August 15, 2017

Bright Colors Reign on This August Bloom Day

monarch9

I'm running out of time, for various dime-a-dozen personal reasons (these topics may hit the blog screen when/if life settles down in the fall).

So, my August "Bloom Day" post will be quick and colorful.

The sunny side garden is full of bright shades of pink, orange, purple, and yellow:

fence
The fishman built me a new fence. Yay!

zinnias
Zinnia elegans 'Zowie! Yellow Flame' and 'State Fair Mix'

coneflowers
Echinacea purpurea, showing wear from time and Japanese beetles

citrus lantana
Lantana camara 'Landmark Citrus'

susans
Rudbeckia hirta

cosmos
Cosmos bipinnatis 'Sonata Mix'

salvia
Salvia nemerosa 'May Night'

sunflowers
Helianthus annuus 'Autumn Beauty'

butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

swamp mw
Asclepias incarnata, currently the most popular plant in my garden

fence & tall mw
Milkweeds and Black-Eyed Susans behind the fence

2nd instar
Had to throw in this 2nd instar Monarch caterpillar, part of the reason I have so much
Milkweed in my garden :)

mistflower
Conoclinium coelestinum

In the shadier parts of the garden:

summer beauty
Allium tanguticum 'Summer Beauty'

beautyberry
Callicarpa 'Pearl Glam' - a new shrub to my garden

jewelweed
Impatiens capensis

resurrection lilies
Lycoris squamigera, strategically placed by the previous owners under giant Hosta foliage

And in pots and vases:

dill
Anethum graveolens, for the swallowtails

calamintha
Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta

figaro yellow shades dahlia
Dahlia 'Figaro Yellow Shades' - first time I've grown Dahlias, believe it or not

borage
Borago officinalis - also a first time for me

tropical mw
Asclepias curassavica, only in pots - it's not native here, but it dies with the first frost

NG impatiens ruffles lavender
Impatiens hawkeri 'Ruffles Lavender'

marinka
Fuchsia 'Marinka' for the hummingbirds

bouquet

How about you? What's blooming in your garden on this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day? Head on over to May Dreams Gardens to see blooms from around the world.

monarch8

Happy Bloom Day!

August 01, 2017

Plant of the Month: Okra

bloom and foliage

Many people think of Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) as an edible plant to grow in a cultivated vegetable garden. That is all well and good, but the flowers are attractive, too. Since Okra is in the Malvaceae or Mallow family, its flowers resemble those of Hibiscus, Hollyhocks, and others.

okra pods
Public Domain Photo: Bill Tarpenning - USDA

I've never grown Okra, but I happened across a pretty crop of it recently and got to thinking it would be a nice plant to add to a sunny potager garden someday. I've eaten Okra several times, and the preparation made a difference to my palate. Since it can be a little slimy, I prefer it breaded and deep or pan fried. How about you?

Okra's beginnings are apparently disputed, but it's believed to be originally from West Africa, Ethiopia, and/or South Asia. It's commonly grown around the world as a crop--perennial in warm climates and annual in climates with harsher winters. The seedpods and leaves can be cooked, and the leaves can also be used in salads. New to me was the fact that the seeds can be roasted and ground as a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.

buds

Anyway, back to the beautiful plant, itself. I find the fuzzy buds particularly beautiful.

side view

A side view shows the attractive petal veining, the deep magenta stems, and the pretty developing seedpods. (There are other varieties and colors, but I find this one particularly beautiful.)

foliage

Even the deeply lobed and serrated foliage has visual interest.

bloom

And, of course, the flowers themselves--like others in the Mallow family--are like dreamy colorful puffs of soft clouds.

buds and bloom

How about you? Do you grow Okra? What do you think about the ornamental value of this plant?

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Note: I'm taking a short break to attend a conference, but I'll be back soon. Happy gardening!

July 20, 2017

Mesmerizing Views:
The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

welcome sign

For those who've taken road trips across the U.S., do you take a northern or a southern route? Over the years, we've tended to drive through Iowa and Nebraska on our way to family reunions and gatherings in Colorado and New Mexico. A few times, we've taken the southern route through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and the panhandle of Texas.

But for some reason, I'd always wanted to drive through Kansas. I'm fascinated by it. It's the middle of the country, in so many ways. I don't know...maybe it stems from watching "The Wizard of Oz" as a kid and wondering what the vast, open prairies of Kansas actually look like (in reality, it was filmed at MGM Studios in California).

tallgrass prairie

So, I talked the fishman into driving through Kansas on the way to and from our family reunion last summer. After seeing dramatic views at the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Ariz., Monument ValleyDurango, Colo., and the Four Corners area, one might think Kansas would seem ho-hum.

historic landmark

Au contraire--at least for me. While all those destinations were awesome, Kansas was nifty, too. We took a side trip on the way home to stop at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, which protects a nationally significant 11,000-acre remnant of the once vast tallgrass prairie that covered 170 million acres of North America. Today, less than 4% remains, mostly in the Kansas Flint Hills.

Depending on the source, and the specificity of the data, the North American tallgrass prairie stretched from Manitoba south through Eastern Oklahoma and parts of Texas, and from Nebraska east through Indiana and parts of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennesee. This was prime bison country, and to see a map of where the bison once roamed is mind-boggling. (Sadly, the bison area of the preserve was closed off the day we were there, although I've seen bison in other locations.)

Of course, my first priority was to study the prairie plants at the preserve. Since Southern Wisconsin includes Oak Savanna and Prairie plant communities, most of the plants at the preserve also are native and commonly found here. What I didn't expect was the smaller size of these plants in Kansas--likely due to somewhat lower precipitation levels, difficult soil conditions (rock and clay), and a harsher, more windy habitat than in my area.

It's a testament to their toughness, though, that these plants survive and thrive in the severe, open prairie habitat.

hoary vervain
Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta)

illinois bundleflower
Illinois Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis)

white prairie clover
White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida)

wavyleaf thistle
Wavyleaf Thistle (Cirsium undulatum)

prickly pear
Common Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa)

butterfly weed
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

leadplant and butterfly weed
Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) and Butterfly Weed

green milkweed
Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis)

compass plant
Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)

The plants were awesome, but the views were mesmerizing--prairie as far as the eye could see. The day was misty, which created an air of mystery to the landscape. If you click on the next photos, you'll get a better idea of the expansive landscape at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve--definitely worth a side trip next time you're traveling through Kansas.

prairie scene 1

prairie scene 2