Tropical Ginger will be nearly a month early

In 2010, it was Sept. 27 by the time the ginger  flower reached this stage.

Last year, Hedychium 'Anne Bishop' began to bloom for the very first time in mid-October. Luckily, we had a warm and beautiful fall that lingered long enough to at least get the plant closer to the house for protection before dividing it in November.

Today, the flower is slightly less advanced than it was last Sept. 27, but will likely reach that point by Sept. 6, a full three weeks earlier than last year.

While I thought it was hot last summer, this season was even hotter. And the ginger's root system was larger, which plays a part in its ability to bloom.

I also fed it more heavily, administering a liberal dose of time-release fertilizer in late June, topping it off in mid-August.
Flowers began to open last year on October 10.

Colors come in many forms

The larval form of the tiger moth, this Yellow Wooly Bear Caterpillar has been chewing on one of my herbaceous peonies.
'Gruss an Aachen' in bud stage.
 Rosa 'Gruss an Aachen' is a very old shrub rose that grows no more than 2' high and will even bloom in less than full sun. Buds begin a peachy-rose and fade to nearly white. And this beauty is fragrant!
'Gruss an Aachen'

A different kind of color in My May Garden

Looking back to when there was a sense of freshness in my garden. Rhododendron, Azalea, tree peonies and the beginning of lots more are a welcome sight in a time when the mosquitoes were lurking just below the radar. All of these photos were taken in May of this year.

Bouquets and foliage combos keep the garden colorful in August

Hydrangea 'Endless Summer' with Heuchersa 'Caramel' and 'Sashay', with
Mukdenia 'Crimson Fans at lower left.
Things can get somewhat bleak in August - weeds have had their way with any bare soil, suckers taunt you with their vigor, and leaves gone crispy mar the color and texture that should be starring right now in the garden.

The easiest, least demanding plants for this time of year are the ones that don't need flowers to look their best. One of my favorite Heucheras is 'Caramel', its leaves a carnival of colors that range from chartreuse to rose and everthing in between.

If you jumped onto the Mukdenia bandwagon three or four years ago, you probably have a plant that's coming into its own by now. It mixes perfectly with Heuchera and other plants that like partial shade like Hydrangea, Astrantia, and Hakonechloa.

I call this section of the garden "Sun and Moon."
It relies on foliage color and texture for interest in
the middle of summer.

Hellebores make great companions for Hakonechloa and the deeper colors provided by Ajuga (bugleweed), Actaea (bugbane), and Cotinus (smokebush). The golden theme is continued with a large-leaved Hosta (barely visible in this shot), a golden Chamaecyparis pisifera (threadleaf cypress), and a Thuja with a gorgeous golden color. 

I inserted my newest favorite Zinnia for 2011, 'Queen Red Lime', into a Hydrangea 'Endless Summer' bloom and added Celosia as an accent.
Celosia and Coleus make great partners in the ground where they can
spread out. This spot is partially shady but still provides enough
light to color up the leaves, creating an in-ground bouquet.

Early August Bouquets

 A shrub, a perennial and an annual cavort in the same vase for a subtle bouquet. Here are Hydrangea macrophylla 'Gertrude Glahn', Phlox paniculata 'David's Lavender' and Celosia spicata 'Flamingo Feather Purple', with the phlox echoing one another's shade of lavender. I grow the Celosia in a mixed planter, although it's definitely taking up the lion's share of the space. Imagine the impact it would have growing in a sunny spot along with Phlox, Gomphrena 'Fireworks' and old-fashioned purple coneflower!
I can't seem to get enough of 'Queen Red Lime', a Zinnia of a different color (or should I say "colors?") that seems to get along well with pretty much any shade you can imagine. Here I've mixed it in a bouquet with red Celosia spicata that stretches perfectly for use in a vase. For more information about the genus Celosia,  check out the National Garden Bureau for its details on starting and growing all manner of this versatile plant.

Gomphrena 'Fireworks'

Celosia spicata 'Flamingo Feather Purple'


Serious Summer Calls for Tough Plants and Garden Visitors

x Pardancanda 'Sangria' up close
Pardancanda 'Sangria' had such a prolific season last year that I divided it in the fall. While it hasn't given me as many blooms this year, they're nevertheless beautiful. The official name is x Pardancanda, the "x" indicating in this case that it's an intergeneric hybrid between Belamcanda chinensis and Pardanthopsis dichotoma. Find more info at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening, a feature of Missouri Botanic Garden, one of my favorite places to visit.

x Pardancanda 'Sangria'

Loving the excellent drainage provided by my seriously-raised bed, x Pardancanda mixes well with Lavendar, ornamental Oregano and larkspur.

"I came for the waters..."

I'm not certain how he got up there but this little frog made himself home in the water reservoir at the base of one of my hanging pots. When we watered the pot, the cascading water forced him out of his lair. Is that a self-satisfied froggy grin I see on his puss?