Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Bloom Day - mallows

Happy Garden Blogger's Bloom Day!

August does not seem to be my garden's prime time.  Which is a shame in a way because we're gearing up to have a bunch of people over this weekend to have a backyard BBQ.  On the other hand, preparing for this as well as crazy business at work means that I haven't spent much time gardening (or blogging) in a while, so maybe it's just as well.  Thank goodness for annuals.  Right now most of the bloom color in my garden comes from sulfur cosmos and four o'clocks.  Most of the summer perennials are still putting out a few blooms, but it's a real letdown after the glory of June and July.  However, August does have a few perennial stars, the hibiscuses. 

Here's a star for you: people around here like to call this one Texas Star hibiscus.  The common names of the showy Eastern and Southeastern native mallows are ridiculously similar.  Swamp hibiscus (this one), scarlet rose mallow (the same), swamp rose mallow (a different one), seashore mallow or saltmarsh mallow (another one), marshmallow (yum!) etc.  For the record, the photo above is Hibiscus coccineus.

Above is the seashore mallow, Kosteletzkya virginica.  My aunt likes to call this one "the Russian mallow" for it's non-hibiscus genus name, although Vincenz Franz Kosteletzky was Bohemian.  I love the baby pink color of these blooms.  Unfortunately, they are only open in the morning.  Combine that with the fact that mine is way at the back of my yard (about 200 feet away from my house) I often miss the blooms.  I tried propagating the plant from cuttings this year.  I wasn't successful, but just as I was bumming out about that failure, I discovered a good-sized healthy seedling growing out of the compost pile!  I've moved that baby into my garden, so hopefully next year I'll get to enjoy the blooms more consistently. 

When I went in search of the seashore mallow to photograph it a few days ago, it was swarming with butterflies.  I saw a spicebush swallowtail and at least two different kinds of skippers that I don't remember seeing before.  This one was striking because of it's smooth orange color.  I like how it's the same color as the pollen.  The other unfamiliar skipper (not shown) seemed huge for a skipper.  It was mottle brown and orange like the typical grass skippers, but much larger.  

I spotted the spicebush swallowtail again on the sleeping hibiscus (Malvaviscus arboreus).  I've also heard this called Turk's cap, but I'm going with sleeping hibiscus because that's what it was called by the person who introduced me to it and gave it to me.  The idea is that the blooms are sleeping because they never fully open.  I'm super happy about these blooms because I'm hoping it means that I successfully saved the plant.  It seems to be pretty robust (it was essentially bare-root when it was given to me and survived a two-hour trip home with nothing but wet paper towels), but for several years I had it in a spot that was too shady (or something) where it produced only one bloom (the first year) and then declined steadily.  Why it didn't occur to me to move it again until this year I can't say.  All I can say is live and learn.

I hope you're enjoying August Bloom Day wherever you are.  I look forward to seeing what's blooming in everyone else's garden, when I get a chance to visit May Dreams Gardens: Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

First view of August

It's August and it's hot, hot, hot.  Most of my gardens are looking very tired and thirsty, and not very floriferous.  The front-yard garden is probably the only presentable one right now.  I pulled out most of the annual black-eyed Susans because they were beginning to look very ratty. 

The gardener should probably be estivating now.  But I needed a garden fix after working for several weeks on a huge stressful project at work, so I actually went and bought new plants to fill in some of the spaces.  Am I crazy?  I muddied them in well and have watered them several times.  In the first two days after I planted them, I shaded them with thin row cover material pinned to stakes (the stakes are still there, just in case).  So far they are still doing OK.  The new ones in this bed include a dahlia at the lower edge of the photo that is supposed to have burgundy leaves but already looks very green to me, compared to the neighboring canna; and the Stipa ornamental grass next to the rock.  I also had to move the coreopsis (behind the grass) since I misjudged the girth of the pineapple sage (to the right of the grass) when I planted it in the spring.  It seems like every year I'm buying new plants for this bed which I think looks great just after I put them in... and then it doesn't look too good again the next year.  Two years ago I put in several clumps of Autumn Joy sedum.  They're still there somewhere, believe it or not, but they look like Brussels sprouts, post harvest.  The local wildlife (deer or bunnies?) seems to enjoy sedum, much to my surprise.  I also had a lot more lambs ears (some still visible at the right edge) but they alternate between huge lush clumps and sudden death.  I'm beginning to think they really like more shade and moisture than the gray hairy leaves would suggest.  The bed looked a lot more gray then, but the yellow-green leaves of the crocosmia that I added in several places last year seemed to clash, so this year's replacements were picked with a warmer palette in mind.  I think the big clump of pink/white/yellow multicolored four o'clocks tie the different colors together pretty well (when they're open!)

There are still some lamb's ears present in the bed to the left of the gate.  Along with the catmint, that gives this bed a much bluer feel than the yellow-green feel of the bed to the right. Even more so now that I swapped in the blue bird bath that used to be in the butterfly garden for the cement bird bath that used to be just behind the fence.  The bed behind the fence is a little too small to hold the bird bath comfortably.  Also, I'm thinking of putting some herbs in that bed and I don't think edible herbs and a bird bath are great company.  But I'm still trying to decide if I like the changes.  I think I do.

Thanks for visiting my garden this August.  Check out Town Mouse and Country Mouse's blog for more Garden First Views.