At this time of year my garden is essentially green, lots of shades of green, but essentially green because I rely so heavily on wildflowers for color. And most of the wildflowers have gone to seed by now. Fortunately, though, we have not entered a dry period in Alabama, so even though the temperatures have be nearly unbearable, there have been summer storms to water plants and shrubs if not to relieve the humidity. For gardens with more color–wonderful color and variety of plants–I encourage readers to visit the site of The Propagator, the originator of Six on Saturday. Enjoy his six, then go to the comments where you will find links to many more lovely places.
1. My first for this week is Hosta ‘Fire Island’ that I bought at an Alabama Master Gardener convention 2019. The leaves are a bright lime green and the stems are red. I had not expected, though, that the blooms would be such a rich purple.
After one of this week’s storms, I was able to capture some interesting photos of raindrops on this flower stalk. The graceful open bloom of another hosta, ‘Guacamole,’ presented an even finer subject for a raindrop shot.
2. Actually, there is still a little wildflower yellow dotted throughout the wooded area of the garden. A few rosinweed plants continue producing small, weak blooms. The brightest color, however, comes from some native sunflowers, most likely Helianthus divaricatus.
3. The other native plant hard at work right now is the maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium). The spring’s white-topped flower clusters, pictured on the left below, are now turning to blue-black berries, which the birds enjoy when I fail to fill the feeders and restock the suet cages.
4. Adagio grass, or Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio,’ is a dwarf Maiden Grass with narrow, white-veined leaves, which grows only to four to five feet when in bloom. I planted four of these among hydrangeas and irises along the driveway two years ago, and it has taken time for them to take hold. The plant in the photo below is doing the best of the four and blooming rather vigorously this season. The fellow holding on to one of the feathery grass heads is an Eastern Harvestman, or Leiobunum vittatum.
The plant above out performs the others because it gets much more sun. In fact, the differences in size and bloom is telling, providing a good study in the validity of light requirements. Here are all four in succession moving up the drive, toward greater shaded areas. The second looks heathy and shows a few flowering stalks, but not nearly as many as the first. While the third has grown to a respectable two-year size, it promises little in the way of feathery, waving grass heads, and its leaves have adopted a tired, rolled over habit. The last in line is just last.
5. Two orchids close this week. The first is a woodland native that I wrote about last February. Cranefly orchids (Tipularia discolor) appear as bumpy close to the earth leaves with bright maroon undersides in late winter. They then disappear once other natives begin to grow in the spring. After the leaves die off, you see no sign of the plant until summer when they flower.
In February I said I was going to watch for them to bloom sometime in August. I watched. They bloomed. And once I did find them, I realized how easily they could have been overlooked in the past. Their leafless flower stalks are pictured below (the two green leaves in the first photo are from a grass). The second photo was taken looking down the flower stalk from above. Individual flowers are barely a half-inch in size, or about a centimeter. On close inspection they are really quite delicate and interesting–and provide a good reason to keep a jewelers loupe among your garden tools.
6. The last of the six is another orchid, but one much bigger and of a popular indoor genera, Phalaenopsis. I include it first of all because it is beautiful. That’s why I used it as the featured image this week. More to the point though, this is the first time it has bloomed in four years. Finally seeing buds, then blooms, on this orchid was something hopeful in the prolonged restrictions to gatherings and travel during this pandemic. Stay safe, everyone.
Consider this a postscript, or an addendum to number 5 above. I completed this post on Friday morning, then put it aside for later editing and scheduling for publication. While doing a little work in the wooded area of the garden, I noticed another cranefly orchid. Trying to get better photos of the flowers than I had so far, I stretched out on the ground and tried a number of rather awkward camera angles. That’s when Rosie stepped in to help. Cranefly corms are reportedly edible. I stopped her just before she could determine whether the flower stalks are as well.