Tuesday View: The Tropics 7.5.16

Between you an me this is the Monday afternoon view, but to get anything online before Tuesday night I may have to cheat a little here and there ūüôā

I started planting all the true tropicals and annuals about two weeks ago, and although they’re beginning to put on some¬†weight it’s still the scattering of perennials which give all the color.¬† As you can guess from looking at the lawn we still haven’t had any decent rain.

annual flower bed

The tropical garden¬†in the first week of July.¬† The red of the rose ‘Black Forest’ carries over from last week and the orange lily has opened up.

Water is not an issue for the papyrus though since it’s sitting submerged in a planter which lacks a drainage hole.¬† The green algae has passed its peak and the water looks much less stagnant.¬† I may even throw a few fish in this week to keep the mosquitos from breeding.

papyrus in pot

The orange lily ‘Liberty Hyde Bailey’ should have been fantastic this year, but I suspect my MIL may have hit it with a bit of stray weedkiller this spring.¬† The flowers don’t open properly, are a little on the small side, and look stunted in general.¬† Fortunately the bright color makes up for the stunted-ness.

You may have noticed the purple haze of Verbena bonariensis which is beginning to develop over the bed.  Because of the mild winter several plants of this borderline hardy perennial survived and are already beginning to put on an early show.

castor bean seedling

One of the castor bean seedlings (Ricinus communis) beginning to pick up speed.  If all goes well a few leaves should reach a foot or more across.

This isn’t the first year I’ve had a late start to planting the tropical bed.¬† There are so many other jobs to attend to before this reaches the top of the list, plus there’s always procrastination and general laziness on my part.¬† Fortunately I’m a quick learner and have picked up a few tricks along the way, one of which is¬†“The lazy man’s canna and dahlia¬†pre-starting method”.¬† Rather than potting¬†roots and tubers up and getting them going in a greenhouse or other gardening luxury, I drag the¬†storage tubs out onto the (full, hot-sun) driveway, open tubs and bags, try to orient growing point up, and spray a little water on them all.¬† Less water is better than too much, and over a week (or three) the shoots begin to grow and the break out of dormancy in a way which I¬†feel is quicker than planting them straight into the cooler ground.¬† I’d show you pictures but¬†the mess of¬†trays and tubs and bags spread out¬†in front of the garage is a bit embarrassing.

sprouting canna leaves

A few of the cannas are already over a foot tall just maybe ten days after planting.

While we wait for the tropicals, the perennials¬†continue to have their moment.¬† The purple salvia ‘Caradonna’¬†is already fading, but there’s an interesting¬†Verbascum showing off behind it.¬†¬†Normally this would pass unnoticed as a sea of sunflower seedlings takes over this end of the bed and overwhelms everything in it, but¬†this year I’ve manned up and stood up to the little thugs.¬† One by one I pulled¬†sunflower seedlings¬†out and although it was nearly sinful¬†composting such¬†healthy volunteer¬†plants, it¬†was also a bit cleansing.¬† I’m ready for something¬†different here.

July perennial border

I was hard on the sunflowers but apparently still let a clump of daisies pass through… oh well. ¬†A sharp eye can make out the yellow spikes of the Verbascum just slightly left of center in this photo.

I’m pretty sure it’s Verbascum nigrum, the black mullein.¬† It came here¬†uninvited as¬†a hitchhiker in the root ball of a red -stemmed dogwood.¬† The dogwood in turn was one of those gifts from a better gardener who heard me (how could you not) whining about how nice her dogwoods were, and how I can’t seem to find the same kind anywhere around here.¬† Sure enough on her next visit¬†a bag came out of¬†the car¬†and inside were¬†the roots of a nearly full sized division off her own plant.¬† That’s awesome, but even better was the clump of scilla and the healthy verbascum¬†plant which also came up the next spring from the root ball.¬† I judge a gardener by the weeds they battle, and her scillas and verbascum almost embarrassed me when I thought of the crabgrass and bitter cress which probably followed her home.¬† Paula was smart to only accept bulbs…. they’re usually weed free ūüôā

verbascum nigrum

A closeup of the flowers is an almost unnatural mix of yellow, orange pollen,¬†and purple stamens (I think that’s what the part is called).¬†¬†¬†I almost wonder if the orange pollen tastes different, since¬†it looks more like Cheetos dust than any kind of bee food…

So that’s where we are this week.¬† Both Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome and Cathy at Words and Herbs are also following views each Tuesday and it’s a great way to follow the changes which happen throughout the season.¬† Give Cathy a visit to see what others are up to , and if you happen to join in please leave a link at Cathy’s blog so we can find you.¬† Have a great week!

Thursday’s Feature: Digitalis x mertonensis

I’ve said it before that I’m not much of a joiner and I’m far too disorganized to keep up with most weekly or monthly memes, but I’m going to¬†give this one a¬†try.¬† Kimberley over at Cosmos and Cleome has brought back the “Thursday feature” and it’s a chance to highlight any one particular plant¬†which caught your fancy in the past week.¬† This week among all the wonders of June a foxglove has caught my eye and it’s just a little bit different than your average foxglove.

digitalis mertonensis

Fuzzy leaves, a strawberry color, and a 3-4 foot bloom height are trademarks of Merton’s foxglove and/or the strawberry foxglove¬†(Digitalis mertonensis).

The strawberry foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis) is a hybrid formed by the joining of your regular tall, purple (biennial) Digitalis purpurea and your shorter, mellow yellow (perennial) Digitalis grandiflora.  The offspring was a tetraploid child with perennial-ish tendencies, larger flowers, and a rose color that holds just a little bit of yellow (you can always count on me for these vague made up color descriptions!)  They come true from seed, and although most sources recommend moist, fertile, well-drained, soil in part shade, mine suffer along just fine in a dry sunny spot which also grows sunflowers well enough.

I noticed a few seedlings earlier in the year and should really round them up¬†for a more suitable home.¬† This foxglove is one which seems to do well enough in my garden (unlike the common foxglove, D. purpurea which rots away in our winters) and deserves more respect than I give it.¬† Maybe this summer I’ll finally start up some of those other Digitalis seeds which are sitting in the seedbox, and we could have a family reunion with all the foxglove cousins and kin.¬†¬†I think I’d like that.

As I’m sure you know foxgloves (Digitalis) are extremely poisonous and their heart slowing toxin was the inspiration for the digitalin¬†drug group.¬†¬†I’m not the one to go on about medicinal uses, but if your concerns lie in the area of its toxicity please¬†put that one to rest.¬† Apparently some brave soul has found it to be extremely bitter, and a side effect of ingestion is vomiting which conveniently removes the poisons.¬† Give this one a try I say, and also give Kimberley’s site a visit¬†to see what other gardeners are finding interesting this week.¬† Enjoy!