Late summer favorites

The gardener is likely to assert that he has only a few favorites; many plants that he is particularly fond of, but only a few that are truly treasured. But, as steadfast as one might insist himself to be, inevitably favorites will change through the seasons. After too many years claiming one plant or another to be most favored, I now refrain from such declarations (mostly) to save everyone (my wife) from reminding of these contradictions.

'Othello' ligularia is a bit too shaded for the foliage to grow as lush as I prefer, but this is an ideal plant beside a shaded pond with a bullfrog nestled beneath its rounded leaves.

‘Othello’ ligularia is a bit too shaded for the foliage to grow as lush as I prefer, but this is an ideal plant beside a shaded pond with a bullfrog nestled beneath its rounded leaves.

There is no good reason that the gardener cannot be enthralled by many plants, and on a particular afternoon one might be most splendid, with another equal or superior the following day. This is most evident in spring, when each day brings fresh blooms, but there are daily wonders in the garden. Even in the dryness of mid August, as redbuds and lilacs appear too tired to go on any longer, many flowers compete for the gardener’s favor.

Early flowering toad lilies will continue blooming into late September while later flowering varieties will bloom until frost.

Early flowering toad lilies will continue blooming into late September while later flowering varieties will bloom until frost.

After a few minutes in the garden this evening, my enthusiasm is running high and I’m set for a trip to the garden center, though I’m certain that with the shorter hours of summer it will be closed. Perhaps tomorrow, though I can procure the latest toad lilies (Tricyrtis) in the mail order catalog that recently arrived. Still, I purchase through mail order sparingly since the larger containers found in the garden center are many times more likely to survive my typical neglect.

Tricyrtis formosana var. grandiflora 'W-Ho-ping Toad'was planted froma four inch pot two years ago. After early struggles, it is now a substantial clump. This cultivar is not likely to become common in commerce, but it's a nice addition to a collection.

Tricyrtis formosana var. grandiflora ‘W-Ho-ping Toad’was planted from a four inch pot two years ago. After early struggles, it is now a substantial clump. This cultivar is not likely to become common in commerce, but it’s a nice addition to a collection.

I often claim that raising plants is less complex than many gardeners pretend it to be, and far easier than self-described black thumbs believe. So long as plants are not abandoned on the asphalt drive, or buried neck deep in a mound of clay, they are quite forgiving. Still, there is merit in a larger root system as a hedge against the moron who plants and forgets, until he wanders by the shriveled remains a week after he has left the unfortunate toad lily to fend for itself in ninety-five degrees.

'Gilt Edge' is one of the earliest toad lilies to flower in early August. Its flowers are narrower than others, so bumblebees often bite through the side of the blooms to gather sweet nectar. Nectar robbing bypasses the natural system of pollination.

‘Gilt Edge’ is one of the earliest toad lilies to flower in early August. Its flowers are narrower than others, so bumblebees often bite through the side of the blooms to gather sweet nectar. Nectar robbing bypasses the natural system of pollination, but smaller bees and hover flies do the job.

Recalling recent years, there is disappointment that several toad lilies have vanished, but more have survived and flourished. Today, the successes are in full flower, or heavily in bud for bloom late in the month. How can I possibly decide against purchasing another couple, or several? Even if there are no newcomers in the garden center, and there are already seven ‘Sinonome’ in the garden, another cannot possibly be a problem. There’s the side yard, where there are only a few, and I would welcome another yellow flowered toad lily or two.

Newly introduced Red Hot Pokers flower later in summer, and continue until frost.

Newly introduced Red Hot Pokers flower later in summer, and continue until frost.

I admit that enthusiasm has also gotten the better of me with Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia). Older plants bloom faithfully over a few weeks in early summer, but several new introductions planted a year ago flower from August until frost, one flower after another. The hummingbird never tires of them, and these are the first blooms I look for each evening heading into the rear garden. Even before the toad lilies.

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3 thoughts on “Late summer favorites

  1. I find myself writing ‘one of my favourites’ so often when it comes to plants. Toad lilies are on my lengthy like list, with showier plants such as roses and demure ones like wild violets but I’ve never been able to muster enthusiasm for red hot pokers.

    • I’ve been inimpressed with red hot pokers until planting the new ones. The foliage stands more erect and the flowers are more abundant than old varieties. These are growing on me.

      • I have seen some interesting varieties recently and I once saw an impressive drift at the peak of flower but I don’t like the way the flowers fade.

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