And I'm still trying to catch up on posting months-old garden photographs. This post will cover July and August. I'll start with two pictures that encapsulate those months for me. This is July: my Sacramento rose-mallow (Hibiscus lasicarpos) plant in full bloom in front of a broad expanse of lawn. I don't have many plants that bloom in July; the last of the spring flowers have withered by mid-June, and the first of the fall flowers don't start opening until August. But the Sacramento rose-mallow is very much a July plant, and it's pretty enough to just about make up for the absence of anything else.
This is August. The first of the fall flowers are open - California fuchsia (Epilobium canum × septentrionale 'Bowman's #1') and, if you look closely through the grass, a little clump of yellow from an elegant tarweed (Madia elegans) - but the flowers aren't entirely the point anymore; the huge clumping grasses somewhat steal the show. The grasses here are deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the lower right and alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides) a bit to the left, in the middle distance.
I'll start in July, though, and proceed chronologically. Or not even in July yet, but late June really: the first buds on the Sacramento rose mallow. This is a beautiful plant even without any flowers at all - and not merely visually beautiful but tactilely lovable. The entire plant is covered with soft fur and just begs to be petted. And unlike some other furry plants whose soft fur dries into painful bristles when the plant goes dormant, this plant's fur remains soft and furry even when the leaves turn yellow and drop to the ground in the fall.
Sacramento rose mallow is an endangered species. I think anyone who lives anywhere near Sacramento should grow this plant. It's the easiest plant in the world to grow - just give it unlimited quantities of water and sunlight. Unlike most plants, this one can't possibly be drowned; at my old duplex where the yard was flooded all the time, I planted it below the water line and let it sit underwater, and it was perfectly happy there. It doesn't need drainage; it just needs all the water it can get. In my current yard I don't have any conveniently wet spot for it in the ground, so I keep it in a pot and water the pot regularly, and it's happy that way too.
The flowers, when they open, are nearly as big as my hand.
The plant sends up various shoots from ground level. These shoots never branch off, but always remain single shoots. The flowers are always grouped at the tips of the shoots.
Meanwhile, another type of huge white flower also blooms in my garden in late June and early July: the ones on my Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) tree. The bees enjoy them.
And I enjoy watching the bees.
Another white flower in my garden in early July was mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii 'Goose Creek'), a native shrub in the hydrangea family. I have two mock orange plants; this one is the double-flowered 'Goose Creek' cultivar, and the other is the species in its wild form. The 'Goose Creek' cultivar is larger and is the only one that bloomed this spring, although I planted both plants at the same time. Hopefully the smaller plant will catch up with this one eventually. I was impressed with how long the flowers on this one lasted.
Here's a non-native bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla).
I guess I've moved on to pink flowers now. Here's one last straggler of the farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena), though it's mostly gone to seed, as you can see by the reddish seed pods, which are really rather attractive in their own right.
And here's a San Miguel Island buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens), native to an island near the Southern California coast. I'm always surprised when coastal or island plants can survive here in the Sacramento Valley heat, but when they do, it's always in the shade. This plant is no exception. I'm not sure whether it'll really be happy enough here to ever grow to its full proper size, but it does at least seem to survive multiple years and produce a few flowers.
This is a Brazilian plume flower (Justicia carnea) that I inherited from the previous homeowners. It blooms from spring all the way through fall, which is not common here where the summer heat tends to put plants under a lot of stress.
Here's a hybrid sword lily (Gladiolus hybridus), also inherited from the previous homeowners. Most of my sword lilies are plain yellow, but this one is nearly every color of the rainbow!
This is blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum 'North Coast'), a native in the iris family. The out-of-focus white flowers in the background are non-native sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima).
This isn't most people's idea of a spectacular flower, but I liked the way my California oatgrass (Danthonia californica) caught the light.
I guess this is a good place to pause and show you something other than flowers. I have a gate and a short fence like this on each side of my house, and the gate on the other side of the house needed to be replaced. I assumed that my approximately brick red fences were the same color as my approximately brick red patio roof and bought paint that matched the patio. After using it to paint all the boards that were needed for the new gate, I discovered that the fences were not the same shade of brick red as the patio. Well, now they're going to be! I painted the fence adjoining the new gate, and then I painted the gate on this side of the house. Then I had to stop painting for a few days because I ran out of paint, and I took this picture to show the slight color difference between the new gate color and the old fence color. Then my life exploded, and I still haven't found any free time to finish the job. But I intend to get around to it this fall.
But back to flowers. In front of the fence, on the left side of the gate, is a canna lily (Canna indica 'Alberich').
And in front of the fence on the right side of the gate is a sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus 'Point Molate').
Around the front of the house, my Sierra mint (Pycnanthemum californicum) is blooming in the brick bed to the left of my front door.
Here's a closeup of the Sierra mint (with bees seemingly permanently attached).
The mint family is big in the summer months. My tuberous catmint (Nepeta tuberosa) bloomed until early July.
And my oregano (Origanum vulgare) bloomed until then as well (also with bees seemingly permanently attached). Plants in the mint family share a number of characteristics: they tend to have square stalks with leaves arranged opposite one another, with irregularly shaped flowers that are usually purplish or white; they tend to contain spicy oils that make them useful medicinally or as culinary herbs; and they tend to have bees attached.
Transitioning now from July to August, here are the flowers of my basil plant (Ocimum basilicum).
My creeping thyme (Thymus praecox 'Elfin') also bloomed in August, though the flowers and in fact the entire plant are so tiny that you'd almost need a magnifying glass to notice.
The native coyote mint (Monardella villosa) also bloomed in August.
Among the native mints, I prefer the smell and texture of Sierra mint, but I prefer the visual appearance of coyote mint. I also want to grow the native field mint (Mentha arvensis); I have seeds of it to plant this fall.
But the quintessential plant family for August flowers is the aster family. Here are the buds of elegant tarweed (Madia elegans), a native annual named for its tarlike sap.
And here are the tarweed flowers after they open. They open primarily during the morning and evening; I caught them near sunset, when the petals were starting to curl up as the flowers closed for the night.
Here's another native in the aster family: Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum).
And yet another. This is California goldenrod (Solidago californica), a plant I failed with repeatedly at my old duplex. Apparently all it needed was some drainage, because it seems much happier at my house here. It's been blooming continuously since the beginning of August. I hope it will set seed profusely and create many more of itself. I'd like it to be a major part of my garden someday, but it's not particularly readily obtainable, so I need to propagate it or hope that it propagates itself. Right now I just have this one plant of it.
Here's one last native in the aster family, though you'd hardly guess it's related from this photograph. This is pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), a rather weedy native that I may have far too much of soon, since I allowed it to set seed. It's not spectacular looking, but I don't think it's a bad plant to have here and there, especially in a large yard where I have space to fill and not always enough plants to fill it all.
Now, here's a non-native plant in the aster family: a silverleaf sunflower (Helianthus argophyllus 'Japanese Silverleaf'). It's taller than I am and more spectacular than you can tell from these pictures . . . but you'll get to see better pictures of it when I get around to posting my September pictures.
In the meantime, these will do.
Last year I tried growing cultivars of the native annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and got rather disappointing results - the plants didn't get very tall and produced only one or two flowers each. This summer's effort produced much more impressive results.
Just a few final plants left now. Here's a potato plant (Solanum tuberosum) blooming in August.
And a hybrid geranium (Pelargonium × hortorum).
And an Eastern Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum). The flowers change from off-white to rust-red as they dry up. They remain on the stalks for months.
I'll end with the beginning of the fall flower show. My front and back yards are both chock full of California fuchsia plants - six different cultivars plus the species, a total of eleven plants. They vary in height from a couple of inches tall to nearly as tall as I am. September is their biggest month, but they first got started in August and will continue through October and maybe early November. I'll just show you two of the earliest bloomers here. This is a hybrid California fuchsia (Epilobium canum × septentrionale 'Bowman's #1').
And this is another California fuchsia (Epilobium canum 'Calistoga').
More California fuchsias next time. And more sunflowers!