Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June Blooms - Gaura lindheimeri, Love-in-a-Mist, Penstemon digitalis "Husker's Red", Zinnia and Sunflower

One of my goals when I first started planning my garden was to have a long bloom season.

There are plenty of plants out there (ahem, looking at you Azalea and Redbud) that have a week or two of bloom and then are unremarkable or worse (looking at you again, Azalea, with your dried flowers still stuck all over you) for the rest of the season.

By contrast, I like plants that:

a) Bloom for a long time


b) Are self-cleaning. That means you don't have to deadhead them because the petals or the entire flower falls off after the bloom is done.

Anyway, here are some of the plants blooming now:

Remember how I was worried a few months ago that my Gaura lindheimeri were dead? Um, they weren't. Those of you who reassured me that the Gaura would bounce back were 100% correct. Two of the three are bigger than ever this year (and the other one is doing just fine too).  Gaura has been covered with flowers now for a couple of weeks. Self-cleaning flowers that drop off and (presumably) add nutrients back into the soil.

Here's a wide shot of two of the Gaura lindheimeri "Siskiyou Pink" plants. This year I have looked closely and noticed lots of bees visiting the flowers. Not bumble bees (at least not so far) or even honey bees, but tiny native bees and/or wasps and/or hoverflies. And since the gaura attract aphids (found this out the hard way when I tried to see if Gaura would make a good cut flower - it doesn't), they also attract ladybugs that eat the aphids. Actually, the microscopic hoverfly larvae also eat aphids. As you can see, the aphids don't slow down the gaura or keep it from blooming. Some folks reportedly even plant Gaura specifically to serve as a trap crop and lure the aphids away from other plants.

I don't have much of a veggie garden this year. Long story. But I did have this one self-sown lettuce growing in a patch of buffalograss. I pulled some other lettuce from the patch and ate it, but I'm letting this one go to seed. I'd guess this lettuce is about 3-feet tall now. Didn't fertilize it at all. The buds at the top have not quite opened yet, but I imagine they will open soon.
Remember a few months ago when I asked whether folks thought all the tiny seedlings in the garden beds were self-sown Love-in-a-Mist from last year? It turns out they were! The plants got MUCH taller this year. Last year they were about 6-inches tall at most. This year, I'd guess that some of them are around 2-feet tall. And they're absolutely covered in blooms. Beautiful blue blooms. Well, actually blooms that start off bluish-white, then change to light blue, then dark blue and finally to the alien-looking purple-striped seed pod you can see here.

LOTS of seed pods. Which I'm guessing will mean lots more Love-in-a-Mist next year! Incidentally, Love-in-a-Mist's Latin name is Nigella damascena. There's another species of Nigella - Nigella sativa - that is supposed to produce edible flavorful seeds used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, but I don't know whether or not the Love-in-a-Mist seeds are edible and/or tasty.

Here's a wider shot of Love-in-a-Mist. As you can see, it's attractive from any angle. It's feathery foliage does not shade out other plants, and it seems pretty easy to pull if you find it growing someplace where you don't want it. I've also looked more closely this year and found that - like the Gaura - Love-in-a-Mist also seems to attract lots of little beneficial insects (bees, wasps, hoverflies, etc.)

Here's a new plant that I added to the garden this spring (purchased at Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek) - Penstemon digitalis "Husker's Red". As you can see, the plant is covered with flowers right now. These flowers are supposed to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, but sadly I have not seen any on the flowers yet. Perhaps I'd need more plants to grab their attention?

Here's a close-up on the Penstemon flowerstalk. The stalk looks delicate, but it's really quite tough and wiry. We had intense winds rip through yesterday. They knocked over some stalks on coneflower and Phlox paniculata, but they didn't even bend the Penstemon. This plant is supposed to self-sow prolifically. Sounds good to me! In fact, one of the reasons I got the red-stemmed Penstemon is so that hopefully I can identify seedlings instead of mistaking them for weeds and pulling them. (Since most weeds have green stems, at least around here.)

Finally, here are a couple of plants that aren't quite blooming, but almost. And anyway, I think Zinnia buds are beautiful in their own way, like tightly-packed jewels. 

And here's a strong, bushy sunflower too! Can't wait to see its bright and cheerful blooms!