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Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – July 2023

Perennial border at Hayefield in July 2023 [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

First, a bouquet to all of you who didn’t want to tell me about my big mistake last month. I’ve been participating in Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day since 2007, and each time I wrote a new post, I worried about putting the wrong date on it. I had a good run but finally messed up by labeling last month’s post as July instead of June. Oh well; the world didn’t end, and now it’s July for real, and there’s lots going on in the garden, thanks to a good amount of rain and heat that is making me wilt but most of the plants quite happy. This month, I’m going to present the highlights in three categories: non-native flowers, native flowers, and new-to-me-in-2023 plants.

Let’s start with the white blooms, which kind of disappear in the intense midday sun but look so crisp and cool in the morning and evening.

Althaea officinalis [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Above is marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis): not much seen in perennial gardens these days, but it’s perfectly at home in cottage-style gardens and herb gardens, even if you never plan to pick its leaves for salads or dig its roots for their soothing medicinal properties.

Below is branched St Bernard’s lily (Anthericum ramosum). It’s another perennial you don’t often see in gardens, and that’s a pity. It does require some patience, taking some time to grow from seed—pretty much your only option if you want to grow it, because plants are rarely available, particularly in the US—but it is worth the time, because it produces more and more flowering stems each summer. The overall effect of the branching stems and dainty blooms is so soft and airy.

Anthericum ramosum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Kitaibelia vitifolia [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

There is nothing dainty about chalice flower (Kitaibelia vitifolia)—plant-wise, at least. Though it’s an herbaceous perennial, dying down to the ground each year, it reaches shrub-size proportions. That makes it too large for most home-scale flower beds, but it’s an interesting option if you need a summer-and-fall filler for the back of a large mixed border, or perhaps for screening around a pool, deck, or patio in combination with good-sized ornamental grasses, such as purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea var. arundinacea) or bitter panic grass (Panicum amarum).

Below is yet another rarely-seen perennial: Sanguisorba armena—so uncommon that it doesn’t have a common name. It’s ok in flower, with plump, fluffy, white “tails,” but it’s not particularly floriferous. Its best feature is really its blue, Melianthus-like foliage.

Sanguisorba armena [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Iberodes linifolia [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Above is one more uncommon white—this one an easy annual: Venus’ navelwort (Iberodes [formerly Omphalodes] linifolia). It’s a weird name but a sweet little filler flower for early to midsummer.

Moving on to some soft colors…

Crepis rubra [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Above is pink hawksbeard (Crepis rubra): another easy annual. It happens to look terrific with the Venus’ navelwort (Iberodes linifolia), by the way.

Below is ‘Purple Kisses’ Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota).

Daucus carota 'Purple Kisses' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Linaria color mix [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

The photo above shows what I call “Linaria color mix.” The original seeds were labeled Linaria ‘Plummy’, a hybrid between L. purpurea and L. dalmatica, but it would have been more accurate to say “ex ‘Plummy’; though the parent plant may have had purple flowers, its seeds produced a range of mostly purple and pink shades, as well as the odd pink or pale yellow. I like the strain so much that I keep it going, though: The airy effect and tiny, intricate blooms are lovely, and the plants are super-tough. Some of them overwintered outdoors in a relatively small container with no protection, and they happily seeded into the gravel around the container too.

Below is lavender moonvine (Ipomoea muricata). Its flowers are smaller than those of white moonvine (Ipomoea alba), and they don’t have any scent, but the vines are vigorous and produce lots of blooms that open in late afternoon or early evening.

Ipomoea muricata [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Nicotiana mutabilis [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Midsummer means it’s time for the flowering tobaccos (Nicotiana) to start their months-long bloom show. Above is the typical species form of N. mutabilis, which opens white and ages through pale to bright pink. Below is N. mutabilis ‘Hayefield Green’, a variant that showed up here a few years ago. It starts a soft green and ages to old-rose pink (a bit paler when it’s really hot out).

Nicotiana mutabilis 'Hayefield Green' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Digitalis ferruginea [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Most of the perennial foxgloves are well over by now, but rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea), above, still have some blooms: peachy from a distance, with intricate veining apparent up close.

If you’re trying to attract pipevine swallowtail butterflies but don’t have room for a large vine, white-veined Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia fimbriata) is an excellent option. It’s pretty easy from seed, so you can start plenty of plants: a good thing, because the caterpillars can eat a lot! It flowers the first season and is small enough to grow beautifully in a pot, window box, or hanging basket, so you can treat it as an annual; or, you can bring the container indoors and let it overwinter almost dry in a cool, freeze-free spot. The silver-veined leaves are gorgeous and the flowers are super-cool.

Aristolochia fimbriata [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Lactuca sativa var. asparagina 'Red Mountain' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

To be fair, you wouldn’t grow ‘Red Mountain’ celtuce (Lactuca sativa var. asparagina)—also called stem lettuce—for its yellow flowers, unless you’re trying to collect the seeds. But the plants have a really neat feature around flowering time: they smell just like hot, buttered popcorn!

Nigella papillosa 'Midnight' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Above is one of the ridiculously (and gloriously) intricate flowers of ‘Midnight’ fennel flower (Nigella papillosa). Below is the first bloom of the summer on ‘Axminster Streaked’ balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus). Overwintered plants start flowering in midsummer, while early-sown seedlings usually begin blooming in late summer or even early fall of their first year. Each bloom is different, so it’s nice to have a large patch of them to appreciate the range of markings.

Platycodon grandiflorus 'Axminster Streaked' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

The summer season tends to be about intensity, and the garden needs to match the mood, so not everything can be soft and soothing. Here are some of the best of the brightest.

Anagallis arvensis [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) is essentially a weed, but it’s so cute that I let it grow where it’s not in the way—like here, where it’s snuggled up to my weeding bucket. How’s that for a color combination?

Below is the variegated seedling of variegated cockscomb (Celosia argentea var. cristata ‘Variegata’) I was so excited about in the spring. The variegated foliage is still there, but the variegated flowerheads are the real attention-grabbers now.

Celosia argentea var. cristata 'Variegated Variegata' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Cota tinctoria and Reseda luteola [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Above is a combination of dye herbs that’s both pretty and practical: the daisy-form flowers of golden Marguerite (Cota tinctoria) with the spikes of weld (Reseda luteola). Below is the eminently ornamental Leichtlin’s lily (Lilium leichtlinii).

Lilium leichtlinii [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Emilia javanica 'Scarlet Magic' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Talk about pops of color! I adore tassel flower (Emilia javanica), whether it’s the red ‘Scarlet Magic’ (above) or the orange ‘Irish Poet’ (below). It’s an easy annual and blooms for ages.

Emilia javanica 'Irish Poet' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Mirabilis jalapa 'Orange Crush' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

July also brings the first blooms of the four-o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), which continue to flower until frost. The glowing color of ‘Orange Crush’ is spectacular. And it’s hard to beat the emphatically pink blooms of sweet William catchfly (Silene armeria)!

Silene armeria [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

I know a lot of you are more focused on growing native species and selections of natives, so I thought it might be helpful to pull them out into their own section. All of these are native somewhere in North America but not necessarily here in Pennsylvania.

Triodanis perfoliata [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Two easy native annuals: clasping Venus’ looking glass (Triodanis perfoliata) above and globe gilia (Gilia capitata) below.

Gilia capitata [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Campanulastrum americanum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

And a couple of summer spikes: biennial tall bellower (Campanulastrum americanum) above and perennial tall larkspur (Delphinium exaltatum) below. Did I mention they’re both tall? You probably already guessed that from the names. The tall larkspur is usually a rich blue, but the seeds I grew it from produced some plants with deep blue and some with pale blue blooms. I think the range is interesting, so I keep the shades mixed when I collect their seeds.

Delphinium exaltatum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Rhexia virginica [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

When I first read the conflicting information about the preferred growing conditions of Virginia meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica)—moist, wet, well-drained, sandy, peat— I almost passed it by. I’m glad I took a chance on it, as it is growing nicely even in a relatively dry raised bed. I did think I lost it last winter, when it looked like the dried plants heaved out of the soil, littering the top of the bed with a bunch of dead stems and roots. It’s lucky I didn’t get around to planting anything else in there early this spring, because new growth appeared in April! After a bit more reading, I realized that the few tiny tuber-like things I’d noticed when I cleaned up the bed were the overwintering structure, and that what was producing the new growth. Cool!

Below is a charming native clematis: whiteleaf leather flower (Clematis glaucophylla). Clematis aren’t the easiest plants to grow from seed, but this one produces a nice amount of volunteer seedlings in my garden, so now I have several arbors full for almost no effort. It flowers from midsummer well into fall, making a magnet for hummingbirds, and then a terrific show of swirled, golden seedheads in fall.

Clematis glaucophylla [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Echinacea laevigata [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

I have many pictures of these smooth-leaved purple coneflowers (Echinacea laevigata) growing in my stock beds: they are so photogenic. There are just two plants here. I have a bunch planted in other areas and each one is a little different in bloom size, flower color, and “petal” width.

It’s a good year for the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), too. It’s coming up everywhere in the meadow.

Asclepias syriaca [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Verbena hastata 'Rosea' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Above, the pink form of blue vervain (Verbena hastata), which is actually more purple than blue to my eye. (You can see a bit of the species form in the background.) Below is hoary vervain (Verbena stricta), which has chunkier flower spikes and makes a great show in mid to late summer.

Verbena stricta [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Ruellia humilis [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

If you need a tough, low-growing filler for a sunny, dryish spot—along a driveway or street, or instance, or on a slope—wild petunia (Ruellia humilis) might be a good choice. Above is the species form; below is a white-flowered form.

Ruellia humilis white form [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Parthenium integrifolium [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Above, a dependable summer combination: wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) with balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus). The latter isn’t a North-American native, of course, but it’s still a nice partner.

Polanisia dodecandra [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Redwhisker clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra) is kind of an icky common name for an absolutely beautiful bloom. I think of this annual like a dwarf cleome: It can reach a few feet tall in ideal conditions but it’s mostly in the range of 1 to 2 feet. Like cleome, it can self-sow freely.

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Two natives that are absolutely loaded with pollinators when in bloom: above, a wild clump of narrow-leaved mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium); below, wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). It’s mesmerizing watching various kinds of bumblebees wallowing around in the masses of tiny center blooms of this lacecap-type seedling.

Hydrangea arborescens [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Below, a different seedling of wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)—this one with mounds of mostly sterile blooms, though, so of no interest to insects—making a striking contrast to the airy seedheads of bottlebrush grass (Elymus hystrix).

Elymus hystrix [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

And below, another favorite of honeybees and bumblebees: southern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla sessilifolia).

Diervilla sessilifolia [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

As much as I’m enjoying the return appearance of all of those dependable summer favorites, I can’t help but be distracted by the many exciting new things that are growing here for the first time ever (or the first time in many years).

Callirhoe involucrata [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

I grew winecups (Callirhoe involucrata) here when the gardens were new, but I haven’t seen it around here for a decade at least. Then, a seedling popped up last year, right next to a plant I had moved from the area where the winecups used to grow. It’s now thriving and flowering, and I’m thrilled to have it back.

Tangier pea (Lathyris tingitanus) is another one I grew many years ago, in its softer pink form (‘Rosea’). I didn’t have good luck with the species form of this annual vine last year—it kept getting slug-eaten—but I gambled my last few seeds this year and hit the jackpot. It has already reached the top of my 7-foot deer fence and is starting to trail back down. No fragrance, unfortunately, but it’s interesting and different.

Lathyrus tingitanus [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Cuphea viscosissima [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Many years ago, I got seeds of blue waxweed (Cuphea viscosissima) through a seed exchange. I assumed they were correctly identified, since a well-known nursery was selling the plants under that name, but last summer, I found out that what I’d been growing was actually not the true species—the main clue being that the flowers on mine were larger than those on the species form. A customer shared seeds of the true species last winter, and now that I’m growing both, I can see that difference. (I plan to keep growing both, so I renamed the original strain as ‘Purple Mystery’.)

Phaemeranthus calycinus [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Now, on to the completely new-to-me ones. Above is a cute little native succulent with the common name of rock pink or large-flowered fameflower (Phemeranthus calycinus [formerly Talinum calycinum]). Below is a not-yet-named strain of pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida). Look at that foliage!

Impaiens pallida golden form [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Panicum elegans 'Frosted Explosion' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Thanks to a seed gift, I’m finally getting around to growing ‘Frosted Explosion’ panicum (Panicum elegans). Only one seed germinated, but one plant produces plenty of “explosions”!

I grew a variegated oxeye (Heliopsis) many years ago, and it produced some variegated seedlings; they were never very vigorous, though, and eventually died out. These gift seeds produced fantastically marked and terrifically vigorous seedlings: definite keepers, so I’m calling them ‘Linda’s Variegated’.

Heliopsis 'Linda's Variegated' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Dianthus plumarius [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Two exquisite “new” dianthus species are gracing my world this year. Above, seeds that I thought were Dianthus pinifolius produced these deeply dissected blooms, starting white and developing some pink as they age. I feel pretty sure the plants are fringed pink (Dianthus superbus). They’re flowering in their first year but apparently will be perennial. The one below—Dianthus petraeus subsp. noeanus, another gift—is definitely perennial here, as it overwintered in small pots. The dainty, fringed flowers were worth waiting for. Both of these dianthus are deliciously fragrant.

Dianthus petraeus subsp. noeanus [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Salvia uliginosa [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

I’ve been wanting to grow bog sage (Salvia uliginosa) for a long time but couldn’t find a seed source. Happily, I was able to score some plants from Select Seeds this spring. I’m hoping to get seed from them, though I’ve read that they don’t set much.

Moldavian dragonhead (Dracocephalum moldavica) sounds kind of exotic, but this uncommon annual is not hard to grow. It’s quick to sprout from seed (just 4 days from an indoor sowing) and produces bushy plants filled with an abundance of purple-blue spikes over somewhat aromatic foliage.

Dracocephalum moldavicum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Below, a lovely plant gift received this spring: spotted widow’s tears (Tinantia pringlei). It’s pretty, purple-spotted foliage is accented with small, pinkish, morning blooms. I know it can self-sow, so I’m reallyhoping to be able to collect seeds.

Tinantia pringlei [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Nicotiana 'Hayefield Fine Wine' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Last year, a scrawny flowering tobacco (Nicotiana) seedling popped up in a part of the garden where I hadn’t grown any nicotiana before. I did have a reddish brown one in another area, but that was well over a decade ago, so I doubt this had any connection to that one. The little plant produced maybe three flowers and one bloom set seed. This year, the seedlings all bloomed in the same color, on stems to about 18 inches tall. I’m calling it ‘Hayefield Fine Wine’. It’s mostly this deep burgundy color, but it does have some red to it in some light conditions.

Sawfly larvae on Corylus americana [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Well, that’s the best of Hayefield for this July-for-real Bloom Day, so now it’s time to just hang out for a bit, like these cool critters. (I found these surprisingly synchronized sawfly larvae on my American hazelnut [Corylus americana); not sure what they are, exactly. I probably should have destroyed them, but they were just so interesting to watch.)

Before I sign off, I’ll just mention that this is a great time to sow seeds of many early-blooming perennials and ephemeral native wildflowers. I still have some seeds available of native gems like Canada wild ginger (Asarum canadense), plantain-leaved sedge (Carex plantaginea), spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides), and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), among others—native “winter annuals,” too, such as blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna), Miami mist (Phacelia purshii), and yellow fumewort (Corydalis flava). Oh, and hybrid Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus) too!

Posted on 10 Comments

10 thoughts on “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – July 2023

  1. Nan, great stuff as always, and that panicum intrigues me!

    Hi Sandy! The ‘Frosted Explosions’ is really nice. Apparently it’s great in arrangements.

  2. So many beautiful plants. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    Thank *you* for visiting, Carol!

  3. Thanks for another wonderful post, Nancy. Always such a pleasure to read and so informative.

    I’m glad to hear that, Jan; thank you. Happy Bloom Day to you!

  4. I am usually a lurker, rarely commenting but reading and studying every post and photo. I am so thrilled to learn about so many uncommon –or more likely, simply undercelebrated — plants from you. I find this information nowhere else and just want to both thank you, and let you know how impactful your work is. Thank you again.

    I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to read here, whether they comment or not, but I truly appreciate you saying that, Tracy. Each post takes a lot of time and thought, and sometimes I wonder if it is worthwhile. You taking the time to comment reminds why I do it!

  5. Nan,
    I always enjoy your beautiful blooms.
    two questions.
    Any suggestions for some natives that I can use with a wi term sowing garden club project?
    How do you label your plants?

    Hi Bonnie! Winter sowing will work with the seeds of pretty much any native annual or perennial that grows in our area, since the process basically replicates what the plants would do naturally. The main exception is the seeds of many of the early bloomers, which need to be sown in summer (soon after collection), so they don’t dry out or so they get a period of warmth before winter chilling. (If they need the latter, winter sowing can still work, but the sown seeds will likely have to go through a full growing season and then another winter before germinating.)
    As far as labeling, I mostly use wooden craft sticks (Popsicle sticks) for seedlings while they are in pots. All of the annuals I grow for seed are then put in numbered beds that correspond to a planting chart I keep on my computer. Most perennials and woodies have been here so long that I just know what they are. But, in case my memory fails, I have thousands of photos of the gardens here, tagged with the names of the plants and the area they are growing in, so I can recall the names that way if needed. The only thing I use plastic labels for now is for perennial seedlings in pots or holding beds.

  6. Nan, truly wonderful, unusual, and intriguing blooms! The center of the little’Venus’ navelwort’ reminds me of a daffodil cup! The orange four o’clock, the lily…so many beauties, ending with your lovely chocolate nicotiana. Thanks for introducing us all to these marvels! Looking forward to August and onward!

    Thanks, Donna! I’m glad that you enjoyed today’s tour. Yes, now on to August. It’s kind of hard to believe that the days are already getting shorter.

  7. Nan, as always such a beautiful group of plants and flowers. It’s like taking a peaceful walk through a new and beloved flower garden with lots of new plants discovered.
    I hope the smoke from the fires in Canada didn’t bother your area.
    Warm wishes for a continued beautiful summer.
    Jean Spangenberg

    So good to hear from you, Jean. We’ve been having a fair number of air quality alerts over the past weeks, but it’s nothing like we had back in early June. I hope all is ok in your world too. Happy Bloom Day to you!

  8. As always, so many new temptations! Inspired by your garden photos and by a recent lecture I attended presented by Claudia West, I want to create more of a “matrix”of intermingled plants that fill up space so well that it excludes some of the plants (I dislike calling them “weeds”) that I did not invite to the party. I need more of the ground floor and first floor citizens to support the high rise community, and seeing some here that may fit the bill. Spreading is an asset except when it isn’t, so it’s great when those plants are also easy to snatch out. More and more I realize as a garden matures it is my job to be the referee. I am wondering if the Anagallis arvensis and the Linaria mix might fit in with these specifics, keeping in mind that west Tennessee is a very hot and humid Zone 7. That said, I can always order your affordable seeds and report back to you in the future!

    Hi Carol! I like to use self-sowing annuals for that sort of purpose in newer gardens (the first 3 to 5 years): They’ll fill the space while it’s available and sow into spots where there’s still bare soil, then get smothered out once the perennials and woodies have settled in and started to bulk up. Those that flower early and then decline by early or midsummer (like phacelias and Linaria reticulata, to name just two) work well in more established gardens, providing quick early color and then disappearing as the perennials leaf out. I’m not sure how the Anagallis or Linaria color mix would perform in your growing conditions. I’d honestly never considered collecting the Anagallis seed and just pulled out a bunch of past-prime plants, because it’s so common around here. But it doesn’t seem to be considered invasive, so I will consider offering it if I can collect some later this summer, or next year.

  9. Nan, you’ve tempted me to buy seeds again. I grow several of your other selections, and the narrow leaf mountain mint is one of my favorites in partial shade in Oklahoma. ~~Dee

    Thanks so much, Dee. I’m so happy to hear that the previous seeds have done well for you. I hope the new ones headed your way perform beautifully too!

  10. It’s a warm evening here and I finally got around to giving this post the time it deserves. Wow! So many interesting things, I don’t know how you find the time to grow them all as well as post about them. I bet the rain has helped, this post probably wouldn’t have happened if you were out watering every day… or at least that’s how it was going here for a while…
    I keep having to remind myself I have too many other projects to be sowing seeds but the unplanted ones from last winter are making me feel guilty. Maybe just a few pots in august, at least then I won’t feel guilty ordering more this summer! Love the linaria and moonflower :)

    Hi Frank! Gosh, yes, this past month has been the exact opposite of the previous one: lots and lots of rain. I makes seed-collecting challenging, but at least I have been getting some weeding done since I don’t need to water. Good for you, thinking of doing some sowing. I have a list here on my desk of things I really need to get to. Maybe tomorrow….

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