Despite the cooler weather today, I didn't get much done outside, in part because I had tons of laundry to do (and hang out), and by the time that was done (around 6:00 pm!) I had run out of what little steam I started the day out with ... plus, my arthritis has been really bad of late (e.g. high humidity!) and is only starting to ease up a bit. With a little luck and cooler temperatures in store for this week, I'm hopeful I'll get at least some minor tasks (weeding is not minor, but oh well...) done after work, which is slated to be very busy this week as well, so I remain ever hopeful I'll find some time.
So again, excuse the hodge podge nature of this post ... I just wanted announce the arrival of bloom time for the Hibiscus and Zinnias, and provide a peek at what's currently coming into prime time. First off, you can see the backside of a 'Blue River' bloom, something we both find fascinating due to its structure and just plain cool look. 'Blue River' is one of my all time favorite Hibiscus due to its simplicity. Pure white with hints of the slightest bit of yellow in the center, and lines that seem so crisply drawn, that they alone add interest to this prolific bloomer. Currently I need to get it staked back up to display it properly, so be patient, that will happen in a day or so!
This is a 'Disco Belle' variety that I planted a few years ago ... unfortunately there wasn't a tag with the proper variety (it simply said "Hardy Hibiscus," lol), but it's definitely one of the 'Disco Belles.' What distinguishes them from the older varieties of Hibiscus moscheutos, is that they don't grow as tall as say, 'Lord Baltimore' or 'Blue River' hibiscus. They have a much bushier habit and this one never gets much bigger than 3-4 ft over the season, but is also a very prolific bloomer. I like the gradations of color in this variety because, aside from its brilliant red center, there's a lot of variation among the flowers with regard to the extent of the pink coloring. Like all hardy Hibiscus, this one requires very little attention other than an occasional watering during dry spells, and cutting back the dead growth in early spring before it emerges again.
As a general rule, I'm not a real fan of hybridized perennial varieties (look what they've done to the Coneflowers and Gaillardia species of late to see why!), but in this case, I really like how breeders have tinkered with the newer hybrids on the market now, such examples of 'Kopper King' (which isn't exactly new) 'Disco Belle' and 'Luna' hibiscus ... They've addressed a key problem with the older varieties who grow to impressive heights, but are so prone to being blown or beaten down by hard rains and high winds. These newer members of the family may not be as tall, but they fare much better in such weather with much less fussing to keep them staked up properly. (That's my only gripe with 'Blue River' which is why I want to get one of the smaller 'Blue River II' ones.) Anyway, you readers can look forward to much more of these beauties in the near future around here, as it's prime time Hibiscus now until probably October!
Mother Nature, who lives in Tennessee, mentioned in a comment to yesterday's post that her neighbor grows a 'Confederate Rose' hibiscus, which was a new one for me. At first I thought she was talking about the annual variety Hibiscus acetosella, 'Red Shield,' but apparently they are two very different species as the links above demonstrate. We wanted to try 'Red Shield' this year, but didn't get any seeds, so that will have to wait until next year, but it looks like a more than acceptable compromise for those who can't grow the perennial varieties (due to zonal incompatibilities), even if their flowers are not as big as the Moscheutos varieties.... We're looking forward to giving 'Red Shield' a try next year!
I used to be a bit of a flower snob with regard to Zinnias, that omnipresent annual so common in many gardens, but I soon changed my tune when I actually started using them around our garden spaces here, I quickly underwent a conversion and now we consider them as essentials. What's not to like about Zinnias? They're practically fail safe (as long as you water regularly after planting the seeds and during dry spells), they're easy, prolific bloomers who reward gardeners who cut them regularly, by producing bushier plants and even more blooms! Zinnias are the first annuals I always suggest to first time gardeners, because they provide pretty quick gratification in the hottest parts of the summer, when they are happiest and really in their prime. The only caveat I mention is that it's really not worth the effort to collect the seeds in fall and plant them the following season, because they rarely (if ever) come back true to what the parent plant was, mostly producing wan pink and white flowers that are much smaller than the parent. But if that's what you like, then collect to your heart's content ... snobs that we are, we just compost them after frost and buy new seed every spring because they're so cheap and give so much back for such little effort ... except for the initial phase of getting them well established. This particular one is one of the many we have planted on the perimeter of the back veggie garden, and you can see that in this shot, it's bordered by a wayward tomato plant and one of the corn stalks.
Another nice feature of Zinnias (which I've never quite understood) is that they attract butterflies by the droves! So if you're looking for a butterfly magnet, and don't already have these in your garden, give them a try, and you'll most likely be rewarded with many visitors. Combine them with other butterfly magnets and you'll have a sure fire show of flora color and fauna visitors including not only the butterflies but the bees as well. We like to keep ours busy in the garden and Zinnias give them a perfect work site to visit frequently. Not to mention that they make perfect cut flowers for inside as well, because they last a long time in the vase, and cutting them promotes even more prolific blooms ... what more could you ask of an inexpensive annual? If anyone has a good answer to that question, I'd like to hear about it!
I was saddened to see today that Isaac Hayes died. Though I don't own any of his work, I've always been really admiring of a lot of it, and always enjoyed seeing his performances when I managed to see them. His talent was genre changing and inventive, and ever evolving until now. Of course I loved his stint as 'Chef' on South Park, at which he was clearly at his peak of comedic and musical powers ... I was disappointed to find out he was a Scientologist --I'll readily admit a bias here-- but I never doubted this man's incredible talent. Isaac, we'll miss you ... too many good ones gone this year ... George Carlin ... and just yesterday Bernie Mac (who spookily enough, acted in the same film as did Hayes just recently).