Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Purgatory Blooms

The trick for any gardener is to always have something, lots of somethings, in bloom. I'd say late fall is #1 for trouble in that regard, and August is #2. August? It's hot. It's dry. 50% of your perennials are done for 2012. Purgatory. (Of course, maybe the true #1 goal is to create interest without blooms--structure, texture, foliage, sculpture, hardscape, scarecrows, machine gun nests for squirrels.)

Some of my newly favorite plants are going strong right now. Butterfly bush, joe pye weed, culver's root, and some liatris are the obvious workhorses, but here are some blooms (and some not) that keep on giving. I should have an image of white nodding onion, but I don't--it's also doing fantastic.

Wild Senna -- Cassia hebecarpa, saying "come hither bumblebee" for a month.

The microscopic blooms of bushclover -- Lespideza capitata.

This is an 8' sunflower. Ladders are good.

Sunflowers are just as interesting before petal time.

I know, invasive thistle thug. But butterflies love it. I deadhead before it seeds.

Why can't swallowtail caterpillars be blooms?
For three days last week it was 104. Around those days it was 102, 100, etc. Now, it's 94 and it feels comfortable (keep in mind anything above 75 makes me melt like a Greenland ice cap). No rain in almost 6 weeks--0.33" the whole month of July--but the garden isn't complaining as much as the trees and shrubs. Maybe with everything having bloomed 2-6 weeks early this year, the most vulnerable time is over. Insects are slowly returning, having been a bust year for them. Yesterday, I saw both a monarch and a black swallowtail after two months of no butterflies (in spring we had 5 billion). All I know is I'm slowly returning to the garden just in time for the fall school year to pull me away, and the life that makes my garden worth having is also returning--like a long sigh after the first crocus bloomed in March. I hope fall, my favorite season, is a long Spring Part Two: The Butterflies Strike Back.


Sarie said...

Hi Benjamin,
Thank you for your great post! Yes, we have also been in purgatory here in sandy central WI. I observed Big Bluestem forming flower this week, Switchgrass was in full flower two weeks ago, as are Solidago speciosa, S. rigida, Rudbeckia triloba and many "late summer" and fall bloomers, a full month ahead of schedule for our zone. We have had very little rain..just 4/10th of an inch of rain on our farm sing the end of May. Let's hope for a long cold wet winter! Many thanks for all your great posts! Best, Sarie Doverspike, Prairie Nursery

Benjamin Vogt said...

I cut back my solidago rigida anticipating early bloom, but already buds seem to be forming. Asters I'm STILL pinching back, pushing the envelope. I'll quit today. Bluestem was flowering last week here. I thought for sure up there in WI you'd had more rain, like my folks in the Twin Cities who get rain like every other day!

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Our drought and heat are so bad everything has gone but the Joe Pye and rudbeckias. I don't even think the asters will bloom in the meadow but the goldenrod is already...I hope we get a cool down and rain. perhaps if i deadhead a few natives they may reappear in a fall that may look more like early summer...the butterflies have been gone here too...

GardeNerd Consultations said...

same situation here south of kcmo- have had tons of skippers & azures all summer but no large species :(
so worried about food for migrating butterflies & hummers. one standby- new england asters- started blooming in may & now have extremely few blossoms left.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Donna--I'm worried about deadheading some plants, will it just stress them out even more, forcing new growth?
GNC--I had asters blooming in June, but I think it was a freak spurt. I hope. Still pinching asters and some joe pye thinking fall will be long and warm, and the migrating wildlife won't be in a rush. Good to meet you!