Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Riot of Summer Flowers

     This time of year my front Cottage Garden is a riot of color. The house faces south, and while this garden gets some shade in the early morning (when these photos were taken), it is primarily full sun. Because our home is so symmetrical with the twin gables, twin windows and shutters, twin window boxes and arched front door echoing the eyebrow window, I have taken special care to add elements of asymmetry like the Lady Banks Rose climbing up only one side of the front porch arch. The stone walk is 8-feet wide between the driveway and the front door but half that width going around to the left toward the Shade Garden. The 'Emerald' Zoysia lawn is like a plush green carpet and withstands the summer heat without irrigation, but in the photos it is dappled with sunlight.
     The color continues year-round, although late June is pretty much a highlight. Now the many Daylilies are blooming in shades from white to pink, purple, red, yellow and orange. Purple Coneflowers, Shasta Daisies and Black-eyed Susans provide a daisy flower shape to contrast with the trumpet shapes of the daylilies. Dark pink Coleus, black Sweet Potato Vine and silvery Lamb's Ears add durable foliage color, while spikey variegated Yucca and sword leaves of Siberian, Japanese and Roof Irises contrast with the horizontal lines of Creeping Thyme. Pink Crinum lilies are blooming with characteristic abandon, and clouds of blue-green leaves on white Baptisia remain as it produces its interesting ballooning seed pods.

     Some of the spring annuals like Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella) or Peony Poppies have seed pods filled with ripened seeds, some of which I am collecting to sow in January and to give to friends. I've been growing and saving seeds of my Gardening Grandmother's Feverfew (Brides Buttons) since 1981. Sometimes Zinnia or Annual Rudbeckia or even Ironweed seeds themselves between the cracks of the stone paving and if it doesn't obstruct traffic too badly I allow it to flower there. 
The Hydrangeas were briefly wonderful this year due to the early rains, but after 15 days straight of higher-than-90 degree F. temperatures and no rainfall the tender flowers have taken a beating. The leaves wilt every afternoon but then come back every morning ready for new solar abuse. They would perfer a little afternoon shade, but I envisioned a bank of powder blue against the ochre bricks when I designed the front border, so they are planted here. Wavy snakes of Foxgloves are filled with ripening seed. In my garden-before-last the Foxgloves actually did reseed, but not so in my last garden. Wonder if they'll germinate in place in this garden? Lavender Garden Phlox reinforces the color of the Purple Coneflowers. 
Lamb's Ears are blooming and its flowers around the periphery of the clump do not interfere with the pool of silver provided by the leaves. Showing only green for now are the fragrant Spearmint, Mexican Tarregon (Tagetes) and the late brilliant yellow Chrysanthemums that will bloom from Thanksgiving to late December or early January, when they are finally cut down by a hard frost. These are corseted in perennial hoops economically made from tomato cages cut in half (horizontally) using the super-giant red bolt cutters my Dad gave me so long ago. The exhuberent growth in this garden conceals their aluminium stays, as well as crowding out weeds.
     I heard a statistic that 80% of garden flowers do well in full sun, while 20% of them do better in shade, so I am grateful for the wide pallet of colorful flowers.

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