Spiky Plants for Late Summer

There once was a time I considered myself lucky to be able to grow Kniphofia in my garden. These plants bloomed once, their flowers large and heavy in substance. They looked great for about two weeks before falling back into their hulking presence, their crowns spreading up to three feet wide and just as high.

After settling in awhile, Kniphofia 'Echo Yello' makes
a strong statement in late July.
My first experience with the small varieties (under two feet tall with a one-foot spread) was with 'Elvira', another trial plant from Blooms of Bressingham. It bloomed its first year (2012) although sparingly, increasing its output each subsequent year (2013-14) until this year when its flowers dwindled due to a need for division or an extrication from overcrowding or perhaps both. Although not a rebloomer, 'Elvira' puts on a nice show for a couple of weeks in late June - early July.

And then came the reblooming varieties--slender in leaf, with smaller flowers and the ability to offer waves of blossoms throughout most of the summer.

This year I am trialing varieties sent this spring by Itsaul Plants. I won't know until next spring how hardy they are, but I can tell already that most of them satisfy the rebloom criteria.

They're planted in a variety of locations throughout my garden--sunny, partly sunny, and even overshadowed by taller plants. They bloomed a bit in early June, and now are ramping up into an even stronger show with little sign of stopping.

Kniphofias from left are 'Echo Duo' and 'Echo Mango' at right with Echinacea 'Butterfly Kisses' and 'Solar Flare',
(the taller coneflower) also bred by Itsaul Plants.
I still grow Itsaul Plants' first Echinacea varieties, Big Sky 'Sunrise' and Big Sky 'Harvest Moon'. And after having grown it in the same spot for the past four years with no sign of slowing down, Itsaul's more recent introduction called Echinacea 'Solar Flare' is still one of my favorites.

Eucomis 'Katie' shows of her substance and pink flower centers.
If I had to assign a theme to my garden this year, I guess it would have to be the season of the spikes. Tall and slender plants are in the minority by mid-summer; my response is to add some new ones each year. Continuing the theme from last year, I'm once again growing a plethora of pineapple lilies (Eucomis). I'm especially enamored with 'Katie', a white-flowered cutie with magenta centers. Its leaves are substantial and stand upright, a quality lacking in other Eucomis I've grown.

All but two varieties- 'Oakhurst' and 'Glow Sticks' - are planted in pots. I've been told of their ability to overwinter in my Zone, which is somewhere in the 6 range, but I planted 'Oakhurst' in a south facing bed right up next to a concrete block structure near the house.

Last year's Eucomis are, sadly, unidentified. I tried to keep them labeled, but somehow during the winter and after spring harvest it got away from me. So I'll be taking photos of the unknown flowers and trying to match them against those I've listed in my journal. I know the identity of those I purchased this year, including:
Last year's yet-to-be-identified Eucomis.

Eucomis pole-evansii
Eucomis ‘Toffee’ 2’-2 ½’ high
Eucomis ‘Twinkle Stars’
Eucomis vandermerwei
Eucomis autumnalis (3)

 Eucomis ‘Katie’ (3)
Eucomis montana
Eucomis ‘Oakhurst’
Eucomis ‘Glow Sticks’
Eucomis 'Glow Sticks' looks great even before blooming.

I believe these are Eucomis autumnalis from 2014 along with Phormium 'Candy Stripe' and Amaranth 'Molten Fire'.

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