August 10, 2018

Plant of the Month: 'Summer Beauty' Alliums

SB with swallowtail 1

When I looked out the window the other day and saw an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on the blooming alliums, I knew what the plant of the month had to be. Fortunately, the butterfly stayed long enough for me to grab my camera and head outside for a few shots.

Something more exciting happened on this plant a couple of days later, but I'll cover that later in this post.

summer beauty 1

I added Allium tanguticum 'Summer Beauty' to the garden a few years ago. I ordered a few bulbs, and also Linda at Each Little World was kind enough to give me some when she divided hers. I planted them here and there in the garden, and while not all of them bloom every year, they find little spots of sun. I planted these beauties because, well...they're beauties, but also because they repel rabbits!

'Summer Beauty' is dramatic massed in a sunny border, but I don't have a choice--I have dappled sun in most of my garden, so that's the way it is. I noticed, however, that it's listed as tolerant of shade, which is true. This hybrid allium, like 'Millenium,' blooms in mid- through late summer, but it starts just a little earlier and the color is a little lighter--lavender-pink--where 'Millenium' is a brighter purple. They're great companions, though, as they bloom around the same time.

Here are a few details about 'Summer Beauty':

  • Height: 12"-18"
  • Spread: 18"-24"
  • Hardiness zones: 5 to 8
  • Attributes: Tolerant of drought, shade, and sun; seeds are sterile

SB with littles

Oh, and then there's the fact that it attracts pollinators of all types! It's fun to watch them climbing among the little flowers of the umbel bloom.

SB with RP 1

And here's the special joy that happened while I was photographing the flowers: The endangered rusty-patched bumblebee made an appearance!

SB with RP 2

I was thrilled to see this rare bumblebee in the garden: I must be doing something right to attract it! I hope to post more in the future about this special pollinator (the first bumblebee to be listed as endangered). Until then, You can read more about its special story here.

summer beauty 2

So, yes, I'd say 'Summer Beauty' Allium was a good addition to the garden! Do you have any summer-blooming alliums?

sb with swallowtail 2

July 30, 2018

Simple Summertime Vases

lilies 2

I'm tardy in joining in the "Vase on Monday" meme. July has been crazy, but I've managed to snap a few photos of simple combinations, from the beginning of the month to the end.

I often plop deadheaded snips, and bits and pieces in vases during the growing season, and this month is no different.


My handy kitty litter bucket filled with a couple inches of water in the bottom is a great, cheap tool for gathering the remains of the day. This first group was from the beginning of July. It included unnamed Asiatic lilies (Lilium spp.), Hosta stems, Bugbane (Actea racemosa), Drumstick Alliums (A. sphaerocephalon), and Weigela (W. florida) foliage.

glass gems

I had a bag of glass gems, so I added them to the bottom of a glass pitcher--for a little visual interest and to help hold the stems in place.


I also added criss-crossed tape at the top of the pitcher for support.

lilies 1

I knew the foliage and flowers would cover the tape.

zinnias 2

Next, I plopped deadheaded 'Zowie! Yellow Flame' Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) in a very simple vase with deadheaded Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), 'May Night' Salvias (S. sylvestris), a small stem of 'Supertunia Vista Bubblegum'
Petunias (P. hybrid), a little sprig of purple Angelonia (A. hybrid), and more Drumstick Alliums. Some of these flowers had flopped over due to gardener mishaps and the effects of the elements.

stargazer 3

Finally, I recently rescued the 'Stargazer' Lilies (Lilium orientalis) before the rabbits could eat them. I clipped off the tops of two very tall stems of Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata) and added Hydrangea foliage for more green. The Hydrangeas were a little droopy, but later recovered.

stargazer 2

'Stargazer' is so dreamy and has a very long vase life. Plus, the scent is incredible!

stargazer 1

Summertime is a great opportunity to use deadheaded blooms and dribs and drabs of plant material in floral arrangements. Even if you're pressed for time, if you keep it simple, it won't be overwhelming, and it's better than throwing all the lovelies in the compost pile--that can wait until they're spent.

zinnias 1

Check out the "In a Vase on Monday" meme over at Rambling in the Garden for smiles and floral arranging inspiration. Thanks to Cathy for hosting!

July 15, 2018

Bright Blooms of July

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

The fiery colors of summer and their complements on the opposite side of the color wheel take center stage in July. On this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Butterflyweed is waning (though still vibrant), while other blooms in the sunny cutting garden/potager are peaking. Here are the highlights:

Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) (so pretty in all it's forms)

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Lantana (L. camara)

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

alliums and mistflower
Drumstick Allium (A. sphaerocephalon) layered with Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) (which will be covered with blue flowers in late summer into fall, after the alliums have faded)

state fair zinnia
'State Fair Mix' Zinnia (Z. elegans)

zowie zinnia
'Zowie! Yellow Flame' Zinnia (Z. elegans)

'May Night' Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris)

Torch Tithonia (T.  rotundifolia) (now blooming, but I really like the buds, too)

swamp milkweed
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

sensation mix cosmos
'Sensation Mix' Cosmos (C. bipinnatus) (again, the buds are as fun as the flowers)

blue vervain
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)

Tomatoes and flowers (thank you, pollinators)

The bees, spiders, butterflies, and other garden visitors are welcome here, and the flowers bring them in! What's blooming in your garden?

monarch on butterflyweed

I'm linking this post to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens. Head on over to see what's blooming in gardens around the world.

June 27, 2018

Plant of the Month: Prairie Sundrops

Oenothera 1

Most of the wildflowers in this garden lived here before we moved in, nearly 19 years ago. Prairie Sundrops (Oenothera pilosella) were among them. Also known as Meadow Evening Primrose, this plant has flowers that open during the day, unlike other species of the Evening Primrose family that close by midday.

Oenothera 2

Prairie Sundrop spreads and can form dense mats. It also can be propagated with seeds.

In my garden, Prairie Sundrop is not aggressive; in fact, it's pretty much stayed in the same general area in the garden for all the years we've been here--in a small patch at the base of one of our old Oaks. It tends to bloom in mid-June through mid-July, and adds a burst of bright yellow just as some of the late spring flowers are fading. My patch is in dappled shade, although most sources recommend full sun to partial shade.

Oenothera 3

The 2" flowers are attractive in all their stages--from bud to bloom to closed flower. Each flower lasts only a few days, but the flower clusters bring new blooms for a couple of weeks.

Oenothera 4

Other than its daytime blooms, this species is similar to Common Evening Primrose (O. biennis) and Narrowleaf Evening Primrose (O. fruticosa), but it's shorter (about 1' to 2' tall), and has hairy stems and fuzzy leaves. In addition, its fruit/seedpod tapers toward the base. Like the other species, each flower has a distinctive cross-shaped stigma. The pollen on the anthers turns reddish as the flower matures.

Prairie Sundrops are native from Eastern Canada through the Midwest and south through Louisiana and Texas. Some sources say they aren't native to Wisconsin, but USDA updated maps say they are (perhaps originally more in the southern part of the state). In any case, they prefer rich, wet mesic to dry mesic soils, according to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Plant Identification Guide. The flowers are visited by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Like other Evening Primose species, this one is a host plant to several moth species.

Oenothera 5

I like it. I take it for granted--of course, I shouldn't and I think I need to plant more or spread some seed.

I'm linking this post to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday meme at Clay and Limestone. Head on over to learn about wildflowers blooming around the world.

June 16, 2018

The Flowers Are Nice, But the Foliage Is Fun

mixed foliage 2

With the tropical conditions we're experiencing lately (80s and 90s for highs and about four inches of rain during the past couple of days), the plants are plump and healthy. Quite a few are blooming, but it's the foliage that's really standing out right now in my dappled- to partial-shade garden.

I always plant quite a few Coleus in pots--plants that like shade and offer dramatic swatches of color.  What's not to love?

coleus 1

coleus 2

coleus 4

coleus 3

coleus 5

And several dramatic foliage combinations weren't entirely planned, but I'm enjoying them:

coleus and calla
Looking across colorful Coleus to the underside of speckled Calla leaves.

shamrock and ivy
OK, this one was planned because I do it almost ever year: Purple Shamrocks (Oxalis triangularis) with variegated English Ivy (Hedera helix). I overwinter these guys in pots in my sunroom.

alternanthera 1
Also in pots with English Ivy--Alternanthera (A. ficoidea 'Red Threads'), from the top. I've grown Alternanthera before, but never in a "foliage only" pot. I like it, and I'll probably do it again.

alternanthera 2
The same Alternanthera, looking up through the foliage with dappled sun shining through it. Talk about drama!

Here are a few more subtle, but nifty, combinations of plant forms and structures:

sedums and petunias
Severely clipped Petunias (to encourage heft and more flowers), with Sedums in a hanging basket.

mixed foliage 1
Here's an unnamed variegated Hosta surrounded by several friends. Can you name the friends?

This arrangement of ferns in front of a large rock was placed by the previous owners. It's lovely, but it's in an out-of-the-way place that's barely noticeable: kind of a mini secret garden.

columbine and sedums
Sedums and Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) planted in a tipped whiskey barrel. I use lava rocks for mulch in most of my pots to discourage chipmunks and squirrels from digging.

A new plant for me this year: 'Sugar and Spice' Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia). This one is a nativar. With the exception of my potted plants, I'm trying to add mainly straight species native plants, but I made an exception for this one. The flowers are nice, but the foliage is really nifty.

Somewhere along the way, I missed the memo that Pam at Digging is no longer hosting the 'Foliage Follow-Up' meme, but I thank her for the inspiration and her years of encouraging us to look beyond the blooms.