My nemesis the sunflower.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 ‘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’ 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 🙂