Friday, July 28, 2017

July Favorites

I'm still in my summer doldrums, where it's hard to see my garden's pluses.  The sun's glare shines a spotlight on its imperfections and, despite all the mulch and soil amendments I've added, my sandy soil sheds water faster than I can deliver it, leaving many plants looking perennially parched.   The mimosa tree's pink flowers have turned brown and continue to drop fuzz under its wide canopy.  Nonetheless, the favorite plant selection hosted monthly by Loree at danger garden encouraged me to take a closer look at what I've got and I found plenty to be pleased about.

I see this Agave ovatifolia (aka whale's tongue agave) first thing every morning through the bathroom window.  It looks good regardless of the season.  It was one of the first plants I put in the dry garden on the northeast side of the house after I cleared the area of weeds and the plastic sheeting buried several inches below compacted soil and gravel.  Planted almost 5 years ago in August 2012, it's still only 18 inches tall and about 28 inches in diameter.  Although it wasn't labeled as such, my guess is that it's the cultivar known as 'Frosty Blue'.  

In March 2012, I planted 3 Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' in the backyard border, where they've performed admirably ever since.  They're not actually in peak condition in the middle of summer but, if you could see the mass of bees and tiny butterflies that swarm the plants from early morning into evening at this time of year, you'd understand how they ended up on my July list.  Annie's Annuals & Perennials recently featured this Cuphea on its "indestructable plants" list.  Mine get watered 2x a week during the summer months by our automated irrigation system but I don't consider it a water hog and it takes our hot summers in stride.  As an aside, the unidentified butterfly is smaller than the average skipper and seemingly impossible to catch with its blue wings open.  Amy of A Small Sunny Garden has seen it in her garden in the Sonoran Desert too. It's underside wings appear similar to butterflies identified alternatively as the Hammock Skipper and the Cassius Blue but on-line input makes both IDs unlikely.

So far, Dahlia 'Loverboy' is the most vigorous of the Dahlias I purchased by mail order as tubers this spring.  Several others have yet to flower and a few plants, most notably 'Otto's Thrill', don't look as though they'll even reach bloom size this year.  'Loverboy' is identified as a semi-cactus type.  I don't usually go for red flowers and this one wasn't originally on my shopping list but, when many of my top picks sold out before I reached check-out, I picked this one as a substitute on the fly.   'Loverboy' may be a turning point in my relationship with red flowers.

The Echeverias are looking good in mid-summer.  All 3 of these are in pots kept in afternoon shade.  Left to right, they are: Echeveria 'Afterglow', E. cante, and E. 'Raindrops'.  

Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus) has been the star of my summer garden for several years now.  In prior years, the pink forms outshone the blue, white, and yellow varieties but this year the blues have it.  The semi-succulent leaves help the plants survive our summer heatwaves.  The blue form appears to appreciate some afternoon shade.

The sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) I planted from seed in April finally began to bloom this month.  The first to do so are 'Lemon Queen', shown here.  Half a dozen or more flowers have opened since I took these photos.  So far, none of the plants have toppled over or broken in the wind but I did have to add supports to some of the taller stems.

Okay, I featured Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' in last month's favorites post but, when I caught a photo of the leaves in the early morning sunlight, I had to share it again.  It makes great use of the early morning and late evening sunshine and, in my opinion, should always be sited to take advantage of it.

Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy' has provided me a lesson in patience.  I planted 2 six-packs (plugs) of these plants in early November last year.  They've previously bloomed off and on throughout the year for me but this time they made me wait until summer to bloom.  However, this is the only Rudbeckia that's ever done well here so I'll forgive it the delay, especially as every source I've consulted indicates that my prior experience was unusual and that it normally blooms summer to fall.

This is Sedum oxypetalum (aka dwarf tree stonecrop), which I picked up earlier this year at the local Cactus & Succulent Society show and sale.  The plant is suitable to treatment as a bonsai subject to keep it smaller than its projected mature size of 2-4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide.  While mine is placed in full sun, it tolerates shade as well.  It also has low water requirements.  The flowers are a bonus in my view as its foliage and tree-like form is what attracted me to it.

My Zinnias, most grown from seed, are even splashier than the Dahlias in my cutting garden.  They do need a substantial amount of water to thrive, which is why I've restricted them to these raised planters in what formerly functioned as my vegetable garden.  However, they handle summer's heat with aplomb.  The variety of colors and flower forms also makes them useful in floral arrangements.


With the exception of succulents, buying new plants in summer is at the top of my list of garden don'ts; yet it's a rule I break just about every year.  Featuring any such recent purchase as a "favorite" within a month or less of purchase also seems inadvisable as it could easily be dead before summer draws to a close but, because I can't help myself, here are 3 additions to my list of favorites this July.  Perhaps I should refer to them as "plant crushes" rather than favorites as they could be history in no time.

The burgundy beauty in these 2 photos is Alternanthera 'Little Ruby'.  I added 5 of them at the edge of the narrow bed that runs outside our dining and living room windows.  I like how they pick up the purple in the stems and leaf undersides of Plectranthus 'Zulu Wonder' (left) and complement the deep burgundy of Pelargonium peltatum (right).  They get morning sun and afternoon shade.  I've grown other Alternanthera as ground covers with relative success.  They're short-lived perennials here and most have gotten by with moderate water but the descriptions of 'Little Ruby' all refer to moist, well-drained soil so I have some concern in that regard.  Hopefully, I'll keep it from going belly up before the winter rains return.

The grass-like plant in the middle of this photo is Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty', a new hybrid.  I picked it up and put it down several times before I took it to the check-out stand.  It was a pricey plant but I've had great success with Lomandra 'Breeze' so I found I couldn't pass this one up.  It's a low-water evergreen plant that grows no bigger than 3x3 feet and it's good in sun or partial shade.  I've planted it among succulents on my front-facing slope, replacing Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln', which apparently wanted more water than it got in this location.

Mandevilla 'Sun Parasol Apricot' was another impulse purchase.  I first saw it in early June and managed to walk away but I ran into again a week ago at my local garden center, offered in its own hanging basket at a lower cost than the plant in the nursery pot I originally saw.  As the succulent planter I had hanging by the front door was in need of an overhaul, I decided this could be a summer substitute.  Mandevilla generally do well here year-round, although I've never grown one in a hanging basket before.  According to on-line sources, it should be allowed to dry out before being watered. which gives it improved chances of survival. 


That's my July list.  I can only hope things look as positive at the end of August.  Visit Loree at danger garden to see what's found her favor this month, as well as links to related posts by other bloggers.  And, for what's looking good across the pond, check Chloris' top 10 list for July at The Blooming Garden.

Best wishes for a wonderful weekend!


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

26 comments:

  1. My garden looks ugly in July too. The California poppies which carpet everything early on have bloomed out and now are looking parched and floppy. I can't seem to find the time to pull them all out. I'm glad to see that Loverboy made the list. I love him! Did you use a seed mix for your Zinnias? I'd like to do Zinnias next year in my raised beds/cutting garden.

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    1. I think I used some of 3 different Zinnia seed mixes (plus some of a single lime variety)! Did I tag which I planted where? Of course not. They're all varieties of Zinnia elegans. The cactus variety is relatively easy to pick out but the others are guesswork. The double-decker ones are from plugs labeled as a 'Whirligig' variety.

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  2. I had a long comment all written out and then my laptop decided to disconnect from the WiFi and I lost it...grrrr.

    So, I carried on about how gorgeous everything looks, especially the plants with your new Lomandra. I also shared my extreme jealousy that you can grow that Alternanthera 'Little Ruby' as a perennial. I hauled one back from the DC Fling (from Merrifield's) because I don't recall seeing it locally. I LOVE it and it's doing fabulous in the hot front garden. I wish it were a little hardier!

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    1. I thought that Alternanthera might be the one you picked up at Merrifield's. It made its first appearance in the garden center here in July. I love it too but have to watch it closely and water it regularly until its roots are established, as it wilts quickly where I have it. I adore that Lomandra and, assuming it doesn't just drop dead in a month, will be hunting for more.

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  3. Kris, I love those Lisianthus they look like roses and the Dahlia 'Loverboy' is a real looker. It's winter here but temps are heating up to almost summer levels (it's 82 F now) and it's been raining almost every day for the past two weeks.

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    1. Oh, I do wish we got some of the rain you get, MDN! We generally get no rain between mid-spring and fall. Even our winter rain is far more stingy.

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  4. Thank you for giving us your July favourites Kris. The abundance of beautuful plants in your photographs make me wonder why you feel that you are in the July doldrems. So much to enjoy. All those succulents are yummy. I always admire your leucodendrons and eustomas. And the lovely bronze shiny leaves of the alternanthera are gorgeous, this plant is new to me.

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    1. Many sections of the garden here struggle from July through October, Chloris. I have to avert my eyes and remind myself that fall will arrive eventually. My back slope in particular looks awful (except for the lemon tree, which was restored by our winter rains after last year's horrific June heatwave). Even some of the succulents, like the Aeoniums and Dudleyas, curl up to await the return of cooler temperatures and, more importantly, rain.

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  5. You've got so many beauties, it almost makes up for the heat, right? Almost...

    The Rudbeckia is a beautiful color, and I quite agree, Leucadendron will act like living stained glass windows if placed to catch the sun when it is low.

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    1. The heat here has been semi-tolerable the last couple of weeks. We're still getting an early morning marine layer and, although it burns off quickly, it seems to keep the afternoon highs down a bit. However, a thunderstorm would be nice - we should get some for of payment for the heightened humidity, shouldn't we?

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  6. Wondering if that butterfly is the Lepotes marina, Marine Blue butterfly, but if it is also in the Sonora desert, maybe not.

    See:
    http://mamba.bio.uci.edu/~pjbryant/biodiv/lepidopt/

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    1. I think you may have the ID! According to other on-line sources, Leptotes marina's distribution extends to Arizona, Southern Texas and on into South America so Amy's butterfly and mine could be one in the same.

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    2. Totally agree with Hoover Boo. Marine blue. Most common butterfly in my backyard right now. Dozens of them.

      The zebra striping on the underside of the wings is unique to it and only one other, the Cassius blue, which is found only in the southern tip of Texas. Cassius blue also has a white or blank patch with no spots on the forewing inner margin. This does not appear in Amy's excellent photos. Good for you using the range maps. You must always do that. So, yes, I agree with you Amy's butterfly is a Marine blue as well.

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    3. Thanks for the corroboration, Jane!

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  7. Wow, I'd say you have lots of pluses! Beautiful! I love lisianthus and if I can find plants in the spring, I grow them, but they never really do that great in my zone 4 garden. I'm not new to following your blog, but I'm a newbie garden blogger and I'd love it if you'd take a few minutes and check it out.

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    1. Welcome to blogdom, Joanna! Lisianthus seems to appreciate the heat here, although, like everything else, its tolerance has limits - when it gets scorching hot, the flower buds dry up.

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  8. Once again I am in awe of the kinds of plants you can grow with success in S.Cal. Most I have never heard of. Do your local nurseries carry a good variety or do you shop mail order? I know dahlias love sandy soil because my mother grew them in England but I am not sure I have ever seen them here. Our palate of plants seems to be severely restricted. I love the photo with the newly planted Lomantra. There's another plant I shall have to look up.

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    1. I wander SoCal fairly widely when plant shopping, Jenny, but I've also resorted to mail order with increasing frequency. Dahlia tubers - and plants - are sold locally but most of those I tried this year came from Floret Farms, which is in Washington State. Floret's site had a literal frenzy of buying activity when the dahlia tubers went of sale, though, so I may check out other suppliers in the future. While dahlias can take the heat (or at least our level of heat), they do need a LOT of water, which is why I've consigned them to a restricted area I can water more lavishly without too much guilt.

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  9. I love your Echeverias Kris. They can be a challenge here and I'm trying to devise a better wintering strategy. I too was unable to get Dahlia tubers for Floret , but Swan Island in Oregon is a good alternative if you are looking for another source. I've ordered from them many times , and have visited there more than once.

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    1. I was surprised to find that all my larger Echeveriase prefer shade during the summer months here - I'm lucky that I don't have to worry about their winter exposure. Re the dahlias, it looks like the time to shop on-line is December (for March-April shipments) so I expect to make the round of sources (Swan Island, Brecks, American Meadows) to see what I can get after culling out what's worked from this year's batch. My shopping experience with Floret was frustrating but they do a good job of presentation.

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  10. Beauty abounds in your garden! So much to love. Must confess to a bit of envy at several things that are hardy in your climate.

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    1. That only serves to balance my envy at all the things you can grow that I can't, Peter!

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  11. The butterfly is Leptotes marina, aka, the blue marine. Pretty much can only catch a glimpse of them with wings open when they are mating or at least trying to. I have some shots of that in this post.

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  12. Hoover Boo and Jane offered the same ID. Thanks for sharing the photo of the butterfly with wings open! I saw them very briefly yesterday but didn't have a camera handy and probably wouldn't have caught it if I had.

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  13. Definitely think the Marine Blue is the right ID! Thanks to Jane and everyone else!
    Your foliage selections are wonderful, Kris - I struggle with getting dark- and bronze-foliaged plants here.
    I must mention Loverboy again: what a beauty! I'm fine with red flowers, but I've always steered clear of the so-called "cactus blooms" (except on cacti!). I can see that a dahlia like that might change my mind...

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    1. I really don't understand the rationale for the "cactus type" descriptions assigned to both dahlias or zinnias but I like the ruffled petals of both.

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