Ups and downs in a sun-challenged garden

My tomatoes are seven feet tall, my Monarda suffered a severe lopping after a heavy downpour, and I'm seeking stakes in the spooky shed. It's just another day in a sun-challenged garden. If you have a yen for sun-lovers but in reality have too much shade, stakes are your best friends. 

Hydrangea arboresens 'Incrediball'
  When I planted the new Proven Winners Hydrangea 'Incrediball', I figured it would swoon like a Victorian lady when the rains came and weighted down the big flowers. Thanks to a little preemptive application of 4-foot wire fencing, that hasn't happened. It's actually turned into one of my go-to favorites, blooming for weeks and weeks without a hitch, a browned leaf or a soggy head.

An experiment in the world of upsie downsie.

When my father in-law gave me this pot, called the Upsy Downsy Tomato Planter, I was skeptical. But when I purchased a cell pack of four Super Sweet 100 tomato plants and then found I had no place to put them, my husband planted them in the Upsy Downsy. So far, the only retrofitting to be done was the attachment of the pot to a post that extends from our fencepost. It needs water at least once a day, and I feed it with a water soluble fertilizer in addition to using Osmocote. We have fruit! And although it's suffered a few total meltdowns from lack of water, it's not doing bad.

Phlox 'David's Lavendar is heading heavenward.

Although I've yet to stake this Phlox, it has the advantage of being sheltered from the wind by its proximity to a trellis and fence. Another advantage is that it's even too tall for the deer to reach. Of course, I suppose if it were in their normal traffic route--pretty much anywhere--it would be a goner.
Origanum 'Kent Beauty' benefits from its own little fence.
Even the little guys in a sun-challenged garden need support. In this case, the ornamental oregano called 'Kent Beauty'. I love it for dried arrangements, and if you keep clipping it, itremains somewhat short. 
Oriental-Trumpet hybrid lily - staked, of course.

Almost missed it...

Astrantia 'Shaggy'
It almost slipped past me. It's small, white, and subtle--advantages in the spring, but during mosquito season, a recipe for neglect. I like Astrantia, and have several cultivars ranging in color from deep red to white, as in 'Shaggy'. They seem to like my partially-shaded gardens, enjoying similar conditions as Anemone japonica.

Astrantia major 'Rubra'

It's all pink and blue this week - Bloom a Day July 19-25

Lilium 'Cragganmore'
Maybe it was the name - 'Cragganmore' was named for a Scotch whiskey, not my drink of choice but distilled in a country we visited years ago and one we long to return to. The color is deepening slightly, but I guess I expected a deeper red, which would make the white edging on each petal really pop.
Echinacea 'Green Envy'

One of my favorite Echinaceas is 'Green Envy', just beginning to open in this shot. I've moved a few times but this compact cutie seems to like it where it is.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Teller's Red'

Hydrangea 'Teller's Red' (aka 'Taube') gives me something to look forward to when some other lacecaps are past their prime. It's not a remontant cultivar, but it's in a sheltered spot and has been blooming in two out of three seasons since I got it. With the addition of aluminum sulphate and an acidic pH, it will become somewhat purple.

Lathyrus 'Charlie's Angel'
Who would think I'd have sweet peas blooming in this tropical weather? I planted Lathyrus odoratus 'Charlie's Angel' in April and, although healthy, hasn't bloomed 'til now. I'll be cutting it back a bit (Can't bring myself to do it when it's in bloom.) to see if it will give me some more flowers in the fall.

Hydrangea 'Gertrude Glahn'

I've had Hydrangea macrophylla for several years, with more success than failure because of its proximity to the east side of the house. After two years in a row with no blooms, I threatened to remove it. That did it. The next year it gave me half a dozen blooms--not bad for this tempramental plant (Zone 6).
Florets of Hydrangea 'Gertrude Glahn' at right dwarf those of 'Endless Summer'.
As a reminder of why I go to the trouble of growing 'Gertrude G.', the photo here shows the size difference of its florets compared with those of 'Endless Summer'. I like 'Endless Summer' and will likely continue to grow it, but once you witness the size of not-so-hardy hydrangeas, there is no going back!

Let 'em rest

With long-term heat waving its debilitating wand over the northwest Indiana area, we can keep our plants alive, but don't expect much from them. Terms like xeriscaping, which seemed unnecessary just a couple of months ago, now jump into the forefront as we witness our needy plants wilt from dawn til dusk.

While some plants, like tomatoes, seem to be in a holding pattern, others, like lilies, are moving through their bloom cycle in a hurry. The lily here looked like its pollen grains had melted onto its lower petals.

Meanwhile, plants in containers are needy during this heat and drought wave, especially if they're in full sun. Those in shade, like the one in the Pamela Crawford double-tier side planting basket available at Kinsman Company, are more apt to weather the heat. I've had this basket on a stake for several years, and have enjoyed making new combinations each year. This year, I used a combination of sweet potato vine, wax begonias, coleus, fuchsia, Lysimachia and Impatiens.

OT Lilium 'Conca d'Or'

And finally, a plant that shrugs off the heat like a trooper yet looks like an otherworldly angel--Lilium 'Conca d'Or', an Oriental/Trumpet hybrid that's won the favorite category in the North American Lily Society two years running.

In its second year in my garden, I'd at first thought it would be a disappointment when I saw its white buds without a hint of gold. But a day later, this is what it looks like. And it has a wonderful fragrance!

Lilies are best planted in fall, so check out The Lily Garden's wonderful selection and quality.

Poppy's plant evaluation

I don't know how it happened, or why. I can only guess. As I entered the sunroom, there was a certain "vibe," one that made me look at our resident terriers, Poppy and Abbie. The girls seemed to be commiserating about something--getting their stories straight for an inquisition I hadn’t realized was forthcoming. Then I noticed the water—on the floor, the table and IN A POOL SURROUNDING MY CAMERA AND LAPTOP!!

I’d placed a vase of lilies on the sunroom table as inspiration for a blog. The vase was now laying on its side, water still flowing from its mouth. The lilies were on the floor. At first it seemed it had been knocked over—innocent enough I supposed. But when I examined the flowers I found a few of the petals had been nibbled, some were shredded and entire buds were missing.

I looked at Poppy. She looked at Abbie. Abbie looked at me. Olive went somewhere to hide. If ever you’ve experienced canine boredom you can piece together the sequence of events that led to the attempted drowning of my equipment and culinary curiosity about the once-gorgeous lily.

I suppose I’ve only myself to blame. I had, after all, shamelessly coaxed Poppy to “smell” the poppies for the photo that graces this blog. I did it by placing little chunks of food inside the poppies. She was simply looking for a snack, which she had come to learn sometimes could be found inside a flower.

I think she was still hoping I’d break out the treats and put them in the lily when I took the flower into the kitchen and snapped this picture. If you look closely, you can see Abbie behind her, not taking ownership of the deed but staying close in case cookies were proffered.

The laptop and camera were dried and work just fine. The vase hadn’t broken. And I have lots more lilies to pick. I’ll just know next time not to place them within reach of the dog who keeps us all on our toes with her antics.

Poppy was sent to bed for punishment. Doesn't she look pathetic?

Bodacious Bouquets

Bouquet of magenta and gold
 One method I've used to determine what to plant with what is to pick plenty of bouquets. I fill a vase and traipse through the garden in search of flowers and foliage to make the prettiest combinations. I figure, if they look good together in a vase, they'll surely look good together in the garden. Of course, that works only if they require the same growing conditions. I don't spent a whole lot of time futzing with the arrangement, the only nod to design technique is to pick three (or a similar odd number more than one) of each stem.

The Echinacea is from the first of the Itsaul Plants' introductions, probably 'Sunrise'. I planted them in 2006 and, hard as I tried not to, lost the tags. Anyway, they're still going strong, haven't needed to be divided, and bloom sufficiently in limited sun.

Hydrangea, Achillea, Clematis, Lilium and Echinacea with Campanula 'Wedding Bells'
'Big Sky Sunrise'
Echinacea ‘Big Sky Sunrise’ has soft citron or butter yellow flowers that are up to 5 inches across with slightly overlapping petals. The cone starts out green and quickly gives way to gold. Well branched plants grow 30 to 36 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide

Echinacea ‘Big Sky Harvest Moon’ (Matthew Saul) 'Harvest Moon's' ray flowers are earthy gold, the color of the harvest moon with a golden orange central cone. Petals are wide and overlapping. Plants grow 24 to 30 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide.

Itsaul Plants was one of the first companies to market the alternative-colored coneflowers after the 'Art's Pride' came on the market.
'Big Sky Harvest Moon' (AKA Matthew Saul)

TRR Bloom-A-Day July 12-18 PART II

Lilium 'Triumphator'
'Triumphator' (in a former post, labeled as "unknown") is a Longiflorum/Oriental that grows about 4 feet tall and has a very sweet fragrance. You can find it at Brent and Becky's Bulbs.

Hypericum 'Mystical Orange'
 Hypericum 'Mystical Orange' alludes to this shrub's fruits. The Mystical series of Hypericum is great for cut flower arrangements, is resistant to rust (I've yet to see a flaw in the foliage after two seasons), and has a nice open habit.

Allium carinatum pulchellum

Ornamental onions in mid-summer? This little beauty wears a bejeweled headdress and makes a great cut flower. It also drys very nicely.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Let's Dance Starlight'

  What a year it's been for Hydrangeas! 'Let's Dance Starlight' is a macrophylla lacecap with sterile florets of a size that puts other lacecaps to shame. Okay, big is not always better--I still like 'Schichidanka' and 'Blue Billow', which are both serratas, but in this case it's a good thing.

Lilium 'White Tycoon'
Another flower that is late in the game this year is the Longiflorum/Asiatic hybrid lily 'White Tycoon'. When my husband told me he would build a raised bed, I scrambled to dig up all of the lilies he'd soon be burying in two feet of soil. I missed one and it has somehow pushewd its way up through the extra depth of soil and is now blooming. The lilies pictured here are the ones I'd moved--hanging out on the east side of the house with Monarda and catmint.

Tah Rah Rah Bloom-A-Day July 12- 18 Part One: The Watering Outlaw

Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'

I know, I know--you're not supposed to water overhead. But it's so much quicker and easier because you can really cover some ground with an overhead sprinkler. It's especially tempting fate when your plants grow tall enough to make you feel like a Liliputian. But sometimes you have to say: Tie 'em down and let 'er rip!

As you can see from the photo, Monarda 'Raspberry Wine' is attempting to reach for the roof of my house! It's at least as tall as I am, but the hummingbirds love it and I can't do without it even if it is a space thug.

Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime'

If you like bi-colored blossoms, you might want to try Zinnia 'Red Queen Lime'. (Select Seeds) This little beauty is just beginning to bloom--staked to the nth degree, but worth the effort. If you have more sun than I do - more than 4 hours a day - you shouldn't need to stake it.

Hydrangeas cavort in the garden

Not actually bi-color but putting up the effort, Hydrangea 'Incrediball' seems to have a tuft of pink in its center. The pink petals are actually from a bloom from Hydrangea 'Invincibell Spirit' planted next to it. (Both from Color Choice)Sometimes neighboring plants take to cavorting when you least expect it--which is one of the cool things about gardening--you never know what will happen from one season to the next.

Lilium 'Orania'

One of my all-time favorite hybrid lilies is 'Orania'. It's a cross between an Oriental and a trumpet type lilly, has a very faint but pleasant scent and is available at Brent and Becky's Bulbs.

Tah Rah Rah Bloom A Day - July 4-11 - Warm color

Papaver rhoeas - Shirley poppy
 Warm colors from red to peach to deep magenta look great with white and blue. These are the colors of high summer, nearly exclusive to July.       

Clematis 'Avant Garde' is a small-flowered variety but its flowers are incredibly cute and complex, with tufts of pink in the center of magenta petals.
Clematis 'Avant Garde'

Related to Coreopsis 'Creme Brulee', 'Sienna Sunset' offers great color, especially when massed with catmint or lavender. This beauty grows just 16" tall and loves full sun.
Coreopsis 'Sienna Sunset'

Lilies are great for when the summer starts to sizzle. I like the fragrant varieties, including  Orienpet, which are a cross between Oriental and trumpet lilies.  

Lilium 'Silk Road'

Lilium 'Triumphator'

Tah Rah Rah Bloom-A-Day

Clematis 'Rooguchi'
Whether you have a special event planned or just want to know what to look forward to when, it's great to predict your plants' prime. Although not an exact science, I have been keeping photographic records for the past four seasons and will share them here. In this post, I'll feature plants in bloom from July 4 - 11.

Clematis 'Betty Corning' blooms for at least six weeks starting mid-June

Anything with blue in its color repertorie is great for the month of July. Just looking at it makes you feel a few degrees cooler.  
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer' is having a banner year.
Luckily, there are a lot of blue flowers for the month, from vines to shrubs to a great selection of annuals and perennials.

Peruvian daffodil or Hymenocallis

 Another option for adding some virtual cool is white or  some version of it.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Incrediball' from Proven Winners

I've developed a newfound  appreciation for Annabelle Hydrangea,I pre-empted the flop by surrounding it with a green wire cage, but it's not drooping over it like I'd expected. 

 There is nothing better than peach, orange, or coral tones to bring out the blue. Check out the next post for more color in early July.

Lilium 'Red Velvet'
 In the better late than never category, Lilium 'Red Velvet' is in bloom after a two-year hiatus. It bloomed the season after I planted it (Old House Gardens), and the following year before its buds even started to think about coloring up, a deer had it for dinner. This is one of the lilies I used soap on a stick to protect and it seems to have worked so far.

The soap on a stick idea came from Taltree Arboretum & Gardens:

1. cut bars of soap (I used Irish Spring) into icecube sized chunks and wrap them in pieces of cheesecloth.
2. tie the soap pieces onto stakes of some kind.
3. place the stakes close to the plants you want to protect.

Anyway, 'Red Velvet' is an Asiatic triploid hybrid that was bred in 1964. Which means it was introduced when my Mom was baking me red velvet cake every year for my birthday.

Begonia 'Beaucoup White'

I picked out this begonia for its looks (Isn't that the way it usually goes?) It's thriving along with chenille plant and chartreuse sweet potato vine. Luckily I make it a point to save my annual plant tags, and I found out what its name is. Begonia 'Beaucoup White' from Green Fuse Botanicals is so much more than white. With its cute button centers and appleblossom pink outer petals, it's an easy-care step up from the ho-hum wax begonias.

Dragon (or damsel) fly on Clematis 'Rooguchi' bud.

And finally, in the realm of the blue, it's hard to beat Clematis 'Rooguchi' for its color. And it certainly doesn't hurt when a pretty insect poses for the camera.

Fragrance and unusual flowers

species Gardenia
I bought a gardenia labeled simply "species gardenia" from Logee's several years ago, and it's having a fairly good year finally. It's a single-flowered species, don't know if it's a cultivated variety or not, but it's a real cutie.  I planted it last year in a styrofoam container with cactus soil mixed with regular potting soil and topdressed it with gravel for extra drainage away from stems. It gets an acid fertilizer about every other time it's watered and had a dose of Osmocote about a month ago.

Gardenia 'Miami Supreme'
This Gardenia is called 'Miami Supreme' and we've had it for nearly 15 years. By early March in our sunroom, it's severely defoilated and covered with mites and scale. By July it's covered with buds and its leaves have mostly recovered from chlorosis. It also gets Osmocote and acid water-soluble fertilizer. What a wonderful fragrance! And it keeps me in gardenias for the entire summer.

Deinanthe caerulea ‘Blue Wonder’
Deinanthe caerulea ‘Blue Wonder’ is in a less than prominent spot so I had to cut a stem to photograph. Its flowers face downward and are an awesome blue. Deinanthe is in the Hydrangea family, with huge leaves. It likes lots of moisture but good drainage and fairly deep shade.

"There's something in the bushes!"

We have quite a few birds in our garden - wrens, cardinals, a catbird, robins and a little bluish bird I see once in awhile that I'll get to later. Many of them have nests. They're not enough to keep mosquitos at bay, so I've taken to wearing those little battery-operated Off! fans - one in each pocket like a pair of six-guns. I felt confident I wouldn't be severely mosquito bit with this protection and so I stormed the yews that had been taken over by wild raspberry. I was about to make my third triumphant ground-level cut when I heard the most piercing, plaintive sound near me.

"There's something in there," I told my husband as he came to see why I had emerged so suddenly from the underbrush. "I didn't want to bother her," I explained. Okay, I'll admit it here - I was a little spooked by the noise it made, not like any other bird I'd ever heard. I kind of expected to see something dead at my feet right before I ran.

Not to be deterred, I continued weeding in a bed with a severely overgrown Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' and plant a few zinnias I'd grown from seed. I was scraping the weeds off the surface of the soil with my Circle Hoe (love the Circle Hoe) when I heard that noise again! If you know where this is going you're just a sec ahead of me. Those little Off! fans don't like it when a leaf gets caught in it. It makes the wierdest noise...

As for the little bluish bird - we're thinking it's a blue-gray gnatcatcher It's an adorable little bird, less than 6" long, with bluish coloration and an angry black unibrow.

Meanwhile, if you can find some "Barbara's buttons," aka Marshallia grandiflora, add these charmers to your garden. They're native to the Midwest and prefer moist soils with partial sun. They spread slowly and reseed when happy. Not sure if you can tell from photos but they're on the pinkish side of white.

Marshallia grandiflora

Marshallia grandiflora

Got a sauna? The inside kind, I mean...

In foreground, Marshallia grandiflora, a native that dries
quite well into little button flowers. The others are peonies.

All it takes is rubber bands, paper clips, a shower rod and (heavens to Joan Crawford!!), wire coat hangers. Oh, and if you have a sauna, that helps, too. I've been using my sauna every summer to dry flowers--peonies, larkspur, hydrangeas, lavender--quickly and easily. I put up a shower rod across the sauna and saved coat hangers, small rubber bands and paper clips, and end up with way more dried flowers than I can possibly use.

A seldom-used closet works, too, as long as it's dry and somewhat dark and has good air circulation.

Oh, and in the wintertime when all the flowers are dried--I use the sauna to dry my..., ahem, ... delicates.