Monday, July 1, 2013

The Blooms Continue - Gaillardia, Sunflower, Liatris spicata, Phlox paniculata, Persian Carpet Zinnias, Hardy Blue Plumbago, Rose of Sharon and more!

As July begins, everything is still coming up Roses (of Sharon) here in the Garden of Aaron!

Here are some highlights:

Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, "Blue Bird"
Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, "Blue Bird" from Gardens in the Wood. Many hibiscus are reportedly weedy/invasive, but Blue Bird is supposed to be sterile and therefore not likely to become a problem. CORRECTION - Dottie @ Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek correctly points out in the comments section below that Blue Bird is not a sterile Hibiscus syriacus. And in fact she also notes that even the "sterile" Rose of Sharons may reseed a little. Apologies for my mistake.

Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, Blue Bird
Despite its tropical appearance, Hibiscus syriacus is actually hardy to zone 5! I like the way that Blue Bird's buds are dark blue, but the flower itself is light blue when it opens. Even though it was 90+ degrees today in Tennessee, Blue Bird still looked cool as a cucumber.

Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste Tree, Monk's Pepper with Bees
Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste Tree, Monk's Pepper. The bees are enthusiastic about these blue flowers.

Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste Tree, Monk's Pepper
Here's a step back to see the big picture with regard to the Vitex. Just planted last autumn, this is the Vitex's first year in the garden. Right now it is a shrub, but supposedly it can grow up to 15-20 feet tall.

Gaillardia pulchella, Firewheel, Blanket Flower, Indian Blanket
Gaillardia pulchella, Firewheel, Blanket Flower, Indian Blanket, purchased this plant at the Perennial Plant Society of Middle TN plant sale. It is a cultivar called "Arizona Apricot". Plunked it down next in a hot windblown area next to the baking concrete driveway. Hey, I'm trying to make it feel at home like it's in Arizona! ;-)

Liatris spicata, Blazing Star, Gayfeather
Liatris spicata, Blazing Star, Gayfeather. This is a native prairie plant that attracts bumble bees. Can you see one on the side of the right flower stalk?

Here's a step back to show what Liatris spicata looks like from a distance. The flowers start opening at the top of the stalk and then work their way down. This is my third year trying to grow Liatris spicata. The first year, it disappeared shortly after I planted it. I assumed it had died! But it popped back above ground last year, only to wither and bake away in the record heat and drought. This year is finally the year it could show its true self and put on a show! Once established, I think Liatris spicata is supposed to be pretty tough, so hopefully it will continue to get bigger and better in future years. 

Phlox paniculata, Garden Phlox, "David"
Phlox paniculata, Garden Phlox, "David". So far it gets bigger and better each year! 

Phlox paniculata is partially self-cleaning. Some of the dead flowers stay on the plant, but others fall off and create this nice shower of white petals on the ground nearby. I find it poetic. It reminds me of the petals that carpet the ground when cherry blossoms fall.

Echinacea purpurea, Eastern Purple Coneflower with Bee
Echinacea purpurea, Eastern Purple Coneflower. Another native to Tennessee. Another plant that buzzes with bees all day long. 

Echinacea purpurea, Eastern Purple Coneflower with Bumble Bee
Couldn't resist taking one more shot of another purple coneflower and another busy buzzy bee.

Perovskia atriplicifolia, Russian Sage. All three Russian Sage are looking much better this year compared to last year. There are still a few yellow leaves at the bottom of the plants, but overall they look healthier and stronger. The Russian Sage attracts some bees, but I have not seen nearly as many bees on the plants this year now that they have to compete for attention with the coneflowers, the Vitex and the Liatris.

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, Hardy Blue Plumbago has begun to flower! Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with a detailed look at the pros and cons of this tough groundcover.

Monarda didyma, Scarlet Beebalm, Oswego Tea, "Jacob Cline"
Monarda didyma, Scarlet Beebalm, Oswego Tea, "Jacob Cline". Based on the shape and color of the flowers, you would think that Jacob Cline would attract the hummers. I've seen a hummingbird investigate the plant on its way to or from the nearby Coral Honeysuckle, but I have not yet seen the bird take a sip from the Monarda.

Monarda didyma, Scarlet Beebalm, Oswego Tea, "Jacob Cline".
Here's a broader look at Jacob Cline monarda. I will say that the flowers - which are listed as edible by various sources - taste better than the leaves, IMHO.

Zinnia haageana "Persian Carpet". This is very different from the more popular Z. elegans that I featured in last week's garden photos. Z. haageana has narrower leaves, smaller flowers and a reputation for being even tougher, more drought-tolerant, more heat-tolerant and more mildew-resistant than its big elegant cousin. I will say that the flowers - and the whole plant so far - are smaller than I had anticipated. But Z. haageana has a reputation for continuing to grow and flower until frost (without any deadheading), so these plants still have plenty of time to make a big impact. In the meantime, I like the cheerful golden colors.

Zinnia haageana "Persian Carpet" with Bee
The Z. haageana flowers seem simpler than many of the Z. elegans blooms - it's my understanding that simpler is better from a bee's standpoint since the bee is looking for quick access to pollen and/or nectar without having to dig through a fluffy mass of petals.This bee seemed happy to have found its own personal "Persian Carpet".

Do tomato flowers count? This is Lycopersicon lycopersicum "Blondkopfchen", purchased at a local farmers market. It's supposed to be a heavy producer of golden cherry tomato fruit.

Bolted lettuce
It's hard to tell from this perspective, but this is a 3-foot tall lettuce plant that has gone to seed. Every day there are a few yellow flowers and a few seedheads. I find it interesting that the plant does not flower all at once, but spaces its flowering and seed dispersal over several weeks. The seeds are feathered - like dandelion seeds - to aid in wind dispersal, I presume.

White Cosmos bipinnatus and Bee
There are plenty of Cosmos bipinnatus in bloom and therefore plenty of happy bees.

More blooms now on the Agastache "Golden Jubilee". Despite a reputation for attracting pollinators, I have not seen many bees or wasps or hoverflies on this plant. Perhaps it attracts really tiny ones that escape my notice? Do you grow Agastache and does it attract any pollinators in your garden?

Platycodon grandiflorus, Balloon Flower "Mariesii" flower bud
Platycodon grandiflorus, Balloon Flower "Mariesii". Not *quite* flowering yet, but the balloon-shaped bud is attractive and interesting on its own. This one stalk is at least two-feet tall even though the rest of the plant is much shorter. It's also interesting how different Platycodon flower at different times. The blue Platycodon that I added in the full sun back garden seems nearly finished, but this one is just starting and the white Platycodon nearby ("Astra White") has been blooming for weeks and is not done yet.

Salvia nemorosa "Blue Hill". Whereas many of my other flowering plants seem to draw mostly big bees (bumble bees and perhaps carpenter bees, I presume), the Salvia attracts all sorts of bees, including what I think may be a honey bee in this photo. That said, it's been sort of a frustrating experience growing two types of Salvia nemorosa this year. I planted both Blue Hill and May Night last autumn. They survived the winter with a tattered yet evergreen rosette of leaves and then put on a lot of growth in the spring and quickly sent up flower spikes. But the flower spikes emerged into an unusually cold and rainy spring, thus hardly attracting any bees. By the time the bees did show up, the flower spikes were nearly finished! I've tried deadheading the flower spikes (which I found tedious) which seemed to provoke a sparse rebloom. Maybe it will rebloom more in autumn? And maybe I would have had an easier time if I had used something like a hedge trimmer to trim back the sage? I tried a cheap bypass pruner that tended to bend the tough stems rather than slicing them. Frustrating.

Borago officinalis, Borage flower and fuzzy buds
Is Borage (Borago officinalis) the fuzziest plant ever? Adorable (and reportedly edible in small quantities if you can get past all that fuzz). I planted it not primarily for the pretty blue flowers, the fuzzy buds or the calming blue-grey felted leaves, but for its reputed ability to attract bees to the garden. I haven't seen proof of that claim yet, but then this is the first Borage flower to open. Patience, patience... Borage is one of those plants that is supposed to self-sow vigorously. I sowed some of the borage near my tomato plants since borage has a reputation for repelling hornworms and other tomato pests.

Sunflower stalk chomped by a deer
Nothing to see here, folks. This would have been a Sunflower (Helianthus annus) bloom someday, were it not for an injurious nighttime encounter with what I suspect was a deer (or a Really Tall Rabbit). Several other sunflower stalks and a bolted lettuce also got the chomp.

Tall sunflower, Helianthus annus
But the deer left some sunflowers for us to enjoy! This is the tallest sunflower in my garden - over 5-feet tall., standing straight and proud in the sun. The first flower is just about to unfurl its cheerful petals.

Finally, one more Sunflower (Helianthus annus), this one next to the Gaillardia in that windy, baking spot between a concrete driveway and concrete walkway at the corner of the house. Does the sunflower mind these harsh conditions? Not one whit. The sunflower abides (like The Dude).  


  1. Oh my! That Sunflower is spectacular! I can't believe you have Sunflowers already. All of the other plants seemed about right timewise (a little ahead of me). But tall Sunflowers? Wow! Love that blue Hibiscus, and it sounds like I could grow it here.

    1. Thanks!! I see your comment now. I don't quite understand how this comment and the Intense Debate comments can both be live at the same time... Oh well, just one of the Mysteries of the Internet, I guess...

  2. Aaron, "Blue Bird" looks great, but I don't know who told you that it is sterile. It is NOT sterile - I repeat - it is NOT sterile. It produces tons of seeds that do germinate. "Diana" is the one that is supposed to be sterile, but it is not. While it produces few seeds, it does produce seeds, and I have had plants from it that were true to form.

    1. Hm. Well, that's good to know, Dottie. I guess I'll need to be on the lookout for seedlings.

      (Indeed I see that Paghat, another source I like, cautions that Blue Bird can reseed abundantly -

      Thanks for the correction!!

  3. Hibiscus! I remember making bubbles with the flowers, we'd grind them up into juices then we'd play with the bubbles we create, which gets us into trouble because mama makes them into dried delicacies


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