Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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August Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I'm not sure that July and August entirely deserve separate Garden Bloggers' Bloom Days, because most of the yard looks almost identical today to the way it did a month ago, and most of the changes are for the worse. The plants continue to dry out over the long, rainless summer. The yarrow and the clustered field sedge (which are the primary groundcovers in the back yard) have both shrunken in size a bit due to lack of water, and in some areas the clustered field sedge has turned brown.

However, August is not entirely an inferior duplicate of July. I do have two rather spectacular new blooms in August - one in the back yard and one in the front. This picture shows the back yard one, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), blooming in the ditch, surrounded by Hooker's evening-primroses (Oenothera hookeri) that are on higher ground, with rosillas (Helenium puberulum) and hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula) seedheads in the background.

As you might guess from its appearance, the cardinal flower is a big hit with hummingbirds. Although I haven't managed to get any photos of the hummingbirds so far, the quantity and quality of hummingbird sightings in our yard have both vastly increased since the cardinal flower started blooming. Once, unfortunately without my camera, I stood about four feet from the cardinal flower while a hummingbird sipped from each individual flower at its stalk, one at a time, then tried a few of the evening-primrose flowers, circled around within two feet of my head so I could easily have reached out and touched it, repeatedly landed on the oleanders about four feet above my head, and even came back for a second visit to the cardinal flower a few minutes later. Before the cardinal flower bloomed, I had only ever seen hummingbirds make a quick dash through our yard and be gone in under ten seconds.

Cardinal flower is native to basically all of the United States except for the Pacific northwest. It requires a large amount of water, but it doesn't need any drainage. I've been refilling the ditch to the brim every other evening all summer, so the water level at the shallow end where the cardinal flower is planted varies daily from zero to six inches.

A garden spider is using the cardinal flower to hold up one end of its web. The other end is attached to an evening-primrose.

Here is a closeup of the evening-primrose (Oenothera hookeri).

Chuck B. and anyone else with a horror of combining red and yellow flowers may want to skip the next five photographs. I didn't plan this color combination - the evening-primrose seedlings sprouted in every single corner of the entire yard, and I put the cardinal flower in the ground in the only spot wet enough to sustain it. But I'd rather have red and yellow together than have fewer flowers in the yard.

The ditch is definitely the highlight of the back yard this summer. In addition to the cardinal flower at the shallow end, it's supporting all this lush beauty at the deeper end: a thick carpet of profusely blooming turkey-tangle fogfruit, punctuated by ripe tomatoes, two willow saplings, and an unfortunately non-blooming Sacramento rose-mallow, and framed by the white yarrow and clustered field sedge on the banks.

The Sacramento rose-mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus) has grown beautifully - it was barely an inch tall when I planted it in the spring - but I'm extremely disappointed that it hasn't bloomed. It's running out of time! This plant will vanish underground before the winter frosts arrive. It grows in most of the American South (from New Mexico to Florida, north as far as Kansas) as well as in California. Its flowers are six inches in diameter, which is why I'm so disappointed that my diligent watering has not induced it to produce any.

The turkey-tangle fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) also continues to delight me. I didn't pay a cent for this plant - it grows in pavement cracks like a weed! It has only one fault, which is that it vanishes during the winter months. It is native to the southern half of the United States and as far north as Oregon and Pennsylvania.

The tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are also doing well. So many of them are ripening now that I've been urging Susan to eat some daily so that they don't go to waste. I don't like tomatoes myself.

We have another fruit beginning to ripen as well: a pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo). By this time last summer we had several huge orange ones, but this year we just have one half-sized green one so far. There are pumpkin flowers too, of course, but I failed to get any good pictures of those.

Next to the pumpkin is the alkali sacaton grass (Sporobolus airoides), which I fall madly in love with every summer. Its fault is that it looks horribly dead in the winter. It doesn't vanish completely, nor does it wave dry golden-brown stalks in the wind like some deciduous grasses do. No, it recedes to a three-inch-tall lump of absolutely colorless gray stubble. Really ugly! But worth putting up with, because it totally steals the show all summer long. Alkali sacaton grows all throughout the western United States, north into British Columbia and east to North Dakota and Texas, plus isolated populations in New York and South Carolina. Here you see it blooming with prairie coneflowers (Ratibida columnifera), bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor), and two spikes of evening-primrose (in the lower left, with their flowers closed for the day).

Here is a longer shot of the alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides) with yarrow (Achillea millefolium), prairie coneflowers, evening-primrose, the pumpkin vine, and a single flower spike of arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus). I love how the alkali sacaton flower stalks look just like a spray of mist. When it's over 100 degrees outside, even a semblance of mist can provide some sense of relief.

Near the alkali sacaton is my one surviving checker mallow (Sidalcea malviflora) plant. I bought two in the spring and planted them just a few feet apart from each other, in what appeared to be identical conditions. They both bloomed, and then they both stopped blooming. Then, in July, one of them died. Then this one got bigger and started blooming again. I'm sorry to have only one now, but I'm glad to see this one getting bigger and blooming. Checker mallow is native to California, Oregon, and Washington state.

A lone spring annual, bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor), sprouted in the midst of the checker mallow. They make a very pretty combination.

On the other side of the ditch, the California asters (Symphyotrichum chilense) are ramping up their bloom for the fall. These asters are found from California north to British Columbia. The yellow balls scattered throughout are rosillas (Helenium puberulum), which are native only in California and Oregon (and possibly Mexico; I can't easily tell whether anything grows in Mexico, because the USDA website doesn't include Mexico on its maps).

The golden form of scarlet monkeyflower (Mimulus cardinalis), which is the only form of the species I have at the moment, has been blooming intermittently. I've been trying to water it quite a bit, but I think it really wants even more. This species is native from California north to Washington state and east to New Mexico.

My California polypody fern (Polypodium californicum) vanished without a trace within a few hours after I took this picture of it. It's normal for this fern species to recede underground in the summer, but I wasn't expecting its disappearance to be quite so sudden. It seems like the yellowed front should have been lying around somewhere, but I never found it. I had actually been hoping to interfere with this fern's normal deciduous cycle by watering it enough to keep it green all summer long. I obviously didn't succeed at that. I just hope it doesn't die, because it was a difficult species to find for sale and it grew very well all winter long. And it's not often found in quite such extreme Sacramento Valley heat as I've planted it in, so I don't think it would survive the summer without watering. Now that it's vanished, I no longer have any visual cues as to how much water it wants.

These California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) are now blooming about six inches from where the fern is hopefully sleeping happily underground.

Now let's move on to the front yard. The most noticeable plants for most of this month have been the Eastern Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) and the non-native scarlet mallow (Sphaeralcea philippiana). The buckwheat is native from California east to Utah and Arizona, and I had a terrible time getting it established. I planted four of these things before I got one that survived long enough to bloom. But this one has really taken off now - it just keeps getting bigger and making more and more flowers.

I also have a very small naked buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum) plant beginning to bloom, though its clump of flowers is too small for my camera to focus on without my hand around it. This is the only naked buckwheat plant I've tried to grow, so it seems to be getting established with less difficulty. This one is native from California north to Washington state and east to Nevada.

Munro's globemallow (Sphaeralcea munroana) was incredibly difficult to find; many places that claim to sell it are actually selling the non-native scarlet mallow, which is frequently mislabeled as Munro's globemallow despite looking very different. High Country Gardens is the only nursery I can find that appears to be selling the real Munro's globemallow. Their online catalog says that this species "is not the least bit picky about its soil and thrives in heavy clay," which seems to bode well for the plant's ability to survive the winter here. It's a very pretty plant, native from California north to British Columbia and east to Montana and Colorado.

The orange flowers in this next picture are also from the Munro's globemallow. The yellow flowers are black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), and the white flowers are the remains of my hayfield tarweed (Hemizonia congesta), which I hacked to bits after it grew six feet tall and looked horribly weedy. I chopped off not only its one vertical flower stalk but also about six or seven prostrate flower stalks, leaving only one prostrate flower stalk that I've allowed to bloom. I know that I'll probably regret allowing this, because it will go to seed before I notice and make ten million babies that will all look horribly weedy too. But there's something terribly psychologically difficult about killing or cutting all the blooming flower stalks off of a plant that I paid good money for just a few months ago.

One of my coyote mint (Monardella villosa) plants finished blooming in early July, but another of them didn't start blooming until late July. This is the latter. The bloom period on each individual plant was less than two weeks, but I guess if you have enough different plants, they can add up to a pretty long bloom period.

My one fairly spectacular bloom in the front yard is the sacred datura (Datura wrightii), which has flowers up to five inches in diameter. However, the plant is still small enough that it has only one flower at a time, with each flower lasting only one night (from dusk to around noon the next day), so we only get a partial day of bloom for every week or two without bloom. The plant is now blooming for its third summer in a row, so I'm not sure why it's still no bigger than it was two summers ago. This plant is native to almost all of the United States.

Here is the same datura plant with prairie coneflowers (Ratibida columnifera). Prairie coneflowers are native to the Great Plains of the United States but not native to California.

And here it is with the same prairie coneflowers but also with common tarweed (Madia elegans). The common tarweed flowers are only open in the early morning, so although they're gorgeous when they're open, we often don't get up early enough to enjoy them. Common tarweed is native from California north to Washington state and east to Nevada.

One of my California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) plants has just begun putting out buds. None of its flowers have opened yet, but here are the buds with a blue flax (Linum lewisii) flower and a puffy clump of Eastern Mojave buckwheat flowers. The leaves of the fuchsia, the flax, and the buckwheat look almost indistinguishable in photographs - they're all tiny, gray, and needle-shaped, adapted for lots of sun and heat and little water. In person, however, they're easily distinguished: the flax is bluest, the buckwheat is darkest,and the fuchsia is the palest, while the flax is softest (purely herbaceous) and the fuchsia is woodiest. Or at least this particular fuchsia is woodiest. I have another California fuchsia that has broader leaves and is much less woody.

California fuchsia is native from California north to Oregon and east to Wyoming and New Mexico. Blue flax is native from Alaska east to Nunavut and from California east to Louisiana. It grows in basically all of Canada and in all the portion of the United States that is west of the Mississippi River.

This ends my August edition of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. This Pacific tree frog on our garden hose holder says it hopes you enjoyed the show.

Tags: native plants, photographs
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