Salvia Season

Salvia 'Wendy's Wish'
Some Salvias need a long warm season to begin blooming, and two new ones in my garden are starting to reward me with flowers.

'Wendy's Wish' was an afterthought, purchased on sale at Chesterton Feed & Garden Center along with several other plants that I jammed into one giant planter on the patio. You can almost always find tall Salvia on the sale rack. It doesn't keep its charm after a couple of months jammed into a pot meant to be temporary.

I bought two on July 5 and pinched them back when I planted them. It takes patience and a little faith to make yourself pinch a plant that has so little going for it to begin with. They had been in quart pots, so they had a sizable root system, which is probably why they're blooming just three weeks later.

Flowers by the Sea has an interesting story about this Salvia, and it also has several salvia links.

Salvia 'Wendy's Wish'
Another Salvia, purchased from Goodwin Creek Gardens is 'Sierra San Antonio'. Three tiny plants arrived in early June and I gave them a modicum of pinching, which is why they're awfully leggy now. According to San Marcos Growers, it's a hybrid between Salvia greggii and S. microphylla.

Salvia 'Sierra San Antonio'
When I saw this Salvia in bloom at Goodwin Creek, I was smitten with its lovely blend of deep peach and pale yellow, which is hard to capture in a photo. 

'Sierra San Antonio' will hopefully reach three feet in height so I can see it from my window when the hummingbirds swing by.

I have one more Salvia that hasn't yet bloomed, but I'll post about it when it finally does. I have Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime' seedlings planted with the 'Sierra San Antonio' and I'm hoping it will make a nice combination.

Salvia 'Sierra San Antonio'

Powerful Hose Nozzle has a Place in the Garden

You wouldn't use it while sipping wine from your best crystal. Or after gently patting in a few rows of lettuce seeds. No. The original *Ultimate HoseNozzle by Bonaire, billed as "the only nozzle you'll ever need," can be used in the garden, but more as an enforcer than a nurturer. (more about that later.)

My garden tools see me as a user with an abusive nature. I drop, fling, and pretty much let my tools fend for themselves wherever they land at the end of the day. I’ve run over them with my car and left them to winter in the lawn. They must be survivors. 

There are lighter nozzles--those that can be turned on easily with one hand while the other balances a plate of canap├ęs. My main nozzle has a useful mist setting that’s great for seeds and seedlings. Another has a handle that allows me to reach things like hanging pots or hard to reach plants. In my garden they’ll last two seasons at most before maltreatment or our well water does them in.

This latest dry spell, beginning with a week of incredible heat and humidity and ending with near gale-force winds, has not done my plants any favors. And it doesn’t help that it’s Japanese beetle season. While I wouldn’t do large-scale watering with the Bonaire Ultimate Hose Nozzle, I enjoyed using it to pretend we had rain along with the wind. It came sideways, blasting the Acanthus spinosus foliage and the Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Heatherbun'. I shot the base of a shrub rose that I’d neglected to clear of dried leaves in the springtime and knocked the dried up flowers off the lilies.

Getting the hang of it, I aimed a stream at my Pamela Crawford planter. One of the beauties, after all, of a hose nozzle with a long reach is that you don’t have to drag the hose through the garden. And I’ll bet I even knocked off a few remaining beetles in the process.
The Bonaire Ultimate Hose Nozzle can fill a watering can quicker than any other nozzle I have, or it can blast the sanding residue from the bottom of a boat. (the Laser in the driveway) It must be turned off and on with two hands, but it’s easy to turn, and it feels so substantial in my hand. I know that if I drop it on the ground I won’t get that afraid-to-see-the-damage feeling that comes when plastic meets pavement. The only downside I found with the nozzle’s use is that it’s impossible to turn on after it’s been in the hot sun, especially with arthritic hands like mine. But now that I know that, we keep it out of the sun. Under the boat is a perfect place, giving the disputed Laser in the driveway a purpose. For now, anyway.

The Bonaire Ultimate Hose Nozzle was sent to me gratis by Duluth Trading, a company I like for its rugged yet classy work clothing for women. I will be reviewing other items from Duluth Trading Company in future blogs.

My Hummingbirds are in WITSEC

On a winter's day when it's so cold you feel like a Russian peasant from Dr. Zhivago, you'll look back and think of the tropical afternoon on the patio. If you sit really still in the shade, I've found, you won't ooze sweat like you're in a sauna. Dave tells me he's been watching a pair of hummingbirds cavorting around the Crocosmia. "They'll forget you're there, and come charging down out of the sky to feed on the flowers," he told me.

He'd been out on the patio for, say... 15 minutes or less when he came in and told me this. I've been trying to capture the little dears on film for, well... forever without much luck. "Oh good," I said, "I'll sit with my camera!"

"Come on," said he, "They know what a camera is."

Dave seems to think it was funny how, for 20 years or more, I've been running for the camera whenever I see the approaching flutter. I used to think it was funny would disappear whenever I returned to take their photos. But now, not so much. I picture them sniggering into their little hummingbird wings as they hover around the corner where I can't see them.

So hummingbirds---if you're reading this now---I've officially given up. I won't have photos of you poised in mid-air as you coax nectar from a bloom. I'll assume you are in the witness protection program, and reign in my penchant for bad paparazzi behavior.

I don't by any means consider myself a "photographer." However I imagine that capturing a hummingbird's close-up portrait is one of those things that separate the National Geographic-caliber photog from the grip and grin dilettante.

What I'll have to console myself with today is a Great Spangled Fritillary on a coneflower. Butterflies are a lot easier to catch on film than those wily hummingbirds.

So if patience is short and your husband and the resident hummingbirds are conspiring against you, set your sights on a more accommodating butterfly. They seem to know that, once you get a couple of decent shots, you'll leave them alone.

A Tale of Four Coneflowers

Just as I was becoming overwhelmed by all the Echinacea cultivars out there, the color, form or generosity of bloom on a few varieties reaches out to grab me. Last year I fell in love with a double in the form of 'Southern Belle'. I marvelled at the perfectly packed petals of varying shades of pink, giving the flower center the formality of an old-fashioned mum but with its outer rays lending a casual air to the overall look of the flower.

But 'Southern Belle' fell out of favor with me for its stem flop, and seeming inability to support its many stems. After all, I reasoned, there must be others with better stem strength and perhaps a more compact character.

'Butterfly Kisses'
And then along came 'Butterfly Kisses', bred by Arie Blom of Holland. So far, it's incredibly compact, nicely floriferous, and cute as can be. Its color is a pure pale lavender pink with a row of shortened petals elbowing their way toward a row of near white petals that surround the deep golden cone at the center.

'Butterfly Kisses'

For sheer flower power along with fragrance and the added drama of near-black stems, 'Solar Flare', bred by Itsaul Plants, gets my vote. Perky petals that start out reaching for the sky relax into a flat stance surrounding a deep rust-red cone. It smells like a rose, and the flowers age gracefully, good for any living thing.

But "the Supremes" might give the doubles another aspect I'm lacking so far. A Terra Nova Nurseries introduction, the Supreme series includes three cultivars bred for compact habit, superior branching, saturated color and fragrance.

'Solar Flare
'Solar Flare'

'Supreme Flamingo'
I'm glad I planted Echinacea 'Supreme Flamingo' near 'Solar Flare'. Both have a modicum of orange in their color--not enough to make them coral, but enough to make you want to keep them away from true pink.

It's not like fingernails on a blackboard bothersome, but I'll be moving the pink phlox away from the grouping, perhaps replacing it with another shade of phlox or perhaps something else entirely. So many choices...

'Supreme Flamingo'

Choosing the Keepers on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

July is when I start realizing it's time for a change. What's a true garden without change? Boring, for one. I've added and subtracted plants since I began to garden. But I'm talking about creating swathes of bare ground and employing plants with kinder, gentler natures. I've notified my staff (read: husband Dave) that we'll be pulling up square yards of plants when the weather cools off. But first, I'll identify a few of the keepers.

Corydalis sempervirens is thriving in an area of my garden I consider "sunny."

With a name like "rock harlequin," how can I say goodbye to this adorable, self-sown native? According to the USDA, it's endangered in Indiana. Corydalis sempivirens seems to have made itself comfy in a spot I created for the placement of a pot. It's a corner of the garden that cries out for color and which I covered with a found bag of aquarium rock and a leftover ceramic floor tile. In nature, this little charmer is either a biennial or annual that grows in rock crevices and/or poor soil in a woodland clearing.

Spigelia marilandica (woodland pinkroot) is an easy keeper if it has a good location.
I've had Spigelia marilandica (Indian pinkroot) for at least six years, and it's one of those plants that just chugs along happily without requiring anything at all from me. This native is also endangered in Indiana, and is finicky about its location. Give it shade and ignore it, and Bob's your uncle, as they say. Okay, perhaps it requires more than that, but if you're not successful at first, try again and again in different spots throughout your garden and you're bound to make it happy eventually. I probably wouldn't bother if it weren't such a perfectly-compact, brightly-colored, interesting re-blooming plant. And come to think of it, those are some pretty great features!

Hydrangea Let's Dance(c) 'Starlight' is one of the best rebloomers in my garden.
And don't even get me started on Hydrangeas! I'm going to try to winnow them down to fewer than a dozen varieties. One that I'm really impressed with for its wondrous lacecap style and large sterile flowers is a Proven Selections variety called Let's Dance Starlight. Sent to me as a trial plant in the spring of 2008, this variety really started to show off last year, and this year to an even greater extent with lots more blooms. It's a rebloomer, so it can be cut back in spring and still have flowers.

Echinacea Big Sky 'Sunrise'
I've found myself with an abundance of coneflowers, some of which I'll need to give another year or so as they also have been given to me to try. Two of the keepers are Big Sky 'Sunrise' and 'Solar Flare'. Both of these outstanding coneflowers were bred by the Saul brothers of Itsaul Plants.

Echinacea 'Solar Flare'

Other keepers include those that have made their way upward so as not to take up as much horizontal space. It's taken awhile to get going, but Clematis 'Avant Garde' is a keeper for its color--a cheery raspberry red with a cute little tuft in the center.

By no means are these all of the plants I'll be hanging onto during the upcoming plant eradication. What we have here are shots of the plants that happen to be clamoring for my attention on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. See more of what's looking its best here at May Dreams Gardens.

Some Hydrangeas Prefer to Fend for Themselves

After threatening a plant, I usually give it another season to perform up to par, hype or promise. Quite a few Hydrangeas were pitched into the woods when the remontant types become more available and I no longer needed the finicky varieties. I really didn't expect them to survive, but this is the second one to signal me with its unmistakable presence in the midst of thistle and poison ivy. I only wish I knew what it was.
Mystery Hydrangea in the woods
If only I could reach it, I would remove the weeds that surround it, tuck in any exposed roots, feed and water it, and perhaps even move it back into the garden proper when the weather cools off. But wait! (I say as I smack palm to forehead) I already tried that! This plant obviously didn't like being pampered in my garden, and prefers to go toe to toe with the n'ere-do-wells in the woods. So let it.

Mystery lacecap
Before I became unrelenting on the removal of the garden slackers, I sometimes would just move a non-performer further from the house so I wouldn't have to look at it as much. This is what happened to another Hydrangea, a lacecap with large sterile flowers. Neither of these plants were sent to me to be evaluated, something that happens more often than not with Hydrangeas. Those I keep as well labeled as I can so that I can write about them.

Hydrangea Forever and Ever 'Peppermint' in a pot with Dichondra 'Silver Falls'
I did purchase a Hydrangea this year called Forever and Ever 'Peppermint' to grow in a pot on my front porch. It was just the cutest little thing, with sizable flower heads almost obliterating the foliage. Online literature for this variety indicates it grows to around three feet high and blooms on both old and new wood. This would make it capable of surviving in the ground and consistently offering up a respectable number of flowers. But I think I'll lug this pot inside the garage when it gets really cold, just to see what happens.

A Tale of Two Poppies

'Lauren's Grape'
I love poppies. From the hardy Orientals to the delicate Icelands, there's something magical about the way they appear on bright sunny mornings. Maybe it's the knowing they'll last for such a short time that makes them even more beautiful.

From a distance, their demeanor makes them cheery and I can't help but gravitate toward them. But for me the true prize comes with close inspection and focus.

I sowed seed of Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape' in late March and didn't notice much until early June. But the bluish leaves of the opium poppy are unmistakable. They'd look better in a big clump, but unfortunately I didn't plant enough for that. I'll reorder more seed next year from Select Seeds.

California poppy 'Wrinkled Rose' in bud

Perhaps one reason poppies hold such a special place in my heart is because I have such limited success with them. Very early this year, Park Seed offered packets of Eschscholzia californicus 'Wrinkled Rose' for $1 apiece. I purchased four packets of 100 seeds each, planted three of them, and ended up with one small patch of plants that remained a mystery until one of them bloomed.

Each flower takes its sweet time opening, which heightens their charm. But by the time the first flower unfurled, the weight of its extra petals and the lack of full sun pushed it onto the ground.

I'm not throwing in the towel on this little California cultivar. It is the first variety that has actually come up from several tries at getting seed to germinate in my garden. My next test will be to cut it and see if it lasts a day or so in a vase.

California poppy 'Wrinkled Rose' has a pretty color but perhaps too many petals to stand up straight.

Greetings from Tahiti ... the rainy season. Humidity is as close to 100 percent as it can get without thunder. Isn't it amazing how a place on the planet that can get a foot of snow in less than 24 hours can also mimic a tropical jungle? I suppose it's what people miss when they move to the California coast or those other boring paradise-like places. In fact, if someone were to do a survey of the number and geographical region of people who complain about the weather, the largest number of gripers would be in the Midwest. Sure, those people on the ocean have tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes, but it takes a Midwesterner for sheer daily carping.

The weather whining gets so bad here, in fact, that we all take Pollyanna pills whenever we can't stand listening to ourselves anymore. Which is what I've just done so I can write this blog.
Southern Magnolia 'Edith Bogue'
Our Southern Magnolia has opened a bloom today. The first photo was taken before I realized my camera lens was still fogged up even after wiping it dry. I'm sure that amount of humidity is very good for my camera.
Magnolia grandiflora 'Edith Bogue' through a fog-free lens

If this Magnolia could talk, it would be kvetching all day long. Planted in 2007, this southern belle survived a Midwest winter before producing one bodacious blossom the following year. Now, just five years and one day later, we have another bloom. Pollyanna would say it was well worth the wait. She would also point out that there is another flower bud waiting to burst forth in a few days, for a total of three flowers in six years!

Gardenia 'Miami Supreme

We have more plants with a penchant for sultry air. Whether you call it cloying or caressing, the moist atmosphere brings out the best in those hailing from the tropical regions of the world. Our 'Miami Supreme' Gardenia is aptly named and producing a new blossom after each daily rainstorm.

From the late June sales at Chesterton Feed and Garden, I created a mixture of nine plants (seven varieties) in one huge pot. The one standout in this crowded community is--you guessed it--a tropical native also known as taro.

Colocasia esculenta 'Mojito' holds its own among its pot partners.
Crocosmia 'Limpopo' in bud
Just about ready to begin its colorful spectacle is Crocosmia 'Limpopo', which I'd planted in spring of 2012. I'd pretty much forgotten about it, as it didn't bloom last year, but I know I'll be pleasantly surprised based on the descriptions of the plant. This genus hails from Africa, and if you think you can't grow exotics like this one, visit The African Garden, where you'll find photos that will whet your appetite and send you in search of more.

My source for Crocosmia cultivars is Digging Dog Nursery, which I've mentioned before as a good place to find Kniphofia, Salvia and other plants that thrive in California, which is where they're located.

I can feel my Pollyanna pill about to wear down, so let me just say this: It's Pollyanna who looks for unusual (for the Midwest) plants to try in our garden, and it's me who routs them out when they don't work out. Life's too short to harbor slackers.

Garden Runs Amok, Obliterates Path

It's a tragedy that repeats itself each year at this time, and one that could be avoided with realistic planning. And it happens all over the world in gardens just like yours.

I thought I'd done it this time: alter the jungle-like demeanor of the east side back garden. I started early enough, ruthlessly routing out the self-seeded Geranium 'Samaboor' and the Thalictrum. It seemed so clipped and formal back in May, only to become a mass of tangled growth by July. And now, I just don't have the fortitude for it, with mosquitoes and heat both out in full force as they are. I've also been finding poison ivy seedlings everywhere there is a bare spot, and probably where there isn't as well.
In May, I could actually get into a spot where I could snap a photo.
Impenetrable former path scares me away in July.
Here lies the last unchecked bloom of Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Billow', which is very happy here.
When the weather cools off and the mosquitoes die out, I will be having a pulling party, inviting anyone who would like big-leaved hosta, Pulmonaria, Trycirtis, Hellebores, Hydrangea serrata, and Alchemilla. I'll prune back the boxwood, clip back the Chionanthus, and hack into the yew hedge. And I won't stop until two of us can walk side by side down the path without crushing or crashing into adjacent plants.

Beyond the boxwood lies the unchecked growth of Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Billow'. I still like the plant, but I'm going to have to take the hard line on its exuberance. I will have dozens of plants to give away if anyone wants this lovely woodland shrub. I will also have to yank up a few hundred Japanese anemone hybrids, which I can choose from after they bloom in late August.

Can someone remind me?

Kniphofia Creates Ka-Boom

They need excellent drainage, take up huge amounts of space and require lots of sun--three requirements that send many of us into the next aisle, page or website. But I've discovered that another well-worn saying--"Throw caution to the wind"--was written just for the adventurous gardener.

Kniphofia 'Coral' in 2010
The first place I looked (in 2008) happened to be one of my favorite mailorder sources: Digging Dog Nursery. 'Coral' was its name, and it took two seasons before it did anything. But in 2010 it blossomed so profusely it left me wanting more.
Many other plants and seasons went by, and I kind of forgot. In 2011, 'Coral' didn't bloom as well, and in 2012 I dug it up and divided it into a couple of raised beds.
I added 'Earliest of All', a variety that will rebloom if the season is long enough. And in 2012, the year I purchased it from Edelweiss Perennials, it did.

If you live in a Zone 5-6 with a heavy soil and less sun than you'd like, look for Kniphofias that are hardy to your zone. If you give it excellent drainage, you will have torch lilies every year on the 4th of July.
Kniphofia 'Earliest of All' reblooms in late summer if happy.
Kniphofia in the Popsicle series from Terra Nova Nurseries all are rated Zone 6-9, and the three I planted last August (Lemon, Redhot and Orange Vanilla) all survived and are starting to bloom. Each year around the 4th of July, my Kniphofia start their show. And they're all a lot quieter than fire crackers. 
Kniphofia 'Orange Vanilla Popsicle'
Kniphofia 'Lemon Popsicle'
Unfortunately, I'm not sure what variety this is.

Don't forget to take a look at what else you can grow at the site below!

Mailorder Sources worth a Visit

Whether you choose to purchase plants at an independent garden center or a big box retailer is all about what you're looking for. For gardeners seeking plants they probably won't find lining their local bank parking lot, the independents are best. The big box retailers are great for finding hardscaping items like pavers and nuts and bolts edging.
The best way to choose peonies is to visit a specialty nursery such as this one in southern Oregon called
Buck Canyon Gardens.

It can be hard to imagine a plant in your garden when it's growing in a pot on a waist-high bench in rows with similar plants in different colors. And I think this is the main difference between big box stores and independent garden centers. Not all independents offer display gardens, but those that do will always find themselves on my "must visit" list.

At Gossler Farms Nursery, not only can you see how plants grow together, you'll get to meet the resident prets.

If you're a gardener who likes to mix small trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs together, a well-designed display bed will offer plenty of inspiration.

Sebright Gardens in Brooks, Oregon, has a very impressive and very well-labeled display garden.


Goodwin Creek Gardens has been the go-to location for Lavender and fancy-leaved Pelargonium. We had the great pleasure to visit this southern Oregon institution and had a great time with founders Dotti and Jim Becker and their canine in residence, Snookie.