Friday, August 15, 2008

Bloom Day, August 2008

I know a lot of people complain about August, and it's true that sometimes it can be pretty bleak, depending on rainfall. This year it's kind of an embarrassment of riches around here, and I'm enjoying it immensely. A lot of September bloomers are checking in early this year, probably due to a warm-ish winter, including Cyclamen hederifolium in pink and white, scattered as seed by ants all over the dry, shady parts of the garden. C. purpurascens has been blooming all summer and continues to do so. Also flowering somewhat precociously are natives Eupatorium coelestinum, Rudbeckia laciniata, and Lobelia cardinalis, which has already been in bloom for at least a month.

Abutilon megapotamicum (that name is just fun to pronouce) dies to the ground but returns reliably here, growing into a nice sub-shrub and blooming through late summer and autumn.

Yeah, everybody grows it, but the perennial Lantana 'Miss Huff'' can't be beat for shear flower production. It's appropriately located next to the "Wildlife Habitat" sign (a great way to justify a "messy" yard to an unimpressed community association!), since the lantana IS a wildlife habitat in and of itself. It's the first plant we see when we arrive home, and it's always buzzing, humming, and fluttering with life.

Here's an interesting anomaly: Sarracenia x 'Love Bug' blooming months after all of the other species and hybrids. It's not just one bloom, either - on closer inspection I found 3 other buds emerging from the crown.

The big bifoliate Cattleya 'Mrs. Mahler' is, of course, not hardy here, but my two huge plants always light up the fence where they hang out for the summer.

So many roses are in bloom now (and finally unmolested by the Japanese beetles that always ruin their second bloom cycle) that I'm choosing one representative - 'Excellenz von Schubert', which is classed, I think, as a polyantha, but it's a rangy one which never shows a hint of disease. BTW, fellow blogger Phillip has an article on roses for partial shade which is posted on his "A Southern Garden" website. As well as being interesting and informative, it corroborates a lot of my reasons for favoring the hybrid musks, teas, and other shrub roses.
Gesneriads are emerging as major players in my August-October garden, and this is one of the hardiest and best - Gloxinia nematanthodes 'Evita'. It spreads among other plants via scaly rhizomes, and has even overwintered outside in large pots here.
Below, another hardy gesneriad, Sinningia conspicua. Its nodding flowers are more yellow than they appear in the photo, but they tend to wash out in the sunny locations the plants in this genus seem to enjoy. Another tuberous gesneriad, not hardy here, but blooming well having been bedded out for the summer, Chrysothemis pulchella 'Black Flamingo'.
I haven't tested Chirita 'Chastity' (a gift from some great gardening friends) for winter hardiness, but I've propagated enough that I may try it this year. I've been reading reports that this Chinese gesneriad is showing great cold tolerance for some growers. At any rate, it looks great bedded out for the summer under the Magnolia.Tremacron aurantiaca, a Chinese (I think) gesneriad which has been hardy (and evergreen) here, at least through a mild winter. It'll bloom through September, and I've raised a few seedlings for further experimentation.Our Franklinia (Gordonia alatamaha) produced many fewer blooms this year than usual, perhaps due to the prolonged drought that began late last summer. It's one of those plants that wants the paradoxical "moist, well-drained" soil, so I always tend to err on the side of underwatering. The plant seems healthy (although, at 15 years old it's only 6' high - not sure what's up with that!), so hopefully this is just an "off" year.
Acis (aka Leucojum) autumnalis, which grows well in dry soil. It's hardy, but because of its size I grow it in a large clay pot; it would be totally engulfed by thugs if I planted it out. This is one of many treasures I've gotten from Ellen Hornig at Seneca Hills perennials, a great source for unusual plants, beautifully grown, along with friendly, helpful information.
Yet another amaryllid, Lycoris longituba. This is one of the Lycoris which puts out leaves in spring, goes dormant in summer, and blooms on a "naked" stem in August. It's usually described as being white, but this is either a pale yellow variant, or mislabled. Either way, it's beautiful.I was disappointed when the bloom spikes of Eucomis pole-evansii got all twisted around (my fault, since I had to relocate it temporarily while the chimney was relined last month), but I think the complementary S-curve that resulted makes a pretty cool photograph.
Hymenocallis 'Sulfur Queen', the most dependable of the naturally deciduous members of that genus (they used to be in the genus 'Ismene') in my garden. To me, the blooms look like those of an Epiphyllum cactus when viewed from this angle.
Habranthus tubispathus var. texensis never stays where you plant it, popping up from seed all over the garden where it's least expected. A naturally occurring (but fertile) rain lily hybrid, Zephyranthes 'Labuffarosea' (with a self-sown Impatiens balsamina, which I love). It's very prolific and ranges from pink to white, fading through a range of colors as the flowers age. Z. lindleyanam, another beautiful species of rain lily (from Mexico, I think - I'm too lazy to get up and check the book.)
Z. 'Sunset', a very vigorous and prolific seed strain.
If I were to choose a favorite among the Zephyranthes, it would be 'Ajax', a primary hybrid involving z. candida (also blooming now) and Z. citrina. It's just about the latest bloomer of all, along with its hybrid (with Z. grandiflora), which is called 'Grandjax'.
I only grow a couple of true lilies, mainly because of predation by voles, but L. formosanum grows rapidly from seed, so there are usually enough to feed the rodents and produce some fragrant, shoulder-high trumpets in August.
Another shot of Proiphys amboinensis, now that the flowers are open. It's a little overexposed, but I think it shows the fused central "cup", which is indicative of its relationship to Hymenocallis and Narcissus. I'm hoping to get it to set seed so I can grow enough plants to try in a variety of locations.
The last few flowers on a stem of Galtonia princeps, another of Ellen Hornig's babies, which I almost missed. It had been engulfed by a giant miscanthus which flopped over in the rain. I like this greenish species, and it seems as hardy as G. candicans and viridiflora, which, despite the nomenclature, isn't quite as green.
Hemiboea subcapitata, yet another of the gesneriads which is, apparently, completely hardy here. It's wintered over for three years and multiplied into a nice clump, but it annoys me that the calyxes (calyces?) turn an unsightly brown as the flowers open, especially after rain.
Canna 'Australia' - incredible foliage, and wild-type blooms which attract hummingbirds.
Clerodendron trichotomum, a great suckering shrub or small tree which blooms in August, smells incredible, attracts scads of butterflies, and produces teal blue berries against maroon calyxes (there's that word again...) that last through October. It's mainly visible from the bedroom window, along with our only lilac and Lagerstroemia 'Cedar Red', since they've all been limbed up to be walked under. Usually you smell this one before you realize that it's in bloom.

More hardy begonias - I've probably shown these before, but they're still going strong, and they look great spilling over into the shady pathways. The orange one is B. sutherlandii, a South African species, and the other is B. sinensis 'Shaanxi White', a smaller, more precocious relative of B. grandis. Both winter over as tubers and reproduce by producing tons of bulbils at the leaf axils in fall.
And here's the larger, more ubiquitous version, B. grandis 'alba', just now coming into bloom... along with the pink variety. These I pull as weeds all summer from all over the garden, but I would hate to ever be without them - it's a great, great plant. Years ago, on a whim, I hybridized this plant with B. masoniana, the Iron Cross begonia (the least hardy begonia that I grow, other than the African miniature prismatocarpa and its offspring, 'Buttercup', which spend their lives indoors in glass terraria.) I still have a couple of these seedlings, which turned out to be not one bit hardier than masoniana, stingy with their blooms, and not as attractive in foliage as either parent. And yet, I can't bring myself to compost them...go have children!
I've shown Salvia guaranitica before, but this is the pale blue variety, 'Argentina Skies', backed up by Canna 'Constitution'.
And the first bloom of Nymphaea 'Panama Pacific', one of the tropical water lilies which has to be wintered over in the garage, but is well worth the trouble.
And finally, not exactly "blooms", but every bit as ornamental, are our new pets - a trio of Chinese Golden Pheasants (just in time for the Beijing Olympics). They're still a bit nervous in their new home, but seem to be settling in well. The male is the most colorful, as with many avian species.

I could go on and on - the Hosta plantaginea hybrids like "Royal Standard" and "Honeybells" look and smell beautiful, sky-blue Thunbergias and scarlet Senecio confusus are beginning to provide cover and bloom, and self-sown annuals like Nicotiana langsdorfii and Impatiens balsamina (descendents of my grandmother's "touch-me-nots") are also coming into their own. It's been a blast playing in the garden this summer, but it's all about to come to a screeching halt as I return to work next week. Not much sleep for me (not that there ever is...) over the next few days!

PS- here's Hosta 'Royal Standard' - compare it to the above pic of Proiphys amboinensis, and then tell me there's no such thing as convergent evolution :o).


Les, Zone 8a said...

You have a fabulous variety of species. Just how many acres do you have?

Gail said...

Lovely blooms and the pheasants were a great and enjoyable surprise! I love the blogger video feature...I can now capture photos of butterflies on the move! Isn't it fun!


Jeff said...

Thanks Gail - this is the first time I've used the video option, but it may still be a better use of online memory to upload videos to youtube and link from the blog. Nice to have the choice, though.

And Les - our yard (including the footprint of the house) is about 1/4 acre! You can see why the garden is somewhat lacking in the design department :o).

Salix Tree said...

What an exotic garden! I especially like the "Clerodendron trichotomum". Those flowers are just beautiful! And I love scented flowers. I must look up this plant, and see if it can be grown in chilly cloudy Ireland. I'm surprised sometimes as to what I can grow, like rosemary, sage, passionflowers, and fuschia. So who knows..

Jeff said...

Hi Salix- I'm almost certain that Clerodendron trichotomum would be hardy for you anywhere in Ireland. It's much hardier than most of the other species in that genus (although C. bungei is also hardy here, dying back to the ground in colder winters). Thanks for checking in!

gintoino said...

What wonderful blooms you have. And in such huge quantity! I loved the Zephyranthes. I friend of mine offered me some bulbs and I was considering if I should plant them directly on the ground. Seeing yours I think that is exactly what I will do.

Cosmo said...

WOW (I'm channeling the cashier in the Progressive insurance commercials). What a gorgeous posting! I love the video of the pheasants, because of the pheasants of course, but also because you stepped back and showed some of the garden--it's nice to see the larger context. Do you have to take a lot of these up in winter, or are most of them hardy? I'm glad to see another fan of Clerodendrum trichotomum--I'm amazed by the number of babies (is it still a "sucker" if it pops up 10 feet from the parent?) A beautiful post, Jeff.

Carol said...

So much wonderful variety. August is a great month in your garden. Thanks for joining in for bloom day!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Jeff said...

Thanks Gintoino (I enjoyed your blog, too), Carol (as always), and Cosmo (loved the hummngbird story!)
Most things I grow are hardy, to some degree, but some haven't had a true test during the last 3 years or so. I do keep "spares" of a lot of the marginal things, either in the greenhouse, stored dry in pots (a lot of the bulbs and gesneriads can be carried over this way) in the garage, or under fluorescent lights. Some things, like Coleus, haven't a prayer of returning, so I carry those over as cuttings. As I get older, though, I've declared a moratorium on buying new tropicals that have to come inside every year. I still test things outside, but if they don't make it, too bad. For example, I've been babying a 'Changsha' tangerine, which is rated hardy to zone 7b (I have my doubts), for five years from a cutting, but this spring it got planted up against a south facing brick wall. To paraphrase (or to state the converse of) a song, "if it can't make it there, it can't make it anywhere", so good riddance if it croaks. I also just planted out 3 Philodendron bipinnifidatum in the shade garden that I started from seed (got them in a trade) 3 years ago, just to see how they'll do; I'm keeping 2 in the greenhouse. If they DO survive, the spares go to plant sales in the spring. That's the joy of learning to propagate things - there're always plenty of extras if the first one dies!

Yes, the clerodendron (as well as C. bungei) does produce lots of suckers (I think that's what they are, no matter how far away they turn up), but it's never been a problem to pull out and find homes for the ones I didn't want.

lisa said...

You have a great variety of plants! I'm biased toward sarrencia though...very cool.

Lycaste said...

Wow everything's so gorgeous.
I specially love your zephyranthes and habranthus.
Whenever you have a surplus of seeds consider sending some to me :=)