywhere, and reblooming larkspurs, and ten or more kinds of Salvias blazing in every color of the rainbow, and did I mention that the summer gentians are opening the first of their thousands of cobalt cups? Or Pelargonium endlicherianum (and a dozen more sorts of tender ones) and lilies everywhere... Summer doldrums? Pshaw!


  1. Summer stasis nonsense

    The summer lulling calm is about to become a roiling river of yellow. Even now there are rivulets of yellow Zinnia grandiflora, Helianthus pumilus and Heliomeris multiflora presaging the torrents of Solidago and Chrysothamnus yet to follow. Castilleja integra still trucks along in its false-petalled oranges and reds and mats of maroon bloomed Mirabilis multiflora continue to invite long-tongued hawk moths to their evening trumpet supper. Cucurbita foetidissima with its vines of silver wedges punctuated with desert plate sized golden flowers ramble over everything in their path, leaving the more nuanced vines of Callirhoe involucrata to further punctuate, but with more delicate shiny maroon baubles.

    Rain Gardens are the Jardins du jour, so let me introduce you to ‘Snow Gardens’, described as those designated areas to which winter snows are shoveled. Melt water seeps deeply and supports more mesic plants even in the driest summers. Echinacea angustifolia, E. paradoxa and Rudbeckia hirta are now in bloom where drifts of lavender Monarda fistulosa have just completed their balming influence on bees. Recent rains have helped resurrect a single Zauschneria long thought vanquished and a lone interloping Scabiosa gives new meaning to the term ‘scab’. Lord knows where what looks like Campanula medium came from. I suspect that Panayoti is committing reverse night hijackings.

    Pshaw indeed! I have yet to mention the numerous Sphaeralcea species yet to bloom, the ever remarkable Oenothera caespitosa, Eriogonum flavum, Schrankia………

  2. Love your comments, Jim. I obviously need to shimmy on over there! Have you got a blog? I will be first to sign up!

    Will see you soon,



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