The weather is warm and humid. The first fireflies of the season have appeared. The solitary adult hummingbirds who have been visiting the feeders since early April have been joined by squadrons of less colorful birds, presumably recently fledged juveniles. On the basis of all this evidence, I declare summer.
This week, flowering perennials outnumber bulbs in the garden. I’ll start this Six on Saturday with one of my favorite native wildflowers.
1. Spigelia marilandica (woodland pinkroot)
The hummingbirds agree that this is one very fine flower. S. marilandica is native to the southeastern U.S. and the Mississippi valley as far north as southern Illinois. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service indicates that it is native to North Carolina but does not have any County-level locality data. [Update: If I would just read my own old blog posts, I’d learn that S. marilandica is recorded from Macon and Cherokee Counties. And also that I tend to repeat myself.]
In my garden, S. marilandica grows and blooms in deep shade and nearly full sun, but the best clumps grow where they get sun in the morning and dappled shade in the afternoon. In my experience, two genetically distinct plants (not divisions of the same clone) are required to set seed, but as long as that requirement is met, no additional effort is required of the gardener. The hummingbirds are happy to pollinate the flowers. Seed is difficult to collect, because the ripe capsules split open explosively, propelling the seed some distance from the mother plant. I find it easiest to wait for volunteer seedlings to sprout, and then transplant the seedlings to new locations.
My plants vary somewhat in the color of the flowers. Some clones have greenish-yellow tepals on a purplish red tube, while others have bright yellow tepals on an orange-red tube. As you can see, something about the intense red color makes my digital camera want to shift the color balance of everything else towards the blue end of the spectrum
2. Campanula ‘Sarastro’ (hybrid bellflower)
I think my garden is probably a little too warm for this hybrid bellflower. It doesn’t bloom every year, wilts in the hot sun, and looks ratty by mid summer. But when it does bloom…Wow! The deep purple flowers are the size of hen’s eggs.
Campanula can be invasive, but this plant seems quite civilized. It forms a slowly spreading clump, and the shallow rooted plantlets have been easy to remove if they spread too far.
3. Thermopsis villosa (Carolina lupine)
Thermopsis villosa is native to the western mountain counties of North Carolina, but it grows very well here in the piedmont. Its only flaw is that the stems sometimes flop over, particularly when the flowers are replaced by heavy seed pods.
4. Iris ‘Black Gamecock’
Louisiana irises are generally wetland plants, but this hybrid is growing in well-drained clay that is wet in winter but can become almost bone dry in late summer. Starting from a couple of dessicated rhizomes in a bag from WalMart about six years ago, it has spread into two large clumps with dozens of inflorescences. The first flowers open just as the surrounding Iris tectorum finish their blooming period. Perfect.
5. Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove beardtongue)
Another “more-or-less-native” that is recorded from half a dozen western North Carolina counties. The clone “Husker Red” (with reddish foliage, of course) is very common in the horticultural trade, but these plants that I grew from seed have green foliage.
6. Lilium ‘Claude Shride’ (hybrid martagon lily)
Lilium ‘Claude Shride’ is a common offering from bulb vendors, and I planted half a dozen bulbs last autumn. I really like the dark, glossy flowers and the fact that it stands up straight without staking. L. martagon is a European plant, so I’m not sure if it will tolerate the heat of summer and persist in the garden long-term. Time will tell.
That’s some of what’s blooming in my corner of the NC piedmont today. To find out what’s blooming elsewhere in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and anywhere else garden bloggers are participating in Six on Saturday, head over to The Propagator.