Six on Saturday #33 (August 11, 2018)

After several weeks, I finally have time to complete a Six on Saturday post.  This week’s entry is a miscellaneous collection of plants that bloom during the hottest days of summer.

1. Rhexia species (Meadow Beauty)

Rhexia1

This is basically a weed that infests my bog garden and mini-bog planters.  It spreads by underground rhizomes which must have arrived, unnoticed, in the pot of some pitcher plant or orchid.  The flowers are very showy, but like those of many other Melastomataceae, they only last one day. The petals don’t wilt or shrivel as the flower ages; by late afternoon, a gentle tap will cause them to simply fall off.

2. Iris dichotoma (vesper iris)

Iris_dichotoma

I bought this plant last autumn, so this summer is the first time it has bloomed.  The flowers are significantly smaller than I was expecting, but they are quite attractive.  As suggested by its common name, this is an evening/night-blooming plant.  The flowers open in late afternoon and have faded by the next morning.

3. Iris x norrisii ‘Wine and Roses’ (candy lily)

Pardacanda

Obviously, the “lily” in the common name of this plant is a misnomer.  It is a hybrid of Iris dichotoma (vesper iris) and Iris domestica (blackberry lily).  You’ll often find it in the plant trade labeled as x Pardacanda norrisii, because I. dichotoma was formerly classified as Pardanthopsis dichotoma, and I. domestica was formerly Belamcanda chinensis.  The hybrid grex is quite variable, and I really like the bicolored flowers of this clone.

4. Bouvardia ternifolia (firecracker bush)

Bouvardia1

This is a difficult flower to photograph, because digital cameras often overexpose strong reds, and the flowers stick out in all directions, making focusing a challenge.  I think the exposure of this picture is OK, although it may still appear oversaturated on some monitors.  The flowers really are as intensely red as they could possibly be.

B. ternifolia is native to Mexico and Central America, and at the northern edge of its range reaches southern Arizona, New Mexico, and southwest Texas.  I didn’t really expect it to survive in our much wetter and colder climate, but it has now made it through four winters with numerous cold snaps and snowfalls.  In warmer climates it grows as a shrub.  Here in NC, it dies back to the ground every winter, sprouting again in late spring and blooming from July until the first autumn frost.  I have it planted in a particularly dry and sandy part of the garden.

5. Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’

autumn_minaret

‘Autumn Minaret’ is a hybrid of the very tall Hemerocallis citrina (syn. H. altissima) and sometimes masquerades as the species.  I really like its tall, airy inflorescences and the fact that it blooms over a very long period (for a daylily). My plant has been blooming for about a month, and the >5′ (152 cm) inflorescences still have many unopened buds.  I recently obtained a small plant of the true H. citrina, so it will be interesting to compare the two in future summers.

6. Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant)

Silphium1

The final entry this week is another very tall plant and a North Carolina native (though it is more common further west).  It grows about 7-8 feet tall (2-2.4 m) with thick stems bearing large, coarse leaves.  I’m only showing three inflorescences of about thirty in the clump. It’s not a plant for a small garden, but given the huge number of butterflies and bees that it attracts, I don’t begrudge it the space it requires.

Oh, one more thing…Sometimes the Rhexia petals don’t get a chance to drop before someone comes along and munches on them.

Rhexia2

As always, head over to The Propagator to see his very interesting Six on Saturday and links to those of other participants.

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Houston: Mercer Botanical Gardens (Six on Saturday #32)

Mercer Botanical Gardens are located north of downtown Houston, very close to George Bush Intercontinental Airport.  I had visited the gardens once before, about seventeen years ago, but remembered very little, so during our recent trip to Houston, I took the opportunity to renew my acquaintance.

I had forgotten about Hurricane Harvey.  During the flooding last year, the gardens were submerged under eight feet of muddy, polluted water.  Clearly the floods did a lot of damage, and just as clearly the gardens employees and volunteers have been working very hard to repair the damage. This article from the Houston Chronicle describes the devastation, and a google image search will show you what the gardens once were.  These six pictures will give you a little taste of what the gardens are now, and a hint of what they will be again.

1.  Dead palm tree

dead_palm

Some of the garden grounds were still closed off, and in the open areas damaged plants were still visible.  After the flooding, last winter included an unusually prolonged cold spell in the Houston area, which probably did not help the tender palms.  Virtually all of those that were still alive had damaged fronds, but that damage is temporary.  I’m not sure if this palm tree was left in the ground because the staff had been overwhelmed, or if they were waiting to see if it might resprout.

2.  Zephyranthes (rain lilies)

zephyranthes1

Many of the plants that seemed to be in the best conditions were tropical bulbs and rhizomes, particularly those that tolerate wet soil (crinum, gingers, etc).  Presumably, these plants resisted being washed away by the flood, and any top damage was easily replaced.  I saw an enormous clump of Hymenocallis caribaea, unfortunately not blooming, that was in prime condition, but the best flowers were on these unlabeled Zephyranthes.  They were blooming all by themselves in a rock garden area that appeared to have been recently renovated but not yet replanted.

3-5. Tropical shrubs and trees

Erythrina_crista-galli
Erythrina crista-galli, one of the parents of Erythrina x. bidwillii

Although many of the beds are thus far, still fairly barren, splashes of color from vigrous perennials and fast growing tropical trees and shrubs hint at how spectacular the gardens will be again in a few years.

Lagerstroemia_speciosa
Huge, hot-pink flowers of Lagerstroemia speciosa
Stachytarpheta
Stachytarpheta mutabilis (coral porterweed)

6.  Anolis sagrei (brown anole)

Anolis_sagrei

The gardens were swarming with little brown anoles.  A. sagrei is native to Cuba and the Bahamas, and it is an invasive species in the southeastern U.S.  where it often replaces the native Anolis carolinensis (green anole).  My parents’ garden south of Houston still has green anoles, but I didn’t see a single native lizard at Mercer.

So, that’s Six on Saturday and a very brief look at Mercer as it is now.  For more Six on Saturday, head over to the blog of The Propagator, who started this weekly exercise and collects links from other participants.

Six on Saturday #30, June 9, 2018

This will be a quick Six on Saturday, as I’m running late.  Weather is typical for June:  currently 84 F (28.9 C), 70% humidity.  Expecting a high around 90 F (32 C).

1.  Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ with creeping cucumber

Mondarda_didyma

‘Jacob Cline’ is reputedly one of the best clones of our native scarlet beebalm.  As advertised, it seems to be very resistant to powdery mildew, but what I had not anticipated is how vigorously it spreads through moist soil.   From a single 8-inch pot, the plants have spread into a 10×20-foot clump constrained mainly by mowed paths surrounding the bed.  “Hummingbirdbalm” would be a better common name.

Even M. didyma can’t compete with the invasiveness of creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula), an annoying weed that crawls over everything and makes the flowerbed look even more overgrown and messy than it would otherwise.  The tiny cucumber-like fruits are edible when green, but they’re reported to be a powerful laxative when black and fully ripe.

2.  Gladiolus ‘Boone’

Gladiolus_Boone

Gladiolus ‘Boone’ is one of the old glads that have survived for many years around southern homesteads.  This clone was found at an abandoned site near Boone, North Carolina and is now well established in the horticultural trade.  I got mine from Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill.  It is roughly on the same scale as the yellow Gladiolus that I suspect is G. ‘Carolina Primrose,’ and is significantly smaller than my Gladiolus ‘Eno Orange.’

3. Zea mays (sweet corn)

Zea_mays

Youngest offspring brought home a single kernal of sweet corn from a “farm-to-table” field trip at school.  We didn’t have a good bed to grow it in, so I stuck it in a large pot along with some tomato seedlings.  So far, so good.

4.  Canna ‘Flaming Kabobs’

Flaming_Kabobs_again

Here’s one that I have featured before.  You get to see it again, because it is my favorite canna and is the first to bloom this year.  I was worried that it might not survive last winter, but it came through with flying colors when several other cannas succumbed to the cold and snow.

5. Verbascum chaixii (nettle-leaved mullein)

Verbascum_chaixii_yellow

Another repeat, but it isn’t easy coming up with six new plants for every Six on Saturday.   I wish my V. chaixii plants would seed around a bit, but so far I haven’t found any volunteer seedlings.

6.  Turtles!

Are we getting bored of box turtle pictures yet?  Never!  Here’s a juvenile that I almost stepped on.

Another_box_turtle

And last, but not least, turtle butt!

Turtle-butt

This lady (I assume) was trying unsuccessfully to hide under some Stokesia laevis (Stokes’ aster) in the garden area at my workplace when I went outside to eat lunch on Friday.  So, it’s in a garden, just not my garden.

I think she is a river cooter (Pseudemys concinna) looking for somewhere to dig a nest.

For more Six on Saturday, head over to The Propagator, the host of this weekly exercise.

Six on Saturday #29, May 26, 2018

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)

Spigelia2

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.]

Spigelia1

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.

Spigelia3

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

Spigelia4

2.  Campanula ‘Sarastro’ (hybrid bellflower)

Campanula_Sarastro

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

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’

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)

Penstemon_digitalis

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

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.

Columbine hanky panky

Aquilegia_canadensis-red
Red-flowered wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

When we moved to this house eleven years ago, I brought an envelope of Aquilegia canadensis seed from my old garden.  The wild columbines have thrived and spread throughout the garden, and the drifts of little red flowers are now one of my favorite sights in the spring.

In the past few years, though, a few oddities have cropped up.  Typical A. canadensis flowers have red sepals and bright yellow petals, but I now have several plants that are definitely purple with pale yellow to cream petals.

Aquilegia_purple
A possible hybrid:  A. canadensis x ?

Columbines are notoriously promiscuous in cultivation; although there are numerous distinct species in the wild, they do not seem to have effective anatomical or genetic barriers to hybridization in the garden.  I suspect that someone in bee-range of my garden has been growing purple Aquilegia vulgaris (a European species) or one of its hybrids, and pollen has been transferred to my A. canadensis.

This year, for the first time, another color has appeared.  This plant with very pale flowers is also a dwarf, less than half the height of typical plants:

Aquilegia_pale
hybrid or mutant A. canadensis?

If I want to keep a pure stock of A. canadensis, I probably ought to dig up all of the unusually colored plants.  However, I think they have some value as garden plants, so I have let them grow.  I cut the inflorescences before seed is mature, but the hybrids could still pollinate A. canadensis plants.  In the long run I suspect that A. canadensis genes will dominate due to their better adaptation to this habitat.  In any case, this is a wholly artificial population, and it is fun to watch genetics in action.