Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer in the Garden

Summer in the garden is often an embarrassment of riches. Plants that have lain semi-dormant burst forth with spectacular floral displays. The chores of spring—weeding, mulching, planting, pruning—are mostly over (until the fall!) and the warmer days invite us to simply relax and enjoy the show.

In a bed planted just last year, self-sown tobaccos are cheery in front of Geranium 'Rozanne.' The white one is Nicotiana 'Aztec Jasmine' and the pink one is Nicotiana mutabilis. Behind the geranium is Origanum vulgare 'Aurea.'

Geranium 'Rozanne' is truly a monster this year, spreading to a mound nearly eight feet wide and three feet high (and it's still growing), covered with thousands of beautiful blue and white flowers that are beloved by honeybees. The grass is Festuca punctata.

Geranium 'Ann Folkard' scrambles through all of her neighbors, in this case Fuchsia magellanica versicolor. Bees come for the geranium, and hummingbirds enjoy the fuchsia. This combo will now bloom until frost. Ann Folkard is a bit too lax in habit to leave unsupported, and will look gangly sprawling across the dirt by herself, but provide nearby shrubs for support and watch her go.

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' is another bee favorite and has a nice long bloom time, especially if deadheaded. This plant seems completely unaffected by pests, perhaps because of its highly scented foliage.

Long after it has finished blooming, Allium christophii provides ornamental interest with its architectural seed heads. Ranging in size from eight to twelve inches in diameter, these starry globes will persist until we cut them down.

The developing floral spikes of Cimicifuga simplex Atropurpurea Group are fascinating. Eventually opening with tiny pure white flowers, these have a delightfully sweet fragrance that is especially strong in the early evening. We don't know the exact cultivar of these, but they clearly belong in the Atropurpurea Group, which includes 'Black Negligee,' 'Hillside Black Beauty,' and 'Brunette.' They are all garden-worthy. We grow ours with quite a bit of sun, which keeps the foliage lusciously dark all summer.

The dark foliage of Cimicifuga simplex is beautifully paired with Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' and Carex 'Evergold,' which has lost most of its gold coloration in this location, perhaps to excessive sun exposure. An intense red-orange hybrid crocosmia at upper right will soon contribute a splash of color to this tapestry.

Fuchsia magellanica versicolor, usually bitten to the ground each winter, came through this year nearly unscathed, which has resulted in the largest specimens we have ever grown. We brought three plants with us from our garden on Vashon Island, and they are now thriving.

The variegated foliage in arranged along arching stems, with masses of small red and purple dangling flowers that dance in the slightest breeze. Quite the favorite with hummingbirds.

Heliopsis 'Lorraine Sunshine,' has fantastic variegated foliage and perky daisy flowers of a good rich yellow. We have two plants, both divisions from an original plant that was grown from seed on Vashon Island. A workhorse of the summer garden.

 Orienpet hybrid lilies are created by crossing Oriental and Trumpet lilies. They often have large, voluptuous flowers and heavy scent. I can smell these all the way inside the house as I type!

Another Orienpet lily, this one's color is a surprise.

Eryngium 'Big Blue' is stunning. Not as complex as Eryngium alpinum, it is just as shockingly blue, with silver undertones. Add variegated green and white foliage, and yowza!

The flowers, bracts, and stems of Eryngium 'Jade Frost' turn increasingly dark purple as they age. Very popular with bumblebees.

Finally, a pot specimen, just because it's so wonderful. This is Echeveria 'Lace,' a Baroque ruffle of thick, succulent, delicately colored leaves on a thick stalk. This is planted with a red cordyline and a Drunkard's Dream (Hatiora salicornioides) in a pot than can be overwintered inside.