In a way, August seems like the end of the gardening season to me. I’ve just finished the last main pass through the garden, weeding, lightly trimming back some stuff that hasn’t yet flowered, and doing some general grooming, so apart from the vegetables, the garden won’t need anything from me until it’s time for cleanup in November. For the next couple of months, I’m just a spectator, which is fun in its own way. It’s also a relief, when the typical hot-and-muggy August weather makes it unpleasant to move around much.
The high humidity makes for really bad hair days for some of us…
…but it also makes for some great photo opportunities in the side garden when the sunrise clears the trees out back.
As you can see, these areas aren’t quite at their best yet; there are a few more weeks yet before the grasses and goldenrods and asters here really take off. There’s still a lot to show off, though, so I’ve decided to save the rest of the general garden shots and combinations for the next post and just concentrate on particular plants that are especially attractive or interesting right now.
I think of pink as a spring color, so it’s always a surprise to see how much of it there is this time of year. A lot of it comes from the Joe-Pye weeds (Eutrochium [Eupatorium] purpureum), such as the clump above, which planted itself right at the base of the steps from the side porch. This is also the season for the ‘Black Beauty’ Orienpet lilies (Lilium) that grow on the other side of the house, joining more Joe-Pyes along the path to the barn. Hooray for their strong stems, which stay upright with no need for staking.
Out in the shrubbery, the huge blooms of ‘Plum Crazy’ hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus) are hard to miss; above, they’re with Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) and New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis). And inside, there are much more delicate touches of pink, such as the almost-open buds of ‘Vera Jameson’ sedum (below with Carex flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’).
And gosh, every garden needs a few naked ladies (Lycoris squamigera), right? I’ve waited three years for these to do their thing, and it was worth the wait, even though I expected them to be the red L. radiata (so much for depending on plant labels). The pink doesn’t really go with the other colors out front, but the flowers last only a week or two, and they really weren’t too bad in that spot.
I’ve pretty much decided that this seed-grown clematis is Clematis viticella, unless any of you recognize it as something else. It’s been flowering since May and still looks lovely.
Pale blue isn’t an especially summery color, either, but this cut-leaved chastetree (Vitex negundo var. heterophylla, below) fills a key space now in the blue-and-white part of the side garden. It’s so loaded with bees that the sound is more noticeable than the color.
Bastard or false hemp (Datisca cannabina) isn’t a wow plant color-wise, but the drooping sprays on these female plants are great from a textural perspective – kind of like a more-elegant version of the annual green love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus ‘Viridis’). Bastard hemp has shrub-like proportions (5 to 7 feet tall) and very sturdy stems, but it’s technically a perennial.
The grasses are starting to look really good now too. Above is frost grass (Spodiopogon sibiricus) behind ‘Cassian’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides).
Below is (clockwise from the front) ‘The Blues’ little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), ‘Dewey Blue’ bitter switchgrass (Panicum amarum), ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora) and ‘Northwind’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), with that classic late-summer bloomer, orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida).
The giant coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima) in the courtyard is already done flowering, but its foliage and seedheads still look great.
‘Henry Eilers’ sweet coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa), on the other hand, just started flowering about a week ago, about the same height (5 to 6 feet).
A couple more of the typical yellow composites of late summer include coreopsis and compass plants (Silphium). Below is Coreopsis tripteris, which I’d cut back hard in early summer so it’s only about 2 feet tall here instead of the usual 5 to 6 feet. The larger yellow daisy is cut-leaved compass plant (Silphium pinnatifidum). I bought this as a tiny seedling because of the attractive leaves (you can just see the bright green, lobed leaves below the stems). I put it in the garden to bulk up for a couple of years, with plans to move it to the meadow once it reached flowering size, because it’s supposed to get 6 to 8 feet tall. So far, though, it has stayed just about 3 feet tall, so I’m inclined to let it stay in this spot for a while longer.
The later sneezeweeds (Helenium) are coming into flower now too. ‘Ruby Tuesday’, below, is a new favorite of mine; it’s a near-perfect color match for ‘Sedona’ coleus (when ‘Sedona’ wants to be red instead of orange or pink, which it usually does this time of year in this spot).
August is also the season for blackberry lily (which used to be Belamcanda chinensis and is now Iris domestica) – above – and candy lily (which was xPardancanda norrisii and is now Iris norrisii, apparently) – below.
Before moving on to the annuals, let’s take a quick look at what’s going on out in the meadow, perennial-wise. More Joe-Pyes at the upper entrance, shown above, and a large patch of mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) below. I love the intense fragrance of this mountain mint but find it a challenge to control in the garden, so moving it out to the meadow turned out to be a great solution.
I used to grow cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) in the garden, but it’s such a vigorous self-sower that it got to be a problem. I moved it too to the meadow, where it looks great, can seed around as it likes, and can sprawl if it feels the need.
In the lower meadow, the white baptisia (Baptisia alba) is in seed now, but the wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) still looks bright and fresh.
Orange butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) was also part of the original seed mix I sowed in this area (the sand mound, or raised drainage field for the septic system). I needn’t have bothered, though, because it has also come up in other parts of the meadow on its own. This year, I’m also seeing lots of New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis). I’ve been crumbling seedheads from the garden plants out here for a number of years, and I guess some of the seeds finally took.
The most exciting find of the summer has been a beautiful clump of rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), which must have seeded in from the garden, though it’s about 200 feet from the nearest garden plants. It put itself in one of the soggiest spots in the meadow, right next to a clump of ‘Ruby Spice’ summersweet (Clethra alnifolia).
Back in the garden, we’re up to the annuals and tender perennials. Let’s start big, with the bold and beautiful cannas.
Well, at 3 to 4 feet, Tropicanna (Canna ‘Phaison’, above) isn’t all that big, relatively speaking, but its showy striped leaves and bright flowers are definitely eye-catching.
‘Australia’, below, is more like 5 to 6 feet tall, with rich red flowers and glossy, deep red to near-black leaves.
I’m going with Canna indica ‘Purpurea’ as the ID for the previously unknown cannas in the front foundation border, unless any of you recognize it as something else. It’s a very strong grower and is blooming at 6 to 7 feet tall, with spikes of small, scarlet-red blooms.
I’ve been growing ‘Intrigue’ (below) for a few years now, but this is the first time I’ve had it flower. It’s kind of a cantaloupe orange and in the range of 7 to 8 feet tall. I think I like it better without the blooms, just as a foliage accent.
Annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are also great tall bloomers for this time of year. The one below is from the seed strain ‘Sunspots’, with yellow-splashed foliage.
The scarlet milkweed or bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica) has just started to flower, looking terrific with the other bright colors and dark leaves in the front garden. The monarchs have already started munching on it, which is fine.
There’s no lack of other butterflies, either, thanks to the Joe-Pye weeds, as well as the Brazilian vervain (Verbena bonariensis, below).
A couple of yellow-flowered annuals, starting with tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca, above). The flowers generally aren’t as interesting as its powder-blue leaves and stems. I start the seeds indoors in March, and the strongly upright plants usually reach 6 to 7 feet tall by frost.
Below is a new one for me: cowpen daisy or golden crownbeard (Verbesina encelioides). The seeds came from the HPS/MAG Seed Exchange last winter. At the moment, it looks a lot like a coreopsis with gray-green leaves, at about 1 foot tall. But, it just started to flower in early August and looks like it may produce lots of clear yellow blooms for fall, so I’m still open to being impressed by it as the season goes on.
For orange flowers, there is ‘Susie Clear-Eyed Orange’ black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata, above) and ‘Thompsonii’ flowering maple (Abutilon pictum, below).
Two blues, starting with tweedia (Tweedia [Oxypetalum] caeruleum, above], a really cool annual milkweed relative that’s about 18 inches tall at this point. It’s an unusual shade or sky or turquoise blue.
Below is amethyst flower (Browallia americana), which started blooming just a few weeks ago and will keep going through the fall, flowering in shades of blue to purple-blue. It usually reaches 18 to 24 inches tall and tends to self-sow gently, making it a great filler for summer and fall color.
Along with the many perennial pinks for late summer, there are some pink-flowered annuals, such as poor man’s orchid (Impatiens balfourii), an enthusiastic self-sower that blooms from midsummer to frost. And below, well, I can only call it freakish to have sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus)blooming in August, but I’m not complaining. I’m thinking of saving the seed of this one to see if its offspring are unusually heat-tolerant, or if this was just a fluke.
Chenille plant (Acalypha hispida, below) has loads of personality. It’s hard to resist tugging on those silly, fuzzy tails.
Porcupine tomato (Solanum pyracanthum, above), on the other hand, is definitely on the “Do Not Touch” list.
Bed-of-nails (Solanum quitoense, below) is also scary-spiny, but it makes a fantastic filler and foliage accent.
Some more early entries for tomorrow’s Foliage Follow-Up include ‘Old Gold’ field corn (Zea mays, above) and Topicanna canna (Canna ‘Phaison’, below).
Above and below is ‘Mahogany Splendor’ red-leaved hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella), which has a terrific rich color and is easy to grow from seed.
Two other foliage favorites in the red category are ‘Velvet Mocha’ coleus (above) and the absolutely gorgeous ‘Big Red Judy’ coleus (below).
Two variegates that caught my eye this week include variegated pokeweed (Phytolacca americana ‘Silberstein’, above) and ‘Silver and Gold’ yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea, below).
And to finish up, a few fun things from the vegetable garden.
Last fall, I collected several dozen potato varieties for a writing-and-photography project, and I’m having fun now starting to harvest the leftovers that I planted in spring. Below is ‘Purple Viking’, which has a beautiful purple skin that’s marbled with pink, and bright white flesh.
Above is ‘All Blue’; below is ‘All Red’ (which is more accurately all pink).
And two winners in the pointless-but-fun category: Yugoslavian finger fruit squash (above) and pretzel bean (a.k.a. ‘Ram’s Horn’ cowpea, below).
Now, if you’re up for more August garden goodness, check out the list of participants in this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day in Carol’s main GBBD post at May Dreams Gardens. Thanks for visiting!