Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saturday IB Festival

Just a quick post tonight, since I've been trying to take it easy today ... haven't been feeling so great the past few days, so hopeful I got my batteries recharged today!

These are two shots of the hibiscus taken this afternoon... (Brilliantissima is the red one and the other, of course, is our new girl, Erin Rachel.) I don't usually think to turn the lens on the spent blooms (the red one was blooming yesterday), but I thought this looked like it might be an interesting perspective on the IBs ... I kind of like how it turned out, all horizontal and everything. Erin Rachel is turning out to be one gorgeous plant, who's going to soon find more space in a bigger pot. Seems like that feeding with fish emulsion was appreciated, as she's putting on tons of buds, along with Brilliantissima.

Tomorrow I vow to get some more weeding and seeding done, but that job just never ends around here! Wish me luck ...

Tonight's Movie Choice at Casa IVG is Breakfast of Champions, a 1999 adaptation of Vonnegut's classic novel directed by Alan Rudolph (a personal favorite of mine and former acolyte of Robert Altman). Don't let Bruce Willis scare you off, because if he hadn't gotten involved producing, this film would never have been made. And he's actually quite good in the role of Dwayne Hoover. It's a goofy, somewhat surreal romp through suburbia, and though of course it can never fly to the heights of Vonnegut's inspired fantasy, it does a pretty damn good job. Worth a look if you're a Vonnegut fan ... others, I'm afraid (especially those who haven't read the book) might be a bit confused and bewildered by it ... I guess it's one of those films you either love or hate. We love it, and just got the DVD yesterday to replace the aging VHS copy we've had for several years. Looking forward to seeing it again after quite a while! You can buy it here on Amazon, for a nice price!

Friday, June 29, 2007

An Unlikely Bloomer: 'Blackie'

This is a first time here for this particular plant, Ipomoea batatas, an annual we always have in the garden ... it's the increasingly common, yet incredibly attractive Sweet Potato Vine variety called 'Blackie.' A few years ago we started seeing these positively everywhere, in gardens, container plantings, you name it ... and it's no wonder they caught on so quickly! They're a really easy vine to grow, make a great groundcover and provide an incredible splash of purplish-black colour anywhere you choose to plant them. Wherever you're looking for a bold contrast with brighter coloured flowers in the garden, 'Blackie" can give it to you in abundance.

We like to plant a few of these each year in the main boulder bed to creep around and eventually spill out over the rocks where they always provide a dramatic counterpoint to the other flowers growing toward the front of the bed. They really require very little care once planted, other than giving them a regular watering in dry periods, when they'll definitely let you know when they're thirsty by wilting. And though most everyone plants these primarily for their foliage value, they do indeed bloom when they're really happy ... and last year we had a few blooms on one specimen. However this year, this particular one seems especially happy where it's planted ... in a large pot with our specimen of Colocasia esculenta "Black Magic." (I'll have more on this one at a later date!)

The Ipomoea genus comprises a really large range of vining plants, including the common Morning Glories, Spanish Flag, Convolvulus "Blue Enchantment" and other less desirable members of the Convolvulaceae family such as common bindweed. Fortunately, most of them are really welcome members in the garden space, and this one has become a favorite of ours over the past few years.

Though it's unclear whether the tuber they produce is as edible as the common sweet potato, one really doesn't plant this for its food value ... I have read, however, that if you dig the tubers and store them properly over the winter, you can revive them in the spring and plant them again. This year I think we'll give it a shot and see what happens ... at worst, we'll have a rotten tuber by spring! I've also spoken with some gardeners who take cuttings, root them and keep them inside over the winter, so that's another option to preserve their beauty for future seasons. There's also another variety called 'Marguerite,' a chartreuse coloured one we also have planted in a couple of areas. You'll likely see more of her as the summer progresses, so stay tuned....

Note on the photos: taken June 24, 2007 by IVG, on that same gloomy Sunday as the previous ones posted earlier this week.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blue Butterfly Delphinium

Last year, early in the history of this humble blog, I profiled this favorite of mine, Blue Butterfly Delphinium. (I'll refer you to the previous post for more details on cultivation and some perspective on how it looked just a year ago last week.)

Since I've not had great luck with the Pacific Giants and Magic Fountains Delphiniums the past few years ... none of last year's returned this year ... they seem to last about two years and then disappear. At this point I've more or less given up on them for now, and am now concentrating on establishing more of this dwarf variety around the garden. This stand has diminished somewhat since last year, but I think that again, the April weather had something to do with that, not to mention that the Liatris who once "shared" this bed have virtually taken it over at this point. So I think this plant may be due for moving later this summer once it has quit blooming.

In May, I discovered a new, similar variety called Blue Elf and planted two of those, and thus far they appear virtually identical except for the blooms, which on Blue Elf have a nice purplish center to them, while Blue Butterfly exhibits that intense true, deep blue, which is difficult to accurately capture in photos (and believe me, I've tried!) . The new ones are getting close to blooming but are still getting settled into their new quarters, and when they put on their show, they'll be appearing here.

This year I'm going to be more assiduous about collecting the seeds from these specimens, as I want to try to get some groupings going around the original plants, just to assure them their space and future plants from the parents ... just to make sure they stick around!

One of the resources I've recently found very useful and eminently readable is Paghat's Garden, a wonderful chronicle of a Pacific Northwest garden just filled with fascinating flowers. In case you're interested in getting her perspective, Paghat's Post on Blue Butterfly Delphinium is here.

Note on the photos: Taken June 24, 2007 on a cloudy and damp day by IVG.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bonus Blast of Early Summer Fire!

Another shot from the Sunday camera garden tour ...

Though the California Poppies have been sparser than usual so far this year, I was stopped dead in my tracks as I visualized this "perfect" shot in my mind ... but would the yarrow cooperate and come out half-way focused? So far neither of us has had much luck trying to capture the intricate flowers of this red variety, but the California poppies usually will reward me so I snapped it anyway. One shot. And I was thrilled with the detail I got of the poppy IBs, complete with pollen. I think it looks absolutely smashing with the yarrow in the background, even if it doesn't display the degree of focus I'd hoped for. Still, just gazing at the simple architecture of the poppy (note that this one only has four petals ... they'll do that!) makes me savor the moments of sheer beauty that we're sometimes able to preserve for future delectation. After taking this shot, I just continued around the garden getting other shots, and when the card was full and I headed back into the house, this poppy had already closed up for the afternoon.

A blast of fire, captured in time where it happened. That same space is already different today, and will continue to evolve further as the summer proceeds ... perhaps the greatest reward of gardening ... seizing those moments forever when we're lucky, and watching the inevitable changes occur as each flower progresses through its cycle.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

This fiery orange treat is a shot of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) from Sunday's camera tour of the garden, and it's yet another of the early summer flowers to announce the full-bore onset of the blazing sun and sweltering heat typical of late June and July. As its name of course suggests, this member of the Milkweed family is a high value destination for not only butterflies and bees who come to feed on the nectar, but also wasps, beetles and even ants, who help with its rather peculiar pollination scheme.

Pollination in this genus is accomplished in an unusual manner, as the pollen is grouped into complex structures called pollinia (or "pollen sacs"), rather than being individual grains, as is typical for plant pollen. The flower petals are smooth and rigid, and the feet of visiting insects (predominantly large wasps, such as spider wasps, which visit the plants for nectar) slip into notches in the flowers, where the sticky bases of the pollinia attach to the feet, pulling the pollen sacs free when the pollinator flies off. Bees, including honey bees only gather nectar from milkweed flowers, and are generally not effective pollinators despite the frequency of visitation. (From the Wikipedia link above.)

I have to admit that until a few years ago, I had no idea what Asclepias was, and it wasn't something I was familiar with in other people's gardens ... though I'd seen the name on some non-descript plants in the garden centers, I'd never really seen any blooming up close and had no idea what I was missing! About three years ago, in the dead of winter while we were lusting after the multitude of tempting flowers in the Park Seed catalogue we came across what looked like a winning variety, Gay Butterflies, so I decided to give this stuff a whirl and see what happened.

I planted them very early in the spring of 2005 and waited patiently for something, anything, to appear that year. Eventually there was a little patch of something that finally came up mid-summer, and since it didn't look like any of our typical pesky weeds (though it did look kind of "weedy"), I just let it go, figuring if it was the real thing, I'd see something the following year. The particular part of the bed that it shares with two Kniphofia plants, a Butterfly bush, some coreopsis and two hibiscus got overrun with weeds late in the summer and I pretty much just forgot it was there. Then last spring it reappeared and put on some height (at this point I was convinced it truly was Asclepias) before treating us to some tentative, small clusters of orange and yellow blooms through most of last summer. I do recall trying to get some good shots of it last year, but like what usually happens with me and Yarrow, they all came out blurry and I moved on to something else (probably hibiscus! lol). And finally, on a cloudy, humid Sunday with practically no sun showing, I managed to get a decent shot of this gorgeous stuff, which has truly put up a flowerhead measuring about six inches across! I'm looking forward to some really sunny days to work on this plant again in the hopes of capturing some of the absolute fire it projects even on cloudy days ...

Though the mix I planted is supposed to have red in it, we've only seen it bloom in orange and yellow, but I'm perfectly happy to see those, given my initial doubt as to whether it would ever establish itself successfully in the garden. At this point I think we can consider it established and even if it hasn't quite achieved the 24" in height it is supposed to reach we'll give it time to settle in some more and expand its territory a bit. It seems to play well with its nearest neighbors, the Kniphofias and looks really spectacular blooming alongside them. I'll have more pictures of the two together, most likely in my next post, so stop back again soon if you liked what you saw here!

Monday, June 25, 2007

First of the Summer Calendulas

Nothing really announces the arrival of the summer fire colour parade quite like Calendulas! Though I came relatively late (in the last four or five years) to appreciating the complexity of these unassuming beauties, I'm a diehard fan of them now. Though they're a little late to arrive this year (again, blame the April weather!), today I spotted the first open bloom and just had to capture it. There are a lot more just poised to carry on the show, but this lovely yellow one chose to take the starring role this weekend. Though it too, like the latest summer movie blockbuster, will have to cede the limelight at some point, thus allowing the others their chance at dazzling passersby. And honestly, I'd rather go Calendula watching than see most of what Hollywood hurls at our senses during the summer months! (Though I will admit to eagerly awaiting Michael Moore's new film SICKO, as well as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.)

Calendula officinalis is not an uncommon plant, but not one we see in too many gardens around town. As you'll see from the Wikipedia link above, Calendulas have more than an ornamental use in the garden ... whether as a tea, in salads or used as a topical ointment for skin problems. In fact, Tom's of Maine (makers of herbal organic toiletry items) even markets a quite nice Calendula deodorant that works really well. (LOL, no hints, just the facts....)

Growing Calendulas is really pretty simple, and they're another flower that we've happily allowed to reach weed status in the front garden, where they confine themselves pretty much to two separate areas at opposite ends of the boulder bed. When you plant the seeds, you'll need to get them in pretty early in the spring, ideally before the ground has warmed up much so they'll have plenty of time to mature, bloom and drop seed for subsequent years' flowers. Otherwise (and this applies especially to those in warmer climates --hey FAR!) you can sow them in the fall after frost but before the ground has frozen and they'll come up the following spring. Just let them progress through their cycle, cut a few if you want, but let them just form their seed heads and when they're dry in the fall, sometime before the snow flies (if you see snow), just break them up and scatter them around the area you'd like them to start colonizing. Though they never get truly invasive here, they do tend to congregate in their areas and come up thickly. You can, if you like, carefully transplant seedlings when they're about 2-3" tall to more appropriate places in the border. As long as they have mostly full sun and adequate water, they'll bloom profusely for you from about June to September, depending on the weather.

Long time readers may remember last year's Summer Sports post, which was devoted to how some of our orange Calendulas had mutated into multiple bloom sports. This is a phenomenon we've seen with several annuals in the garden ... not just calendulas, but celosias and just this past week one of the young Blanket Flower plants along the walk. (I'll be a doing a specific post on this one soon....) I'm anxious to see if we get any more multiple blooming (e.g. 6-8 flowers!) mutants in the orange ones this year, or if it was merely a one time aberration ... I'll keep you posted on that one!

Notes on the photos: Taken June 24, 2007 by IVG. The first shot is the début artiste in brilliant yellow ... the second is a bud soon to open, most likely an orange one ....

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gaillardia and Green Bee ....

This was a somewhat eventful weekend just past in our garden ... starting Thursday night (perfectly timed with getting off work) we had a few rather dramatic thunderstorms blow through, with strong wind gusts, torrential rains and even a bit of hail. Another bigger one came through at about the same time Friday, and though there was some significant tree and wind damage around town and in the county (there were even a couple of funnels in the counties just to the north and south of us) most of Casa y jardín IVG was spared any serious damage. Consequently, it's been cool and somewhat muggy the past two days ... too muddy to do much other than pull a few weeds and hope for a bit of sun to take some pictures of the current bloomers. Yesterday was totally gray and dispiriting, and today was little better, but we did go out late afternoon when there was a wee bit of sun and took the camera on a tour of the garden ... tonight's shot is just a really good one Fernymoss got of one of the green bees currently visiting the Blanket Flowers. I had been trying to catch one of these little guys myself at another plant and between the two of us we managed to get a few good shots of bee butts and this exceptionally good one where you can see the entire bee, rather than just the pollen laden posterior.

Later, while having some sandwiches on the porch, we were graced by a hummingbird who spent quite a bit of time feeding on the proliferous Bee Balm blooms still blazing away
out in the front bed. Alas, my mere Fuji Finepix isn't fast enough to catch these fleeting visits ... so you'll have to content yourselves with a green bee for tonight!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hibiscus 'Erin Rachel'

And now continuing with our impromptu stroll through the marvelous land of the Mallows, I'd like to introduce you all to Erin Rachel, the newest member of our hibiscus collection here at Casa IVG.

What a nice surprise waiting for me after work today ... the new hibiscus I bought recently has finally started to bloom again! I found this luscious tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Erin Rachel') back in May at a local garden center where it immediately caught my eye with its striking neon rings of colour. Though it wasn't cheap ($34!), I just had to have it. It only had one bloom on it at the time, but that was enough to convince me to plunk my money down and take her home with us. (And those regulars around here know that I'm a bit of a hibiscus freak at heart, so this should come as no surprise to them.)

Though it's not very tall yet, it's a fairly mature (though closely pruned) specimen that should grow nicely into a compact bush by the end of the summer. I've still not gotten around to repotting her, and I suspect that has had something to do with her hiatus from blooming the last month or so. Now a lot of buds are coming on, and she should produce flowers profusely as we move on into the hotter, sunnier months of summer. We gave her a feeding with a fish emulsion solution a couple of weeks ago (along with my other 'Brilliantissima' red hibiscus) and that seems to have had the desired effect. (A good feeding with fish emulsion solution about once a month seems to keep them quite happy.) Now I just need to move her to a larger, more attractive pot where she can really take off for the rest of the summer and beyond.

According to the information I've found on this new hybrid variety, it's relatively slow growing for a tropical hibiscus and is only supposed to reach 5-6' tall at maturity. That's actually somewhat short for these types of hibiscus that you see growing in profusion in Florida and other parts of the south. It is a member of the large Mallow family (like our perennial hibiscus, the Prairie Mallow, et. al.) but is far from hardy to our zone, so we'll be bringing this beauty inside when the weather gets colder. Tropical hibiscus such as these do quite well as houseplants over the winter, as long as you can provide them with a very sunny window (preferably south or east), adequate water and a decent level of relative humidity in the house. I kept our Brilliantissima red at the top of the stairs in front of a south window last winter and it bloomed pretty frequently even during the coldest months. And of course as soon as it's warm enough to take them back outside in the spring, they spend the summer basking in the sun and blooming their hearts out. We look forward to even more eye popping colour from Erin Rachel this summer ... so you'll probably be seeing more of her in the months to come.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wild Prairie Mallow

Over the last 8 years or so, Mallows of all sorts have taken up residence in our garden ... from the fantastically showy Hibiscus moscheutos species, to the common Hollyhocks (Malva sidalcea sp.), Malva sylvestris (Zebrina Mallow) to this plain, yet beautiful specimen we refer to as a wild Prairie Mallow. Though I've not been able to positively identify this particular species, the closest I've come is Sidalcea malviflora, or "Prairie Mallow," which appears to be quite similar to cultivars commonly grown in garden situations. In the link I've provided, the flowers and plants appear quite similar, though ours are much paler in hue than the photos Paghat provides in her post. She does note, however, that plants propagated from seeds often do not exhibit the deep pink of her specimen, which leads me to believe that what we have (in abundance!) has reverted to its more wild form, which is something that we particularly appreciate, given that we try to encourage native wildflowers in our garden and unless they become invasive, we leave them alone.

How we came by these particular Mallows is one of those fortuitous garden events ... perhaps instigated by fairies, or perhaps just by the winds or a passing bird. I think it was back in spring of 1999 that we first saw this plant coming up in the (then much smaller) front bed ... the seedling didn't look like a weed and we at first thought it might be a wild geranium. But as we let it grow and progress through its cycle, we quickly realized that we had some sort of wild Mallow on our hands. It displays the classic Mallow flower structure (five simple petals, distinctive veining, blooms in the pale pink range), and unlike most biennial Mallows (such as Hollyhocks) it appears to be truly perennial, with each parent plant returning the following year. For all intents and purposes, it might as well be classified as a perennial dwarf Hollyhock, due to the form of the flowers and the seed heads that develop later on in the season. We've found that if you're up for the task of deadheading, you can prolong bloom time very late into the season, but at the rate this plant blooms, that's a daunting task to say the least.

Wild Prairie Mallow does self-seed aggressively, so we've had to do some thinning out and passing plants along over the years, but even at its most invasive (which is really not that bad) it's usually a welcome addition to a spot where it happens to thrive. It blooms profusely and assumes a neat, bush-like form at maturity that is quite attractive, whether viewed from afar or up close. And the simplicity of the flowers themselves is somewhat deceptive ... the more you look at them up close, the more you realize that they are perfectly suited for propagating themselves successfully where they have chosen to grow. In short, we pretty much just let these Mallows do what they want, and unless they are crowding out some more highly prized species, we give them a wide berth in the garden. They're a perfect plant to let naturalize in less 'desirable' areas of the garden where you simply might want some color where little else will grow ... they're very tolerant of dry, hot conditions, thriving in blazing sun ... and they have no known pests (short of voracious rabbits who've been nibbling on ours this year!).

Wild Prairie Mallow probably isn't for the fussier gardeners out there due to its propensity to move around in the garden, but for those who like a wilder, more native look to areas in the border, they make a foolproof addition that provides a wealth of colour over the most brutal of hot summer months.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bee Balm

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) is perhaps one of our most popular garden stalwarts, and never fails to attract plenty of attention when it bursts into its full scarlet glory around this time every year. And it's not just the people who go for its brilliant flowers ... it's also a veritable hummingbird magnet, and if you have them in your neighborhood, you can expect many visits from them as long as it remains in bloom. You'll also see bees flocking to it, as well as butterflies, as it seems to constitute a valued food source for them.

One of my earliest posts here on Urban Oasis was devoted to this showy garden veteran, so I'll refer you there for more detailed growing notes. Suffice to say that once established, it's a tough, reliable species that makes itself quite at home in the garden, spreading gradually outward to form a larger stand of plants. Over time you'll want to divide it, not only to keep it confined a bit, but it also appreciates a bit of thinning out periodically to encourage more robust re-growth. We tend to give a fair amount away but have decided that this year, what divisions we make we are going to establish in other spots elsewhere in the garden, because you can never (to our minds) have too much Bee Balm, especially when it blazes into bloom in mid-June. When ours is in full sway, you can often see it from the opposite end of the block, it's that bright!

Notes on these photos courtesy of Fernymoss:

The first shot shows a partial view of the main stand of plants, though only about five or six were in bloom when these were taken on June 16, 2007. Since then quite a bit more have opened up and are spreading the red around the area.

The second close up is perhaps our favorite of this group of photos ... we think the top blooms look like baby birds demanding food ....

And just for a bit of contrast, the third shot shows what the bud looks like before it opens fully ... all tightly packed and ready to unfurl in the summer sun. Also note how the red has bled over into the foliage and veins, something we haven't really noticed in past years ... an interesting variation we'll be watching for in successive blooms.

Monday, June 18, 2007

More Poppies

We'd wanted to get a lot more done in the garden this weekend than actually happened ... and things were held back mostly by the arrival of an intense early summer blast of heat and stagnant air (e.g. no movement), but we still did get some good pics of flowers currently strutting their stuff in the front boulder bed.

Of course, these are more examples of Frank's Poppies, and since Fernymoss took pics while I watered last night, we actually got some with water droplets (bonus for Olivia there). The first shot gives a nice overview of what the whole bloom looks like when fully open ... very much peony shaped and just packed with layers of feathery petals. These particular poppies aren't the full-bore exhibitionists about their inner bits that their Oriental cousins are ... they're just a bit more demure, and well, Pink after all!

The second shot should give you a better idea of what the current crop of poppy party-goers looks like after a day or two of celebrating in the sun ... the inhibitions are down, general disrobing has begun, and in another day or so, nothing but the naked reminder will remain. Like peonies, these poppies live up to their fleeting appearance in the garden ... though they will bloom profusely for a week or two, they then get serious about their main item of business, which is producing the densely packed pod of seeds that will carry them through into the following year.

Oh, and they'll provide thousands of seeds to share with others who can give them a new home to colonize (which they will, trust me). The Calendulas and Zebrina Mallows are currently revving up to take their place in a few weeks, and when these are gone, to be replaced by Zinnias, which I just planted behind them tonight, along with a few Four O'Clocks. Though we're getting some of these seeds rather later than usual, I keep having to remind myself just how everything is still 2-3 weeks behind where it should be at this time. In a normal year, these poppies would have been finished and turning crispy by this point ... It continues to be a very interesting season, and we'll see how it turns out!

Photos courtesy of Fernymoss, taken June 16, 2007.

Coming soon! Everyone's favorite: Bee Balm!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Frank's Poppies

These are Frank's legendary Poppies, and those who are familiar with our garden already know these beauties well. And since we always refer to them as Frank's poppies, you know there is a story behind them ... you see, Frank is an elderly master gardener friend in our neighborhood who we've had the privilege and pleasure of knowing over the past seven years or so. He's getting up there now (he's 85 as of this spring), and though his passion for gardening has necessarily abated a bit due to age, he still has the most impressive and magnificent garden in the area by far!

His garden is renowned in the neighborhood, and often makes it on the gardening tours in the summer ... no wonder why, with his myriad species of blooming plants ... from the hundreds of tulips and other bulbs in the spring, to the numerous lilies, peonies, hibiscus, wisteria and other flowers in his garden, his garden is a true exemplar of what one can achieve over the years. It should come as no surprise to anyone that we have felt privileged to know him and he has served as one of the most powerful inspirations we've had to make our humble Urban Oasis what it is today ... and what we hope it will become in the future. In fact, Frank has really reinforced our central tenet of gardening philosophy: gardening is sharing. And share he does!

We got the original seeds for these poppies probably about five or six years ago. One day when we stopped by to pay him a visit, he mentioned that we didn't have any poppies in the garden, and that we should get some started. Of course we agreed, and as we were sitting there in his kitchen with him, he excused himself briefly, went down into his basement and returned with a two pound Quaker Oats container just full of poppy seeds that he had collected. He found an envelope and filled it with seeds, telling us to take them and make them grow for us ... that they were easy, beautiful peony type pink flowers that we'd be sure to enjoy. So we took them home and planted a bunch of them in various places in the newly started garden.

Here we are some six years later, and these wonderful late spring bloomers are still with us ... yes they have acheived weed status, and we couldn't be happier. We can always count on a veritable field of them to appear every spring, as well as renegade clumps that pop up in other places ... they have decisively staked out their territory and even if we were to ever want to get rid of them, we probably couldn't ... they will always appear somewhere in the garden. Which is as it should be for such delightful annual poppies. Though we're not sure about the particular variety, we do know that they are Papaver somniferum, a species that not only carries its obvious notoriety, but also demonstrates an amazing array of varieties of flower shapes and colours. Given its shape and colour, this variety is most likely one of the paeoniflorum subgroup, due to its resemblance to peonies. Like most annual poppies, they are notorious self-seeders, so if you're only toying with the idea of having them, you might want to reconsider, because no matter how much you may try to keep them from dropping seeds, it's ultimately a lost cause, though we certainly consider them a net gain! And for every person who comments on them and wonders if they are hard to grow, we usually send them home with a plentiful supply of seeds to try in their garden. We've certainly shared large quantities of seeds over the ensuing years, and we're always happy to see them blooming in someone else's garden ... and who knows how many others Frank has shared his with over the years ... they're a beautiful testimony to the generosity of a supremely masterful gardener that we hope will grace our neighborhood for many years to come.

Notes on the photos: taken June 13, 2007. These are the first two to open so far this year, and there will be many more to come soon, so I'll try to get a wider shot of the mass blooming when it occurs.

A brief housekeeping note: I just realized yesterday that Urban Oasis reached its one year mark, on June 11. I hope that those who've followed this humble blog over the last year have found pleasure in the beauty we try to capture in our garden, and have learned a thing or two as well. I had to laugh when I looked back at the very first post I made here, because so much has changed since I took those tentative first steps!

UPDATE: 6/14/07 11:50 p.m.
Fernymoss had the day off today and got a whole lot of poppy seeds planted out in the front boulder bed .... we finally got in the new ones: Danish Flag, Heirloom, and Peony White Cloud, as well as the last of "Thai Silk Fire Bush" California poppies we had left. So, give them a month or so and the front should just be bursting with poppies! Olivia and I have a bit of a competition going with the Danish Flag ones, since we're both planting them, so we'll see who can capture the best of the bits, hehe. (Though I don't really see it as much of a competition and am not betting on myself! LOL)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Weed Status

Earlier tonight, I was a bit disappointed that I didn't really have anything new to post, given the amount of weeding and planting activity going on around here in the past few days. We've spent most, if not all, of our energies getting areas of the boulder bed weeded so we can get the rest of the perennials and annuals in and haven't kept the camera as handy as it should have been. I toyed with the idea of doing a post on the theme of "what should be blooming now, but isn't" and raiding the archives. Then it occurred to me that I had taken a few shots of our enormous stand of Sea Holly (Eryngium sp.) last week while I was on vacation.

Though its blooms are still developing, these specimens have yet to begin the real "bloom period," in which those spiny looking umbels and their supporting bracts will take on a ghostly, pale gunmetal blue colour which will intensify for a few weeks, giving the whole stand of plants a hazy bluish glow in the sunshine. It's a really unusual look unique to Eryngium (as best I know), and though it's often mistaken for a kind of thistle, it's far from it! For those who know the genus, it's a prized garden specimen, and it's one that we've had in various places over the years in the garden. A few years ago, the original plant was starting to look rather poorly in the back corner bed, but had spread a bit, so we transplanted a few of the young plants to a more spacious and sunny location out in the front, where we thought it would add some rather odd interest.

Well suffice to say, it has positively thrived in its new location ... so much so that it has now achieved what we call weed status in the front garden. Now, though that may sound harsh to say, weed status is something we actually try to encourage certain plants to achieve in the garden. Usually it's an annual we really like (such as Moss Rose, Imagination Verbena, Calendula, California Poppy and Bells of Ireland) that we want to naturalize (and not have to purchase or plant every year), and we've had great success with some species. You'll be seeing a lot of them in the coming months here, so keep the term in mind.

As for the perennials, the two who have really excelled have been the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) which will be blooming very soon, as well as our featured plant today, the now ubiquitous Sea Holly. This year it takes the crown for most enthusiastic self-seeding perennial, and though we hate to have to go after it, that's what we're having to do at this point (as you can see from the photos above). They have enthusiastically taken over most of the space in front of "Finger Rock," where we'd like to have a few other things peeking through, which is about all they can do at this point. Sometimes success with certain plants can be a challenge of its own, but there's no chance that we will ever truly try to eradicate this beauty ... we just need to keep it under control so it can shine in its own unique way. Though we have given away (smaller) extras in the past, they have progressed so far this year that we've decided for now to let this crop have its way while it's blooming and then thin it out a bit. We'd like to give away some of these plants, but even though Eryngium doesn't really care much for being transplanted, (due to its central tap root) it can be done, as long as the recipient is willing to lavish lots of extra care on the new plant until it gets re-established. So, we may decide to lop off the spent blooms from a few and find them new homes this summer, and for the rest, we will let them just go through their cycle as nature intended. One thing though, we do plan on collecting lots of seeds in the late summer, as they are very easy to get started from seed and plants propagated that way usually bloom in their second year.

If you should decide to plant Sea Holly at some point in your garden, I'd recommend letting it self-seed freely for several years, as the parent plants are sometimes rather short-lived, so if you want it to return every year, some encouragement of weed status is actually a very good idea. No matter what, this is a plant that will draw many puzzled comments and questions from passersby, many of whom worry that it is a thistle we need to get rid of ... to which we always reply, 'No, it's actually a relatively rare plant to this area ... isn't it just lovely?' Most of the time people seem to buy this explanation, except for the garden variety gardeners more inclined to petunias, impatiens, dusty miller, geraniums and the like. I think those sorts are kind of like Republicans: we'll never win them over. But we're not budging on our beloved Sea Holly ... it's here to stay, weed status or not!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Weed and Seed (and Weed Again!)

Well, today was (yet) another weed and plant day in the garden, though I didn't accomplish as much as I had hoped due to the off and on threat of rain, which ultimately never materialized in other than a few light showers. We did get the "Black Magic" Elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta) planted into a big pot with purple sweet potato vines (Ipomoea batata). These are plants you'll be hearing more about as they grow larger over the course of the summer.

I feel like we're really behind getting things in this year, and in a sense we are ... yet as I looked back into last year's archives to find these photos for tonight, I could clearly see just how far ahead everything else was at this time last year. That cold blast for three weeks in April really did put a big damper on the regular cycle of our garden denizens this year.
No matter, since the planting has yet to be finished this year (as it will surely be within a week at the latest), I decided to just go with the flow and proceed as we usually do and what the garden will be this year is what it will be.

The photos here are from last year (July 1 and August 25, 2006, respectively) and are adult blooming specimens of two kinds of seeds I got planted today. The first is the lovely, ubiquitous (deliciously so!) California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and though it's not back as profusely as usual, we had some leftover seed as well as a new variety ("Thai Silk Fire Bush") we purchased from a seed vendor this year. We're really looking forward to the new variety, because it promises to introduce a nice, fiery red hue into the mix with the other California poppies we have ... so stay tuned to see those when they come into bloom.

The second is the not too commonly planted, but still eye-popping "Blue Enchantment" Convolvulus (Convolvulus tricolor). This cultivar is often referred to as "Bush Morning Glory" because it has less of a vining tendency than its cousins and more of a mounding, creeping growth habit. In our garden (perhaps because they usually get in a bit later than other seeds) they tend to really come into their own in the late summer months, and these particular mounds bloomed last year right up until frost, when they still had buds forming on them.

Friday's projects are more of the same ... weed an area, seed that area, plant annuals here and there ... so much to do as the summer starts its inevitable wind up! I'm particularly eager to get several new annual poppy varieties planted ... "Danish Flag" and "Heirloom," two striking examples we also purchased this year for the first time ... we also got a free pack of "White Cloud Peony Poppy" seeds with our order, and we're going to mix those in with the Pink Peony ones we always have every year (and for those who know our garden, those are fondly referred to as "Frank's Poppies," due to the master gardener who first gave them to us years ago). We're also seriously considering moving our Oriental (perennial) poppies from the back corner (where they've been getting overwhelmed by other growth the past few years) to more prominent places in the front garden ... so as you can surmise, there's a helluva lot more work to be done around here! And I'll keep regular readers posted on all the blooming events as they occur ... Now, time for you to get out, get your hands dirty and bring some blooming into your little corner of the universe!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Well, today was a very busy day in the garden, and fortunately Fernymoss was able to get these shots in the morning before we started working in earnest. This is one of our three Rue plants (Ruta graveolens) that have long been part of the front boulder bed.

Again, it's one of those foundation plants I referred to in last night's post on Yarrow. We felt it was a must have herb, not just due to its historical, magical and medicinal value, but simply because we really think the grey-green foliage
brings a unique texture to the gardenscape. And as such, I fear we often overlook this erstwhile perennial in favor of its flashier neighbors. Last night, when thinking about what I could find to post today, it occurred to me that I was being a bit of a dunderhead because we had three lovely specimens of Rue blooming their hearts out ... so priority number one today was to get a few pictures of them to show what a unique plant this is.

As perennials go, Rue is about as carefree as they come, once it has been well established its first year in the border. It's hardy over a wide range, down to Zone 4 at least (and perhaps beyond), it has no natural pests (in fact it attracts beneficial insects, beetles and wasps that are protective of your other garden plants) and it thrives in rather poorish soil. It also has a restrained propensity to self-seed judiciously, which is another pleasant advantage. This particular specimen came from a seedling that came up at the base of the rocks back in 2004, where we thought it looked natural enough, so we left it there. Further, in milder winters, Rue will even stay evergreen through much of the winter ... All you really need to do in the spring is just cut back the dead foliage and let it go through its cycle once again. It prefers full sun, is not picky about soil, and is remarkably drought and cold tolerant. You couldn't ask much more of such a lovely herb that will grace your perennial border for many years.

I alluded to its herbal value when I began here, and though I don't really know a whole lot about it other than what Fernymoss has told me and what I've found in the precious few online sources I've read about this plant. A Modern Herbal, one of the classics of herbalism, has a pretty good summary of its history and uses in case you're interested in learning more about Rue. Apparently it has the reputation of being "the bitterest herb," surpassing even Wormwood, so it's not exactly something you'd want to put in your salad at dinner ... though the ancient Romans were said to have done this and supposedly even some modern Italians make it part of their salads. Given its bitter reputation, though, I think I'll stick to nasturtium flowers in mine, thank you.

Notes on the photos taken June 6, 2007, courtesy of Fernymoss:
The first shot is of the entire plant at the boulder base just beside the walk leading up to the house. The second is a detail of part of the same plant ... the third is a very close close up detail. I think you'll agree ... it has most fascinating inner bits that remind me more than a little of the movie

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Achillea millefolium ,or common White Yarrow, along with its more colourful cousins, generations ago became a standard herb in many gardens, grown both for its ornamental value as well as its wide range of applications within herbal medicine. Used both in teas and herbal compresses, Yarrow is reputed to treat all sorts of ailments both internal and external ... from blood spitting, to colic to, shall we say, afflictions of the internal orifices. Click on the links above if you want to learn more about its various and sundry uses ....

Of course we've never tried any of those but it's good to know we have it around in case it should be needed! We grow it purely for its ornamental value and have both the white and red varieties of millefolium growing in several places around the garden, as well as the yellow Achillea ageratifolia, which is often found dried and used in arrangements.

To my mind, Yarrow is one of those foundation plants you put down when you start organizing a garden ... it's an attractive, sturdy and remarkably hardy plant that loves to naturalize freely. And as such, it's a good idea to divide your Yarrow clumps every few years so as to keep it from entirely dominating one area of the perennial border.
The white variety pictured here is an especially enthusiastic colonizer (which came from a small clump given to me by another gardener in 2004), and we really need to go at this one soon and divide it.

I guess it's one of those thin and pass along plants we always have every year, the ones who are too numerous, but too valued to just pull them up and relegate them to the compost. It seems we have an ever increasing number of these types of plants (Coneflowers, Sea Holly, Yarrow, Bee Balm, etc.) these days, which I suppose is some kind of testimony to their (and our) success. It's nice, though, to see our front garden starting to mature as a somewhat cohesive project. And the fact that in addition to the usual weeds we have to deal with, there are also desirable, useful and beautiful plants who are ready for new homes. And if we don't happen to get them all new homes or get them moved, they get to foster yet another year in the garden, just in time for next year's donations.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Further Decadent Decrepitude

Well here's the view for today folks, and as you can see, it ain't pretty! Of course, that does depend on one's aesthetic sense, but I can easily see this view delighting one of my all time favorite characters in French literature, Des Esseintes ... the infamous "hero" of Joris-Karl Huysmans' bible of Decadence, Against Nature. Without revealing too much of the book (see the Wikipedia link for more), suffice to say that being the ultimate decadent aesthete he is, Des Esseintes devotes a period of his explorations to collecting bizarre and artificial looking plants, and though I'd have to go back and check to make sure, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Dracunculus vulgaris figures among the items in the catalogue he creates to document his "research."

Somehow the shot I got tonight reminds me vaguely of a rather withered cobra who's lost most of his sass. Or it could be the back end of some creature ... or any number of things not so pleasant to contemplate. What do you see? Let me know in the comments if the thought so moves you.

Photo taken June 4, 2007.

I did a little more research out of curiosity as to whether the Arum was referenced in Against Nature and found that the entire text of the novel is available online (links to English and French below). Though Huysmans doesn't cite Dracunculus specifically, he does reference the Arum family (and I wonder if Dracunculus was even in common cultivation back in 1884, but that's a dissertation topic I'm not going to pursue at this moment). The relevant paragraphs are quoted below, though if you're curious enough to read the entire chapter on bizarre plants, make sure to jump to Chapter VIII in the online text. Huysmans' stylistic renderings probably aren't for everyone, but if you've ever been curious about what "Decadent" literature was all about, you owe it to yourself to read at least a few chapters of this truly seminal late 19th Century French novel.

It was the Anthurium, one of the arum family, recently imported from Colombia; it formed part of a section of the same family to which also belonged an Amorphophallus, a plant from Cochin China, with long black stalks seamed with scars, like a negro's limbs after a thrashing.

Des Esseintes' cup of joy was brimming over.

PS to Manny. If you read all the way through the chapter, the linkage with venereal disease is made surrealistically (and hilariously, I might add) explicit. After all, it all comes down to syphilis... Or so Des Esseintes said!

Common Indian Blanket Flower

Though lots of flowers in the front garden are still revving up for their summer showings, these wonderfully cheerful little guys have already started their engines and are well on the way to their usual summer-long bloom season. Though they may be a rather humble native wildflower in these parts, (the commonly called Indian) Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia aristata) make a wonderfully showy and carefree addition to practically any garden.

They have a lot going for them: they're incredibly tolerant of drought and poor soil conditions (in which they positively thrive), they bloom practically non-stop from May till frost, and they naturalize freely (almost too much so at times) even under the harshest of conditions. Oh, and they're bee and butterfly magnets as well! The fact that they're incredibly pretty is just a bonus ... I started with a packet of seeds about six years or so ago and every example of this flower to be found in the various areas of our garden descends from that original pack of seeds. To my mind, there's no easier perennial to start in your garden from seeds and given just a minimum amount of attention the first year (e.g. good sun and regular waterings), they'll happily start popping up all over the place ... we've even had them grow in the cracks of the driveway and sidewalk. As such an eager naturalizer, it's probably best to decide what areas you want them to populate in case they get a bit too rambunctious ... but in the years we've grown them, we've never had a problem with giving extra ones away to other gardeners, because they are that easy to get to thrive in truly poor conditions. A few years back I felt they were getting a bit too enthusiastic and decided that I wanted to keep them relatively confined to an area along the sidewalk, so I just dug up all the "inconvenient" ones and gave them away. Now I almost wish I had been a bit less harsh on them, so I'm just letting them grow at will at this point so they can rebuild their presence in other places.

Gaillardia is incredibly hardy, and will grow happily from Zones 3-8, which makes them an attractive choice for a wide range of gardening conditions. All they ask is for a generous amount of sun, preferably a poorish soil (they will even grow in sand!), some room to spread and a little extra attention when you are getting them established. They will bloom profusely all summer long and respond well to deadheading (if you can keep up with them!), but if you don't have the time, they will still reward you amply for your efforts. They also self-seed with a vengeance, so if you're worried about them spreading too rapidly, deadheading is a must in that situation. The seed heads remind me a lot of the dandelion's tactic... they form dense clusters of seeds, each with its own little cottony tuft on the top of a little triangular seed that resembles an arrowhead. As such, they are easily carried by the wind, and when they fall, they naturally point right into the ground where they will likely sprout the following season. I've always thought they had an ingenious seeding strategy, which accounts for their easy dispersal and propensity to populate areas far away from the parent plant.

For those who (like us) prefer to include as many native plants as possible in the garden, Gaillardia is a must have plant that blends well with ornamental grasses, Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Mallows, and other prairie natives. This particular clump has some large purple clover (which just moved in from somewhere) as a companion, and the two look really natural together. And if you're a fan of photographing bees and butterflies, you'll never want for occasions to find one or the other feeding or taking a rest on a blanket flower, as they're very popular destinations for both insects.

In recent years, Gaillardia seems to have undergone a resurgence of interest among gardeners and many new hybrids have been introduced just in the last couple of years. I've not grown any of the newer hybrids (and there are some stunning examples among them!), preferring to stay as close to the native as possible, but I may branch out a bit in the future, just to give them a try. Though I can't confirm it myself, I suspect that the more hybridized versions are probably less prone to overspreading their bounds, as many hybrid cultivars tend to be less aggressive than their breeding stock. In any case, just pick up any good seed or plant catalogue and take a look... you'll find that Gaillardia comes in a wide array of colour combinations and there's sure to be one to your liking. For now though, I'm sticking with the tried and true Gaillardia aristata, which exhibits an amazing degree of variation itself from flower to flower. Oh, and yes, they make a durable cut flower in the vase as well. I often combine them with Zinnias later in the summer, which is a wonderful combination of flower types and range of pure fire colours.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Intrepid Fly

Just a bit of reminiscing of the glory days (all 4 of em!) of the Dragon arum bloom. This shot was taken the first day, when the flies were swarming it and going all gaga over its delectable aroma. As you've seen in the previous post, it doesn't quite look this way today, but I really liked the perspective Fernymoss got here on the whole "runway" aspect of the bloom (and yes, it was cropped to make it look this way). To my biased eye, it looks a lot like a Dalí landscape with a solitary figure (and there are many of those) or perhaps some isolated frame from an early Buñuel film... but that's just the innate surrealist in me, and for others, it may evoke very little ... though the other thing that occurred to me was some cryptic shot from The Twilight Zone where a lonely figure gets caught between light and dark. Either way, this fly looks on to his destination with a bit of trepidation I think ... hard to say if he made it all the way, but we sure hope so.

We want to see that weird seed pod/cob that it is prone to producing ... when/if it happens, you'll see it first here!

Photo courtesy of Fernymoss, edited by IVG, taken May 30, 2007.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Flaming Inner Poppy Bits

This morning, I thought I'd put another quick example of the Papaver orientalis inner bits up just to show another view of just how colourful and complex these short-lived blooms are in the garden. Though the focus isn't perfect in this shot, what really wowed me about this particular picture is how the petals look like a virtual wall of flames behind the landing pad in the foreground. The only thing that could have improved this one is if Fernymoss had been able to capture a bee at work on the pollen, but as any photographer of flower details can attest, the ideal shot comes but rarely in the real world. (Unless your name happens to be Olivia!) And much as with the enterprise of gardening itself, some days you just have to content yourself with what you have at hand in a given season, which in itself is a powerful creator of memories ... signposts along a natural cycle that with careful observation, imprints itself in one's mind.

Photo courtesy of Fernymoss, taken May 30, 2007

Postscript: The Ottawa Senators won 5-3 tonight in Anaheim against the Ducks! (Who could root for a team called the Ducks totally escapes my comprehension...) They're back in the running for the Stanley Cup and let's hope the Sens can come from behind! I know it would mean a great deal to a lot of Canadians in Ottawa to reclaim the Cup after some 80 years. Best of luck to the Sens on Tuesday!!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Party's Over ....

Yesterday I was a bit dismayed to go out and see that the Dragon Arum had begun to look a little droopy, as the "petal" was sagging down a bit ... I thought at first perhaps the heavy rains in the morning had caused it to bend down a bit. But upon closer inspection, I began to think that the bloom just isn't very long-lived ... a suspicion that was definitively confirmed when I looked out this morning.

Indeed, the party's over for this part of the cycle! You need see nothing more than the pictures I'm posting here tonight ... yep, this bloom is done spent. Flaccid, indeed. Laughably obscene I'd even say! But it still remains fascinating, even if we are a bit disappointed that it barely lasted a mere five days after all the dramatic build up since it emerged earlier this spring. So now that everything has done its seductive show and partied till it dropped, the real work of the plant is just beginning. We can already see that the base of the bloom, which obviously contains the ovaries, is swelling more, clearly preparing the next phase of its yearly cycle ... the equally bizarre seed pod.

What's also remarkable about the number of changes this flower has gone through since the beginning of the week, is that the colours have evolved on an almost daily basis... from starting a deep red, then to maroon, purple and now a muddy mixture of all of them ... I suppose one could analogize that the bloom has gone from its party best dress, on to some bacchanalian excesses and now complete and utter exhaustion has set in.

I hate to keep bringing up the blatant sexuality of this flower, but honestly ... what else comes to mind when you see what was once a boldly erect spadix wind up looking like this a mere two days after it was in its crowning glory? We just hope that all those flies who just days ago were flocking to it have done their work for the season and that the plant will be able to successfully complete its reproductive cycle for the year. And you can be sure that if we are able to harvest any viable seeds, they won't be long to find a home near the parent in the garden!

Photos Courtesy of Fernymoass, taken June 2, 2007

False Indigo

When we first saw a specimen of False indigo (Baptisia australis) blooming outside a local nursery almost ten years ago, we had no idea what it was, but thought it looked like some weird bush version of a Sweet Pea (a flower we try in vain to grow with little success). We were so taken by the dramatic tall stalks of blue flowers that we decided then and there that we had to have this plant in our garden, which was just in its infancy back in 1999. So, we inquired inside as to what it was and were lucky enough to be able to buy a specimen to take home with us. The ones for sale were small, only about five inches tall at the time, so we bought two just in case they didn't like where we planted them.

The first year they didn't grow much at all, but as we were to discover later (after some research) most of its activity was spent growing underground. So we had to content ourselves with making sure it was well pampered the first year and then waited patiently until the next spring to see if it would return. Return it did, and though it wasn't huge its second year, it did put up several spires of flowers, much to our delight! In successive years, it has increased in size and area and at this point usually grows to a bush size of about four to five feet in diameter once it has finished blooming. One of the (many) interesting things about False Indigo is that when it emerges in the spring, the shoots look like giant asparagus tips poking out of the ground ... but these soon turn into the stalks that will carry the leaves and flowers for each year's blooms. This year, unfortunately due to the April freezes, it hasn't gotten very big at all, and we wondered if it would bloom at all ... but in the last week or so it has put up a limited number of bloom spires and made a good effort to provide its usual late spring show. It won't be as big as it usually gets, but that's fine, just as long as it's happy enough to continue blooming for us!

It's really a pretty easy and showy perennial to grow, and it has the great advantage of not having garnered a great deal of popularity with garden variety gardeners. We see a bit of it here and there around town (some of which has come from this original plant that we've spread around a bit), but it certainly hasn't achieved the kind of common presence that other perennials have. It has a great hardiness range from Zones 3 to 10, and is tolerant of both wet and dry soils, and in the spot where we have it planted, it definitely wins awards for being very drought tolerant, as the soil is not too rich and dries out quickly.

After the blooms are spent, each one produces a seed pod that matures to a charcoal coloured hue, and if you're planning on collecting seeds, you should let them dry on the plant until you can hear the seeds rattling around inside. If you do nothing, the pods will eventually pop open and the seeds fall to the ground, where, if left to over winter, will often produce new plants the following spring. We've allowed a few of the younger plants to remain in place, but since we have gotten so many compliments on this magnificent flower, we usually just dig them up and give them away to someone we know will give them the love and attention they need the first year in order to return and reward the lucky recipient with its beauty in the following years.

Once established, False Indigo is virtually maintenance free, except for the need to cut back the dead growth in the spring before it re-emerges. It's not fussy about the soil, and actually seems to thrive in poorish soils ... all the while enriching them, since it does belong to the legume family. And once the pods have set on, the foliage makes a great filler for flower arrangements (as does that of peonies, by the way). I've read that some people use the pods in dried arrangements, but we've never considered them attractive enough for that use ... besides, they'd eventually pop open and drop their seeds indoors, where any chances for them to germinate would be practically nil. If you should choose to plant this outstanding plant in your perennial garden, my suggestion would be to just let it do its thing and progress through its annual cycle. If you do, you'll be rewarded for years to come from this sturdy and gorgeous plant.

Note on the photos: The first two are from Spring 2006, which was a better year for this plant, and the third is from May 30, 2007, showing the less robust growth it's had this year. Next year we hope it will be back to its usual height and floriferous abundance.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Papaver Strip-teaseuse

After a long day of steady rain yesterday, it looks like we're in for another round today ... Now, I'm usually not one to complain about rain, being the gardening soul that I am, but we're really in need of a break right now. The ground is more than saturated, and we're looking at a serious chance of flash flooding Friday. Though our neighborhood is in no imminent danger, the Raccoon River (infamous from the 93 flood) has been at, or over flood stage at Fleur Drive for a few days now, so it looks like a wet weekend coming up.

We're way behind in the spring planting and we have veggies, perennials and seeds screaming to be put in the ground! So, I'm taking a much-needed week of vacation away from work this coming week and there's way more than I think I can do, but somehow, we always manage to pull it together. Wish us luck in the coming days!

The Dragon Arum featured yesterday continues to wow us and everyone else who sees it, and I can report today that the rotten roadkill stench has largely dissipated already. We're almost disappointed about that, but at least we don't have to worry about keeping the dining room windows open! In an interesting development, the maroon/red cowl has morphed into a deep shade of purple now and we're seeing more changes down near the base of the bloom, where it has lightened up a bit in coulour. It is indeed an amazing plant that continues to make us marvel each day at its complexity ... I'll have more of it to show very soon, though today looks like it will be a bad day for getting any new photos.

So ... today's treat is one of our Papaver species we have planted in the back garden. This is a specimen of Papaver orientalis (Oriental poppy), though I've long forgotten the variety we planted. It's a spectacular large blooming perennial poppy that produces several brilliant orange flowers each year who, unfortunately, usually suffer the same fate as peonies... just as it bursts into bloom, rains come to strip the petals away post haste ... so we savor this one quickly because it never lasts long.

So, in honor of my dear friend Olivia (who needs a bit of cheering up due to recent Stanley Cup losses), I thought I'd put up a poppy "striptease." This series begins with this shy beauty's chaste, fan-like pose in the breeze ... only to progress to a bit more of the "tease" part as she warms to the gaze of the camera ... then undulates right up to her shameless exhibitionist pose of her delicious, yet guarded, inner bits.

Funny thing, isn't it, that for these flowers, it's all about the sex? And how each species approaches the reproductive deed in different ways, employing diverse ruses to attract just the right insects to make sure that they can endure in future seasons ... bees are more than happy to oblige most species, but for others (such as the Arum) nothing less than a carrion fly will do. Not that I lie awake at night pondering the sex lives of flowers, but it has always been a source of wonder for me to contemplate all the various tactics flowers use to make sure they retain their place in the garden they call home.

Photos courtesy of Fernymoss, taken on May 30, 2007.