Tuesday View: The Tropics 8.23.16

It’s another Tuesday and although I missed last week due to a quick summer jaunt up to the mountains of New Hampshire, this week I’m back to joining in with Cathy at Words and Herbs in order to look at the weekly progress of the tropical border.  Heat, humidity, regular rain showers, and strong summer sunshine in between have brought on an explosion of late summer growth and the purple leaved cannas now dominate the bed.

tuesday view

Purple leaved canna indica, maybe ‘purpurea’ or ‘red stripe’ or ‘Russian red’… I don’t really know since they were given to me years ago as just plain old canna… have now topped off at around 8-9 feet.

You’ll probably notice the small red blooms the cannas have put out.  They’re nice enough as a little decoration up top but hardly enough reason to grow these plants.  It’s all about the foliage and it’s looking particularly good on this deliciously cool and clear, breezy summer day.

canna indica purpurea Russian red

Canna indica ‘purpurea?’ blooms against the bright blue of a clear summer sky.  A very popular flower with the hummingbirds.

Have I referenced “summer” enough yet?  I’m hoping that if I keep saying the word it will hang on forever, and we’ll never have to deal with the cold little deaths called autumn and winter.  Surely it’s a part of life here in Pennsylvania, but I don’t mind if it holds off for another two months at least.

coleus Alabama sunset

I need to add more coleus to the bed next year.  As things grow so does the shade, and this coleus (maybe ‘Alabama Sunset’)  fills in nicely rather than fading away like some of the zinnias.

There’s a whole back half to the bed which has been blocked off by the main clump of canna.  It’s a little messy but hopefully in the next few weeks a dahlia or two can break through and add a little color as other things begin to fade out.


Is ‘Tropical Weed Patch’ a look?  If I can only think of a better name maybe it will catch on but in the meantime you may notice the salvia ‘Caradonna’ which constantly annoys me is still exactly where its always been.  Sometimes things don’t move too fast around here 🙂 

With such a mess of randomness there’s bound to be a surprise here and there, and sometimes that surprise even turns out to be a nice one.  This week it was the salvia which has just come into bloom.  My favorite version of the stout, too-red, gas-station salvias (Salvia splendens) are the ones which don’t look like they’d end up in a gas station planting at all.   They’re the tall and lanky ones which are sometimes referred to as Salvia splendens ‘Van Houttii’ and up until now I’ve only succeeded with a peach colored one.  But last year I did have a short purple bedding type nearby, and apparently things happened at night and lo and behold this year one of their children is a tall, lanky purple.

purple salvia bloom

At about three feet tall this purple salvia bloom has all the grace and style which its shorter cousins lack.  Even better was that I found this as a self-sown seedling and was lucky enough to nurse it on to blooming size.  This makes me wonder as to what the other seedlings will look like.  

I’ve shown it before but have to show one more photo of the castor bean.  The bright seed pods look perfect amongst the purple foliage.

castor bean carmencita

The spiky red (and remember poisonous as well) seed heads of castor bean ‘carmencita’

This afternoon the sun hit the back corner of the bed perfectly.  You don’t even notice the weeds when the light is like this.


Verbena bonariensis is the workhorse of this bed and although it threatens to swamp everything else here it’s still worth any bit of trouble it causes. 

At this time of year it’s easy to ignore any maintainence and just enjoy the plants as they slide on into autumn, but dahlias are yet to come and dahlias need staking.  Two weeks ago would have been the best time to do this but things happen and when things happen the dahlias fall over.  It will require twice as much time to carefully put them back up and some might just stay where they lie.  It will be more of a groundcover look, but with the way they are stretching away from the canna’s shadow nearly all the plants have verticality issues which might not be worth fighting.

panicum northwind

There are dahlias in them thar purple verbena, but for now lets just focus on the panicum ‘Northwind’ which is turning into a tight fountain of frothy seed-heads.

Dahlias will hopefully be staked tomorrow… or Thursday.  Weekend at the latest.  It’s so nice right now with green grass, butterflies, and flowers who wants to stake stuff?  Plus I needed to tackle a hedge of crabgrass which sprouted overnight in one of the other beds, it’s an embarrassing mess, but at least it’s green and green is so much nicer than the dead brown which surrounded me last month.

Mess or not I hope you enjoyed the view and if you’d like give Cathy a visit and see what this week has brought to her garden and others.  It’s  a nice way to keep tabs on things over the season and it’s also a great way to get things staked and weeded.  Shame is a great motivator and even if it means I have to stake with one hand and take pictures with the other, the job will get done long before I even consider publically admitting that the twine has defeated me 🙂

17 comments on “Tuesday View: The Tropics 8.23.16

  1. Cathy says:

    You are right! I have been careful to keep my view relatively well maintained as it goes on show every week! 😉 The canna foliage is wonderful. And it all looks lush and very tropical indeed – even the Verbena seems at home with its tropical neighbours. Purples and deep reds go so well together. The Salvia is very pretty. Hope you get more seedlings next year too. Have a good week Frank!

    • bittster says:

      Hope you are enjoying your getaway!
      I should be out there staking and weeding right now rather than sitting on the computer. I’ll feel the regret next Tuesday 😉

  2. Christina says:

    The Cannas are fabulous, perfect for the tropics! Actually I like everything you’re growing in this bed. Next year you could try putting staking over the whole bed before anything as grown, it soon gets covered by the plants and it’s easier to do them.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve admired the netting you use in your cutflower beds. I haven’t been able to think anything up for these less formal beds though. I was thinking of something similar to a tomato cage for some of the plants…

      • Christina says:

        If you don’t put such tall bamboo canes (even my mine don’t need to be so tall) they will be hidden really quickly or put circles of canes around the taller plants with pea netting.

      • bittster says:

        Pea netting is what I need to try. I like the look of pea brush, but it’s an art getting the twigs in there and again I’m not nearly as diligent as I should be.

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Twine can be a formidable foe–good luck with the staking Frank! Your tropical border looks great.

  4. rusty duck says:

    I am the worst culprit for not staking in time. I don’t like to see them when the plants are still small so put it off to the last possible moment i.e. the first storm that knocks everything flat to the ground.

    • bittster says:

      heh heh. We had that ‘knock everything flat’ storm two weeks ago and things are still unstaked. Things usually just start growing upright again, but when it happens the second time it really starts to look bad… I must get out there today or tomorrow!

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    It does look very tropical – I love the abundant look to your borders!

  6. I love the look of the sunflowers peeking over the top of the banana leaves.

    • bittster says:

      I’m so lucky a few of the sunflowers escaped my extermination phase. The yellow is really needed with all the dark foliage. I have a perennial one in there as well, but it was a small transplant so probably won’t look like much until next year.

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