After our horribly dry spring here in southeastern Pennsylvania, we’ve been blessed with lovely weather for most of the last month: a few hot and muggy days, but some gloriously cool and dry ones too. The Japanese beetles are back with a vengeance, unfortunately, after being almost completely absent for a number of years, but otherwise, the plants are thriving, and the garden seems to have caught up to where it should be, timing-wise.
July is, of course, prime time for daylilies.
Above is ‘Nona’s Garnet Spider’ (in the center) and ‘Milk Chocolate (in the foreground). Some other highlights are the feathery shoots of Mellow Yellow spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’), ferny ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), and, in the back, ‘Red Majestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana).
I do have some yellow and peachy daylilies, but Duncan and Daniel seem to think that the really dark reds and oranges taste best, so I’ve been growing more of those. Above is ‘Jungle Beauty’ against ‘All Gold’ Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra); below is ‘Royal Occasion’ against ‘Latifolia Maculata’ boxwood (Buxus sempervirens).
White-striped foliage is the best feature of ‘Kwanso Variegated’ daylily (Hemerocallis fulva), but its double orange flowers add a certain something (and they, too, are considered acceptable offerings for alpaca snacks).
And then there are the lovely true lilies (Lilium). ‘Purple Prince’, below, blooms in a rich pinkish purple color (darker this year than it has been for a while), with an even richer fragrance.
Below is the amazing Longiflorum-Asiatic Hybrid ‘Freya’. Its large, upward-facing flowers open lemony yellow, then age through cream to near white on sturdy stems that never need staking. There are so many buds on each stem that it flowers for weeks, and its an excellent increaser, too.
There are plenty of orange Asiatic Hybrid lilies, but the clear, bright blooms of ‘Orange County’ are my current favorite. Below is ‘Orange County’ with ‘Sun Power’ hosta, blue-leaved rose (Rosa glauca), and a no-ID clematis.
Some years–including this one–red Asiatic ‘Monte Negro’ overlaps with ‘Jacob Cline’ bee balm (Monarda), which is kind of unfortunate as they look so similar. For whatever reason, ‘Monte Negro’ decided to produce a few orange flowers as well, which added some variety. Below it’s with golden meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria ‘Aurea’) and ‘Strawberry Seduction’ yarrow (Achillea).
Lilium leichtlinii isn’t nearly as vigorous as the hybrids, and its slender stems usually need some support (I use half-hoop stakes), but it is elegant and lovely.
The first of the burnets to bloom here is Sanguisorba obtusa. To be honest, it’s not one of my favorites: I’ve seen pictures that make it look good, I’d like it better if the flowering stems were shorter, and if it produced more flowers at one time.
The summer phlox (Phlox paniculata) come into their own around now too. Below is a new one for me, ‘Peacock Cherry Red’, with ‘Red Majestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana). That color is hard to miss!
On the subtler end of the spectrum is the pretty-much-pointless ‘Empty Feelings’ summer phlox. This is all it does: no petals, just bract-like things. I acquired it during an “oh, weird plant, must have it” phase, and it has persisted without any attention.
The Culver’s roots are starting now too. Below is pink-tinted ‘Erica’ (Veronicastrum virginicum).
It continually surprises me that thymes do well here, considering the winter-wet conditions, but so it is.
Above is creeping thyme (Thymus praecox Coccineus Group), with ‘Aztec Gold’ prostrate speedwell (Veronica prostrata) and a bit of ‘Rocknoll Rosette’ hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum). Below is ‘Oregano’ thyme: really a thyme, but it smells just like oregano. Not sure why it’s so hard to find, because it’s good-looking, too, and not fussy. Richters lists it, but their picture looks more like ‘Doone Valley’; ‘Oregano’ is bright green and more upright, and it isn’t variegated.
Moving on to some showier things…
Above is ‘Cherry Brandy’ black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) with an unnamed red-leaved peach (Prunus persica). Below is ‘Lauren’s Grape’ poppy (Papaver).
Above, ‘Goldfinch’ Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) mingling with ‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata); below, Japanese iris (Iris ensata) with wood betony (Stachys officinalis).
The purple coneflowers are coming into bloom now too. Below is some seed-grown Echinacea purpurea with ‘Dewey Blue’ bitter panic grass (Panicum amarum).
Below the purple coneflowers, you can see a bit of southern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla sessilifolia), which is always buzzing with various bees.
Below is a male plant of bastard hemp (Datisca cannabina) in full bloom–another relic of the time that I was seriously into collecting oddities.
It’s been a long time since I had luck growing hollyhocks, but they’ve been really nice this year. I suspect that the extended spring dry spell slowed down the rust enough that the plants could start flowering before showing signs of infection. Below are a couple with a short flowering stalk of common angelica (Angelica archangelica).
Speaking of “short”: I’m trying again with Russian sages (Perovskia) this year, so I bought four different cultivars. Below is ‘Rocketman’, flowering at barely 1 foot tall. Granted, it’ll be taller once it gets established–it’s supposed to max out at around 3 feet–but it’s distinctly more compact than the others I planted at the same time. In the shot below, it’s paired with Agastache ‘Kudos Coral’.
I decided to give some of the newer coreopsis a second try, as well. We’ll see if they return next yer. But for now, I’m really liking the color of ‘Mercury Rising’. In the shot below, I have it with ‘Sweet Georgia Heart Red’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma), ‘Golden Sword’ yucca (Yucca filamentosa), and ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlia.
In that same area is an old favorite (one of those annuals you plant once and have pretty much forever): hare’s ear or thorow-wax (Bupleurum rotundifolium), with bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’) and golden oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’).
It’s a little early for dahlias, but a few are starting to open now, including ‘Karma Fuchsiana’, below…
…and a new-to-me, compact, dark-leaved one called ‘Dracula’, in the Dark Angel series. I’d have saved that name for a blood-red cultivar (this is more of a deep purplish pink), but whatever.
As I mentioned earlier, the ‘Jacob Cline’ bee balm’ is flowering now. Below are a few short stems that popped up through ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and ‘Golden Foam’ euphorbia (Euphorbia stricta).
I used to have lots of these drumstick alliums (Allium sphaerocephalon), but I pulled out many of them by accident, thinking that they were wild garlic shoots. I missed these, though, because I avoid weeding close to the prickly stems of this ghost bramble (Rubus thibetanus).
Allium cristophii has been done flowering for weeks, but the seedheads last for months. Below, they’re set against ‘Oakhurst’ pineapple lily (Eucomis comosa) and ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlia.
I mentioned the thymes before for flowers, but many also offer beautiful foliage. Below is a patch of what’s usually sold as ‘Clear Gold’ these days, started from one 2.5″ pot about 5 years ago. You can see how much more vigorous it is than the creeping thyme just behind it.
Below, Sedum alboroseum ‘Mediovariegatum’ in front of ‘Filigran’ Russian sage, with a bit of ‘Prairie Munchkin’ little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) on the side.
Below, ‘Goldenvale’ ghost bramble (Rubus cockburnianus).
Even the “weeds” are contributing some color.
Above is purple-leaved plantain (Plantago major ‘Atropurpurea’); below is variegated pokeweed (Phytolacca americana ‘Silberstein’ or ‘Variegata’). This clump had three main shoots this year, and they’re all different.
Thank you so much, Frank, for sending me some seeds of ‘Sunny Side Up’. I sowed six of them: most were green but one was the bright yellow I was hoping for. It’ll stay in this holding bed and get pampered in the hopes that I have seeds to pass along next year.
I’ve been able to overwinter peppermint geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum) in my basement the last two winters. The clump is a really good size now, which means lots of furry, fragrant foliage for petting and sniffing. Below it’s with ‘Fire Island’ hosta, ‘Fire Alarm’ heuchera, and Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’).
Below, the seedpods of ‘Pennies in Bronze’ honesty (Lunaria annua). They’re still maturing, so maybe the bronze will develop later.
Below, another new addition for this year: ‘New Moon Maroon’ cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) with ‘Cheyenne Sky’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum).
Fruit-wise, it was a great year for cherries: enough for me and the birds as well. They got all but one of the blueberries too, but they left me the ‘Pixwell’ gooseberries…
…and the ‘Caroline’ red raspberries, too.
To finish, some general garden shots.
This spot out back is mostly a holding area, for testing new acquisitions and for bulking up seedlings that don’t need to be in a nursery bed but aren’t quite large enough for the outer gardens. Some years, it looks rather messy, but it’s kind of cute this year.
The ample rainfall over the last month has a lot to do with making all of the gardens here look pretty good. There have been some wicked storms (and some fantastic post-storm skies, as in the shots below from the evening of June 23rd), but fortunately, we’ve been spared serious damage.
The rain has helped the new grass paths, too. They’re still spotty, and the Canada thistles are still appearing, but it’s a start, anyway. I’ll overseed them in the fall and hope for more a even appearance next year.
I’ve made a couple of other changes, too. For the last two years, the space next to the greenhouse has been filled with containers for a book I was working on. I finally got around to cleaning them up and restoring my little sitting area, with a small patch of ‘Pignoletto’ corn from my friend Clark.
I sowed most of the raised beds in my vegetable garden to alfalfa for the boys, so I had to find somewhere else for the edibles. I ended up putting a dozen ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes and a row of nasturtiums and bush beans out front, where I usually do my main annual display. It’s a lot more green than I’m used to, but having the plants this close to the house makes it much easier to keep up with the harvesting.
I was too busy this spring to start any annuals indoors, and I figured that if I sowed the cotton seeds in the garden, they wouldn’t ripen before frost. So, I planted them in containers in the greenhouse. The shorter, really dark ones on the right are from some old seeds of Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigrum’ (or ‘Nigra’). The plants toward the front, on the left, were supposed to be ‘Black Beautiful’, from Cotton Acres. According to their description and photo, they should look like ‘Nigrum’; however, they are identical to ‘Red Beauty’–the plants in the orange pot–from the same source, so I guess they mixed up the seeds at some point.
More exciting (to me, anyway) is this variegated dahlia. Last year, it was the only variegated seedling in a four-pack of ‘Figaro Violet Shades’. I kept it separate and brought the pot indoors in fall. I’ve never had luck overwintering these short bedding dahlias, though, so I didn’t water it at all. It was a big surprise to notice several vigorous shoots emerging from the pot earlier this month. Since I’ve started watering it, a few seedlings have also appeared in the pot: most are green, but a few look like they might be variegated too.
One more new project for the past month: finally getting some boards set up on Pinterest, focusing mostly on plant combinations. I think you need a Pinterest account to see them; it doesn’t cost anything to sign up, though.
Here’s hoping that your own midsummer garden is all you hoped it would be. To see more beautiful bloomers, check out Carol’s main Bloom Day post at May Dreams Gardens.
One last thing: I collected seeds from my ‘Ravenswing’ cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) a few weeks ago. Since they’re best sown soon after ripening, I figured I’d mention them now, rather than wait to offer them with the other seeds in the fall. If you’re interested in trying some, I’d be happy to send you a packet if you’ll send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Leave me a note in a comment here, or email me at email@example.com. I’ll fill as many requests as possible–I can make up about a dozen packets, I think–in the order I receive them.