It’s hard to believe that today marks the seventh anniversary of my very first Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post. GBBD itself, the glorious creation of Carol at May Dreams Gardens, started six months before that (Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day Inaugural Post). Over the years, many other garden memes have come and gone, but as far as I know, GBBD is the longest-running regular event in the garden-blogging world. It’s a great excuse to show off what looks best each month, but even more than that, it’s invaluable as a sort of journal to keep track of the weather conditions, plant performance, favorite combinations, project progress, and garden development from month to month and year to year. I tend to use it as a visual record of everything that looks good in the first two weeks of each month, but at this time of the year, there’s so much going on that for this post, I’ve tried to include only things that I haven’t shown before this year.
Petunia exserta was a new annual for me last year. I planted it in the ground, where it was a delicate sort of weaver, with an even more open habit than its charming magenta-flowered cousin, P. integrifolia. Then I saw a picture of it online growing in a pot on the Annie’s Annuals site, where it was much more dense, so I decided to give that route a try this year. I planted five seedlings in this pot (12 inches wide and deep). They looked great for a few weeks, then they all flopped in different directions just as they were starting to flower, so I cut them back by about half and added a spiral topiary form to corral them. By early August, they’d filled about 2/3 of the cone and were covered in flowers. I sheared them again in late August, after collecting seeds, and now they’re filling the 3-foot-tall form and flowering again. That’s a lot of flower power from a little petunia.
Stiff verbena (Verbena rigida) is new for me this year (thanks for the seeds, Mel!). It’s rather like Brazilian vervain (V. bonariensis), but a richer purple and shorter (to just about 1 foot). Apparently it can be too enthusiastic in warmer zones, but it should be okay here in Zone 6; we’ll see.
I’ve shown ‘Black Knight’ blue throatwort (Trachelium caeruleum) already this season, but I’m including it again because I thought this comparison was kind of interesting. I’ve been growing ‘Black Knight’ off and on for many years now, with varying success. I continue trying because I made a really good combination with it one year and keep hoping I’ll be able to repeat the effect. It’s very slow-growing as a seedling, so last winter, I brought a few clumps into the basement to overwinter them dormant, in the hopes of getting more-vigorous plants this year. They didn’t flower any more freely than the seed-grown ones, however. Among this year’s seedlings, most had the characteristic dark foliage and dark flowers, but there must be some variation in the strain, because there were some lighter ones, too. The lavender-purples aren’t bad, though I like the darker ones better. I think I’ll deadhead the lighter ones and let the purples mature this fall to see if any self-sow. It would be a much easier way to keep them going, because it’s very time-consuming to collect and clean the tiny seeds and then raise the seedlings every spring.
Brazilian button (Centratherum intermedium) is another annual I’ve grown off and on for years now. It’s easy enough to germinate, but the 12- to 18-inch-tall plants don’t do much but get bushy through most of the summer, with just a flower or two on each plant at any time through most of the summer. Come late August, though, they start producing many more buds and blooms, creating an aster-like effect from a distance. The pineappley scent of the foliage is nice, if you kneel down and rub the leaves to release the scent.
‘Cinnabar’ marigold (Tagetes) was a bit of a disappointment this year. The first few flowers were the gold-rimmed orangey red I expected from the minimal information and images available about ‘Cinnabar’ online, but since then, the plants have produced a mix of red, orange, yellow, and bicolor flowers: pretty much like what I’ve been growing as ‘Moldova’, but on looser, floppier plants, like a wild T. patula. It’s pretty, but I won’t bother saving seed of it: either it’s not the right strain (my guess) or it behaves very differently here than it does in England.
Job’s tears is a “something different” annual that I let self-sow from year to year. You usually see pictures of it when the hard, glossy seeds are maturing to shades of black, gray, and white, but I happened to notice it in bloom recently. It’s interesting to see how the female and male parts are separate. The female bits are the slender white stigmas emerging from the base of what will be the seed, while the yellow, pollen-bearing anthers are just starting to peek out of the spikelet that emerges from the same place. As the seeds mature, those parts drop off, leaving a hole in the center of each seed.
Here’s another annual I’ve showed before, but my goodness, those flowers have such quaint little faces that I couldn’t resist. Its name is quirky too: Commelina communis f. aureostriata, which would make you think it had gold stripes rather than white ones (albostriata). Hmmm.
Amaranths (Amaranthus) also have loads of personality–particularly ‘Elephant Head’, above, with its superbly silly-looking flower heads. ‘Hopi Red Dye’, below, tends to have more elegant plumes, but this one back in the vegetable garden is also looking a bit eccentric.
Sticking with the Amaranth Family…above is a particularly nice seedling of ‘Mega Punk’ celosia (Celosia argentea Spicata Group), a strain that popped up here a while back, with reddish leaves and fuchsia-red spikes. This year, I finally had luck growing one of the fuzzy-brain kinds, which I’ve been trying and failing at for years. This one is ‘Cramers’ Burgundy’ (C. argentea Cristata Group).
All of the flowers I’ve shown so far come from seed. Continuing with that theme, here are some cool foliage annuals. Well, technically, they’re tender perennials, but I don’t bother trying to overwinter them since they grow quickly enough to make a good show as annuals. Below is ‘Wellington Bronze’ erect seaberry or toatoa (Haloragis erecta), a New Zealand native that grows in loose clumps to about 12 inches tall and wide.
Above is ‘Mahogany Splendor’ hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella), grown for its lacy, burgundy leaves. I start the seeds indoors in March and set them outside after the last frost (around mid-May), and by now they’re 4 to 6 feet tall. They’ll probably put on another foot or so before frost.
Below is silver spurflower (Plectranthus argentatus). When you buy the seed, it’s usually sold with the name ‘Silver Shield’. The plants reach about 2 feet tall and wide, in loose, open clumps–kind of like a bushy form of lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina).
Moving on to some non-seed things…I’ve come to adore calibrachoas for containers. Some bloom in waves, looking really spectacular for a few weeks and then taking a break for a bit before filling with flowers again. This one–Calibrachoa ‘MiniFamous Double Blue’–has been a more consistent performer: not spectacular at any particular moment, but always with a nice amount of these charming little purple-blue rosettes.
Below is Vertigo fountain grass (Pennisetum ‘Tift 8’). It’s about 6 inches tall when I buy it each spring; by now, it’s well over 6 feet tall.
‘Sparks Will Fly’ begonia, below, was new for me last year. I didn’t expect to have it again this year, because I didn’t find it for sale locally, but it overwintered in the pot it was growing in last year. (I’d brought it into the basement last winter to keep something else that was in the same pot, and the begonia eventually made a surprise reappearance in late June.) I really like the combination of the dark foliage and bright orange flowers.
‘Leia’ pineapple lily (Eucomis), above, also spent the winter in the basement (as do all pineapple lilies here, because they’re not quite winter-hardy in my garden). Unlike the taller ones, which tend to sprawl in bloom, this little cutie–barely 1 foot tall in bloom–has stayed nicely upright.
I don’t often treat myself to an angel’s trumpet during my spring shopping, but this year, I couldn’t resist getting one for the containers book. This one–Brugmansia suaveolens ‘Variegata’–has had flowers off and on during the summer and is now budding and blooming in earnest. It was so lovely to sit next to it after dusk and absorb the fragrance while watching the moonrise last week.
Moving on to some hardy perennials…below is a frond of ‘Pewter Lace’ Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum) against the flower spikes of dwarf Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis ‘Pumila’).
Over the years, I’ve planted four or five different species of ironweed (Vernonia) in the garden. They’ve probably crossed and have self-sown freely, and now I have trouble telling most of them apart. This one is distinctive, through, with much shorter and with much narrower leaves. Above is what I started with: ‘Iron Butterfly’ narrowleaf ironweed (V. lettermannii). When it seeds around, it reverts to the species (below). The leaves are variably wider than those of ‘Iron Butterfly’ but are still narrower than those of other ironweeds.
Below is ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), with bright yellow foliage and golden button flowers. I’ve planted it at the front of various borders several times, because it’s a cute, low rosette of ferny foliage in spring, continually forgetting that it reaches about 4 feet tall in bloom. Moving it back from the edge a few feet and giving it a few bushy companions to lean on has pretty much solved the sprawling problem, so now I can admire it in its full glory instead of chopping it back in August.
It’s peak season now for my favorite sanguisorbas: the tall Japanese burnets (Sanguisorba tenuifolia). Above is ‘Purpurea’ with ‘Henry Eilers’ sweet coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa); below is ‘Alba’ with ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus (Miscanthus).
Below, one of my favorite sneezeweeds–Helenium ‘Ruby Tuesday’–with Mellow Yellow spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’), ‘AngelMist Deep Plum’ angelonia, ‘Profusion Orange’ zinnia, ‘Redbor’ kale, ‘Lucifer’ crocosmia foliage, and Tropicanna canna (Canna ‘Phasion’).
Above, the flower plumes of Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) with a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) that I really wish I knew the name of.
Below, some developing seedheads of ‘River Mist’ sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).
And below, my very first waterlily–Nymphaea ‘Chromatella’–growing in a galvanized metal tub outside my office window.
Now, some general garden shots. Below is the path from the barn to the house. Highlights include Mellow Yellow spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’), ‘Tom Thumb’ cotoneaster, switch grass (Panicum virgatum)–very short because I cut it to the ground in late June to keep it from flopping now–white Japanese burnet (Sanguisorba tenuifolia ‘Alba’), ‘Saratoga’ ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), and ghost bramble (Rubus thibetanus).
Above the front path, with Canna indica ‘Purpurea’, ‘Profusion Knee-High Red’ zinnia, marigolds (Tagetes patula), and ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlia.
Below, the same path from the other direction. Some highlights include Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’), ‘Profusion Knee-High Red’ zinnia, Amicia zygomeris, ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), ‘Red Magestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana), Canna indica ‘Purpurea’, and ‘Redhead’ coleus.
Above, one side of the middle path in the front garden, including narrowleaf zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia), Mellow Yellow spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’), ‘Ruby Tuesday’ sneezeweed (Helenium), ‘Profusion Orange’ zinnia, ‘Oakhurst’ pineapple lily (Eucomis comosa), golden lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia), and ‘Red Majestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana).
Below, the side garden in early September.
And to finish, a few detail shots…
For more September splendor, visit Carol’s main Bloom Day post at May Dreams Gardens to see who else is sharing their fall garden today. Now we can start looking forward to October’s GBBD. The asters are just starting to do their thing, but we’re already dipping down to the lower 40s at night, so who knows what will happen over the next few weeks?
Oh, one more thing: my thanks to all who offered to take in my homeless seeds earlier this month. All the requests are now filled and on their way. I really appreciate the notes from those of you who have already received their seeds and apologize if I didn’t respond; I got a bit overwhelmed for a bit getting the orders out. If you’re relatively new to seed-starting, I encourage you to do some research on the seeds you got before you put them away for spring; some of them–including the Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’, Helleborus x hybridus Hayefield Hybrids, and Smyrnium perfoliatum, among others–need to be sown now and left outdoors for best results. I look forward to hearing how they work out for you next year!