Field of Science

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.