Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Meadow rue

Well, another busy weekend kept TPP away from his laptop, so the FFF is late again.  A few late summer plants are flowering to provide a bit of choice.  Perhaps the most visually appealing are the magic lilies, the naked ladies, or whatever you call them are a late summer amaryllis and our gardens have hundreds of them in flower.  The leaves come up in the early spring along with the narcissi. But then they die down and provide no hint of the flowering to come.  Then in the first week of August, clumps of flowering stems shoot up 30 or so inches tall and bear an umbel of big pink flowers.  
Hidden in plain view are lesser flowers, and one of them is a meadow rue, a member of the buttercup family in the genus Thalictrum (the species is uncertain, maybe T. rochebrunianum).  The individual flowers are quite small, but the plant bears a spray of hundreds.  The colored parts are either anthers or bracts (in this case, surrounding quite a few stamens.). Ours were being visited by emerald green orchard bees.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - catch-fly

Today's, yesterday's, FFF is sure to add a splotch of color to your garden primarily because this is the reddest flower we have.  It tends to flower just after the mid-summer flowering doldrums, so it's bright red flowers are most welcome.  A friend walking through our gardens spotted the flowers and reached over to pull the plant a bit closer, and discovered first hand one of the more interesting common names, catchfly.  The entire aerial parts of the plant are covered in glandular hairs making it discustingly sticky.  Small insects do get trapped in the goo.  This is Silene regia, the so-called royal catchfly.  This is as close to a trouble free perennial that you can get.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Mallow

One of the larger and gaudier flowers that you can easily raise is the rose mallow (Hibiscus mosacheutos).  Like all related flowers the large number of stamens forms a tube through which the style grows bearing a branched 5-parted stigma.  The flowers are huge, 8-9" across, and they are white, pink, rose, or red with red highlights (nectar guides) in their centers. Often this time of year when the rose mallows flower, the Japanese beetles appear and chew the crap out of the mallows and quite a few other plants too, although they do love the mallows.  This year for some reason the beetle population is quite small, do little to no damage.  These are herbaceous perennials, so they die back to the ground and grow new aerial shoots each year.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Bottle Brush Buckeye

Spring flowering peters out through June until summer flowering plants sort of take over, but it isn't quite the same.  Lots of prairie natives flower in the summer, but not nearly as many shrubs or bushes flower in the summer.  Here's an exception, and if you  don't have one, you need to rethink your garden.  Right now in mid-July, our bottle brush buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora) look great, and they grow OK on edges and in light shade. This shrub has probably the showiest floral display of any shrub that can grow on a light shade border.  They can get a bit taller than many people would like, and they do spread a little after awhile but no so much it is considered a problem.  These long (over a foot in length) inflorescences just cover the plants and contrast nicely with dark green foliage.  Japanese beetles have been a problem before, but hardly any beetles this season.  Our plants were seedlings and it was a very slow start, so buying bigger plants, paying someone else to grow them, is a good idea. The plant is a native to SE USA, but they seem quite cold hardy.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Stokesia

Most sources indicate that Stokesia is a type of aster, all this means is that all of the flowers have a bilaterally symmetrical corolla, the flower form that is located around the periphery of daisy-type flowers as opposed to the cenral button composed of radially symmetrical flowers.  There is only one species, so TPP suspects that someday someone will  figure out its relatives and it will get shuffled into another genus.  Stodesia is an honorific name, honoring an early physician who had some botanical leanings, Jonathon Stokes.  This plant is native to the coastal plain of southeastern USA, but is a pretty adaptable ornamental, and reasonably tough in both its ability to deal with drought and cold (zone 5).  It is a fairly short plant in our experience so it gets used on margins of paths.  The flowers come in a number of shades of purple, as well as pink  and white.  Note the white, t-shaped stigmas protruding from all the central flowers.

Drpught, dry, dry, dry, cracked earth, and hot temperatures

What a great time to be a gardener, it gives us something to do that is pretty low risk for us senior citizens.  Our gardens need water, lots of water, and the lily pond too.  Oh, things that can be easily watered are doing well enough like boxed, caged tomatoes.  But the Phactors do not waste water on lawn, which is on its own.  Everything is wilting to some degree, and if it doesn't recover over night then it really needs to be watered the next day.  Plants like the big-leafed Magnolias have a lot of surface area and can lose a lot of water.  And other things are rather new and as yet don't have extensive root systems, like our newest plum yew and an Abelia, and a white snake root.  So a good deal of TPP's daily activity is pulling hoses around to ward off the worst on the drought. Gave an older hose and a soaker hose to the F1 because her whole garden is new.  Even now a timer is telling TPP to get going and move the sprinkler to a new area in an attempt to rejuvenate a double-file Viburnum, that is trying to recover from a winter die-back. Already lost a dwarf  Metasequoia from the Japanese garden; it has never been a happy camper, so no surprise really.  In a real surprise, the prairie nursery TPP has inherieted had some bunchflower blooming (Melanthium virginicum), which TPP has never seen before. Quite handsome.  Hope to propagate some more this coming year.

Friday Fabulous Flower - Who's wort?

OK This is a little bit weird.  TPP is never a day early with a FFF.  Mrs. Phactor pointed out that yellow flowers with lots of stamens is a bit of a theme recently, and all in our front garden.  Both the cactus and peony a few posts below fall into that category.  This particular flower is an evergreen shrub with a bluish-green foliage.  It's quite a handsome plant and the bees just love it.  Some species of this genus almost all with the general common name of St. John's wort, are native in our flora, but this one, Hypericum kalmianum, is native to the Great Lakes region, so a bit north of here.  Obviously it is quite hardy, and this particular one is an ornamental variety, basically trouble free and much recommended.  Ours is about 4 feet wide by 2.5 feet tall.

Gardening in a time of plague: Chapter 3

Summer is upon us, and so is a mild drought.  Our city is raising water rates, so it will be getting more expensive to keep gardens watered.  It takes a minimum of 1/2 inch of rain a week to keep gardens going.  Sensitive plants need more water, some are better at dealing with dry conditions than others.  Two senior citizens did manage to distribute 2.5 yards of wood mulch onto gardens and paths to make things  look much better. Several plants are candidates for relocation, but until the soil moisture gets better it is a risky undertaking.  The Phactors have decided that ostrich fern should be added to the list of never plant this plant.  It looks OK but it's rhizomatous and tends to take over whole gardens. 
New additions do get preferential treatment when is comes to water.  Until they get well rooted you have to keep watering them.  Nothing too delicate has been added to our gardens making it pretty easy to keep up.  A couple of small hostas are an exception but being small means watering them is not a major project. 
 A largish patch of Sorbaria, the so-called false Ural spirea, sort of looks like a sumac, but has fuzzy looking plumes of white flowers.  It's close to being on the do not plant this plant list; it is a spreader and was threatening to consume a neighbors' garage.  The trespassing portion was removed and a couple of hosta were found in the process. Unless you have room for such plants, do not plant them.
At least gardening gives us an outdoor activity and exercise.  And weeding helps you maintain a healthy frame of mine, giving the opportunity to get rid of poor choices without getting depressed over politics.  The amount of damage one person can do in just 3 years is hard to believe.  A niece is getting married in July and in October.  The earlier event if just too untimely for us presently and we hope things are better in 3 more months.  Sadly this is part of the havoc wrought by this pandemic.  And mostly all you can do is to keep the gardeners well supplied with margaritas, a nice self-sterilizing liquid.  A few people have visited to have a socially-distanced reprieve to break up the quarantine a bit.  It's outside and the gardens are big.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Prickly subject

This is a native plant to Lincolnland and it grows naturally fairly close by around the Havana sand priaries to the SW of us.  This plant is tough as nails and you just need a sunny, well-drained area to grow it.  Basically this is a near prostrate succulent shrub.  The flower is fairly large and certainly is part of our unintended theme of big yellow flowers.
This is a prickly pear cactus, Opuntia humifusa.  This image also shows the modified leaves quite well to the left of the flower.  These will not persist.  Sometimes you see plants where the flowers have a much redder center, but the smaller bees (green ones TPP usually associates with leaf-cutting) was observed just wallowing in all those anthers.  Regretably the flowers do not last long, but a plant can flower prolifically with lots of flowers.  This is a first time event for our gardens  and the plant a relative newcomer (3d year).   

Friday Fabulous Flower-Shade loving

TPP was poking around in the shady recesses of our gardens and there under a huge burr oak and a bottle brush buckeye (that is in heavy shade), he found this member of the Logania family.  In actual fact this may be the only member of the Logania family that is native to Lincolnland.  And it is a stunner of a native plant that only recently has found its way into native plant nurseries.  This is Spigula marilandica, the Indian Pink.  Wow!  Does this flower stand out in heavy shade? This is only the second year it has flowered, so it's still a bit exciting.