The Brazilian native Princess Flower (Tibouchina urvilleana, below) must be cut back and brought indoors to survive the winter in northwestern Virginia, but through the summer there is no more glorious bloomer. The flowers are the deepest, richest purple, and the foliage is velvety to the touch. Though my garden is overflowing with cold hardy flowering plants, I reserve space for tropicals with monstrous leaves (elephant ears, cannas, and bananas) and remarkable blooms (anthurium, ginger lilies), and there is no shortage of blooms in the heat of August.
The crapemyrtles have not flowered as abundantly as is usual this summer. I fear that several have become partially shaded so only the uppermost branches that reach into the sun are blooming fully. The compact growing ‘Cherry Dazzle’ (Lagerstroemia ‘Cherry Dazzle’, below) grows in full sun, so it blooms vigorously. Other dwarf crapemyrtles have not performed well in the garden, blooming sporadically or growing fitfully, and after brief trials they were sent to the compost heap.
I have had quite a bit of trouble growing the common summer phlox (Phlox paniculata, below), and in the third year I’ve seen its first blooms. Phlox is easy to grow in most gardens, but I have sited it wrong, or given it soil conditions that it detests. Each spring it emerges late, grows only a few short stems, then sulks for the remainder of the summer. Older phlox varieties are often bothered in mid-summer by powdery mildew, but mine are clean, just not growing. At least now I’ve seen one cluster of flowers, and with this triumph I am likely to move on to some other flora that is more appreciative of the small bit of sun it has been provided.
The butterfly bushes (Buddleia x ‘Blue Chip’, below) have been flowering for a month, and now the Franklin Tree is blooming, but still I have seen fewer butterflies than in most years. Bees of every sort, and hornets are plentiful, and also moths, but each butterfly will have a shrub of its own, when usually there are a handful on each of the butterfly bushes and perhaps a dozen on the Franklinia.
A year ago I planted several handfuls of small shamrock tubers (Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis, below). These have burgundy colored leaves and soft pink flowers, and they have spread nicely beneath a gold striped agave that is sunk into the garden for the summer. The color combination is probably too gaudy for most, but I am mostly color blind so it doesn’t bother me at all. Oxalis can be quite aggressive, but it is barely cold hardy for this garden, and the more established neighbors are unlikely to yield to a low growing thug, no matter how vigorous.