Among annuals, pansies bloom earlier than almost anything else — and given a chance, they’ll bloom later, too. Witness this poor flower, one of several blooming in a low pot on our back deck. I haven’t watered the pot in months — though nature has done a good job of that since September. Yet it’s still blooming, putting out one last flower against the cold and wind of winter descending rapidly upon us.
Archive for the ‘Annual Flowers’ Category
Some gardeners are devoted to getting the color blue in their gardens. Blue doesn’t appear much in flowers naturally, and many times plants that are considered blue, look more purplish — at least to me. Here’s a ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory that I planted earlier this summer. This is its first bloom (I should have started it indoors) and it has an eye-catching sky-blue color that really stands out in the garden.
I planted Yvonne’s Giant Salvia on the recommendation of Donald Mitchell, a speaker at the Rice County Horticulture Day in March. This annual salvia with prolific, bright red flowers is said to be a hummingbird magnet. The original plants seem to have been a natural variation on salvia and they often reach 5 feet tall. Mine have barely hit 3 feet so far this summer, but they are certainly living up to their reputation for attracting hummingbirds. I’ve very rarely seen hummingbirds in our yard, but this year, I’ve seen them several times, usually hoovering around the salvia. No luck getting a picture of the bird yet — but I’ll post one if I succeed.
Why are my plants so short? My guess–and that’s all it is–is that the plants do not receive enough sun. The spot they are in gets several hours a day, but most of it is in late afternoon. Since these seeds are not available through retailers, I plan to save a few and try again next year in a sunnier spot.
I planted these cheery sunflowers because my teenage daughter loved the name — The Joker. (She’s an admirer of the late Heath Ledger.) But now that they are blooming, I can see they are more than a fancy name. Helianthus annuus ‘The Joker’ grows up to 7 feet tall (mine are about 5 now), and produces several large blooms on a single stalk. The blooms start out with bright yellow petals, but gradually a deep reddish brown color emerges near the seedhead of the bloom. ‘The Joker’ is a pollenless variety that’s primarily grown for cut-flower arrangements — so I’m not sure if there will be any seeds on these. (I planted a different variety in our meadow area for the birds.) Like all sunflowers, ‘The Joker’ likes a sunny spot with fairly rich soil — mine are planted near my former compost pile, but near some tall shrubs so they may not be getting all-day sun.
Because I edit a garden magazine, I’m constantly tempted by new plants — whether they are new on the market or just new to me. This year, I’ve planted two “new to me” plants that have brightened up different spots in the garden.
On the front porch, I put a Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) in a pot. Despite the common-name reference to a favorite prairie plant, this vine is tropical. It was easy to grow from seed and once out on the porch, it started to climb its support. Vines grow 5 to 10 feet long and can be used as a trailer in a window box or hanging basket or as a climber on a trellis. The 2-inch-diameter flowers come in orange and yellow shades and contrast starkly with the deep black eyes at the plant’s center.
In the July/August issue of Northern Gardener, native plants columnist Lynn Steiner recommends Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) for its diminutive size, attractive foliage and bright flowers. This is a tough plant that preforms well in dry conditions, sun or light shade, and has an unusual, sombrero-shaped bloom that inspired the common name. When I saw some plants on sale, I bought three. They seemed to struggle a bit at first in the bed, which has plenty of shrub roots, but they’re blooming now and seem to be establishing themselves.
A week or so ago, I pulled down a large morning glory vine near our garage. I like morning glories. They are easy to grow and have pretty blooms and heart-shaped leaves. Sometimes they are a little too easy to grow, however. This year I decided to save some seed for morning glories for next year, and at the same time save myself from seed.
Left alone, these Grandpa Otts morning glories will produce hundreds of seeds and drop them on the ground, where they often take root and produce vines next year. Pulling up morning glory sprouts is one of my top early summer jobs. To control where the vines grow next year, I decided to cut them off at the pass. I pulled off a pile of the seed pods, cracked them open, and stored the seed I expect to want next year in a safe spot in the garage. The rest of the vine, I pulled up, shaking the seed on the driveway. Some of the seed went back with the vine to the compost area, where I would be happy to have morning glories. The rest got swept up and deposited in the garbage. It’s a cruel world.
Hard to believe it has been almost three months of bloom….and we’re in August already! Some perennials are looking a bit bedraggled this week, but the annuals still look nice. (Left to right, zinnia, nasturtium, and petunias.)
My fancy plants have arrived! I’ve had such hit-and-miss luck with plant starts sent through the mail that I pretty much swore off them this year. I’ve either grown things from seed (another hit-and-miss effort, but that’s a different story) or bought them from local nurseries. But when we ran a photo of Phoenix™ series penstemon on the cover of Northern Gardener in March/April, all my resolve evaporated.
Penstemon–its common name is beard tongue–is a huge genus of plants with ranges as far north as Alaska and as far south as Central America. It includes about 275 species, including the perennial Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’. This was Perennial Plant of the Year in 1996 and is a familiar sight in northern gardens. In fact, there are two or three Husker Reds in my garden as well. The Phoenix series penstemon are an annual in Minnesota. They look like a cross between a snapdragon and a foxglove. They are heat tolerant, produce lots of flowers, and often are used in bouquets. I bought two types from Territorial Seed Company, Appleblossom and Pink. You can read all about penstemon at the American Penstemon Society web page.
A quick note on planting starts: Most come with instructions that you should follow as carefully as you can. Usually this involves watering the plants as soon as they arrive and getting them in the ground as quickly as weather permits.
While visiting in Florida, I took some photos of my mom’s SunPatiens. This is her second winter season growing these sun-loving impatiens, which flourish even in the relatively warm and sunny courtyard outside her condo. She thought they were so great last year that I looked for some in Minnesota, but came up empty-handed.
It turns out I was probably looking in the wrong place. According to this news report, Japan’s Sakata Seed Corp. has proprietary rights to the plants and will be offering them nationwide in the U.S. through an exclusive deal with Home Depot stores. (That’s where my mom gets her Florida plants.) Patenting plant material is increasingly common, and I can understand why companies that invest heavily in the research needed to create new plant cultivars want to protect that investment. An exclusive marketing arrangement like this is more unusual. Since I don’t live near a Home Depot and am not likely to go out of my way to get to one, I’ll have to enjoy SunPatiens on my visits to Florida.
It is so cold and windy today that I couldn’t get an in-focus picture of the pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) in my front bed. Here it is Oct. 9, and this plant is finally starting to bloom. Pineapple sage is a fall bloomer, but this one took a very long time to show any color. I’m not sure why, except that the start I planted last May or early June came from a supplier whose plants all took a long time to get going in the garden. (A tomato from the same company never did ripen fruit on the vine, though I have a few tomatoes ripening on the kitchen counter now.) Searching the internet for the name on the plant label, it comes up with nothing. Clearly, the label is just that–a label for plants grown by a mystery company. Several garden center owners have told me that many plants travel long distances in the spring, so it may be that my pineapple sage grew up down south and just couldn’t take it when it got to Minnesota. It’s a good reason to buy from local sources so you know where the plants were started.
Pineapple sage is a lovely plant. It’s a zone 8 perennial, but many people grow it as an annual in northern climates. The leaves have a rich, pineapple aroma, and some people make a tea with them. The bright red, trumpet-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds, though not on a day like today. It is said to take-root easily from a cutting, so I may try to overwinter some in my house and try again next year.