Happy Fourth!

Summer is here and so is that wonderful humidity and heat.  Oddly enough we’ve also been getting rain-free days, and when I think back to last week there were actually a number of absolutely beautiful days, which I swear did not exist last year.  Suddenly I  love gardening again and even though I actually had to water a few things (for the first time in months) things are generally pretty good.  I’m thinking today’s Independence day celebrations should be quite excellent, even if we don’t have tanks rumbling along in the local parade or fighter jets buzzing the church picnics.

bougainvillea hanging basket

Welcome to the festivities, and welcome to the bougainvillea hanging basket which was irresistibly priced at a local greenhouse this spring. 

Yesterday evening the yard cleanup was as far as it was going to get, and the light was low, so I was able to get a few decent pictures taken before retiring to the porch with a cold drink and ceiling fan.

digitalis ferruginea

I think these spikes are the curious spires of the rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea) which have been biding their time for three years before actually blooming.  I also think they will pass on after blooming so we’ll see about any reseeding for next year.

There’s a lot of altitude this summer with tall plants reaching for the sky.  The rusty foxgloves are topping out at just under six feet which is not bad at all since I do like wandering around with my plants rather than looking down at them.

digitalis ferruginea

Digitalis ferruginea?  I planted a couple different kinds of foxgloves a few years ago, and to my un-botanical eye many look quite similar.

Usually the fuzzy leaved verbascums (mullein) are my high altitude stars but this year I have a Canada lily (Lilium canadense) which has taken it upon itself to reach for the sky.  Before slouching back down to my height, it was measuring in at just over the seven foot mark, and it wouldn’t have been the worst idea to tie in a stake to keep it up there.

canada lily lilium canadense

Lilium canadense, a native to the Eastern woodlands of N . America, and probably something that would be more common if there were less deer.

Last year this fellow was barely half the height with just two or three blooms, but this is a lily which loves steady moisture, and trust me it had moisture galore last year.

canada lily lilium canadense

Love the speckled insides, and the flowers are bringing some nice floral fireworks up to deck height.

A sibling of this plant just a few feet away has decided to focus on multiplying, and although the stalks are only about half the height there are quite a few little sprouts coming up here and there around the main plants.

canada lily lilium canadense

This one has slouched into the arms of a cutleaf sumac.  I think these are some pretty elegant flowers, but honestly, can you think of any unattractive lily?

Other robust plants around the garden include some soft yellow hollyhocks which I’m hoping can avoid the rust attacks which did in last year’s planting.  I think this is Alcea rugosa, the Russian hollyhock, and although the color is limited to yellow it’s hopefully a start in finding a hollyhock which can grow and bloom in this garden without losing every last leaf to a rusty mess of diseased foliage.  Word is there are other rust-resistant forms out there, and I think it’s not the worst idea to give a few more a try 🙂

alcea rugosa russian hollyhock

The Russian hollyhock (Alcea rugosa… I think).  A little yellowing on the leaf tips, so it’s not entirely happy, but at least it still has leaves which wasn’t the case last year.

Things are still pretty short in the tropical garden but at least I finally have it planted, edged, and mulched (and mostly weeded).  The mulch is all lawn clippings raided from the piles dumped in the woods so today it’s kind of smelly, but hopefully that fades away as it dries out a bit.  The cannas and elephant ears love this mulch.  Between the heat and the nutrients which wash out of the grass they should really take off now… assuming my neighbors haven’t overdone it with the weed killer which could be hitchiking in with the clippings (although I don’t think they’ve been spreading anything around lately).

early summer garden

Mostly edged and mulched, and this part of my lawn is obviously not heavy on the weedkiller.  There’s more than enough clover, and if you could eat the clover little bunny please do so and give my scrubby birch a break from the nibbling (the birch is the clump of well-pruned leaves to the right of the rose, now covered with chicken wire). 

I may try and tackle a little more mulching and weeding this morning before it gets too hot and sweaty and the pool lures me away.  We’ll see.  In the meantime I know for sure I’ll be admiring the Regal lilies which are flowering fantastically this week, and are filling the whole backyard with that slightly overpowering scent of summer.

lilium regale

A good year for lilies.  Lilium regale and the first of the garden phlox in the potager.

I like the lilies.  They’re remarkably easy and fast from seeds and these are just the ones which survived a late frost earlier in the year.  If all would have gone according to plan there would have been about twice as many, but hopefully next year the ones which froze to mush will return.  Plans may be overrated anyway.  None of the plans included the dark purple ‘Lauren’s Grape’ opium poppy which reseeded from last year’s far more pathetic plantings, and if the plan to dig up tulips worked out I’m sure these would have been lost.

lilium regale

The potager in early July.  A little neglected, but holding up regardless with lilies, phlox and poppies.

So if you have plans to enjoy the holiday I hope they work out well, and if they don’t I hope things come together even better, and if today is just Thursday rather than a holiday, well then the weekend is approaching for you as well.  In any case here’s to a beautiful day!

17 comments on “Happy Fourth!

  1. Tim Calkins says:

    Beautiful! Happy Fourth!

  2. Cathy says:

    Marvellous! Happy Independence Day Frank! I love those foxgloves and may be tempted to grow some – I love seeing the pastel ones in other people’s gardens, but they wouldn’t fit in here. These rusty ones would look great in my new sunshine bed. Same with those pale yellow hollyhocks – gorgeous. I am amazed at how tall your plants are! My sunflowers are only about a foot tall, but then we have hardly had any rain since April! Have a great weekend too. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      I wish I could tell you for sure which foxgloves these are. One of the types is entirely biennial, the other has come back for a few years and is much easier to keep track of.
      I do tend to plant taller things, but the rain has made even the most average plants take off. I hope they’re not too upset when the rain stops and things go back to hot and dry!
      I hope you get a little rain, too dry for too long is no fun.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    When I see these big ole lilies it makes me crave more and more of them. Yours are so statuesque. I am sure they enjoyed all the rain. Mine ever did better this year than usual. That poppy is sublime. Good thing you didn’t accidentally dig them out. That would have been a tragedy.
    I have one, yes one, self seeded hollyhock.It is white with a green throat. It came from red ones. I think that is so interesting how hollyhocks do that. I have never let a white one grow until now. Actually I usually pull out hollyhock starts because they rust so bad. I always thought too much water encouraged rust but that must not be it because this hollyhock is in mostly shade right near a down spout so it gets plenty of water, especially this year. I used to work for a place that had lots of lawn to be mowed. The grass was treated and I took home loads of that grass to put into my pure clay soil. It didn’t ever adversely affect my plants but oh did it stink. It quickly wears off.
    I hope you are flat out on a float in your pool by now. Cheers….

    • bittster says:

      I had to come in from the pool, it was too hot 😉
      My mother used to grow bunches of hollyhock and I don’t remember them ever getting rust. I’ve wondered if it’s some new rust strain thats invaded over the years, in any case it sure puts a damper on things. Those tall spires of flowers can be so awesome, I’m hoping my yellow really is more resistant and it’s the start of new, great things!
      In the meantime I have seedlings coming up that were looking good but now show the spots that will eventually turn red. I of course will see just how long I can ignore it.
      The grass clippings always seem to boost the plants so much but lately I’ve been worrying about spreading herbicides and pesticides all over. I hope I’m overreacting but some of these chemicals seem to be so persistent.

  4. Christina says:

    Happy Independence Day, Frank. I love the foxgloves, I bought some seed of that variety at the Chelsea flower show so any tips on germinating and growing them on would be very welcome.

    • bittster says:

      Oh I’m a terrible person for advice. I received the seeds during the winter and immediately potted them up and put them outdoors. Most of them grew and then flowered the next year, but for some reason this group held off on flowering until the next year and I’m not sure if it’s a different type. I have to search out a label but I suspect they might be Digitalis ferruginea gigantea and I wonder if they typically take three years to bloom.

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    What are you feeding your lilies? I’ve never seen so many blooms on a single stalk! I’ve given up on growing lilies, as much as I adore them, because of the red beetles and deer. One would think with the vast acres of wild land around me, they’d leave my garden alone, but no way, I’m serving caviar, it seems.
    Your rusty foxgloves are impressive as well. I’ve grown them before, but if I don’t pay attention to spreading the seeds, they peter out. Too much to tend to! 😉
    Hope your 4th was enjoyable, Frank, keep cool!

    • bittster says:

      I have no idea what’s come over my lily, this is absolutely the tallest it’s ever been! I suspect it’s all the rain.
      I’m lucky that the lily beetles have not yet reached this Pennsylvania valley, I think that if and when they do I’ll need to find new homes for my lilies since I can’t imagine picking grubs every day.
      I don’t know if these foxgloves can handle seeding around here on their own, and I guess if they don’t then they won’t be around for too long. So many plants, so little time!

  6. Lisa Rest says:

    Happy Fourth, Frank. I love the lilies. My natives in the backyard are all so tall, every day I hope for blossoms but it’s not all happening yet. The purple coneflowers though just started to erupt into my annual echinacea forest. We are still soggy but with the addition of heat now I’ll have to at least watch and maybe water the newer plants…

    • bittster says:

      I bet the heat and humidity have kicked in now and things surely look different! You could do much worse than an echinacea forest, I bet it looks fantastic… and is very popular with the birds and bees!
      We had a little bit of a break from the rain. I actually had to water a transplant and that was an odd experience, but I think it only shows how spoiled I’ve become. Enjoy your summer and happy travels!

      • Lisa Rest says:

        The echinacea forest is what it is. I had no idea years ago when I planted purple coneflowers that they were so aggressive! And yes, the birds and bees and butterflies love them. But to hold them to at least half the back bed I planted asters and goldenrod to hold down the fort, or the forest, I guess. 🙂

  7. Chloris says:

    Lots to enjoy in your garden Frank. What a great idea growing bougainvillea in hanging baskets. I love your foxgloves and lilies. I agree Lilium regale is the quickest and easiest to grow from seed. I never thought of using grass cuttings as mulch, I’ll try that.

    • bittster says:

      There are next to no fragrant roses here, and the lilies are struggling to fill in the role. Don’t worry though, I’ve planted a few tiny sprigs which should someday flower, and by most accounts I’ve selected a few fragrant ones…. assuming they survive my neglect.

  8. I think you’re right about the foxgloves – there are lots of them at the Lurie Garden. I’ve thought of trying the Russian Hollyhock – how have they done for you overall?

    • bittster says:

      This is my first year with the Russian hollyhock, and so far so good! The regular hollyhock seedlings out front are infested with rust yet these still look rust-free so that should count for something. Right now I’m tempted to save and sow every seed they make and rototill half the garden to plant them. That may change by next month.

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