Agriculture in Suburbia

This post was mostly finished last weekend but for some reason I never got around to publishing.  I wish I had a good excuse, but it might have just been one of those Sunday evening get ready for the workweek make lunches and clean the kids off from the weekend kind of things.  In any case here it is and to be honest I have little idea what I was talking about back then with all the design comments and self reflection.  Sometimes I really wonder where this stuff comes from, but regardless the pictures have me thinking of last June when the garden looked ready to die so let me just start off with a photo from then 🙂

dormant lawn

The beauty of the  garden in June.  Roadside daisies and dead grass.  Fortunately the rains came back in August, but not until all July passed and I reached the “wordless Wednesday: I hate gardening” stage.

It’s always nice to hear compliments about your garden, and I am one who by reflex nearly always shrugs them off or dismisses them.  I’m sure there’s some childhood trauma involved which has long been forgotten, but it’s my way and it’s a rare day when I can just accept with a thank you.  Now I’m not saying I get a lot of compliments, but I do get a comment every now and then about a nice design touch or a combination which actually worked out.  Those are the compliments I always downplay since I rarely (unless I’m doing it subconsciously) put a whole lot of thought into what goes where.  With few exceptions my design process revolves around having a new favorite plant in hand and then desperately needing a spot in which to cram it.  Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

front street border

The front border in mid September.  If I had to put a name to this year’s design theory it might be something like ‘neglected agricultural’.

The front border along the street may not look brilliant, but it does look colorful, and with five months of winter breathing down my neck colorful is perfect.  Colorful and agricultural I suppose, since this years feature plant seems to be ‘Hot Biscuits’ amaranthus and in my opinion it either looks sort of farmyard weedy or like a particularly bright sorghum crop.  Ornamental or not I just can’t look away.  It’s big and bright and grainy and between it and the wheat-like feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) and the sugarcane-like giant reed (Arundo Donax) I feel like it’s almost harvest time out there.

front street border

The view from the street side.  The purple perovskia has seeded around a bit and put out a few runners, the purple coneflowers as well, but I’ve done essentially nothing here since March and I kind of like that.

I owe this year’s crop of ‘Hot Biscuits’ to my friend Paula who surprised me one afternoon with a packet of seeds in the mailbox.  I had grown it before and ended up losing it, but fortunately she had a few seeds to spare and sent them my way.  That was last year, and I efficiently killed all the seedlings which sprouted, but this year was a different story and I ended up with a few clumps of healthy seedlings.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Just the first of many amaranthus close-ups which will pepper this post.  No one could plan this combo since I’m sure it violates numerous design principles, but I just love it.

The amaranthus shows up here and there all along the border, which is probably a good thing since even the simplest design theorist will tell you it repeats and unifies a theme.  Repetition is important since this bed frequently suffers from “I always start from the driveway end and use up all the best plants there” syndrome.  The far end of the bed gets less weeding, less watering, less tending… it basically gets less of everything, so carrying the amaranthus theme all the way through helps hide the sparseness of the neglected end.

wine zinnia

Here in the preferred end of the bed are well tended seedlings of Benary’s Giant wine zinnias and the pink gomphrena ‘fireworks’.  These were the seedlings I was most excited about this year, so in they went first 🙂

I did have a few too many zinnias this spring so was pretty generous about placing them in the border, but when the Brenary’s Giant scarlet began to open next to the pink gomphrena I immediately cringed.  For about a week I thought it looked awful but now I quite like it.  It reminded me of the first time I saw pictures of some of the late Christopher Lloyd’s magenta and pink plantings at Great Dixter.  They also bothered me at first and I think my first thought was “grow up Chris and plant some lavender and white and pink instead of that mess”… but look at me now.

scarlet zinnia fireworks gomphrena

Scarlet zinnia with ‘fireworks’ gomphrena.  Am I suffering from retinal fatigue or does it actually look nice together?

Maybe the green lawn and the parchment color of the feather reed grass tames it a bit but between this and the orange of the amaranthus I’m just plain pleased.

scarlet zinnia karl forester grass

A very technicolor look with the yellow of the ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac across the lawn.

Here’s another amaranthus photo-bomb.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Looking down towards the ‘less interesting’ end of the border.

Ok. One last amaranthus photo.

hot biscuits amaranthus

From the neglected, far end of the border, more amaranthus 🙂

You may have noticed a bright golden patch of marigolds in the border.  The fall smack dab in the middle of my newfound love for the most offensively bright colors and I’m not sure I can resist planting a whole border of them next year.  I had to smuggle these seeds out of my stingy older brother’s garden last year and was lucky that a few sprouted and survived July’s dry spell.  He’s been letting them reseed for a couple years now and they still come up in a good range of colors on relatively short and large flowered plants.

marigolds tagetes

A few marigolds putting on a nice end of summer show.  More might be nicer, and by more I mean a whole border.

What to plant them with?  I think they’ll go at the far end of the border, alongside the bright gold of a juniper, but other than that I have no plans.  Should I back them up with some darker foliage plants?

img_3082

Korean feather grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) in front and pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ towards the back. With the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea it all looks very calm and refined, but I think a nice border of marigolds will give it a good jolt of color!

We will see what happens.  There’s a good chance it will all come down to whatever seeds sprout the best next spring, but in the meantime it’s nice to dream about having a more plan-comes-together kind of garden.  That is until the snowdrops bloom.  Once that happens my brain goes to mush and I’m lucky if I get anything planted 😉

Thursday’s Feature: Standing Cypress

It’s Thursday and that means joining up with Kimberley of Cosmos and Cleome to take a closer look at something which caught your eye in the garden this week.  Hopefully you’re ready for color because his week the bright red of standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) is our subject.

Ipomopsis Rubra

Ipomopsis rubra close up.  Love the speckles and the intense scarlet color.  Bright red is what you need this time of year to stand up to the strong summer sun.

Standing cypress is a showy wildflower native to southeastern North America and just one of many garden-worthy Ipomopsis which can be found across the Americas (at least they look garden worthy, this is the only one I’ve ever grown).  These members of the phlox family are tough, drought resistant, and easy to grow and I’m surprised they’re not seen more often.  This is one plant which didn’t even blink when the rain stopped and its neighbors curled up into a drought induced fetal position.

Ipomopsis Rubra

Ipomopsis Rubra has a habit which I would call “lax”.  At anywhere from two to five feet tall they don’t typically flop, but they lean and stretch and carry so many blooms and seed pods that understandably it can get heavy for a little plant.

It took me years to finally find seed but admittedly I wasn’t out there every week trying to run down new sources.  I received my seed via the Mid Atlantic Hardy Plant Society seed exchange but now I’ve been seeing them more frequently sold in wildflower mixes or for hummingbird plantings.  The mix I planted was supposed to show a blend of red to oranges to yellows, but the speckled scarlet color is the only one I’ve seen come up.

Ipomopsis Rubra

The tubular flower shape and bright red color of these blooms has ‘hummingbird flower’ written all over it, and sure enough I often see hummers flying by for a meal.

It’s my suspicion that the natural variation across this species makes for different growing habits based on where one gets their seed from.  My plants which have been selfseeding around for several years now seem to be strictly annuals but from what I found they also grow as biennials and short lived perennials in areas across the United States as far up as zone 4.  Since mine have never overwintered I’m thinking it’s an annual form I’m growing.

Other confusing comments on this plant include it having a taproot (mine don’t) and it needing sandy or gravelly, well drained soil (mine tolerate heavier soil) in order to do well.  I suspect some of this is from people who’s knowledge is based less on experience and more on internet searches, but since I’m not a botanist either I’ll let you decide.

Ipomopsis Rubra

The ferny basal rosettes of standing cypress will pop up in any barren, neglected area which grows weeds well.  They do not compete against more perennial plantings, but in disturbed soil they can make a quick show before other opportunists jump in.

The hummingbirds and I will enjoy the blooms of this wildflower for several weeks now and when things slow down I’ll just trim off the upper end of the stalk and the smaller side shoots should carry on for a few more weeks.

Standing cypress.  Consider it.  If your garden can handle a shot of red I think you’ll enjoy it, and I also think you’ll enjoy giving Cosmos and Cleome a visit to see what Kimberley and others bloggers are featuring this week.  Enjoy!

Spare the rod

My nemesis the sunflower.

bird seed sunflowers

Self sown sunflowers from birdseed backed up by variegated giant reed grass (Arundo donax ‘gold chain’).

Harmless and full of promise is how they appear in the spring, now two months later they’re acting more like closing time at the bar.  Sloppy drunks hang all over one another, sprawl across the beds, and smother the other sober little plants which have yet to grow.  If it weren’t for their summertime good looks and the goldfinches they pull in I would compost them all!

sunflower bloom birdseed

Future birdfood.

It doesn’t take many sunflower seedlings to overtake a bed and between the extra mulching and copious rainfall they’ve had everything they needed to explode.  It’s like a lovely tsunami of sun looming over the plantings.

flower border sunflowers

The sunflowers do look pretty with the purple verbena bonariensis, striped leaves of ‘tropicanna’ canna, and the first of the peach colored salvia splendens.

From the top of the bed it still looks pretty but only after I cut down two of the sunflower trees and chopped the rest back in order to clear the pool path again.

tropicals with annuals border

The tropical border looking colorful, but as usual not very tropical.

The inner depths of the tropical bed are beyond reach, I’ll have to wait for frost before I can get in there again.  Fortunately it’s well mulched and doesn’t need much of anything for most of the summer, so as long as the cannas and reed grass don’t get completely swamped I guess I can turn the other cheek and let chaos rule.

arundo donax gold chain with sunflowers

There’s a giant thistle in there as well, I see a steady trail of goldfinches flying in and out feasting on the seed.

Really.  Next year will be the year when this whole mess gets back under control.  The sunflowers will have to go as well as the chrysanthemums which never did get moved like they were supposed to.  In spite of the overwhelming agricultural look of the sunflowers (and I have to admit I really love the show right now) there are a few tropical highlights which have flickered on.  The cannas may not be as big as in years past, but I would never go without them.

healthy canna tropicana

Healthy ‘Tropicanna’ canna leaves in a sea of green with only a touch of gold.

They’ve still got a good two months of growing before frost threatens and hopefully everything will still have plenty of time to fill in.  While other parts of the garden might be taking on a weary look this time of year, these tropicals are just going from good to better, and it’s not just the cannas.  The dahlias are beginning to come on as well.  The flowers are what I’m waiting for, but on a few the foliage show is even better.

dahlia happy single flame

Dahlia ‘happy single flame’ with the dark purple spires of ‘Lighthouse purple’ salvia behind.  I wish those salvia were just a tiny bit taller, right now this low planting looks closer to Victorian bedding than tropicalismo!

Although the foliage is fantastic, I wish I could say the same for the blooms of dahlia ‘happy single flame’.  They  don’t last long and never really make the ‘wow’ impression most of the other dahlias do.  The color is great though and I’ll try to hold on to this one for another year or two, even as the others bloom their heads off in comparison.

dahlia happy single flame

Peak bloom on dahlia ‘happy single flame’.

One plant which I had high hopes for but is now slightly underwhelming is the Brazilian button.  New this year from the HPS Mid Atlantic seed exchange, the buttons are nice enough but there could be more flowering at one time and most importantly have a color less like the verbena which I already have filling in all over.  You just don’t notice them in the mix.

Centratherum punctatum Brazilian button

Brazilian button (Centratherum punctatum)

But I’m being too negative.  The sunflowers are awesome and the patch is full of flowery interest, and whenever I get the chance I sit (with a drink preferably) and watch the comings and goings of the goldfinches, hummingbirds, and bees.

pink salvia splendens

The pink salvia splendens are only now starting to flower having spent most of the summer putting on weight.  The large leafy bushes should put on a great show for me and the hummingbirds.

I’m sure there will be more to come from the tropical garden, and if I can only keep a firm hand next year it might even look tropical-ish as well.  Right now I’m just happy enough it’s mulched and weeded from the topside all the way down to the low end.  Last year the low end was pathetic with its drought crisped annuals and struggling heucheras (is that the correct plural for heuchera?)  This year it’s much improved and I can see this becoming a nice transition to the pond garden…. once I get a non-leaky pond in!

panicum northwind in garden

Next year the new divisions will fill in and there should be a wall of panicum ‘northwind’  separating the tropics on the left from the heucheras and pond garden on the right.  

In the photo above you can barely make out the blue mist of Browallia Americana hovering above the hosta.  It’s an easy enough annual (native to Central and South America and across the Caribbean isles) and each year I like it’s nearly true-blue flowers even more.  Too bad I can’t get the camera to agree on the color, it always washes it out to a violet.

browallia americana

Browallia americana

So summer is still in full swing here, and for someone who prefers to ignore the calendar there’s not even a hint of the season winding down yet.  I like this sense of denial and will hang on to it for as long as I can…. but if pushed I will admit to thinking about next year already.  Ok, so I don’t even need a push.  I stumbled upon a summer sale at the nursery and took home a cool little banana plant.  It’s been a couple years since my banana growing days but I can feel the itch again and who knows what this means for next year’s plantings 🙂

I’m pretty sure there’s fiber in icecream

Many people wax poetic on the joys of homegrown produce.  The flavor, the nutrients, the connection with the earth…. all good things and all good for you (and deep down inside I agree) but on the shallow outside I’d still rather reach for a donut or chocolate bar rather than a carrot stick.  Vegetables just don’t make my heart go pitter pat.

Because of that the vegetable garden always walks a fine line between productivity and extinction.  I love the look of vegetables bursting from the soil, but the newly dug beds and open ground are just too tempting to keep free of flowers.  At this time of year it’s more of a flower harvest.

volunteer sunflower

Oddly enough a sunflower has come up in exactly the same spot as one grew last year. It’s the perfect spot actually, and I’m glad to have it!

The season starts innocently enough, and with a strong will I turn under all the persicaria and daisies and whatever else tries to sneak in.  I need room for delicious lettuce seedlings and broccoli transplants and the flowers just throw off my industrially neat rows.  Things go downhill from there.

dahlia tanjoh

Dahlias always seem to grow best in a vegetable plot and when you’ve got one or two extra roots it seems perfectly logical to sneak them in between the chard. This is dahlia “Tanjoh” which I barely noticed last year as it suffered under the shade of a wayward sunflower.

Harvest time is always a problem.  If the broccoli is ready it needs to be picked, and there are only so many broccoli-cheese omelets you can reasonably fit into a weekend.  Things go to seed and I’m strangely amused to see weeds such as lettuce, pumpkins, and chard popping up the next year.

broccoli bolting

When you lose control the broccoli turns into a froth of yellow blooms and green rattail seedpods. Several of these plants were self-sown seedlings which just showed up from last year’s patch.

One of the sore points this summer was how often the sweet corn needed watering in our pancake-thin topsoil.  It seemed like every other day I’d look out there and see dry curled leaves begging for a little moisture.  Shockingly enough even after giving up in disgust the patch managed to produce a few deliciously sweet and flavorful ears.

freshly picked sweet corn

A space, water and fertilizer hog, freshly picked sweet corn is still worth the trouble (I guess). But it’s a tough argument when the supermarket has 6 perfect ears for $2.50 and mine probably cost me that much just for the seeds!

Another producer was a trellis of pole beans (which called it a year after being blown over in August).  Beans are nice on a trellis, but the kids appreciate “love in a Puffs” much more than bean salad.

love in a puff and cypress vine

The pale green balloons of love in a puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum) with the ferny green leaves and red flowers of cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit). Both conveniently reseeded here at the base of the trellis from last year, something to keep in mind if you don’t like volunteer plants.

The kids share the love by picking the puffs and having a puff-fight but the real reason behind the name is found inside the puff on each of the vine’s black seeds.

love in a puff seeds

A white heart forms on each seed, a kind of ‘belly button’ from where the seed was attached to the plant. Glad my hands were clean for this one 🙂

There is plenty of ‘real’ harvest that comes from the patch.  Tomatoes never fail, even the fussier heirlooms, and here is a huge cluster of “Kellogg’s Breakfast”.  In a rare second appearance in a single blog post (I hate having myself show up in any pictures), I left my hand in there to show just how big the fruits are.  2 lbs, 14 oz for the pair in case you’re interested.

Kellogg's Breakfast tomato

Kellogg’s Breakfast tomato

When I finished planting the tomatoes I couldn’t resist adding a border of “Moldavian” marigolds (from Nan at Hayefield) and a few stray salvia and leftover zinnia seedlings.  Might as well since the other side of the bed is edged in hellebore seedlings.

zinnias, marigolds, and blue salvia

A vegetable garden is the perfect place for bunches of annuals that might not find a place in the rest of the garden. The brownish orange of these “Moldova” marigolds might be hard to fit in somewhere else.

And did I mention I like phlox?  When you’re faced with a few new ones to plant and you’ve given absolutely no forethought to where they’ll go the vegetable garden makes everything better again.

phlox kirmeslander

Just coming into bloom now, phlox “Kirmeslander” seems almost too summery a color for the autumn-golds and yellows which are starting to appear.

With the season winding down one would think the vegetable patch would be safe, but fall is actually the most dangerous time of year for vegetable space.  After you pull up a dead, mildewed patch of zucchini the vacant spot almost begs for a few tulips or daffodils which you can’t find a space for elsewhere.  No worries though, I’m sure they’ll die down before I need the room for peppers!

Oh and I think the colchicums look nice blooming between the sweet corn stalks 🙂

Winding Down

The oddly warm weather continued today and I was in no mood to do anything constructive in the sweat-inducing humidity.  So I basically wasted the entire day.  In my defense it’s only natural to sit outside and sip a cold beverage on a day like this, but more so in August, not October.

I think the plants agree.  Most of these pictures were taken earlier in the week and it’s unsettling how quickly the dry soil, heat and cooler nights have things spiraling down into the little death of winter.  My warm weather friends on the deck such as the vinca and coleus look ok, but the cool nights are making them drop leaves and get all sad and brittle.deck plantings

colorful foliage on a pelargoniumThe ones that seem just as happy as in July are the blue fanflower (scaveola), rosemary, and the chartreuse leaved geranium (pelargonium).  Right now I’m imagining myself taking these into the garage to try and save something from frost.  The geranium is actually a survivor from last year and to look at it now you’d never imagine how close to death it was in March.

Overwintered coleus are another plant that somehow escapes death on a windowsill and then comes back just fine when the warm weather returns.  I usually plant a couple in the front bulb bed, and by summer’s end whatever’s not filled with hosta is overtaken by coleus.  Hopefully the dormant bulbs that sit underground are none the wiser.front bed with coleus

The ‘hot biscuits’ amaranthus which looms over the bed is probably not the best design move here, but I had a weakness for them this spring and their weedy looking stalks are scattered throughout the yard.  Plus for some reason this year’s baby tree frogs are also strangely fond of this plant.  I find more baby frogs on the amaranthus than anywhere else.

selfsown chrysanthemumI got lucky and one of the chrysanthemums on the stoop last fall must have seeded out.  This little dwarf couldn’t flower more if it tried, it looks more like someone dropped a bouquet while walking in instead of a poor commitment to weeding on my part.

I’m really pleased right now with the annuals and tropicals in the front bed.  The colors may not all go together but I just don’t get tired of looking at the mix of fresh flowers.  Unfortunately the hydrangea flowers have gone brown due to lack of water in the couple days since I took this picture, but the coleus and profusion zinnias carry on.mixed border with coleus

coleus cuttings in FebruaryIt’s hard to believe all these coleus owe their existence to a water filled mug on the windowsill.  Since I’ve added a few new ones this year I’m afraid I’ll have to sneak in a fourth mug this winter.  I only hope the boss doesn’t pick up on it, any houseplant that requires either dirt or water or risks bringing in bugs is in not on her preferred list.

The zinnias are putting on a last stand against the shorter days.  This lavender used to be my least favorite color but the hot pink I usually prefer didn’t germinate well this spring,  so I’m left with these…. I don’t think either color would have had a chance of blending well with even more orange amaranthus.lavender zinnias

Most of the annuals will be lost when the first frost hits (probably in the next two weeks) but I’m having trouble letting go of my senna alata (candlestick bush) seedling.  This is one of two that germinated, and I love the oversized grayish foliage!  Unfortunately our growing season is just too short and I’m just too lazy to give it an earlier start.  So now I have to choose between a sure death by frost and possible death by my hand.

It’s so much easier to point the finger at winter. senna alata candlestick plant

I read somewhere that if frozen they may sprout again from the roots.  To me this means I may be able to get away with overwintering the root ball in the cold yet heated garage.  It may not work, but if it means I may start next year with a much larger plant I’m game!  So I think I know where this will end up going….

Am I the only one contemplating all the annuals I wish I could rescue from the inevitable?  Wiser gardeners have probably learned the lesson years ago, but every fall I can’t help but try and save a little of the summer gone by.

Fall is in the air

The last couple days have been cooler, less humid and just plain pleasant to be outside in.  I’m not saying it’s fall weather, but it’s pretty close, and based on the dry, sad state of many plants in my garden I might say they’re ready for this summer to be over.  The front border has been on an IV drip of water and this life support intervention has kept it looking decent.  Having done a mid summer bed expansion here, and having added many annuals and tropicals, it kind of needs it in order to not become a dusty wasteland…. what a lovely contrast to the lawn which has not benefitted from any watering.late summer perennial border

sedum spectabileThe pink in front is a sedum which has been doing very well the last few years.  I always hated this color growing up, but this might be an improved version of regular sedum spectabile.  It was given to me without a name, but after surviving a transplant and division during 90 degree heat I guess I owe it a place.  Next year I’m hoping for an even fuller plant.

From the other direction more of the elephant ear, coleus, and cannas are visible.  The ‘hot biscuits’ amaranthus is blooming now and I like the brown seedheads…. it kind of gives a grainy farmland look here in suburbia.tropicals in a mixed flower border

selfsown sunflowersMy birdseed sunflowers are all doing well in spite of the lack of water and lack of attention.  The only drawback is their lack of pollen, and you can see the centers of the flowers are black, not pollen-yellow.  Pollen free is great for cut flowers but the bees are not thrilled.  A few come by for nectar, which I guess is enough to get them pollinated, but they’re not the busy centers of activity that the rest of the flowers are.

I’m just glad they’re hanging in there.  Sunflowers must be quite drought tolerant for an annual since this is how the rest of the bed looks….  I’ve given up on keeping it watered.drought in the garden

In the backyard, the dahlias are still getting water and even with me cutting nearly every bloom, they’re still giving a nice spot of color in front of the dead lawn.mixed dahlias for cutting

While it was still hot and humid I got around to mowing down the meadow.  I traded in my electric chopper for the day and borrowed my brother in law’s heftier gas powered lawnmower.  It made quick work of the crispy dried grass and wildflowers.  Typically I try to cut back the meadow earlier in the year, but with the hot, dry weather I really didn’t feel like doing anything at all, so it was only now that I found the motivation.  Because of my lack of enthusiasm everything got cut, there was no mowing around butterfly weed or native grasses, it all got the same treatment.  It was a good thing I finally got it done, because for some reason the colchicums have heard the call of autumn and begun to sprout.  How they come up through the dry, hard-packed, rock-like soil is anyone’s guess, and what triggers them to wake up is beyond me, but there they are.  Fresh blooms in a sea of dry crispiness.meadow colchicum

I wish there was some similar promise in this end of the yard.  The Annabelle hydrangeas were fantastic in the spring but now are just dying sticks.  They’ll recover if rain comes soon, but for now everything just skips over our little spot, or never even reaches the ground.drought in the garden

It could easily be worse, there are still a few green weeds in there, but Pennsylvania usually doesn’t go this long without rain.  On top of that it doesn’t help that most everywhere else on the east coast is at above average rainfall… but I have faith.  Right now Thursday is showing 100% chance of rain, and maybe this cooler weather is signaling a change in the weather.

A Hawaiian Shirt

Normally I try to give this flower bed a little respect, calling it the tropical bed instead of just “the mess”, but for whatever reason this year it really is a mess.  The usual tropicals went to fill up new bed space this spring and I didn’t save enough goodies for here, plus it was planted late too…. (more excuses)…. and about half the plants are volunteers that just came up on their own, so it’s a patchwork of screaming colors.

Red salvia is loved by the hummingbirds, but the color really asserts itself.  Some people have poo-pooed this pairing with the violet verbena as too “bleech”, but I think it could have been worse.red salvia and verbena bonariensis  The bigger view shows the weediness of the planting…..

annual flower garden

I suppose I could have ripped out the amaranthus plants that came up (they’re the tall leafy stalks) and the squirrel ravaged sunflower is no beauty…. and the white buddleia in front of the white fence…. I could go on and on….

But it’s bright and colorful and it was meant to be vibrant.  Next year I’m hoping to add a little green to calm it down and going back to more cannas to make it a little more “solid”.  The white will be moved out.red annuals

The “summer poinsettia”  is actually starting to grow on me, it’s the dark purple leaf which is developing the red tops.  I like its lushness and maybe if I can just find some good neighbors it will really make a statement…. not that it’s keeping quiet now 🙂

Hanging out on the Deck

The deck planters are starting to look good. The tropicals love the heat and the annuals have settled in. Last year I had some big grasses in the three main planters, but the winter was too much and they didn’t make it,  so this year I returned to my roots and stuffed the pots full with my favorite all summer plantings.
‘Tropicana’ canna, black sweet potatoes, million bells, and a New Guinea impatient fill this pot. Some ‘red rocket’ snapdragons fill in the back. I’ve never done the snapdragons before but right now they look great….. We’ll see how they last in the heat.
deck planter with cannas
For some reason red was the color of choice this year. Usually I don’t buy most of the plantings and just use over wintered stuff, but this year I treated myself to a nursery run. 33% off helps and if you buy it all on one day I guess a red mood will give you red plantings.
This one has similar plants with the cannas replaced by a nice new coleus and burgundy fountain grass in the center.
deck container plantings
The aloe pot here was overwintered, but the red blooms on the dipladenia are new. Not to rub it in but I think I found it for about $2 at a local greenhouse clearance and I hope to overwinter it for next year.
red dipladenia on deck
Here’s a new coleus, overwintered geranium, and a pot of blue fanflower/red celosia combo. The celosia is ‘new look’ celosia and I really like the bright flowers and dark foliage.
coleus on deck
Herbs have a spot too; parsley, rosemary and a pot of annual vinca for color.
herbs in containers
Here’s one pot that I’m not yet thrilled with. It should have a pink ‘Alice Dupont’ mandevilla climbing up the bamboo stakes, but for some reason she won’t grow…. She blooms well, but won’t grow. It was an impulse buy at a box store and looked great, but is no bigger today than it was the day I brought it home. I can’t help but wonder if it was treated with something to trigger blooming at the expense of new growth. Does anyone have an opinion on that?
There’s a chartreuse sweet potato that may step up and take over, and also an ‘Australia’ canna coming in…. But I really like mandevillas 🙂
Oh and a big basil that’s just about worn out its welcome. I never thought it would take off like that.
madevilla on deck
So that’s the news from the deck. I’ve been away for about a week so things have hopefully grown some since, but I’m pleased with the results so far. Yes, a little yellow might have brightened things up a bit, but my planting are always a little impulsive, so each year turns out a little different. Who knows, maybe next year all the grass will be back, or cannas will take over, we’ll see!

Viva la Tropicalismo!

“Tropicalismo” is so very ’90s but being in style was never my strong point. I still love the tropical look with big leaves and bright colors and lush happy growth right during the months when everything else looks a little tired and faded. Too big elephant ears, too bright cannas and just a little too tall grasses always make me smile when the bleeding hearts are dying in the heat. I even like the bright red salvia that is normally reserved for gas stations and trailer parks. Feel free to judge me, here’s a picture of the tropical bed last year.
tropicalismo gardening
This was a new area that was the perfect match of big space, full sun, and no planting budget, so I pulled together the leftover canna roots, popped in a couple sweet potato cuttings, and scattered some annual seedlings and with plenty of water and fertilizer it all came together.
As usual this year I’ve fallen behind, and the tropical bed is still a weed infested patch of leftover perennials, a few nice salvias, and an appropriately bright knockout rose.
a weedy flower bed
I finally got around to weeding, mulching, and planting. It may seem like all is lost with such a late planting date, but the experience of a chronic procrastinator has taught me things will still work out fine. Also the late planting allowed several self sown red salvias and amaranth to make themselves known. All good things since I used up all the spare annuals when I expanded the front yard border.
So here it sits, still a little sparse, but ready to take on all the drought and heat summer throws its way.
weeded bed with some grass clipping mulch
With any luck I’ll still have the same tastelessly colorful display as last year, minus a few of the exceptionally colorful and tacky tropicana cannas.
cannas and salvia