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!

One word…. Dichelostemma

I inherited my mother’s habit of randomly picking up and trying out just about any odd, looks-like-it-might-be-nice bulb that shows up in the garden center’s bins.  Together we’ve failed at freesia, ranunculus, ixia… but every now and then something gives a surprise, and lately it’s been Dichelostemma.

dichelostemma pink diamond

Dichelostemma ‘Pink Diamond’ out in the meadow garden

The first one which made its way into the garden was a selected form of the naturally occurring hybrid ‘Pink Diamond’.  I love the totally tubular pink flowers and the waxy thickness of the blooms and was surprised it actually grew since the bulbs came via a November closeout sale, and late planting into a cold, wet clayish soil is typically not a recipe for success for drought tolerant bulbs from the western reaches of North America.  But they came up fine the next spring and when the wiry flower stalks matured to bright pink clusters of bloom in June I was hooked.

dichelostemma pink diamond

Daisies and Dichelostemma in front of a worse for wear Queen of the Prairie.  The Queen still presides over the back forty, but between acidic rainfall and wayward groundhog nibbling her reign may soon be coming to an end.

‘Pink Diamond’ may or may not become a permanent resident in the meadow.  The first planting returned to bloom the second year but has not put up flowers in the third.  I blame rabbits for nibbling too much of the spring foliage, but we will see what happens next year, as this spring with all the new crocus flowers to chose from the rabbits didn’t quite get to the Dichelostemma foliage before moving on to freshly planted lettuce and broccoli in the vegetable garden.

The ‘other’ Dichelostemma (D. congestum) has been going strong though, putting up its beautiful lilac-purple flower clusters for three years now… in spite of also being nibbled.

dichelostemma congestum

Dichelostemma congestum has the common name of fork toothed Ookow.  When you get tired of introducing guests to your dichelostemma I’m sure switching to the common name will clear things up. 

I love how these plants look among the weeds and grass of the meadow.  I can imagine this isn’t entirely unlike their native habitat in the Western edges of the continent and from a gardeners point of view the yellowing foliage is completely disguised by the surrounding greenery.  Not to get distracted, but I wonder how alliums would work out back here since many of those also share the trick of letting their foliage go to pot just as the blooms reach their peak.

Dichelostemma ida-maia is my last of the D’s and I suppose ‘firecracker plant’ is a decent common name for this one…. although it’s no Ookow.

dichelostemma ida-maia

Dichelostemma ida-maia.  The shape and color of this flower has ‘hummingbird plant’ written all over it.

Besides adding more ‘Pink Diamond’ last fall, I also put in a few D. ida-maia… in spite of my thoughts that I wouldn’t like them.  I was completely wrong in my lack of enthusiasm.  The sad anemic version I saw a few years ago is nothing like the group I now have swaying in the dappled light amongst the grass.  I’m far too greedy a collector to commit large spaces to a single plant but I would have no problem adding another hundred or two (versus the 10 I started with) to this end of the meadow, which is entirely do-able since these small bulb are relatively cheap even when not on clearance.

dichelostemma ida-maia

I trimmed up the lower limbs of the aspen and love the Rocky Mountain glade effect it has given.  Add a Western NA native Dichelostemma ida-maia and we may be on to something here 😉

I’m not sure what the hardiness on these plants (both species and their hybrid daughter) is.  To be honest I didn’t think they would make it through their first careless planting (really careless… cold November fingers so one shovel swipe into the turf, dump bag contents into hole and stomp sod clod down again on top), but they did survive, and it was a winter where our lows reached -6F (-21C) with a solidly frozen soil for months.  So they’re at least that hardy, and I think the extreme summer dryness of the meadow also helps them return in spite of any issues with poorly drained, wet winter soils.

Dichelostemma.  Think about it.  I think they’re pretty cool.

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 🙂