If I didn't love plants so much...

If I didn't love plants so much, I'd let the lemon balm take possession of the garden and pull some of it each spring and fall just to enjoy its fragrance.

If I could stay away from the online plant and seed seller sites, I wouldn't have to guess what the deer would develop an appetite for next.

If only I didn't love the scent and waxy blossoms of lilies, the money I spend on stakes could go toward a more comfortable retirement.

If color through the season weren't important to me, I wouldn't be buying Dial or Irish Spring to cut up and hang from posts throughout the yard in an attempt to deter deer.

If I hated variety, I'd have left the thousand or so Hostas (all one cultivar) where they were (everywhere) and saved the three weeks of physical therapy I went through after digging them up.

If I didn't love Peonies, Poppies, Echinacea, Hydrangeas, Zinnias, Asters and conifers I'd have more lawn.

And if I had more lawn, I'd be mowing instead of weeding, digging, planting, staking and deadheading.

But if I were mowing, I wouldn't hear the chirping and buzzing or smell the surprising wisps of scent a garden with lots of different plants provides.

Every year around this time I have to talk myself down from a Roundup frenzy. It's my own fault. I've managed to wrestle a season's worth of neglect into three hours of guilt, back pain and a carpal tunnel flare-up.

Stand by. I'm going back out there--without the Roundup.

And still, they keep on blooming...

Impatiens Fusion Glow Yellow from Ball Horticultural

For me, there is never enough color in a garden, no matter what time of year. Annuals I'll be planting more of in the future include this exotic Impatiens, which thrives in a pot in the shade of an oak tree. Ball Horticultural offers a selection of Impatiens, which really add a tropical feel to the garden.
 And then there is Thunbergia 'Blushing Susie', a black-eyed Susan vine of a different color. I've grown Thunbergia in its original pale yellow in hanging pots from the get-go, simply planting half a dozen seeds in mid-May right in the pot. They did spectacularly in an east exposure.

Since I first witnessed the Blushing Susies, I'd planned to plant them but didn't get around to it until this year - and I planted them late, so they've just begun to flower.

Thunbergia 'Blushing Susie'
 Discovered in Kenya by Robert Grant-Downton of  University of Oxford, Thunbergia 'Blushing Susie' was introduced several years ago but wasn't originally available from seed. They are now, along with a few others like 'African Sunset' and 'Spanish Eyes' offered by Swallowtail Garden Seeds.

Whatever their cultivar name, I'll be planting these colorful Thunbergia next year, a little earlier so I can enjoy them through the summer.

If I had it to do over...

If I could turn back time to mid-May, here is what I would have done:

  1. Plant seeds of Mirabilis longiflora a month earlier. I planted the seed, which I'd purchased from Select Seeds, in late June/early July and they're just now starting to bloom.
  2. Plant Celosia Flamingo Feather in the ground instead of in pots. They're just too big and crowded out the other plants I'd mixed them with.
  3. Avoid planting Zinnia 'Gumdrop Candy', a supposedly crested variety, which, while attractively-colored, looks nothing like the photos on Select Seeds' site.
And in mid-June, I would have:
  1. Given Monarda 'Raspberry Wine' a second shearing. It grew so tall, and looked great during the first dry weeks, but went down like a fast-acting cop in a tv show gunfight after the first heavy rainfall.
  2. Gotten rid of Panicum 'Heavy Metal', a beautiful plant that doesn't get enough sun where it's planted and is now leaning over all adjacent plants.
  3. Reinforced deer prentive options. Who knew the little darlings would continue to visit my garden throughout the entire summer.
And as always by now, I have a list of new plants or newly-blooming plants I can't do without:
  1. Hydrangea arborescens 'Incrediball'
  2. Angelonia 'Serena Blue'
  3. Hydrangea arborescens 'Incrediball' with the flowerhead of
    Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Spirit'
    providing the pink accents.
  4. Petunia 'Easy Wave Violet'

It finally bloomed!

Mirabilis longiflora

I planted the seed late -- probably mid-June -- and of course in a less than ideal site out of full sun. Mirabilis longiflora from Select Seeds opened its ethereal blossoms this morning, and it was worth the wait for its beauty and novelty. The cultivar name for this relative of the Four O'Clock is 'Fairy Trumpets'. In its native range - Texas, Arizona and New Mexico - it blooms after the spring rains and can grow to 5 feet tall. Like the common Four O'Clock (Mirabilis jalapa), the plant is poisonous.

Color Choice Shrubs Keep on Blooming

Quince - Chaenomeles speciosa 'Double Take Orange Storm'
What a wonderful visit I had to Dale Deppe's personal "proving grounds!" Throughout the western Michigan property, which Dale generously shared for a tour, shrubs already introduced and those vying to be named a Color Choice selection created a gorgeous private arboretum.

So many of the Color Choice shrubs not only bloom in spring, but re-bloom to a lesser extent in the fall. What a surprise it was to see quince blooming during the second week in September! 

Abelia 'Bronze Anniversary'
Abelia 'Bronze Anniversary showed off colorful bracts, new flowers and a flush of foliar growth all at the same time. Although rated hardy to Zone 6, it was certainly looking its best in a zone closer to 5!

 Weigela 'Ghost' gave lingering hummingbirds something to power them up for their long journey to their winter grounds. My love for chartreuse leaves made me picture this plant in my "Sun and Moon Garden" along with Hakonechloa 'All Gold', Cotinus 'Grace' and 'Royal Purple' and dark-leaved Actaea racemosa. 
Weigela 'Ghost'

Meanwhile, back at Color Choice headquarters, Communications Specialist Ryan McGrath showed me around the demonstration beds where I fell in love with a Hydrangea called 'Blue Bunny'. It's a cultivar of the species involucrata, aka bracted hydrangea, and is rated hardy to Zone 6. However, it blooms on current season's growth, so losing flower buds in the winter is not a concern.
Hydrangea 'Blue Bunny'

What's up at Walters Gardens

Hosta 'Rhino Hide'
Thanks to Susan Martin, Director of Marketing Communications at Walters Gardens in Zeeland, Michigan, I had a wonderful tour of their facility. In fall, we often can appreciate more fully the great foliage effects of many perennials, including Hostas, Heuchera, and Ajuga. With one particular Hosta, it's all in the name. 'Rhino Hide' has the thickest leaves you've ever felt! The color is great--blue margins on narrow light green centers that brightens to yellow. The thick leaves stave off slug damage, and offer a substance that holds up to the weather. They're even said to be more sun tolerant.

Hosta 'Designer Genes'

With a name like 'Designer Genes', I had to take a second look. Of course, I love chartreuse leaves, but a Hosta with deep red petioles has an extra pop going for it.  

Hosta 'Mighty Mouse'

Hosta 'Mighty Mouse', a sport of 'Blue Mouse Ears' has cute little leaves with good substance and creamy yellow margins. This one looks great in the foreground with 'Designer Genes', a study in contrasting foliage shape and color echoes, especially in the early spring when 'Mouse Ears' emerges with bright yellow edges.

An Ajuga with something extra--pink and cream scalloped leaves that are still fresh in September. 'Ajuga reptans 'Party Colors' would look great at the feet of a compact Tricyrtis like the Miyazaki hybrids.

Have fun with making combinations and inspecting foliage plants for their interesting forms, shapes, and colors.
Tricyrtis hirta Miryazaki hybrid

May Dreams Gardens: I was once a solitary gardener

May Dreams Gardens: I was once a solitary gardener: I sat down last night to write out a blog post based on a presentation I gave as a participant in a panel discussion on garden blogging at t...

I hate hardy hibiscus

Tropical Hibiscus are one thing. They’re crisp and substantial and come in fruity sherbet shades that blend like a Key West sunset. But the hardy Hibiscus? If ever a species in a genus could be considered second rate, Hibiscus moscheutos would win the honor.
It hasn’t helped that so many plant breeders have been duking it out to introduce the one with the biggest flowers. And these breeders seem not to have noticed they’re all pink, for heaven’s sake. Call them what you will—‘Pink Princess’, ‘Bubblegum Beauty’, or ‘Rosiecopter’—they’ll all end their days like soggy blobs of Kleenex. 
And we all know how the most popular perennials have more than one season of interest. We’re lucky to squeeze a week’s worth of beauty out of a hardy hibiscus. With its hollow cups of seedpod precursors, beetle-bitten petals and poor posture, it resembles a crop plant that lacks not only intrinsic value but nutritional value.

Ok, so this one's red. I'm just sayin'...
It wasn’t enough just to dig this plant up and put it in a body bag, I wanted to somehow torture it for taking up space in my garden. What could be worse for a plant than to be ripped by the rubbery lips of a hungry deer? But guess what? The deer don’t like them either. So I was left with no choice but to give them to my neighbor. She seems to be avoiding me lately…

Petal Talk: September Surprises and long-awaited prizes

Petal Talk: September Surprises and long-awaited prizes

September Surprises and long-awaited prizes

Roses are regrouping, an iris is reblooming, and a couple of surprise blossoms are gracing the garden. Iris ‘Immortality’ is beautiful in June, but stunning in September. It’s been a consistent rebloomer  in at least two out of three years. Its stems are slightly shorter the second time around, but the flowers are just as large and fragrant. The single rose, ‘Pink Home Run’ from Proven Winners Color Choice starts out nearly red and fades slightly to a wonderful medium pink.

It’s been a long circuitous route toward the first bloom on my Oyama magnolia – Magnolia sieboldii. I’ve had it for at least six years, starting it out in a sunny position and moving it twice because of its hatred for heat and penchant for dropping leaves with the onset of mid-summer temps. So it’s been in the woods for a few years, becoming leggy and gangly. Yesterday I spotted something white at the tip of one of its branches. In order to avoid being eaten alive by mosquitoes, I cut it and photographed it in a vase. I don’t know when it started to open but it’s a little brown around the edges. Was it worth it? Maybe. I’ll do a bit of pruning and feeding next spring and give it supplemental water during drought—things I hadn’t bothered with in the last couple of years.

Primula in September? Primula vialii, or orchid primrose, has a look all its own, with a thick reddish “drumstick” accented by pale blue florets at its base.

I planted three of these primroses last fall and they bloomed a bit in spring. What's surprising about it blooming now in the midst of a dry spell is just that--this species is reported to do best in a very moist situation--even in a bog! That's what's so cool about gardening--it's always full of surprises.

If it weren't for annuals and succulents...

Calibrachoa 'Cherry Star' from Proven Winners
If it weren't for annuals that don't seem to mind a little (let's face it--a lot of) heat, my garden would be pretty colorless by now. A few new ones came into my life this season, including a couple of Calibrachoas from Proven Winners called 'Cherry Star' and 'Grape Punch'. Both have slowed down a bit but will ramp up their blooms as the evening temperatures cool off somewhat. According to Missouri Botanic Garden's site, Calibrachoa doesn't tend to slow down in midsummer like its cousin, the Petunia, but I've found it depends on their location.

Calibrachoa 'Grape Punch' cools the air with its color.
My Calibrachoas live in large pots combined with other annuals, including Verbena and sweet potato vine. The Petunias I'm growing this year are in a raised bed and they haven't slowed down much at all during the numerous and blazing heatwaves we've experienced in northwest Indiana.

Petunia 'Easy Wave Violet' shows its luminescent power.
I've never been much of a Petunia fan, but I've been really impressed with 'Easy Wave Violet' from Ball Seed. This deep and luminous magenta flower obviously has some neon in its parentage.

Succulents have been happy this summer. I've got several pots on my patio that are almost getting too plump for their own good. Plants of this type turn a little flaccid when they need water. But you can let them get that way without a worry in the offseason. But with so much heat, they don't mind a heavy hand with the watering can.

A dish full of succulents

In this mixed pot, the largest plant is Echeveria pallida. Clockwise, the silvery plant is Oscularia deltoides. The greenish rosette at bottom center is Echeveria pulidonis, and above and to the left is Echeveria runyonii cv 'Topsy Turvey'.  To the left of the largest Echeveria is the appropriately-named jellybean plant, Sedum rubrotinctum. All of these, including at least half a dozen more, are from Ted's Greenhouse in Tinley Park, IL.
Up next: Roses and Anemone, and the surprise blooms of primrose and Magnolia ...