Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Late July Firepower

It seems only fitting that some of our fieriest flowers really get going during one of the hottest months of the year around here, so tonight I thought I'd share a few, along with a bonus bug. The first two shots are of one of the many Calendula ('Pot Marigold') we have here and there in the boulder bed out front. Fernymoss originally introduced me to Calendula, and I've been hooked ever since, especially since they're such great self-seeders. Once you've grown them successfully one year, just let them drop their seed (or spread it around as we do), and you're virtually guaranteed that they'll be back the following year. What's also nice is that their seedlings don't resemble any kind of weed (at least to me) and make me think more of emerging lettuce seedlings, though they quickly get hairier and grow much taller (topping out at about 18-24 inches). For us, they usually start blooming in late May or early June, and just keep going right on till frost ends their season. And, as I've noted in a few previous posts, Calendulas cross-pollinate freely and produce some rather interesting sports and mutants....

Fernymoss says that the beetle on the Calendula is called a "Spotted Cucumber Beetle," which I suppose might pose some threat to cucumbers, but alas, we couldn't find the variety we usually plant this year, so we have none for it to pester.
Calendula has a long, fascinating history of cultivation that dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, and has continued up to this day. It has been used in medicines, dyes and more importantly today, it's still used in many preparations destined for skin care. Tom's of Maine's natural toiletries even has a Calendula based deodorant that Fernymoss likes very much. (He's a bit of an amateur herbalist, which is why he wanted to plant these originally.) I also have seen a lot of lotions that contain Calendula as an ingredient, so its cultivation for therapeutic uses appears as popular as ever.

And in case you didn't know, Calendula is the true Marigold, so what one usually thinks of when one hears Marigold are the French varieties, which are an entirely different species of plant. I've never tried growing them in pots, but according to what I've read (and its popular name), it's an entirely workable proposition that could be really cost effective and pretty if you're limited on sunny spots or funds ... seeds are gardening on the super cheap, but you just have to be a little more diligent getting them going. I think I'll try some in pots next year, just to have them move around a bit more in the garden.
I took these last two shots on July 17, just as these Rudbeckias started blooming. Then every time I got out and about town, I couldn't help but see that they had conspired with all their area cousins to burst into bloom all at once. What a lovely sight it has been to see them sharing the sun with Coneflowers and other sorts of plants (Lilies, Cleome, etc.) in others' gardens around town. What's not to love about these sturdy, reliable sun lovers? I'd like to hear at least one horror story about them ... I have a feeling I'll be waiting a while for that....
Here's a larger view of this particular clump, and they're leaning every which way in the late afternoon sun, looking oh so wild and happy where they are, in some of the poorest soil on our property along the fence line we share with our neighbor's driveway. Though I've probably mentioned this before, it bears repeating: they're great clay busters, and the ones we planted several years ago in our neighbor's (the one who gave us the boulders) flower beds are doing just fine and blooming their hearts out too. And, to be honest, in his beds, they get less than no attention at all and are thriving in the very heavy clay he used to fill in his garden terraces. (To paraphrase Mr. T, "We pity the fool who willingly filled that all in with clay ... just because it was free!")

I'm still tapping my foot and getting a bit impatient for the perennial hibiscus to start blooming, but I just keep reminding myself how everything is 2-3 weeks behind this year due to the exceptionally long winter and rough spring we had this year. Yesterday, Shady Gardener told me in a comment that she had heard that Iowa has already surpassed its normal annual rainfall ... and it's only late July! Given all the rough spots we've had this year at Casa IVG, I'd say things are looking pretty good around here, though as is typical, there are some really unkempt and wild spots we still need to address. Once the brutal dew points (at one point today it was 78! Positively tropical!) and heat we've had the past few weeks lets up, we'll be able to dig in a bit more to tidy things up. I know that's what I'll be doing for at least a little bit this weekend if it doesn't rain again....

Why am I such a fan of fiery colors in my favorite flowers? The answer is simple, so I'm told: I'm a 'clumped up' Leo according to a chart Fernymoss did a few years ago, which basically means I have tons of planets clustered around me on the chart. I guess that's unusual, and Fernymoss would have to explain, but I'm apparently a Leo's Leo in astrological terms. Thus the sunny flower and general color predilection, I suppose.

Oh yeah, and Old Man Time just bitch-slapped me one more time just before I posted this, lol.


Roses and Lilacs said...

I'm not a Leo, but I agree. Pastel colors are perfect for cool, misty spring weather. Bright, hot colors just seem to go best with hot summer days.

Next year I want clumps of rudbeckia all over my yard. Every year I appreciate its easy care, long bloom time more than ever.

FARfetched said...

Hey, what's the point of having flowers if not for the colors, right?

I use the same deodorant, the unscented variety. It's the only thing I've found in the local supers that doesn't have aluminum in it. I sweat all over in the summer anyway, so shorting out my pits seems like a waste of effort.

Annie in Austin said...

Felicitations of the day to you, IVG! A few years ago there was an article on horticultural astrology by Greg Polkosnik with Zinnia Zowie Yellow Flame assigned to your Leo.

I grew calendula last WINTER - along with other "winter annuals" like pansies. Weird, no? I read somewhere that the "pot" in pot marigold referred to its use in the ever-present pot of soup that was kept simmering. The cooks threw in calendula leaves for color, flavor and extra nutrition.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Shady Gardener said...

You inspired me to purchase a Coreopsis (not a leggy one, however) not long ago. I purchased "Nana" that is only to get 6-8" tall with a much wider spread... for this side of the top of the Sunny Corner. ;-) They are absolutely beautiful. I like how Moonbeam spreads around... I may gather a few seeds to sprinkle in this bed!

Dirty Fingernails said...

My rudy's are blooming as well. Along with my echinacea's in all their varieties. I just love yellow flowers. Thanks for sharing

boran2 said...

Those calendua are gorgeous, and the photos would make Olivia proud. Nice critter on that flower.

My only yellowish plant is a large clump of achillea which are is falling all over itself. I'll need to stake it again.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
Yep, I'm all about those hot colors ... just wait until the next round of my 'Sun Showers' and 'Erin Rachel' tropical hibiscus and things will be blazing.

As for the Rudbeckias, here's an idea: buy some bulk seed now, scope out the spots where you want them (in sun) and sow them liberally in the fall. You could also throw in some Larkspur for earlier blue... I've been wanting to do such a planting for a couple of years, but last year's winter came so early and stayed so late, I didn't get it done.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey FAR, you know me well since you've been around here a while (happily), so that should come as no surprise, eh?

All the Tom's products I've used over the years were very good, I thought. But only the basics, deodorant, soap and toothpaste, you know, the guy basics. :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Annie!
And humble thanks. I'm going to check out that link, and nice that I'd get a bright Zinnia for a flower!

Winter annuals in this zone, as you know, is a tough idea to wrap one's mind around, but makes perfect sense for where you are now. Do yours self-seed and just come up at different times or you just planted them? I didn't know that story about the pot component ... further proof of the long held value of this plant! Yay, Calendulas!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey Shady,
Wow, I didn't scare you away? LOL Those smaller varieties sound like the way to go, and I've heard good things about Moonbeam, so maybe if I run across those I'll get one.

I want another perennial hibiscus (my obsession), and Fernymoss asked where it would go. My plan is to get the coreopsis out and plant one of the newer bushier strains in it's place. Hehe, then I'll have 3 of them plus a butterfly bush and a few other things in that bed.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Dirty Fingernails,
You're most welcome ... sharing garden color is the least one can do! Thanks for stopping by!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Yo, B2 ...
I'm not so sure about that, but thanks for the props! We were glad to find out it was just a cucumber beetle, not a japanese beetle.

Ack, I've had it with that upright yarrow. I've been walking on it lately because we're done, lol. That stuff's getting pulled when we clean out that bed. Now, we really like the creeping ferny foliaged red yarrow (and we have the weedy white too), which is well worth growing.

Yellow yarrow ... I'm just not into you anymore. Bye.

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