Friday, August 25, 2017

Late Summer Favorites

Summer can be tough on plants here.  I've often likened our summer experience to that faced in winter by gardeners in cold-weather climates.  When a heatwave hits, working in the garden is unpleasant at best.  Planting and transplanting is foolish.  And, if a plant isn't well-established, an extended heatwave may be a death sentence, no matter how much water one lavishes on it.  Although heatwaves may extend well into fall, nighttime temperatures generally decline in September, which lessens their impact somewhat.  I usually consider late August the worst part of the year in my garden.  Although this summer has been fairly mild in my area, my garden is still looking haggard so I expected that designating plant favorites could be a challenge this month.  As it turns out, it wasn't as hard as I'd thought - I just had to focus more of my attention on foliage rather than flashy flowers.

Of course, there were a few flowering plants that deserve notice.

This is the first year I've had good luck growing dahlias.  I credit the creation of a cutting garden that allows me to provide selected heat-loving but thirsty plants the extra water they need without watering larger sections of the garden.  Last month, I featured Dahlia 'Loverboy' as a favorite.  This month, Dahlia 'Fairway Spur', a dinnerplate variety, has finally made its appearance.  Its color is remarkably similar to 'Terracotta' in my estimation, although the color of the former was described as tangerine and the latter as peachy brown; however, the shape of the petals, the height of the plants and the size of the flowers are different.

Last month, I featured Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', another of my cutting garden success stories, as a favorite.  This month, as the sunflowers are coming closer to blooming themselves out, I'm featuring this bronzy-petaled beauty, grown from the Helianthus annuus 'Flash Blend' mix.   I expect the bees will be very unhappy when the sunflowers are gone.

The deep burgundy-flowered Pelargonium peltatum (ivy geranium) is also putting on an especially good show this month.  I've several of these plants in a bed running along the southeast side of the house, where they nicely complement the foliage of Alternanthera 'Little Ruby' (left) and Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Wonder' (right), as well as Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-Star' and Ageratum corymbosum.


The grasses put on their best show in late summer/early fall too.

The yellow bits floating above the ground in this photo are inflorescences of Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'.  The flowers are usually described as resembling mosquitoes or eyebrows.  I'm outside the zone described for this grass but the 5 plants I have in this section of the garden have still put in a decent performance for the past 2 summers.

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' is a fabulous performer every year here.  They may be even more robust next month but, as I managed to catch the sun highlighting their plumes just right this week, I couldn't resist including the plant in this month's favorites post.


The foliage plants do all the heavy lifting at this time of year.

This is Ageratum corymbosum.  I featured it in my favorites post in March of this year for its flowers but this month its the leaves that drew my attention.  The photo on the left was taken from inside the living room, where the plant grows in the bed just outside a series of floor-to-ceiling windows.  The photo on the right was taken outside.  The grower describes the foliage as "ever-purple."

Carex oshimensis 'Evergold' is one of those workhorses in the garden that seldom gets much attention.  It does very well in partial shade and has gotten by with less water than I'd expected.  It's been growing in a large pot under a Brugmansia (left) for more than 2 years and below Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' (right) for closer to 3 years.

Helichrysums are also easy to overlook in the garden.  H. petiolare 'Silver Mist' (left) is a great drought-tolerant filler in my garden, if admittedly prone to rampant self-seeding.  H. petiolare 'Licorice Splash' (right) is exuberant but so far hasn't demonstrated a penchant for self-seeding.

Okay, I know I included Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' in my June favorites post but it's looking so great this month that I couldn't resist showing it off again when it's at its summer peak.  The plant on the left is the one I brought from my former garden, where it lived its life in a pot.  Although I pruned it back by a third after its yellow winter "blooms" were spent, it's nearly 7 feet tall now and probably 6 feet wide.  The newer plant on the right is taking off too - it's about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide now.

And, while I've on the subject of Leucadendrons, here are 3 more I'll throw in to demonstrate how well these plants imitate stained glass in the garden.  I don't have a label for the plant on the left but my best guess is that it's L. salignum 'Blush'.  The variegated plant in the middle is L. 'Jester' (alongside L. 'Winter Red') and the plant on the right is L. 'Safari Goldstrike'.

Phormium 'Maori Queen' also picks up sunlight beautifully.  I planted 6 of these in the front garden in the fall of 2014 after we pulled out the lawn.  I understand that some variegated Phormium will revert to a solid color but I haven't seen signs of this with 'Maori Queen'.


While some succulents go dormant at this time of year, most look great year-round.  Several caught my eye this month.

It's possible that I have more Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' than Agave 'Blue Glow' (which was my first agave addiction).  That's partly because A. desmettiana produce a generous number of pups, one of which you can see here, planted somewhat too closely to the more mature specimen.  This one attracted my attention in part because the plants surrounding it made such a pretty picture.  The Aeonium arboreum have curled up into red-tinged balls as they do during their summer dormancy and that color is echoed in the Euphorbia tirucalli and the new foliage of Xylosma congestum.

The succulent bed I planted along an area of the front slope last fall, a portion of which is shown above, is coming together.  Two Echeveria cultivars, E. 'Blue Atoll' (upper left) and E. 'Blue Sky' (upper right), glow in the sun.

I have Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' scattered throughout my garden and almost all of those come from cuttings of this plant, housed in a strawberry pot I brought with me from our former house.  Our heavier-than-usual winter rain and spillover spray from water intended for the zinnias and dahlias in the raised planter next to the pot may have prompted the plant to grow fuller this year, despite the numerous cuttings I've taken from it.  Although you do need to be careful to avoid contact with the sap, the seepage stops fairly fast and, here at least, the cuttings can simply be pushed into the soil.

I love the combination of soft orange and blue succulents in this bed along the backyard patio.  I replanted the bed earlier this summer when I became frustrated with how the ugly litter from the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) clung to the fuzzy succulents I formerly had in this area.  I added more x Graptosedum 'California Sunset' and complemented it with Sedum clavatum 'Aurora Blue' .


For more August favorites, visit Loree at danger garden, who hosts this meme on the last Friday of each month.  For more floral stand-outs, visit Chloris at The Blooming Garden.


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

20 comments:

  1. That is a great combination of orange and blue in the last photo. Always intrigued by your Leucadendron--looks great and I know it's useful in flower arrangements.

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    1. My garden would have a huge number of holes without Leucadendron, Susie - I'm not even sure how many I have now.

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  2. What a lovely selection of blooms and foliage Kris. Thank you for sharing.That euphorbia is new to me. I love all your succulents, I wish I could grow them in the ground like that. My growing collection has to live in pots.As for your yummy leucadendrons, they make me green with envy.

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    1. 'Sticks on Fire' is fairly common here but always dramatic. I may live to regret planting so many in the ground - they've been known to grow as tall as 12 feet.

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  3. Your garden is simply spectacular, Kris. Foliage or flower, I'm always bowled over.

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  4. Beautiful pictures Kris! Your garden always looks splendid! The Leucadendron is absolutely gorgeous! I wish I could plant echeverias in the ground here but they don't like wet feet. Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. We're lucky that Echeverias - and many other succulents - are so care-free here.

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  5. I know things look different in person, the camera can hide things, but really Kris your garden is looking AMAZING! There is so much to appreciate. I too think Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' is quite lovely. It's form is so elegant. Oh and I discovered that Alternanthera 'Little Ruby' makes prolific roots when stuck in water, so I'm going to try to take enough cuttings of my (doomed) plant before a freeze that I can hopefully propagate a few for next spring planting. We'll see!

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    1. Thanks for the tip about propagating the Alternanthera! Although I expect my plants will be fine for at least a year or 2 as long as I keep them well-watered, I can always use more of that delicious burgundy color elsewhere in the garden.

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  6. Hi Kris, Never before a dahlia fan, I am seeing more new varieties the are tempting me. Yours are lovely! I also truly admire Wilson's Wonder. it seems like the type of plant that carries its weight in the garden through the months. And your beautiful succulents add a lot of color. I have only a couple of succulents in pots; they tend to melt in the humidity, and I have to remember to move them to a drier spot during frequent heavy rain, which we have had plenty this summer, thankfully! This past week we had a couple of days with lower humidity. What a difference it made. I am looking forward to fall!
    Best wishes, Deb

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    1. If I could take just 5 plants with me, Deb, Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' would be one of them. I hope you weather continues to improve. It was decidedly fall-like here for a couple of weeks but, regrettably, summer is returning with a vengeance this week. I'm hoping this will be the last heatwave of the year.

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  7. Wonderful fav's, Kris. The extended dry season is tough on plants. I've lost quite a few plants this spring/summer, some of them well-established like 'Moon Lagoon.' Just lost two big, happy Echium wildpretii, leucospermum, etc., and not from being too dry. I really need to create mounds for some of these. Succulents and grasses, however, are always happy. I really think living for extended lengths of time on hard municipal water is difficult for certain sensitive plants. And I also think I need that ageratum!

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    1. Oh, if only we had a plant whisperer who could tell us why some of these plants give up! I've lost one of my oldest Coleonema and a scattering of other plants this summer as well, despite what's been a relatively mild summer (at least until this week's heatwave takes off). If you get an Ageratum corymbosum (mine came from Annie's), I suggest positioning it where it'll get morning sun and afternoon shade. Encouraged by the performance of my 3 established specimens, I purchased 3 more for another area in early spring. So far, 2 have died and odds are 50-50 about the third. The new ones were placed in partial shade but they got sun in the mid-afternoon rather than the morning.

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  8. While the bright light visible in your images show the sun's continuing intensity the garden looks so full of plants that are doing really well. I was interested to read about the Ageratum as I had just read about it on Liz's post as The Blooming garden. I think I will have to look for it; those leaves are spectacular.

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    1. I'm wondering if Liz's Ageratum and mine are the same. I've had the plant in my back garden for about 6 years now but the grower has listed it differently from time to time, once stating that it was Eupatorium corymbosa.

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  9. Wow, your garden looks green and lush to me and not tattered or haggard at all due to the great skill of the gardener.

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    1. I just don't show the tattered bits, Peter.

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  10. I love your shots of the Ageratum! I'll have to look harder for some, or else try starting it from seed... And your Leucodendrons clearly deserve to be featured more than once ;-)

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    1. I've only found this particular Ageratum in one place, Amy: on-line through Annie's Annuals & Perennials. Unlike the annual Ageratums, this one needs a good bit of shade, even in my climate.

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