Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shots from the August Garden #2 - Cosmos, Crabapple, Wall Germander, Creeping Raspberry, Sunflowers, Geraniums, Marigolds, Lavender, Lambs Ear and Lemon Balm!

Pink cosmos flowers floating over azaleas and Ajuga genevensis

Sugar Tyme crabapple. Can't say that I'm all that excited about this plant yet. Maybe it just needs some time to settle in. On the bright side, it hasn't died in a harsh full sun setting with rotten clay soil that alternates between sodden when wet and concrete when dry. 

Some (ripening?) crabapples on the Sugar Tyme tree

When I said back in June that folks should abandon the practice of annual crape murder, one commentator asked whether my crape would flower for a long time even if it was not cut back. Well...the Natchez crapes are still flowering. They're no longer flowering quite so profusely by mid-August, but there's a steady parade of blooms and if you look closely here you can see that the flowers still draw in bumblebee visitors. (For some reason, Natchez seems to be the only crape that the bees really like, at least in my yard. Not sure if the bees prefer white crape myrtles over the other colors or maybe the others have less pollen?)

This is Teucrium chamaedrys, also known as Wall Germander. It's recommended as a low (to 18 inches tall) evergreen drought-tolerant groundcover for full sun settings. I planted three tiny starter plants this past spring and they've all thrived reasonably well. They haven't flourished and multiplied in size like the Hyssop, but they flowered nicely and all look healthy through rain and drought. Now some folks say this can take clay soil and other people say it needs well-drained soil (the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but heavy clay often stays wet longer than sand or loam). Anyway, I think this needs a year or two to settle in and really take off (sleep, leap, creep), so I'm hoping (fingers crossed) that it survives the winter and thrives next year. Just in case, I may try taking some cuttings in autumn and sticking them in the ground. It's supposed to be super easy to propagate that way. We shall see. The only plant with which I've ever had success using that method is "Autumn Joy" sedum.

This is Creeping Raspberry and one sprawling Mexican Hat plant (grown from seed). I've had sort of a love-hate relationship with the Creeping Raspberry. I liked it last year, then it died to the roots and I was mad at it (because I had expected/hoped for an evergreen groundcover). But then I was pleased at the way it bounced back stronger than ever this year. As you can see, it does a great job of covering ground and suppressing weeds, but it seems to spread in a linear and predictable fashion so I haven't freaked out about it getting out of control (at least not yet). Sadly, I didn't see any flowers at all this year. Perhaps it flowers on old wood, and since it died to the roots, it didn't have a chance to flower and fruit? As for the Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera), my overall impressions are "Meh." The small flowers, drooping petals, sprawling habit and somewhat weedy foliage don't make much of an impression on me. So why don't I rip it out? I have seen some small bees visiting the flowers. Most likely native bees. And I do want to support those. And something (finches?) has been eating the seeds too, although I've bet to catch any bird in the act.

Bee on cucumber leaf sunflower (Helianthus debilis Cucumerifolius). These sunflowers have smaller flowerheads than the traditional typical annual sunflowers (H. annuus), but the flowerheads are borne in profusion over a longer flowering period, the spent flowerheads are less conspicuous and (just like the large-headed sunflowers) they still attract bees and birds.
Here's a massive "hedge" of Cucumber Leaf Sunflowers that has taken over the front border. As you can see, they reach about 5-6 feet tall, until/unless they fall over reaching for the sun. I've got to try to stake some of the ones in front so my lawn guys can mow that grass. These sunflower have been blooming since early June - two months as of when this photo was taken. Every day, the goldfinches hop among the flowerheads eating the seeds. Oh and I didn't actually plant any Cucumber Leaf Sunflowers this year -- these are all volunteers from last year! Hooray - free flowers :-)  Oh and they're native to the Southeastern coastal U.S. (despite the fact that they're native to sandy areas, they seem to grow just fine in my lightly amended clay soil garden beds) and I believe they're even perennial in warmer climates (zone 8? zone 9?)

I just like the combination of colors and textures here in a hot full sun bed at the corner of the driveway and the house. In the foreground, we've got Cucumber Leaf Sunflowers, in the background the leaves of the Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus), as well as some cosmos flowers, some spent flowerheads of the annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and some Liriope muscari "Big Blue" edging the sidewalk.

Cranesbill Geranium "Rozanne". This is not a plant for anyone who likes neat and tidy gardens. It's a sprawler. And the foliage is far from pristine if you look closely. But why look too closely? Take a step or two back and admire the billowy mass of flowers that continues for months. Here in Middle Tennessee, the plants seem to do best with afternoon shade.

Now Geranium sanguineum may be my favorite species of Cranesbill Geranium. As you can see here, it doesn't have the continuous bloom of Rozanne, although you may get some sparse midsummer rebloom without any deadheading or cutting back. But look at that foliage! A symphony of greens, all looking clean and healthy with an adorable shape. Plus I've found that G. sanguineum, known colloquially as Bloody Cranesbill, can tolerate more sun than the other Cranesbill species I've tried (Rozanne and Biokovo). I'm not sure that I'd subject G. sanguineum to full-day blazing sun in the middle of a field...but then again, it might do just fine under such circumstances, especially once established.

Having a six-foot tall wall of sunflowers at the front of your garden  bed is not exactly a pinnacle of garden design! But peeping between the sunflower leaves, you can see that Hardy Blue Plumbago appreciates the extra shade and is throwing off its own long parade of pretty sky blue flowers.

I struggled for years to figure out what to plant on this harsh windswept corner at the front of my house where the sidewalk meets the driveway. I took out the overgrown and misplaced holly (Nellie Stevens should not be planted two feet from a wall). But the plants I tried here like Sarcococca confusa and Camellia sasanqua met a quick death at the hands of windburn, sunburn, desiccation and so forth. And then I hit upon this combo - Panicum virgatum Northwind with Creeping Raspberry at its feet and a nearby Salvia greggii (Rose Pink? Flame? Not sure which.)  Oh and there's a self-sown French Marigold (Tagetes patula) blooming its fool head off here too. All the plants have thrived on the corner this year. The Salvia (known colloquially as Autumn Sage, Cherry Sage or Texas Sage) has been blooming since I planted it back in April without any deadheading or cutbacks. It may not be the hummingbird's favorite plant (that honor probably goes to the much larger Coral Honeysuckle vines), but I have seen the hummingbird visiting S. greggii on several occasions. I've seen S. greggii hardiness described as everything from zone 6 to zone 8. It may depend on cultivar and provenance. Anyway, I'm keeping my fingers cross that my Cherry Sages return next year and/or self-sow (which I've heard is also a possibility). 

Here's a nice serendipitous grouping of Hyssop with French Marigold. It was totally unplanned. I planted three Hyssop plants in a row as a low border at the edge of bed and then this giant (biggest I've ever seen) French Marigold plant sprang up right in the middle of that scheme. It's mostly swamping the middle Hyssop and I feel bad about that, but the French Marigold is so gorgeous and covered in blooms that I don't have the heart to rip it out or even prune it back.
Still impressed with Lamb's Ear "Helene von Stein". As you can see, the foliage looks great from spring to frost. It does sort of crumble and collapse in the wintertime, but the dead foliage (I believe) makes a nice mulch and soil amendment for the subsequent year's growth. It spreads into a thick weed suppressing groundcover. So far, the spread is steady, but not overwhelmingly fast. I think (hope) that it won't get out of control and in fact I'm planning to divide and try spreading some pieces around early next spring when it first starts to emerge.

This is Hidcote lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). The foliage has stayed pristine and the plants have grown a bit, but they haven't flowered at all this first year in the ground. Not sure if they're in too much shade or if they just need to settle in for a year before they flower. Hidcote is supposed to be one of the tougher lavenders - hardy to zone 5 - but like most lavenders, it reportedly prefers well-drained soil and yet it's planted in soil that is pretty heavy clay (as it is throughout my garden). So I'm hoping they'll survive the winter, but I'm not counting on it.

These are some of the top leaves of Lemon Balm - Melissa officinalis - a mint relative. Aren't they beautiful? It has a beautiful lemony scent if you rub the leaves. I tried to make "lemonade" by muddling this bunch of leaves in a glass of water, but unfortunately I couldn't taste much lemony flavor at all. Similarly, just eating a leaf raw did not present much of a lemony sensation. Pity that.

And here's a lush patch of Lemon Balm carpeting the shady understory in part of my front border. I suppose there's a chance it could get out of control in the border, but it's such a pretty (tall) groundcover at the moment that I don't think I'd mind. (Famous gardening last words that precede a lifetime of trying to corral some rampaging invader.) We'll see how it fares this winter and how far it extends its empire next spring... Melissa officinalis is supposed to have summertime flowers that are very attractive to bees, but I didn't see any flowers this year. Even though it seems very happy in the shade, I wonder if it needs more sun to flower? I do wish that were a bit more toothsome as an edible plant...