Some Like it Hot

I have to confess, I find white to be a little boring.  Much of that has to do with all the white vinyl fences and railing and trim which abounds in my part of town, and the competition it provides to any white flower which tries to do its own thing in my yard, but it’s also probably too tasteful for me.  Anyway, my garden is also mostly full sun, and unless it’s the moon shining down, white can become a glare, and any other colors cooled by white into pastels are also lost to the sun.  Hot colors on the other hand, can put up a fight.  Bright reds and golds, yellows and hot pinks, intense purples… these are the colors I love to see when I look out upon a yard baking in the afternoon sun, preferably from the other side of a window… comfortably cooled by air conditioning.

lucifer crocosmia

‘Lucifer’ crocosmia is red.  Very red. A you-can’t-ignore red.  I think I need a few other crocosmias…  

Today it was mostly hot, but it was absolutely humid and sometimes that’s worse.  I cut the grass, was drenched in sweat, but not much else happened and I was fine with leaving it at that.

foundation perennial bed

I finally like the front foundation beds.  The ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac is probably too chartreuse and too weedy for a respectable foundation planting but blue spruce and blue fescue are definitely suburbia approved.  

Even with the heat and humidity I did try and get the last of the weeding done.  That sounds good but of course I’ve already got to re-visit the weeds in the beds where I first started, and the rains aren’t slowing anything down other than the gardener.

yellow spider daylily

One of the few daylilies I have, a yellow spider daylily who’s name I can’t think of right now.  I think spiders and the more simple singles are my favorites, the ruffly explosions of color with ridges and teeth are more a curiosity to me than anything I need to grow. 

A slow gardener shouldn’t surprise anyone, and this one’s about ready to stop completely, call it a year and just sit back to watch things rather than try and exert any more control.  We’ll see.

rudbeckia verbena bonariensis

I’m always happy to see a few Gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta) pop up.  The surprise ones always do much better than any I try to plant on purpose, and they always put themselves amongst good companions, Verbena bonariensis and Lychnis coronaria in this case.

Actually with vacation season approaching the sitting back part will be even easier, and that’s usually when all control is lost.

rudbeckia maxima

Pulled weeds on the lawn, not as effective as I’d like sheets on the blueberries, and Rudbeckia maxima three days away from flopping.  For all my talk about weeding and control, this is the reality.  

The local wildlife seems to enjoy the messiness and I’m happy to see that, even if it means more and more baby bunnies eating the coreopsis while I watch.  Actually I was also enjoying watching all the bird activity until I realized it was the blueberries and gooseberries which were entertaining them.  I guess my netting problems are still not even close to being foolproof but no matter, who wants to pick all those delicious berries anyway?

On the down side the birds seem to really enjoy retiring to the bath apres dinner, so the pond is always a mess of splashing and berry vomit and whatever else comes out the other end so it’s not nearly as nice as some of the other amazing garden ponds I’ve seen.  Maybe someday a (clean) mountain creek plus koi pond will grace this garden but right now I’m absolutely thrilled with the dirty little sump which I call the pond, because in spite of the duckweed and murk I have something far better than koi.  I have tadpoles.  Finally.  Since building it I’ve been hoping “The Pond” would bring in a couple frogs or toads and this year in spite of a healthy population of mosquito devouring aquatic water beetles, eggs have survived and now tadpoles are sprouting legs.  I love it and in moments like this I realize what a nerd I am.

garden pond

The pond.  Probably the first part of the garden I check each day.

So I’m way off the ‘hot’ theme but whatever.  Let’s just wander out front again to see some of the amazing cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) which are just days from flowering.  These are much cooler than they are hot and each day I have to touch them just to verify again how solid and spiny they are.  I like them and I bet when they go to seed the goldfinches will also like them… even if these artichoke relatives are a little bigger than their usual thistle meals.

cardoon flower

Cardoons just about to flower, with a conveniently placed ‘Royal Purple’ smokebush (Cotinus) backdrop. 

If the goldfinches like thistle seed then the cyclamen must be making the ants happy.  Cyclamen purpurascens are showing up all around the base of our ant-infested cherry tree and I suspect the ants take the seeds in, nibble off the sugary coating, and then discard the seeds down the sides of the tree.  Works for me, I would have never considered planting them in such a dark, rooty location.

cyclamen purpurascens

Cyclamen purpurascens ringing the base of the weeping cherry.  They’re just starting their summer bloom season and soon a few new leaves should be up as well.

Back to the hot theme.  I’m not sure if I mentioned, but 2021 is the year of the caladium, and a five pound box of tubers from Caladiumbulbs4less (quite the subtle company name) have been potted up and are just loving the semi-tropical weather.  I love them almost as much as the tadpoles, and when the tadpoles sprout their legs and hop off to new frontiers at least I’ll have my caladiums.

starting caladiums

The driveway nursery is full of excitement as the mixed bulbs come up and show their colors.  I spend way too much time examining every new leaf, but someone’s got to.  

In case you’re wondering, five pounds of mixed caladiums is much more than this garden needs, but just about right for what this garden wants.  87 corms would be a pretty good guess of how many caladiums were planted, but I’m sure to actually repeatedly count them would be a little obsessive.  Obsessive would also be ordering mixed bulbs but then potting them all up individually so that later on you can plant all the similar forms together… and then running individual drip lines to all of them.  Amazing how obsessive can easily co-exist with lazy as long as you buy enough drip emitters, but it has to be done since cool weather and drying-out are the biggest dangers to an excellent 2021 caladiumfest.

Alocasia Dark Star

Another heat and humidity lover, Alocasia ‘Dark Star’ is starting to put weight on again after a really lean winter. 

I’m sure you’ll hear way too much about the year of the caladium so I’ll end it here, but I do enjoy seeing them revel in the warmer weather and nearly daily thunderstorms so I could really go on and on if I had to.  In any case it sure beats a drought.

Have a great week, hot or not.

That wasn’t smart 6.0, 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3

Well I really racked them up this weekend.  My favorite nursery, Perennial Point, was having a customer appreciation weekend and all plants were on sale for 30% off.  A dead garden will make you weak in the face of temptation and I guess I blinked.

Not smart version 6.0:  The garden was bone dry and I couldn’t even take care of what I had.  Weeds are having a field day, the lawn is dead and other plants are dying left and right.  I just bought home several delicate, nursery-perfect plants which probably haven’t even broken a sweat their whole lives and I’m planning to throw them into this nightmare.

daylily bubblegum pie

Three big ticket items followed me home, ‘Plum Magic’ crape myrtle, hypericum ‘Red Fame’, and daylily ‘Bubblegum Pie’.

Not smart 6.1:  I don’t like daylilies, don’t ask me why I would buy one.  The leaves look horrible in late summer, the old blooms look like soggy tissue messes which need daily cleanup, and the name ‘Bubblegum Pie’ is insanely dumb.  The flower on this one is fat and fleshy and overdone with way too many ruffles.  There’s nothing graceful or elegant in the flower but I’ll plant it near the one daylily which came with the house (and resprouted after I thought I sent it to the compost pile) and the other species daylily which I grew from seed (Hemerocallis atissima, a tall and graceful night bloomer).  We will see how it does.

Hypericum inodorum 'Red Fame

Look at the fruits on Hypericum inodorum ‘Red Fame’!  I’ve seen these used in flower arrangements and never thought it might do well in the garden, so we’ll see if it does.  btw the crystalline glisten on the leaves is something called raindrops, yeah it took me a few minutes to recognize it as well, apparently we used to get a lot of it back in the day.

Not smart 6.2:  I bought a Hypericum ‘Red Fame’ which I think is cool with its juicy looking bright red fruits and according to what I’ve read may tolerate drought just fine, but I also bought a crape myrtle.  Crape myrtle are not hardy here and even at 30% off this one still wasn’t exactly cheap but somewhere deep down inside I seem to think someday a miracle will happen and one will survive.  Maybe fourth time’s the charm….

caladium

Three new caladiums and a new coleus.  Buy one get one free on annuals since no one bothers to buy annuals on the last weekend of July… no one except me apparently.

Not smart 6.3:  I bought more annuals.  Tomorrow is August 1st and the days for annuals are numbered and I should be focusing on limping through the summer and getting ready for fall gardening rather than wishing for another June and July.  Plus I seem to remember telling myself (you wouldn’t remember since Iwas talking solely to myself) that I had too many coleus last year and I should let some meet their maker when frost came.  Now I’m adding more?

caladium pink splash

Caladium ‘Pink Splash’ which I managed to overwinter from tubers purchased last year.  At least that was smart.  Also smart is the healthy, dark-leaved Eucomis (pineapple lily) grown from seed supplied by Nan Ondra.  I’m hoping it will be big enough to bloom next year!

Not smart 6.4:  I already have too many caladiums for a reasonable Pennsylvania garden, but if you hang on for another minute I’ll tell a quick caladium story.  It used to be I could overwinter them with ease and even had some survive for more than 5 years, but then my luck changed.  Dead tubers would greet me each spring and I wasn’t sure what was wrong.  Short story even shorter last winter I tried keeping them completely dry in their pots and in a warmer spot and lo and behold they made it through perfectly.  Logical next step is to take advantage of any good caladium deal which you come across and then be immensely disappointed when they go back to dying next winter…

caladium

White caladiums and a pot of mixed tubers which I found on clearance.  The spotted one is my absolute favorite.

Pristine white caladiums filling a terra cotta planter in the high shade of a southern garden is tasteful.  My mixed, gaudy plantings in reused plastic nursery pots are not.  But I digress, and will leave you with one last glimpse of my new daylily.

daylily bubblegum pie

The disgusting daylily ‘Bubblegum Pie’ with all its offensive frills and flounce.  It really is too much of everything and I’m positive this will be the one and only daylily I ever purchase for this garden.  Since I have it I might as well plant it, and I might as well even spare a few shovelfuls of my precious compost on it.  The pot has three fans already and I can only imagine three or four deliciously overdone stalks next year filled with more of these flowers!

Not that smart 6.5?  A few days ago I ordered some iris through the Historic Iris Preservation Society’s annual fund raiser.  That’s innocent enough, but now that the sale has wound down I noticed a posting on Facebook looking for volunteers to take in leftover rhizomes and grow them on for a year before sending them back for next year’s sale.  I’m wondering where I would put 10 or 20 more iris 🙂

It rained by the way.  An absolutely amazing soaking rain which stretched out for hours and got into many of the driest nooks and crannies of the garden.  I’m quite pleased and know it will be a good week and wish all the best for yours as well.