Looking for something new for the shade? Primroses are back in more brilliant shades than ever. I chuckle when I see the catalogs originating from the east coast offering these beauties for sale at prices befitting tulipmania. Here English primroses are a cool season staple. By planting these little jewels early you can enjoy months and months of blooms.
Primula Fantastique is a new cultivar with exquisite richly colored flowers feathered at each tip with a contrasting shade. Super Nova and Rosanna are also new introductions that have to be seen to fully appreciate the brilliant additions they will make to your shady borders. Add some new color to your garden. You’ll be glad you did.
Need more late summer perennials to extend your season? Purple coneflowers will continue to bloom until frost then go dormant for the winter. Showy 4" rosy purple daisies are lightly fragrant and make good cut flowers for bouquets. The clumps spread slowly and can be carefully divided after 3 or 4 years. There is also a beautiful white variety called White Swan. If faded flowers are left in place, the bristly seed heads provide food for finches in winter.
The herb echinacea is derived from varieties of this flower. E. angustifolia is used nowadays as a fortifier of the immunesystem, mainly to prevent flu and minor respiratory diseases by increasing the body’s production of interferon. The roots are the part of this plant used for medicinal purposes. Echinacea was used by Native Americans more than any other plant in the plains states. It’s antiseptic properties were used to treat snake and insect bites, to bathe burns and to help cure the “sweats.” They chewed the plants roots to ease the pain of toothache. It was also used by the Native Americans for purification. The leaves and the flowers can be used in teas as well.
Late summer color can be an opportunity to add new plant that will bring beauty to your garden right through fall. Many summer annuals are leggy and in need of cutting back about now. If you like spending time outdoors at this time of year take advantage of this glorious weather and make sure your garden has lots of colorful flowers.
Golden yellow perennials like gloriosa daisies, coreopsis and golden mums stand up to strong sun now, and later in the season burn like embers under gray skies. You’re probably familiar with the traditional Black-eyed Susan with a prominent purplish black cone in the center. There are many varieties of this type with russet, bronze or mahogany bands. But a gloriosa daisy I especially like has huge 5" golden yellow blooms with pale yellow tips and sports a light green central cone instead of the familiar brown one. Prairie Sun looks stunning with any shade of blue or lavender like asters, Russian sage or salvias. Try it in front of the sky blue flowers of cape plumbago for a breathtaking combination.
Gloriosa daisies make good cut flowers and are tough and easy to grow. They are descended from wild plants native to the eastern US and require only moderate water once established.
Despite how hot it’s been, the "dog days of summer" just came to an end August 11th. Where did this expression come from?
Some say it signifies hot sultry days not fit for a dog, but the dog days are defined as the period from July 3 through August 11 when the Dog Star, Sirius, rises in conjunction ( or nearly so ) with the sun. As a result, some felt the combination of the brightest luminary of the day (the sun) and and brightest star of the night ( Sirius) was responsible for the extreme heat that is experienced during the middle of the summertime. Since Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky it’s reasonable to guess that it adds some heat to the earth but the amount is insignificant.
The name "dog star" came from the ancient Egyptians who called Sirius, the dog star, after their god, Osirus, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog. They called the period of time from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction "the dog days of summer" because it coincidentally fell at the time of year when it was very hot. We now know that the heat of summer is a direct result of the earths tilt. Now you know… the rest of the story.
If your deck or patio needs some perking up about now, plant up a new container or add to your existing ones. Almost anything goes when it come to combining plants in containers and nearly any type of container looks good with the right plant. I have over 250 in a sprawling garden of containers arranged like a border on my deck, under trees, around my front door, down my driveway… places where planting in the ground just isn’t possible. I can move them farther apart, up, down, to the front or to the back to create a display that is always evolving. I add spots of vivid color where I need it and texture where I want it. I have the flexibility to remove anything past its prime or bring forward a fragrant plant when I want to really enjoy its scent up close.
So what looks great in containers? One simple strategy I use a lot is to put just one plant in a pot. A single perennial like a flowering maple looks good year round. My asparagus meyeri really looks dramatic in a low ceramic pot. The princess flower and my enormous hosta sieboldiana (which I’ve named Bob) can be hidden behind other pots in the winter when they are dormant. Succulents, like a large hen and chicks, are always real standouts in a pretty container as are grasses. I have a Sango Kaku Japanese maple in a large cobalt blue glazed pot as the thriller in one vignette with chartreuse green barberry and a fragrant heliotrope as fillers and lysimachia aurea and purple calibrachoa as spillers. I like burgundy foliage so Sizzling Pink loropetalum is one of my favorite background plants. It looks great with Japanese forest grass and black mondo grass. The purple leaves of oxalis triangularis works well in this color scheme, too. My displays change every year and also as the summer progresses. I live in partial shade but if you live in the sun try the rich colors of canna lily, black-eyed susan, kangaroo paw, aeonium and old fashioned variegated geraniums.
Although I take a more-is-merrier approach to container gardening, numbers alone don’t mean much. Five pots are enough to create a dramatic composition on a porch or patio. The trick is not how many pots you have, but what you do with them. I use overturned nursery or clay pots, boxes and plant stands to stage my plants so short but showy plants can be placed up off the ground at eye level. Containers of plants placed in front hide the risers from view. By elevating pots with various props, I create combinations that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Staging can also be an effective way to display garden art like sculpture , fountains and handsome empty pots. It’s easy to place ornaments where they look best -a place of honor – by raising them up in your grouping.
When planting mixed containers never use more than three plants colors, two is sometimes enough. That doesn’t count green, unless it’s lime. Skimpy pots are a miss, pack the plants so the pots are full when you’re done. You want the pots to look good right away. Big pots, at least 16" across are dramatic and make a nice contrast to matching smaller ones.
Whatever plant or container you choose, you’ll enjoy the results now that the dog days of summer are over.
Geranium, penstemons and petunias sometimes become infested by budworms. Foliage may be chewed, flowers may open tattered and full of holes or appear dried up and not open at all. Tiny black droppings on the foliage are left behind. The striped caterpillar larval form of a native moth is a close relative of the corn ear worm, the tobacco or geranium budworm. Moths lay eggs singly on host plants. After hatching, the caterpillars chew fully opened flowers and occasionally dine on the leaves. Spraying early on with organic BT is effective if done before the worms burrow inside the flower buds. Remove dried up buds and flowers that may harbor the caterpillars and pull up and destroy ragged, end-of-season petunias that my have eggs sticking to the plant remains. There may be two generations per year so preventative spraying with BT may protect established plants of geraniums or penstemon.
If your fuchsias aren’t blooming and the leaf tips look curled up and deformed, your plants are infested with fuchsia gall mite. First discovered on the West Coast in 1980, it is often mistaken for a disease because of the way it distorts and twists fuchsia leaves and flower buds. The damage caused can be debilitating. The leaves curl and distort so much that normal photosynthesis is disrupted and weakened plants fail to bloom Infested plants usually recover if further mite damage is controlled. Prune off all distorted foliage and buds. This may be the best method of control as petroleum oil or insecticidal sprays need to be made every 4-7 days to disrupt the mite life cycle. Neem oil is not recommended for use on fuchsia flowers.
There are several gall mite-resistant fuchsias, both hanging and upright, that are very bit as showy as the traditional fuchsia varieties. if you have been plagued by fuchsia mites, try growing one of these instead.