Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Friday, August 28, 2015

Favorites round-up: where did August go?

 Can it really be the end of August already? Time for another round-up of favorite plants, hosted by Loree of Danger Garden.

Daphne x transatlantica 'Blafra' (Eternal Fragrance) continues to bloom all summer with hardly any water. The scent wafts around the patio enticingly.

This daphne grows quickly to about three feet tall and wide (and by quickly I mean only a year or two), with dark, evergreen leaves and scented white flowers that come in waves all summer. Give it well-drained soil and even moisture in summer, though it appears to be quite drought tolerant in my garden. Mine grows well with full morning sun until around noon. It is hardy to USDA zone 5.

The Siam Queen basil is blooming now. The plants in the planter near the patio are much more colorful than the ones down in the raised beds in the vegetable garden. Basil grows best with even moisture and full sun in rich, well-draining soil.

Cotinus 'Grace' has lost its rich burgundy color, trading it in for a cooler mix of blue-green touched with purple during the summer heat. The stems of the new growth are still dark burgundy, contrasting nicely with the leaves. I think it actually looks quite nice against the dead brown lawn. This hybrid between Cotinus coggygria and Cotinus obovatus grows very quickly to 10-15 feet tall. Those 3-foot stems in the picture below are all new growth. It would have had a few flowers on it, but the deer nipped those off in spring before the fence was completed. Otherwise, there would be smoky pink panicles left from the blooms. Hardy to zone 5, this large shrub or small tree prefers even moisture but is also quite drought tolerant. It is tolerant of most soils. It can be cut back almost to the ground to control its size and to produce the largest and most colorful foliage, or allowed to reach its full size.

Lobelia cardinalis 'Queen Victoria' is in full bloom, with striking red flowers against the dark foliage. This perennial requires moist soils and full sun to part shade for best growth and bloom. This clump, in moist clay soil with some afternoon shade, is visibly healthier than the one growing in drier conditions and full sun. Hardy to zone 4, this perennial grows 3-4 feet tall and grows in a slowly expanding clump.

The plant in the following three photos is an unidentified Clethra from Far Reaches Farms that they are currently identifying by collection number: CGG 14059. Here's their description: "From the Chongqing-Guizhou-Guangxi Expedition in 2010, this collection from Fanjinshan was notable for the somewhat hirsute foliage and rough, exfoliating bark on the trunks. The seed capsules showed that the flowers - likely scented and white in mid to late summer - were held in 4" finger-like racemes. Nicely pinkish to reddish tinted new growth and the fall color is similar but intensified and can vary given exposure and climate. This paired nicely in the wild with the various Rhododendron and Sorbus species while the mingling of the odd Lily and Tripterospermum just added to the allure. Protect this first winter of 2013-14 if the weather turns cold although we expect this to be good to zone 6 at least once established." The upright stems are all new growth this year. The original stem was a bit weak and flopped over during winter.

The light coating of white hairs is denser on the reddish new growth, creating a complex and subtle play of colors as the leaves age.

The young stems are a beautiful red. I'm a little worried that they won't harden off before winter. Hopefully it's another warm winter.

Two for one! Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound'  makes a shimmering silver backdrop for Carex testacea. Both drought tolerant and prefering well-drained soils, the carex actually prefers even moisture. The artemisia is hardy to zone 3 and the carex to zone 6. The artemisia grows 6-12 inches tall and can spread to twice that. It can be kept tidier and more compact if it is cut back when you first notice the blooms. I let it go this year and don't mind the blooms, but I can see how cutting it back could improve its appearance. The carex can grow to 24 inches tall and wide. Both are evergreen, but the artemisia should be cut back in late winter or early spring to refresh it.

My final favorite this month is Geranium robustum. This is one of two plants I grew from seed last summer. The other was growing at the end of the bed that flooded when the gutter overflowed and it didn't survive. I wasn't confident that this one would survive either. It took a little while to get going, but it has grown this year from a tiny seedling to a bushy plant about 2 feet tall and wide. Hailing from South Africa, this semi-shrubby geranium develops a woody base and is evergreen in mild climates. During this last, very mild winter, mine went completely deciduous. However, it was planted late as a small seedling and didn't even have a woody base yet. I expect it to fair better this winter, but it will still probably be mostly deciduous. It is hardy to zone 7 with good winter drainage. I have it growing in the hot, dry bed at the south end of the house. The soil is clay, though, so it's not one of those super finicky plants that melts in our winters unless it's growing in a gravel berm. As long as there's no standing water, it should be fine.
I still can't believe how much this thing has grown!

I've tried taking cuttings, but it doesn't seem to be a very good candidate for that form of propagation. Luckily, it's blooming! Hopefully there will be enough time before it gets cold for the seed to mature.

I just love the ferny, silver foliage of this gratifyingly fast-growing geranium. It contrasts wonderfully with the green foliage of Cistus 'Snowfire'.

14 comments:

  1. You have featured Daphne x transatlantica 'Blafra' in the past, and that along with the cardinal plant are on my wish list. This biggest issue is finding room for them... real estate in the garden is a little tight at the end of the summer. The Cotinus is beautiful. You are lucky to have the acreage for it. It'd be nice to see a sided by side update next August, when it's 'smoking'. And finally, we seem to develop a unique relationship with plant we grow from seed, don't we?

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    1. Yes, plants we grow from seed are special. Even ones we wouldn't have otherwise. I have three Styrax japonica that I grew from seed and can't bring myself to part with. At least not yet. They haven't gotten big enough to become a reseeding problem.

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  2. I like that attitude: something that will look nice against dead brown lawn. That Clethra is stunning, as is the foliage of the geranium. I've killed my share of Daphne, so thanks for featuring one that may be easier to grow. The scent is well worth repeated efforts.

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    1. Thanks, RIcki! Daphne x transatlantica hybrids are tough. There are many available besides 'Blafra'. Give one a try!

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  3. I've lost my fair share of Daphnes, but x transatlantica 'Summer Ice', which is a lot like your Blafra, is the only one I've been able to grow from cuttings. They are wonderful. I like your Silver Mound, I'm weighing it against trying to take cuttings from my Santolina. I have plant lust for Geranium robustum, it reminds me of my deceased Silver Sugar Plum.

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    1. I like 'Summer Ice', too. I want to get more x transatlantica selections. Funny, I've been thinking of getting some Santolina. I saw some with old, faded flowers at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma and loved it. I actually like the old flowers better than the new ones. If I get enough seed off of my Geranium robustum, it might show up at the spring plant swap!

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  4. Oh the foliage colors on your Cotinus 'Grace' are just fab!

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    1. Thank you! It is beautiful, though my camera enhanced it a bit somehow in the photo.

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  5. Wonderful :) How would you describe the scent of the Daphne and the Clethra? Does your geranium also have a fragrance?

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    1. The daphne has the typical daphne scent, sweet, jasmine-like. The clethra is still too young to bloom. The geranium doesn't seem to have any significant fragrance.

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  6. What a great August roundup of favs. 'Grace' graced my garden for many years, and I'd be knee-deep in her smoke for months. I should've grown her as a cutback shrub and not a massive tree that overtook the entire garden. 'Snowfire' is here too! But what I'd like to be here as well is that G. robustum. Looks a lot like incanum but I think I prefer your flower color.

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    1. Thanks, Denise. I have plenty of room for 'Grace' to become a tree. In fact, I'm depending on it. G. robustum does look a bit like G. incanum, though the latter seems to be a bit more finely cut and most of the pictures I find online are of green-leaved forms. G. robustum is also a very upright, almost shrubby plant.

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  7. I have to look for that Cotinus. It Geranium robustum related to G. incanum? I love most all of the true Geraniums but incanum is a weed here so, if there's a parental link (as suggested by some on-line references), I'd best avoid it.

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    1. I think it probably is related to G. incanum. They both originate from South Africa. However, just because one species is weedy, doesn't mean another is. I keep telling myself that, but I still won't grow any ivies because of the invasive ivy in the PNW, and I have trouble with brooms because of Scotch broom.

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