efore we take a look at what's blooming at Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens this month, it is time to announce the winner of last month's Name that Bloom contest. Congratulations to valleylynn from the Willamette Valley, OR (Zone 8b) for being the first to identify September's mystery bloom as Lablab purpureus (Hyacinth Bean). Her prize is the publication of a flower photo of her choice from her garden.
I asked Lynn to tell us a little about herself.
How did you come to be a gardener?
Both my grandmother and mother were gardeners and I loved working beside them. They taught me the joy of watching things grow.
Since my earliest memories.
Do you have a favorite flower?
I love so many different plants, but my favorite is the lowly Johnny Jump-up (Viola tricolor). My mother gave me a packet of seed to plant when I was very small. I still remember the wonder of watching them come up from the dirt and turn into the sweetest little blooms.
We always had a large vegetable garden until the children left home. The last two years we have only grown tomatoes, peppers and some herbs.
I love to do volunteer work with my two Certified Therapy Dogs (Nikki and Petrie). I also love taking photos. I am getting a little better at it. Still a long ways to go. : )
Why did you choose the Sempervivium photos?
Sempervivums have captured my heart. They are such hardy, easy care plants that go through amazing transformation in color throughout all the seasons. There is a size and texture for everyone, from mini from an 1/8" to very large at 6"-8" or more across the rosette. From smooth and shiny to velvety soft or covered in cobwebs. I love them all.
What's Blooming at Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens This Month
In the photo at the top of this article, I've combined New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) with Melampodium (Melampodium paludosum). Melampodium is a great, under-used annual. Its sunny color really lights up a garden bed. A relative of the zinnia, it starts blooming in late spring, blooms right through our hot summers, stopping only with advent of a killing frost. It has a bushy habit and can grow to a height and width of about 18 inches.
In our gardens melampodium self-sows modestly. For those gardeners who like to start plants from seed, Melampodium germinates easily and quickly. Young plants often have leaves that droop a bit or are misshapen. It seems to be a quirk of this species. Seedlings rapidly grow out of this phase with no ill effects.
Lespedeza or Bush Clover (Lespedeza thunbergii) is another plant that deserves wider use in gardens. it is perennial and emerges in late spring, growing slowly to about 18 inches tall and a foot wide in our gardens. The small, pinnate leaves are decorative and add interest to the summer garden. In late summer there is a growth spurt that produces arching stems three feet long and, eventually, clusters of small pea-like flowers in shades of purple dangling from them.
I especially like the fact that the long, arching stems tend to cover plants nearby. This may at first appear to be a disadvantage, but I purposely plant perennials under it that can thrive in filtered light and are done blooming by fall. Lespedeza makes a great cover-up at that point. The arched canes also bob in the slightest breeze and the flower clusters sway back and forth, adding motion to the display.
Finally, I'd like to spotlight two of the Persicaria species we grow in our gardens. Persicarias are a very diverse species. Known as Smartweeds, Fleece Flowers, or Knotweeds, they are a genus of plants with over 50 species. Ranging in size from six inches or less to the imposing Persicaria polymorpha at 5-6 feet or more, they bloom in white, pink, bright scarlet and numerous intermediate shades. Many are considered weeds, some even as noxious weeds.
Happily, Persicaria polymorpha is well-behaved and does not sucker nor reseed. This imposing perennial dies to the ground after a killing frost, only to arise and rocket to new heights the next spring. True to its name, it produces fleecy clusters of white flowers, beginning in late spring and often right up to frosty fall weather. Its hardiness designation is still evolving. Zones 5-9 are most often cited at this point, although some growers and retailers say it is hardy all the way north into Zone 3.
Wolfgang Oehme, a well-known landscape architect--along with his partner, James van Sweden--introduced this garden-worthy plant to gardeners and landscape architects. Its origin, however, remains a mystery. It looks very much like a native Chinese species, so some horticultural authorities insist it comes from China. Others beg to differ, saying that it is probably a hybrid of unknown origin. Wherever it came from, it is a great garden plant.
As its size implies, Giant Fleece Flower needs lots of room. Not only is it six feet tall, but at its widest point it stretches to six feet as well. Its vase-shaped form draws the eye immediately to the fleecy inflorescence at the top. Its shape also provides the opportunity for planting smaller perennials or annuals at its feet.
One of those perennials is Firetail (Persicaria amplexicaulis) another member of the Persicaria genus. Like Giant Fleece Flower, it is a well-behaved clump former. Its pinkish red floral tails are unique and always capture the attention of our garden visitors. The plant grows to a height of about two feet. In all other respects, Firetail mirrors its polymorpha cousin.
All plants pictured in the right-hand column do well in ordinary garden soil. They prefer full sun, but thrive and bloom in partial shade as well.
As you peruse gardening catalogs and websites this winter, I encourage you to consider ordering and growing at least one of the plants I've mentioned. You may even be pleasantly surprised to see them at local garden centers. Their requirements are minimal, and they will provide you with never-ending beauty throughout the entire growing season.