Monday, August 5, 2013

All Summer Long -- The Flower Parade Continues into August

Zinnia elegans, just one of a wide variety of self-sown volunteer zinnias in my garden in a dazzling variety of colors and shapes. Gardening books suggest deadheading zinnias for more blooms, but I rarely deadhead mine (since the goldfinches like to eat the seeds) and I still tend to get blooms for months! Zinnias are heat-tolerant and somewhat drought-tolerant, in my experience.

The foliage on one of the aquilegia plants was looking very tired, so I cut it all the way back down to the ground. From my experience in prior years, fresh new foliage -- seen here -- will soon emerge and make the plant look good as new. 

One of the two Black Chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa) that I planted in spring 2012. This one is doing great, has probably tripled in size so far this year and is still pushing new growth. It gets morning sun and afternoon shade.

This is the other Aronia melanocarpa, also doing pretty well. It's bushier with more suckers pushing up, but it has not grown as tall. And if you look closely, you'll notice light dots on many of the upper leaves. I believe those are injuries caused by lace bugs. I typically don't spray any of my plants and this is no exception (although I did wash off the undersides of some of the worst affected leaves with a garden hose). I want to see if the Aronia can fight off the lace bugs -- hopefully with the assistance of some beneficial insects drawn in by the pests themselves and flowers like Sweet Alyssum that I've planted nearby. From what I've read, lace bugs don't usually cause the plant any severe damage, so I'm hopefully the Aronia will survive this indignity and emerge even stronger next year. 

Yes, like every other homeowner south of the Mason-Dixon, I have several crape myrtles. My favorites are the ones with white flowers like Natchez. I tend to find most of the other colors a bit too jarring and garish in the landscape. Plus in my experience, the white-flowered ones seem to attract the most bees! Anyway, like several of the other crape cultivars, Natchez has gorgeous exfoliating bark. I love both the older grey bark that's sloughing off and the ultra-smooth glowing new brown bark underneath.
Close up on Natchez Crape Myrtle blossoms

Cucumber-leaf sunflower (grown from seed), blooming its heart out for weeks and weeks!

OK, it can't all be pretty. This is/was a Salvia nemorosa (either May Night or Blue Hill...I planted them next to each other and never could remember which was which). Both plants bloomed too early to attract many bees. I trimmed them back as suggested to stimulate a rebloom. Instead, I seem to have stimulated their early demise.'s the other Salvia nemorosa. It's not totally dead yet. Just mostly dead.

Sunflower, taller than me (ergo taller than 6-feet)

Gaillardia pulchella "Arizona Apricot", attracts small bees, keeps blooming for months even without deadheading, even the spent flowerheads are attractive fuzzy balls. Technically perennial to zone 3, but it is not supposed to do well on heavy soils (like our clay), so I'm not counting on it to come back next year. But it is supposed to self sow, so hopefully I'll have some gaillardia regardless. And just in case, I'll probably try growing some from seed too. (This one was grown from a transplanted seedling purchased I believe at the Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee plant sale.)

Not too many flowers here, but the foliage of this perennial geranium (x cantabrigiense "Biokovo") is looking great with barely any supplemental water all year in its first year in the ground.
Rozanne perennial geraniums are having their Best Year Ever. There are three Rozanne plants all mixed and rambling together. They too flower for weeks and weeks, especially when given afternoon shade. You can see that the plant is even pumping out fresh new (lighter green) foliage in August!

Yet another perennial geranium - Geranium sanguineum "New Hampshire". This one is throwing off a few flowers and lots of fresh green foliage. Beautiful!
Love the sky blue flowers on the Hardy Blue Plumbago (HBP). But why is it turning red so early in the year? That can't be a good sign... This one is in the sun and it's looking reddest (also doesn't seem to have grown at all from last year), but one of the two HBPs in partial shade is also reddening a bit. Hmmmm.... Has anyone else experienced this?

Lovely lemony flowers on the perennial sunflower Helianthus microcephalus (Small-headed Sunflower), "Lemon Queen" variety purchased just this spring at Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek. As with many of my other Gardens in the Wood purchases, this one has done great. This healthy, bushy plant is probably between 4-5 feet tall now. There are about a dozen flowers already open and many more buds. I'm guessing that within a week or two, this plant be covered with dozens of flowers. The bees and other beneficial insects are already happily visiting the flowers. I imagine the whole plant will be buzzing with activity very soon!

Don't be too grossed out, but what you're looking at here is a stem of the Lemon Queen perennial sunflower pictured above. You're probably wondering what the heck is that white foam at the stem junction? I was wondering too, so I looked it up and near as I can tell, it's probably the excretions of an insect called (for obvious reason) the Spittlebug or Froghopper. The insect sucks some sap from the plant and uses some of that sap to produce the foam to camouflage itself and protect it from predators. What do you think? Gross? Amazing? Clever? All of the above? Anyway, apparently spittlebugs usually don't hurt the plants on which they feed, so I've opted to pursue my usual policy of benign neglect, although I did use a hose to wash off some of the spittle one time to give predatory insects or birds a chance to do their thing.

Another sunflower? Not quite. This is a False Sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides "Summer Sun" variety. Like many of the other flowers featured here, Heliopsis has been blooming for many weeks. Amazingly, the one slightly faded flower in the bottom left of the photo was the very first flower that opened and it's still looking pretty good! I haven't seen the Heliopsis attract as many bees or butterflies as the true sunflowers, but perhaps it's just getting overlooked right now? Although gardening guides say the plant can get up to 5-feet tall, it's probably only around 12-inches at the moment. It is a native perennial (hardy to zone 3), so perhaps it will get bigger next year? I think some Garden of Aaron readers have commented that Heliopsis self sows readily, so perhaps the bees will take more notice next year if I have a whole patch of Heliopsis plants for them to visit...

This is New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis). The foliage looks nice and I love the purple color of the flowers, but I have to admit I've been a little disappointed so far. The flowers are small, they don't seem to last that long, the spent flowers are not particularly attractive and worst of all, I don't think I've seen any bees or butterflies visiting the Ironweed yet. I've no intention of pulling the plant, but I am a little bummed that it has not attracted more pollinators yet. Again, as with the Heliopsis, maybe the problem is that I only planted a single Ironweed?

Similar issue here with the dwarf Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium dubium "Baby Joe"). I recently saw my first small bee on this plant, but I have not seen a single butterfly visit it yet, despite the fact that it is advertised as a butterfly magnet. I do have to admit that both the foliage and the pink flowerheads are very pretty though.

Another sunflower (Helianthus annus) bloom. I've got a lot of them in a variety of sizes and shapes. That's what happens when you plant a variety pack of sunflower seeds!
The older foliage on the Vitex agnus-castus is still looking great, but I'm excited to see the plant is having a flush of beautiful light green foliage. For some reason, I find these new leaves incredibly cute. I'm hoping the new leaves means that a second flush of flowers might be on the way. The bees - especially the bumble bees - went nuts over the earlier Vitex blooms, so I'm sure they'd appreciate a second round! 

Speaking of those earlier Vitex blooms, you can see the spent flowerheads here with their seeds forming. And camouflaged among the seeds is quite an interesting insect. Does anyone know what this? I imagine that it's predatory and is hiding among the seedheads waiting for an unsuspecting prey insect to alight?

Here's a mixed patch of Cosmos and Zinnias. As you can see, I love the casual and informal look of different colors all mixing cheerfully together.  

Let's finish up with the irrepressible purple coneflowers. Some of the petals are looking tattered, but these plants have been blooming for months, giving joy to countless bumblebees like the one on the right side of this photo. If you want to find a bumblee in my garden on a hot summer day, the best place to look would be on a sunflower or a coneflower.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour. I'll try to do another photo safari through the garden toward the end of September. Will the garden still be filled with flowers in another 6-8 weeks? Or will pathogens and pests get the upper hand? (Right after I took some of these photos, I noticed that powdery mildew is starting to run rampant through the zinnias.) 

Tune in next time - Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel :)