July 14, 2016

When Life Gives You Sunshine...


My garden is shady. Most of the time I try to celebrate it, enjoy the plants that thrive in shade, and appreciate the benefits of a sheltered habitat. But I also love the sun, and I have a few tiny patches of brightness where sun-loving plants reign. In July, especially, they put on a colorful show.

It's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and I'm focusing on my little cutting garden/potager. It's mostly a flower garden, because the only edibles growing there now are tomatoes, onions, lettuces, and a few herbs. But let's take a look at the bright July flowers:


If you deadhead Salvias, like 'May Night' (Salvia x sylvestris), they'll reward you with repeat blooms throughout the summer. This is the second round for me this growing season.


I'm thrilled that each year this patch of Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) expands further--this on a plant that struggled to establish itself the first couple of years. Various pollinators nectar on Butterflyweed and it's a host plant for Monarchs. Beyond this, it's such a stunning bloomer.

drumstick allium

The Drumstick Alliums (A. sphaerocephalon) are leaning and fading, but they enjoyed their time in the sun.


As the Drumsticks fade, the Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) begin to unfurl. And their entrance always welcomes a party of pollinators to the garden.


In this little, sunny cutting garden, I grow a combination of perennials and annuals--all chosen for their pollinator value. Last year, I tried Pentas (P. lanceolata) as annuals for the first time and this year I chose a bright pink variety, 'Graffiti Violet.'

state fair

One of my favorite annuals, Zinnia (Z. elegans), attracts pollinators and produces excellent cut flowers with a long vase life. 'State Fair Mix' is a fabulous choice because of its size and beauty--five-inch blooms on three-foot stems, in a range of colors.

state fair 2

Every day now, more Zinnia blooms unfurl. And when deadheaded and maintained, they'll continue blooming into October.


I grew my Zinnias from seed this year, and on the advice of fellow garden blogger, Rose, at Prairie Rose's Garden, I tried 'Zowie! Yellow Flame.' The name says it all! This cultivar (also shown at the beginning of this post) will be another great source for cut flowers.


Blazing Star Liatris (L. spicata) spikes are great for colorful structural elements in floral arrangements.


I'm still analyzing my preferences among the Lantana (L. camara) cultivars. This year, my garden includes 'Flame,' 'Citrus,' and 'Bandana Red.'


Another great cut flower and pollinator favorite is Cosmos (C. bipinnatus). I grew these from seed this year, too, and I chose 'Sensation Mix.'

angelonia and marigolds

At the corner of the cutting garden, a pot of Marigolds (Tagetes spp.), Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), and Angelonia (A. augustifolia 'Angelface Blue') welcomes hummingbirds and other garden friends.

bumble cone

And the queen of the cutting garden has to be Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). This native stalwart sets the color theme, supports pollinators of all types, provides great cut flowers, and blooms in profusion for weeks on end. It thrives in wet years, during drought, and everything in between. Unfortunately, it's also a favorite of Japanese Beetles.

beetle cone

I'm trying to make peace with these beautiful insects. I'm not succeeding, but thankfully their destructive phase is short.

What's blooming in your garden this July? Head on over to May Dreams Gardens to read about flowers in gardens around the world.

July 06, 2016

Plant of the Month: Apache Plume

apache plume

I'm just returning from an extended road trip to the Four Corners region of the Southwest U.S.--where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado meet. Of course, this "plant nerd" had to photograph a few growing things along the way.

One, in particular, that caught my eye was a unique shrub with fluffy seedheads: Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa). It's the only species in its genus.

santa fe

We saw it in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where its rosy glow nicely framed the local pueblo-style architecture.

grand canyon

And at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, where the shrubs were plentiful along the paths, blending naturally with their surroundings.

Apache Plume is native to only eight U.S. states--California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, as well as Northern Mexico. If I lived in one of those locations, I would plant one or more. Thing is, it has a very specific preference for dry, rocky locations. In good garden soil with organic matter, it can look rangy and produces fewer flowers, according to Texas A&M University.

I'm thinking this is not a plant for most temperate gardens, but best enjoyed in its native setting.


From a distance, Apache Plume resembles a Smokebush (Cotinus) cultivar, but its seedheads/fruits are very similar to those of its cousin in the Rose family, Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum).


The small white flowers resemble related blooms in the Rose family. When the petals drop, the feathery achene fruits/seeds puff out, giving it a soft, fluffy appearance. It's the kind of seedhead you want to touch, and it's very soft.

seeds & foliage

The foliage is semi-evergreen; small, deeply lobed leaves along slender, twiggy branches. Among the many Apache Plume shrubs we saw during the trip, the seedhead colors ranged from a creamy white to a lovely rose-pink.


The plumes are very attractive with bright light shining through their filaments.


Go ahead: Try to resist touching those soft, powder-puff plumes!

fluff 2

Apache Plume is hardy to zone 5, but, again, best-suited to its native habitat in the Southwest U.S. It grows to 6 ft. tall and wide, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It grows in part shade to full sun, and is a good choice for a xeriscape garden.

Historically, its branches were used for sweeping and its steeped leaves for tea and hair-washing. In its dry, rocky native habitat, it's an important forage and cover plant for wild animals and a nectar source for pollinators.

pink cloud

At its peak display, it looks soft enough for a pillow ...

(Linking this post to Dozens for Diana.)

June 15, 2016

A Few Blooms and a Few Promises


You know it's summer when the Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) bloom, and it was just about to happen when I wrote this post a few days ago. They're even closer now.

mock orange

Another summer sign is the blooms of Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius), which are pretty enough for a June wedding bouquet.

It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and much is happening in the garden as we move into summer.


The pollinators have been buzzing on the 'May Night' Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris).

kelways and sarah peonies

The Peonies (Paeonia lactifora 'Sarah Berhnardt' and one of the 'Kelways') have finished blooming, but I arranged some in a bouquet before they faded.

virginia waterleaf bud

virginia waterleaf flower

virginia waterleaf seeds

Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) has finished blooming, too. It seemed like it was a good year for this plant, or maybe I simply enjoyed it more--from buds to blooms to awesome, curly seedheads.

dicentra formosa

Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia) always seems to have a long blooming period in my garden--from early May to mid-June and beyond.

camelot lavendar foxglove

This purple Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea 'Camelot Lavender') is impressive in its first year--with side shoots and graceful coloring. I hope it will be bigger next year.

angelface blue angelonia

The annuals are settling in nicely, too. I had to have Angelonias (A. augustifolia 'Angelface Blue')  in a pot again this summer.


I played around with several pots, and now I need to figure out where I want them to sit.

lantana flame

lantana citrus

lantana bandana red

It's hard to believe I only discovered Lantanas (L. camara) a few years ago, as annuals for a northern garden. They've become staples in my garden, and the butterflies love them. Shown above, top to bottom: 'Flame,' 'Citrus,' and 'Bandana Red.'

graffiti violet pentas

Finally, I wasn't thrilled with the red Pentas (P. lanceolata) I planted last year because of the color clash in that part of the garden. But these pink ones--even though they're named 'Graffiti Violet'--are perfect.

What's blooming in your garden this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day? Head on over to May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming in gardens around the world.