Tag Archives: zinnias

In Appreciation Of Pollinator Gardens…Large and Small

This summer’s “Better Late Than Never” pollinator garden is coming along and, as in years past, will get even more colorful as the end of summer approaches. I’m happy to see that private and public gardens and gardening for wildlife is a growing trend across the country.

I recently returned from a trip back to my home state of Wisconsin, where I  visited a couple of county parks my late father helped make possible many years ago near the beginning of this movement in public gardening. My mother, sister, and I are certain he’d have been very pleased with the progress of this prairie reclamation in the middle of southern Wisconsin farm land.

At Dorothy Carnes County Park & Rose Lake State Natural Area we watched as dozens and dozens of purple martins flew back and forth to houses set up for them, butterflies soared through prairie plantings, and a group of special needs children returned from a morning hike.

 

 

The next day we visited Korth County Park  on Rock Lake and hiked down to a bench overlooking the water. Visitors can hike or bike along paths skirting the lake, and both parks have shelters used for picnicking. I feel so lucky to have visited these lovely and well maintained public spaces.

Our pollinator garden is tiny in comparison but there’s so much life in it too. This year I had trouble finding the peach porterweed that the butterflies adore, but a few weeks ago noticed that a number of them had reseeded from the previous summer’s garden. These volunteer surprises make this garden extra special.

Other “volunteers” this year are red gomphrena, rudbeckias with huge blooms, many zinnias, celosia, sunflowers, cosmos, hyacinth bean and moonflower vines on the arbor, cleome where the compost bin had been, and a lone dill plant. It’s truly an old fashioned cottage garden for the pollinators and the enjoyment of anyone who stops to look!

 

 

We also added a few new plants this year. Verbena ‘Lollipop’ and pentas for butterflies, cigar plant, pineapple  and Mexican sage for hummingbirds, African blue basil and purslane for the honeybees,  and red ruellia too.

The Mexican sunflowers, tithonia, are also slowly getting larger and will add their bright orange blooms that the butterflies love as the summer wanes. The annual milkweed is in bloom now too.

Perennials that return are always welcome in the garden!  The butterfly weed, purple coneflower, and salvia greggii are old friends.

A woman approached me the other day as I was watering to say thank you and said she’s created a pollinator garden of her own after following the progress of this small space in the middle of Crestline Village.

Talking with her and others has been so gratifying. I hope my Dad is watching from wherever he is and smiling at our efforts to create a beautiful space for community and nature too. If you’re in Crestline Village, I hope you’ll take time to stop and appreciate this little slice of pollinator heaven!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

Want More Butterflies? Plant Butterfly Weed!

imageButterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, is the pretty orange flower, shown in the picture on the right  in my very hot and sunny front border. It’s right at home with other butterfly attractors including salvias,  trailing white lantana, purple and red gomphrena, zinnias, mexican heather, other heat loving annuals and, shown in the picture with the butterfly weed, a yellow hypericum shrub. It also is happy with other perennials.  To be successful in atracting butterflies, you need to have sources of nectar, sources for them to lay their eggs on,  and plants for the caterpillars to feed on…monarch butterflies like to lay their eggs on this asclepias, so it’s a very good butterfly plant to have!

Butterfly weed in my friend Carole Barton's garden...

Butterfly weed in my friend Carole Barton’s garden…

It’s the flowering star right now in my garden and in my friend and wholesale grower  Carole Barton’s garden also. Her very impressive stand of it in the picture to the left must be heaven for butterflies!  Even for those folks opposed to orange flowers, I hope you will try to find a spot for this one anyway…in addition to attracting butterflies it also is a magnet for other beneficial insects including lady beetles and bees.

Since it has a long tap root, take care in transplanting this perennial butterfly weed. It can be difficult to find, but we have these plants available now, if there’s a sunny spot in your garden and you’d like to try it for yourself.  The long tap root also makes it tolerant of drought once established – a huge plus in my book!  It will benefit from deadheading (cutting off the old blooms) after it’s through flowering – if you don’t get this done it may reseed, which might not be a bad thing depending on where you want it! It also reappears quite late in the spring – I worry each and every year that I’ve lost it and then, happy surprise, it reappears…

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

The Heat Is On…These Annuals Can Take It!

Gomphrena, zinnias, red cuphea, mexican heather, vinca…have you tried one or more of these in your garden or planters? If you haven’t, you should!

Gomphrena & narrow leaf zinnias in a hot, sunny bed

Gomphrena & narrow leaf zinnias in a hot, sunny bed

Gomphrena is one  that you might not look at twice in its little pot on a table at a nursery…but it is one of the toughest plants – and the prettiest, come the dog days of August. In fact, the heat seems to bring on more blooms, and the more sun the better. It is more difficult to find, but we have gotten some in recently. The taller varieties are particularly nice in the garden, and they come in purple, red and sometimes pink and white.  If you have a tough, hard to deal with spot in your garden, gomphrena is one to try.

bat face cuphea

bat face cuphea

Red cuphea, or batface cuphea, is another underused but tough plant for our summer heat. If you’ve ever noticed the bright red blooms in our sign planter at the shop in the middle of summer, you’ve seen bat face cuphea in all its glory. While butterflies flutter and land on the gomphrena, you’ll see the hummingbirds feeding on the cuphea – they love it! With its trailing habit, it works quite well in planters.

Profusion zinnias

Profusion zinnias

 

 

 

 

Zinnias are another go-to flower that can’t be beat – the best for disease resistance (no ugly leaves) are the narrow leaf zinnias, the Profusion and Zahara zinnias. You’ll find narrowleaf zinnias in yellow, white, orange and a mix of these three colors. Both Profusion and Zahara types have larger bloom and come in some pink colors too.

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Finally, vinca is one of the most drought tolerant and forgiving plants out there…in fact, overwatering is the main culprit if plants don’t make it – how great is that? The clear, pretty colors of vinca and both upright and trailing habits make them the perfect candidate for beds and planters alike.

So, it’s the middle of summer and you say you need a little color? These are the annuals that can take the heat!

Annuals And Perennials – What’s The Difference?

Annual…Perennial…It’s okay if you can’t seem to remember which is which – that’s our job! So, for all of you that are perennially (haha) confused and would like to finally get it straight, here’s the scoop:

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 3.54.53 PM

annual bedding plants…

Annual: one of those go-to plants that you put out each year – for example in your planters – (annually) a geranium, or begonia perhaps. Annuals give you a lot of bang for your buck in one fell swoop – but, when they’ve exhausted their blooming period, they are finished, kaput, done. This also applies to fall plants such as pansies and violas. We call them cool season annuals because their blooming period – (before they’re finished, kaput, done,) is the cool season, or winter. Cool season annuals just can’t take the heat, so when they’ve given it up we plant out summer annuals – think zinnias, begonias, caladiums, coleus, fan flower…all the pretty plants we buy in our frenzy of spring fever.

So, maybe that helps a little bit? Put another way, you plant annuals in the Birmingham area annually (each year – spring and fall.) Some annuals for spring/summer planting become available early in the spring and others show up a bit later and really need the heat turned up to do well. Annuals also provide lasting color – useful for the long summer season…typically, annuals in the Birmingham area begin to play out and look “tired” by mid-August though, even with the best of care. August is one tough month!

Caladiums...

Caladiums…

Caladium 'Aaron', a great choice for sun or shade

Caladium ‘Aaron’, a great choice for sun or shade

Here’s a small sampling of some great annuals for Birmingham and surrounding areas – this is just the tip of the iceburg, however. For more inspiration, check out our Facebook page too, or better yet, stop in!

Dragonwing begonias – sun or shade, with adequate water they get huge!
Caladiums – traditional shade plant, now many selections are available for sun too. Pretty mixed with asparagus or other ferns, begonias, Sunpatiens, torenia or any other flowering annual that compliments the color of their leaves. They’ll do best if you wait to plant in garden beds until the ground is warm, usually by May.

Coleus – beautiful colors! Another that used to play only in the shade, now many varieties are used in full sun plantings. Very useful as an accent foliage in beds or containers, they can get very large! It’s quite easy to keep them at whatever size you’d like, though. Simply pinch when young or cut them back if they get out of hand! Check the tag for sun tolerance.

Gomphrena – This one may not be familiar to you. A heat lover, it has globes of purple, orange or sometimes pink flowers, and is long lasting and tough. It never looks like much in a pot so you’ll have to trust us on this one – but if you do, you won’t be sorry …and they’ll still look good in August!

narrow leaf zinnias come in white, yellow, orange and a mix...

narrow leaf zinnias come in white, yellow, orange and a mix…

Gomphrena & narrow leaf zinnias in a hot, sunny bed

Gomphrena & narrow leaf zinnias in a hot, sunny bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zinnias – There are many varieties of zinnia from the tiny flowered narrow leaf zinnia to the more open Profusion and Zahara zinnias, and they all love the heat. Don’t be afraid to cut them back if they become rangy mid-summer. If you do, they’ll also still be looking good in the latter part of the season.

Vinca – this one is the absolute easiest, most fool proof annual to use for a lot of color in hot spots. Plant them and don’t baby them with too much water. They’ll reward you with loads of pretty blooms in clear colors. There’s also a trailing vinca as well. As with caladiums, don’t plant too early in the ground.

Sunpatiens and New Guinea impatiens – these are the types of impatiens that are resistant to downy mildew which is affecting bedding plant and double impatiens in our area. They are only available in larger pots, but you don’t need as many of them since you can space them further apart in your beds. In containers they make quite a show too!

white pentas still looking fresh in this late summer photo

white pentas still looking fresh in this late summer photo

Pentas – the butterflies love pentas and these come in so many colors. Bright red, white, light and dark pink, lilac – there’s a color for everyone! To maintain pentas, you need only keep them deadheaded – keeping the old blooms cut off. If you haven’t tried these, you’re in for a treat!

Lantana – The old stand-by for sun and heat. There are many good selections of lantana now and growth habit varies – some will get enormous, (tall and wide) while others will stay more mounding and compact, so always check the tag for size. Particularly nice for planters are the trailing varieties which come in bright yellow, white and lavender. They take a while to take off, but once the heat sets in they spread like crazy!

heat loving lantana...

heat loving lantana…

 

 

 

 

 

 

This hanging basket for sun includes a sun loving caladium, angelonia, pink fan flower, trailing silver dichondra, and an airy white euphorbia...

This hanging basket for sun includes a sun loving caladium, angelonia, pink fan flower, trailing silver dichondra, and an airy white euphorbia…

 

Angelonia – Sometimes called summer snapdragon because of the shape of the bloom, angelonia is a good choice to add some height in beds and containers. Strongly upright in growth, but loose enough to not look stiff, it’s a welcome addition to our summer plant palette. Hybridizers have been working overtime improving color, bloom size and heat tolerance, making these beauties one of the newer go-to plants for summer plantings, adding shades of purple, pink, lilac and white.

Persian shield...

Persian shield…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strobilanthes/Persian Shield – This foliage plant is an excellent annual, like the caladium, that is useful as a foliage accent in plantings. In the ground or in pots, it is gorgeous!

Rex begonias...

Rex begonias…

Rex Begonias – Another great foliage accent in many leaf patterns. Good for shade planters primarily. Technically a houseplant, but I couldn’t resist putting another foliage option in this post!

We’ll discuss perennials (they’re the ones that come back if they’re in their happy spot.) in a future post. Meantime, maybe there are one or two annuals on this list you haven’t tried – maybe it’s time!

 

 

 

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

 

 

Promise In A Packet…Seeds!

If you’ve been in recently you may have noticed the colorful seed display behind the counters.


Oh the promise of seeds – those tantalizing pictures and mouthwatering descriptions of vegetables, flowers and herbs…all in a magical seed packet.

Maybe you’ve never tried to grow anything from seed. That’s ok, there’s a first time for everything!  Here are some easy flowers to grow by direct sowing them right where you want them to come up  in your garden: zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, marigolds, tithonia (Mexican sunflower) and gomphrena are a few.

It's planted with lots of help but...

Seed planting is a fun project for the little ones!

Since you will be sowing these directly into the ground, you need to be sure the soil is warm enough for them, May is the perfect month to plant these. Here you can see Billy planting seeds in the garden with some little helpers in the community garden across the street last spring. Below you can see we have veggie seeds too – and plenty to choose from as you plan your summer garden!

Warm season vegetable seeds...eggplant, peppers, melons and more!

Warm season vegetable seeds…eggplant, peppers, melons and more!