Friday, August 1, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday: A Case of Mistaken Identity

No, I know it's not Wednesday, and Wildflower Wednesday was last week.  But I seem to be operating at least a week behind these days, and I'm sure our hostess Gail won't mind that I'm a little late.

July and August are good months for the natives in my garden.  
There are black-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta.

And Brown-eyed Susans,  Rudbeckia triloba, which are quickly spreading in various parts of my garden.

There is a young 'Little Joe' Joe-Pye Weed, a few Phlox pilosa still blooming, and, of course, there are coneflowers--lots of coneflowers.   But there should be a lot more natives than this.  Last year I planted quite a few seedlings of prairie plants, expecting to see Royal Catchfly and Phlox pallida, among others, either last year or this, but so far they have been no-shows.  I don't know if they died from lack of water last year or were crowded out by the many thugs in my butterfly garden, but I've really been disappointed.

So imagine how happy I was a few weeks ago to notice a few small yellow flowers rising above the sea of goldenrod and aster foliage.  I scrounged around the plant and found a marker nearby--"Tall Coreopsis," it read, and checking my garden journal last year, yes, indeed I did plant a Tall Coreopsis, a native found throughout Illinois.  When friend Beckie visited my garden last week, I pointed it out, and she said, "Oh, you have some gray-headed coneflowers!"  "No, " I replied, " this is a Coreopsis tripteris."  I'm not sure she was convinced, but she was too polite to pursue the subject.  The more I thought about it, the flowers certainly did look more like gray-headed coneflowers, and I thought I'd better do a little research.

Ratibida pinnata has composite flowers with 13 drooping yellow florets and an oblong head of disk florets that grows to be 1/2 to 3/4 inches tall. That should have been enough to identify this plant, but just to make sure, I checked the leaves.  The leaves near the top of each stem of Ratibida are smaller and alternate, while the leaves of the Tall Coreopsis are opposite. That clinched it--my initial i.d. was wrong, and these were indeed gray-headed coneflowers.  I think one of the things that confused me was the height, but my sources say that these coneflowers can grow up to 4 feet tall, which mine have definitely achieved.

The head of the flower is brown when mature, but starts out as a greenish-gray, which is how it gets its name as "gray-headed."  The flowers appear in early to late summer and will bloom for one-two months.  It  likes full sun but will grow in part shade, too, and isn't fussy about soil.  In fact, it can flop over if "spoiled by too much water or fertile soil."(Illinois  All of this makes it a perfect addition to almost any wildflower/native garden.

Each flower head has its own stalk.  The stems are slender and delicate, causing them to sway in the breeze.  Indeed, I had trouble photographing these flowers for several days because of the breeze.

Many kinds of insects visit this flower, especially several varieties of bees, who enjoy both the nectar and the pollen. Wasps, flies, some butterflies, and beetles also visit the plant as well as caterpillars of some butterflies and moths. Goldfinches occasionally eat the seeds.

Native Americans used to make a tea from the flower cones and leaves; one tribe used the root to cure toothaches. 

Gray-headed Coneflowers are fairly common in Illinois and, according to Illinois, are "fairly easy to grow."  I'm glad to hear that because I've always admired these lovely flowers and hope they continue to grow and colonize in my small butterfly garden.

For more interesting natives and wildflowers, visit Gail at Clay and Limestone, where every day is Wildflower Day!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Portland Fling: Two Gardens I Almost Missed!

It's hard to believe it has been over a week since I returned from the Portland Garden Bloggers' Fling.  My mind is still filled with images of all the beautiful gardens we visited.  Where to begin to describe this experience to you?

Shoreline at Ecola State Park
The logical place to start would be at the beginning of the journey as Daughter and I arrived a day early and drove to the coast, visiting several seaside towns and state parks.  She wanted to share with me some places she had visited while living in Portland a few years ago, and I'm so glad we did--the scenes were breathtaking, even including a surprise whale spotting. 

But you want to see the gardens, right?  So instead of beginning at the beginning, let's start at the end of the first day of the Fling.

Sunlight falling on Old Germantown Gardens

Let me set the scene for you:  bright and early at 8 AM, eighty garden bloggers congregated in the hotel lobby to begin a short walk toward Timber Press and later to the Lan Su Chinese Garden.  Then we boarded buses for a visit first to Cistus Nursery and then to Joy Creek Nursery. More on all these places later, but I will say that I valiantly resisted the urge to buy any new plants, partly because many of them were hardy only to zone 7 (I'm 5b/6) and partly because I didn't know how I would fit them in my suitcase for the flight home.

Looking toward the house from the back of the garden at Old Germantown
By the time we had finished lunch at Joy Creek Nursery, I was ready for a nap--I'd been up since 5 AM since I was still operating on Central Time.  And it was hot!  My few previous visits to Portland had given me the impression that the climate was always mild and pleasant, but that wasn't the case this weekend.  Temps were in the 90's, and droplets of sweat were already pouring down my face, making me a bit cranky.  I found a shady spot to sit and rest a bit and opened the program booklet our well-organized hosts had provided for us.  If only we were close enough to the city center for me to catch a cab, I would skip the next two stops and retreat to the comfy bed in my cool hotel room to rest for awhile before the evening banquet.

Alas, we were too far out for cab service, so I boarded the bus again, resigned to sweltering the rest of the day.  And am I glad I did!  If I had missed the last two gardens of the day, I would still be kicking myself.  Instead, my only regret is that when we arrived at Old Germantown Gardens, I decided to take only my phone so that I wouldn't be encumbered by my camera case.  Thus, the photos of this garden don't do it justice.

Old Germantown Gardens is located on a two-acre wooded hillside.  According to our guidebook, it contains "a wealth of garden diversity," which was quickly apparent as we strolled up and down hilly paths past perennial beds crammed with unusual and familiar plants, woodland plantings, a rock garden, and a dry hillside.

Portland gardeners are fortunate in that it seems they can grow almost anything from perennials commonly found in the Midwest and Northeast to succulents and cacti normally associated with the Southwest.

One of the trees that caught my eye--well, actually, my ears and nose noticed it first--was this unidentified specimen.  A sweet fragrance wafted on the air, and the sound of swarming bees made many of us stop and look around for a beehive.  No beehive was to be found, however; instead, the tree was just swarming with bees enjoying the sweet-smelling blooms.  It looked somewhat like a viburnum, and yet none of us were quite sure what it was.

A greenhouse next to the patio containing pools was filled with tropicals.  The owners said that other than the patio and other hardscaping, and I assume the greenhouse, they had created the garden completely by themselves, including the terraced paths and beds.  Although they have lived here for 23 years, I just can't imagine all the work that went into this garden--amazing!

So much to see, I know I must have missed something.  But we were invited to the house once we had viewed the garden and get another view from the deck overlooking the garden.  Can you imagine looking out over this as you enjoy your morning coffee?  Absolutely stunning!

This garden reminded me of one of my favorites from the Asheville Fling, and others who had also attended that Fling agreed with me.  The Gentling garden in Asheville was also on a wooded hillside, and although there are obvious differences, the total effect on me was the same--a beautiful piece of paradise.  To top it off, Jerry and Bruce welcomed us inside to enjoy a respite from the heat along with some refreshing lemonade and the best ever chocolate-almond cookies warm from the oven--delicious!

Check out the Garden Bloggers' Fling Facebook page for some fantastic photos of this field.
As I boarded the bus feeling a bit refreshed and delighted with all that I had seen, I remarked to my Kate, my delightful seat mate, that I couldn't imagine how anything could top the Old Germantown Gardens.  I was in for a pleasant surprise, though--our final destination was Westwind Farm Studio. Located high above the city, the main garden of Westwind covers four acres surrounded by 40 acres of meadow and forest.  Our first view was of a large lavender field; before I left, I cut a few sprigs of lavender--with permission, of course--which I later carried home in my suitcase.  I had the best-smelling dirty laundry ever!

The main garden, however, was down the hillside and behind the house.  Swaths of daylilies bloomed alongside many native plants.

One of the more intriguing plants for me was this Fireweed Chamaenerion angustifolium.  I had seen this plant growing in masses along the roadside as we drove to the coast earlier in the week and wondered what it was.

The name Fireweed comes from its tendency to grow in disturbed soil, often the first plant to appear after forests have been cut down or burned.  According to one source, it grows to 4 feet in height, but obviously it can grow much taller!

This is a garden for wildlife.  Near the house deer-resistant plants have been chosen.  But beyond that, in the meadow plants were chosen for the birds, bees, coyotes, and even deer. The 'Jacob Klein' Monarda was a favorite of the hummingbirds.  Many of us were captivated by the numerous hummingbirds dancing about these flowers.  I spent a lot of time trying to capture a photo of one with no luck, and I finally gave up and just enjoyed the delightful show they put on.

At the end of this long, hot day, many of us found the perfect place to enjoy the view--a salt-water pool.  I didn't take nearly as many photos of Westwind as I would have liked, but I'm not sure they would have done it justice anyway.  Instead, I simply enjoyed the beauty and serenity of this peaceful place.

And when I say enjoying the view, this is what I'm talking about--looking down through meadows and woods upon the city, a world away.

Three hours earlier, I was ready to head back to my cool hotel room.  But when it was time to leave Westwind, I was tempted to miss the bus:)  I would have been content to spend the rest of the evening...and the next day here!  It was a long day in the heat, but I am so glad I didn't miss these two fantastic gardens, Old Germantown and Westwind Farm Studio.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

GGBD: What Do You Call a Plethora of Coneflowers?

I arrived home from Portland after midnight Monday night and am still trying to get back into my usual routine.  Three days of non-stop garden viewing--what an incredible experience!  As soon as I can get all my photos organized, I'll share some of these amazing gardens with you.  What I will tell you now, though, is that Portland has to be a gardener's paradise--I'm convinced that they can grow almost anything, and that plants grow bigger and better in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else. 

But yesterday was Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and I didn't want to miss out, even though my camera needs re-charging as much as I do, and I haven't taken many photos at home.  There are lilies blooming galore, including the first 'Stargazer,' which was a lovely welcome home yesterday morning.  Phlox, hydrangeas, cosmos, a few zinnias,  and one lone little purple poppy are creating a riot of color in the garden on this July Bloom Day.  But what everyone notices first in my garden are the purple coneflowers.  This is one plant that, if I may say so, grows as well in the Midwest, if not better, as in Portland.

When I say I have an abundance of coneflowers, I am not exaggerating.  I leave the plants standing in the fall for the birds, and the cold, harsh winter this past year must have been ideal for them.  I pulled a few and gave away others, but I didn't have the heart to really thin them. 

And they're everywhere! This started me thinking--if we have names for groups of animals, like a gaggle of geese or a murder of crows, why not a name for a large group of plants as well?  I might call this a sea of coneflowers in the sidewalk bed.

Or a profusion of coneflowers in the roadside bed.

How about a medley of coneflowers in the Arbor Bed?

I don't have many cultivars, other than this 'Big Sky Sunset' and the 'White Swan' above.  Almost all the coneflowers are the common Echinacea Purpurea, or else we might call them a myriad of coneflowers.

I like alliteration, so perhaps a good term would be a conglomeration of coneflowers.

Or a convocation of coneflowers?

From a different perspective, a pulpit of coneflowers sounds appropriate.

Or another point of view--perhaps a stage of coneflowers?

More alliteration--possibly, a collation of coneflowers.

Or maybe a congregation of coneflowers?

A caboodle of coneflowers sounds playful to me.

As you can see, when the coneflowers bloomed, the butterflies seemed to magically appear as well.  I followed the first Monarch with my phone as it fluttered from one bloom to another.  Maybe the best choice for a term in this case would be a delight of coneflowers.

For the bees, though, the garden has become a buffet of coneflowers.

They, too, are happy to see these flowers and might call them a delirium of coneflowers.

Perhaps a new word altogether needs to be coined to describe such a bounty of blooms, such as a conflabulation of coneflowers.  Whatever you want to call this abundance, you can see why coneflowers are not only my favorite flower, but a favorite of so many beautiful creatures in my garden as well.

Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting this each month and giving us a showcase for sharing blooms from all over the world.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fireworks in the Garden

Do you have big plans for the Fourth of July?  There are many activities planned in our area to celebrate the holiday, including the annual fireworks show in C-U, which is always outstanding.  But my husband doesn't like crowded celebrations and the traffic afterwards, so sometimes I go to the show with one of my children and grandkids.  Other times, we'll simply sit on the lawn after dusk and watch the displays in surrounding towns from a distance.   I'm not sure what we'll do this year, but we could just stay at home this year and enjoy the garden--in the past week, my garden has exploded into a riotous display of color that's almost as good as fireworks.

Like pink?  There is plenty of it in my garden right now.  The Asiatic lily 'Brindisi' is nearly at the end of its bloom cycle, but what a show she has put on!

She's the biggest and most prolific Asiatic I have, putting out too many blooms to count.

As she is fading away, the pink of the purple coneflowers is taking over.  I have a sea of coneflowers this year, and I'm not exaggerating--more on this in a later post.

Prefer a hotter shade of pink?  These phlox always defy my photographic skills, but they are a dazzling shade of hot pink/fuschia.  And to think I almost pulled them their second year, because I didn't remember planting them!

More hot pink from the Monarda in the butterfly garden, which is a jungle once again this year.  By the way, please ignore the many weeds you may see in the photos.  The abundant rain we have had this year has certainly been good for the garden, but it's also been a boon to the weeds.  I'm fighting a daily battle against them, and I think I'm losing.

Now this is my shade of pink!

We can go darker still with the Drumstick Allium.

Or how about a bright red?  I wish I had taken this photo a few days before, when more of the poppies were blooming. . . and wish I had pulled that buttonweed behind them before snapping this photo:)  I scatter poppy seed in late winter over the snow and never know how many or where they might germinate; needless to say, this was a good year for them.

Going darker still, 'Little Grapette' is the first of several darker daylilies to bloom.

Personally, I like a combo of light and dark as in this early daylily 'Moonlight Masquerade.'

If you prefer the purity of white, there's plenty of that too--'Beckie' daisies are just starting to bloom.

And so are the 'Knee High Sonata' cosmos.

In fact, there will be quite a bit of white in the coming weeks as the 'David' phlox join the parade of blooms.

We can also add some purple to the dazzling mix of colors with some larkspur.

And almost blue--Balloonflowers.  I actually had to pull out some volunteer Amsonia, which were hiding this plant.

There is plenty of yellow in the garden, too, with all of the 'Stella d'Oro' daylilies in bloom, as well as other yellow blossoms, such as this 'Moonbeam' Coreopsis.  In fact, about the only color that is noticeably absent in my garden right now is orange, but that will soon change as more of the daylilies begin to bloom.  Tarzan obliged me by adding a little orange today:)  I think he has the best idea of how to celebrate the weekend.

No Fourth of July would be complete without displaying the red, white, and blue.  Maybe the phlox are a little more pinkish and purple, but it's close.

A little closer to the patriotic color scheme--an "accidental" combination of red, white, and blue.

Wishing you all a happy and safe Fourth of July!