What looks good now

Hibiscus 'Moy Grande' will always have a place in my garden. Bumbles love it, and, as the name says, the blooms are huge.

Good morning Sunshines! I hope all is well in your world today. Mine is a-ok, copacetic, in fact. Today, I want to share what looks good now. Even though Oklahoma is still hotter than a firecracker–97F forecast today–the garden looks pretty darn good. We’re in that in-between-the-blooms stage so foliage plants are carrying the load. Asters and mums have yet to start, and as days grow shorter, tropical bloomers are slowing down. However, ‘Moy Grande’ hibiscus, shown above, is still strutting her stuff. Other plants, like orange crocosmia ‘Antique Montbretia,’ are sporting interesting seed heads nearly as pretty as their flowers.

What looks good now. Seed heads on crocosmia are almost as beautiful as the blooms.
Seed heads on crocosmia are almost as beautiful as the blooms.

Mexican feather grass and purple heart are show stoppers in late summer. If you don’t grow either of these in Oklahoma, why? I know they’re easy. That’s the point. Try the hard stuff–fine–but also save places in your garden for things you can grow no matter what challenges you face. There’s only one other plant that’s easier for the beginning gardener–‘Margarita’ sweet potato vine. When I bring up purple heart in my talks, people almost sneer. Well, tell me of another plant that has such presence and asks for so little. Okay, I can think of one group, and I’ll talk about them below. Purple heart is dark, sultry and beloved by butterflies. Who cares if it’s easy? Gardening isn’t easy. Let’s take our passes when we can.

Side borders with Mexican feather grass, Nassella tenuissima (f/k/a Stipa) and Setcreasea pallida 'Purple Heart.'
Side borders with Mexican feather grass, Nassella tenuissima (f/k/a Stipa) and Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart.’

Another easy group of plants makes my heart grow fonder everyday. It’s the Plectranthus scutellarioides clan. Haven’t heard of Plectranthus scutellarioides? How about their former botanical, now common name, coleus? I’m crazy about coleus. When hybridizers figured out how to make them sun tolerant–even in sultry Oklahoma and Texas–gardeners raised their trowels in rejoicing. Remember, though, not every coleus is sun tolerant. The Wizard and Kong series, for example, still need their sun parasols, but most of the extended family laughs at the sun. If you’re unsure, pick out varieties in late spring or early summer that have very thick stems and leaves with substance. ‘Henna,’ ‘Wasabi,’ ‘Religious Radish,’ ‘Gnash Rambler,’ the Main Street series, and ‘Campfire’ are just some of the good ones. If you want to see some of my other favorites, I have a Pinterest board with Helen Weis called simply Coleus.

Plectranthus cutellarioides 'Wasabi' and others in the garden. Commonly and formerly known as coleus.
Plectranthus cutellarioides ‘Wasabi’ and others in the garden. Commonly and formerly known as coleus.

A new coleus to my garden this year is ‘Defiance Sunset.’ I’m not sure that’s exactly how you write its name because I can’t find much information on it. I saw it across the parking lot at Under the Sun and knew I had to have it. It performed well all summer in full sun in a very dry spot.

'Defiance Sunset' coleus. I bought this locally at Under the Sun.
‘Defiance Sunset’ coleus. I bought this locally at Under the Sun.

Nothing is prettier in the late summer garden than coleus with grasses just beginning to bloom. Below are ‘Adagio’ maiden grass and one of the dark coleus. Can you also see Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ peeking out in between? I cut smoke tree way back twice a year to keep it from elongating into a large tree. I like them bushy. Next to the grass is Vitex Delta Blues™, listed as a smaller and more delicate chastetree. It is still growing quite large in the crummy clay soil of this border. I think I’ll chop it back and see what happens. In the garden, I am often a see what happens kind of girl.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio' with one of my pretty coleus, maybe 'Gnash Rambler.' Also, purple smoke bush or tree is peeking out from behind the coleus.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’ with one of my pretty coleus, maybe ‘Gnash Rambler.’ Also, Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ smoke tree is peeking out from behind the coleus.

I created this side border to be less upkeep than the rest of the garden. Click on the photos to make them larger. I put a lot of easy plants in here that don’t require much deadheading, if any. I have enough to deadhead in the rest of the garden. I added several varieties of grasses to this space along with tough-and-true native and non-native plants. Most of the natives have already done their thing for the year, but some of the tough non-natives are still performing.

Speaking of natives, I moved two of my favorites to the back of this border where it extends down past the air conditioner and the basement. This is a tough spot for plants, but I think Eutrochium purpureum ‘Little Joe,’ Joe Pye weed and Silphium perfoliatum, cup plant, will be fine here. Plus, the yellow and purple-pink flowers will be beautiful together.

‘Little Joe’ was not so little anymore in the triangular bed in the back garden. Grown into the middle-aged plant he was, he was crowding out his neighbors with his girth. Because my hand is still not right, I asked my son, Brennan, to help me move both plants. He is strong and twenty-one. He lifted each gigantic specimen out with no trouble. I then split the plants and took the best specimens to their new homes. The rest went into the compost pile with no guilt. In the triangular bed, I’ll plant some daylilies because the garden is on tour next June. Out by the street where the cup plant waved in the wind, I may move a Panicum virgatum ‘Cheyenne Skies.’ It’s crowded in another spot. Fall is a great time to move plants because the weather is much more amenable for them to settle into their new homes.

Hole left by 'Little Joe' Joe pye weed. I'll put daylilies and maybe a 'Baby Joe' Joe pye weed here.
Hole left by ‘Little Joe’ Joe Pye weed. I’ll put daylilies and maybe a ‘Baby Joe’ Joe Pye weed here.

Just look at that soil where ‘Little Joe’ was! I know it’s not dark black, but oh the texture was sublime. Only a gardener would be rhapsodic about soil texture, but all the years of leaves and compost have turned this into a wonderful spot. Those daylilies, or whatever I put there will be so happy.

Another plant I find very pleasing most of the year is Coreopsis Li’l Bang™ ‘Daybreak.’ With deadheading, it blooms and blooms, and it’s been in this spot for two seasons now. We’ll see how it does next year. It was very pretty with purple alternanthera and the pink crapemyrtle.

Coreopsis Li'l Bang™ ‘Daybreak’ has been pretty all summer, and with deadheading will bloom again.
Coreopsis Li’l Bang™ ‘Daybreak’ has been pretty all summer, and with deadheading will bloom again before frost.

From far away, the garden looks pretty good in spite of little care this summer. Up close, you can see that ‘Grandpa Otts’ morning glory has had his way with every plant in his path. He is rude that way. Also, autumn clematis, which I hate, established itself next to my ‘Australia’ cannas. Still, I must admit, I like the play of light and dark even if I want to rip out that clematis. I’ll just beat it back after it blooms. Right now, it is covered with pollinators including wasps that wouldn’t be very happy with me if I did it now.

Canna 'Australia' with autumn clematis--my nemesis.
Canna ‘Australia’ with autumn clematis–my nemesis.

Another couple of hateful plants have popped up in the garden in my absence, garlic chives and obedient plant. Lord, how I hate those two early gardening mistakes. I know many of you think garlic chives are pretty, but they are terrible to eradicate once you have them. Obedient plant is the same. People complain about spearmint, but I’ve killed it several times with vigilant weeding. You can spray herbicide on garlic chives, and it just waggles its blooms and says “Come on. Try me.” Obedient plant does a whole other trick. It lays down another underground runner and hides in the ornamental grass. I find digging up garlic chives and obedient plant with a digging fork is about the only way to keep them in check. Young gardening mistakes linger, don’t they?

Garlic chives are so pretty and so awful.
Garlic chives are so pretty and so awful. I’m not even taking a picture of obedient plant because I don’t want to give it the time of day.

A more happy circumstance is my Japanese beautyberry. It is beautiful every year. I also have an American beautyberry in the side border that survived the crummy soil. I hope to add a couple more next year. I’ve killed three. I’m good like that.

Japanese beautyberry.
Japanese beautyberry.

Out by the street, things are starting to heat up. Once the pink muhly blooms in earnest, won’t it be pretty behind this ‘Alabama Sunset’ coleus and in front of the Mexican sage? I can hardly wait. coleus-alabama-sunset-1-of-1This is my favorite fall bed. Also blooming in here are Orthosiphon aristatus, cat’s whiskers, which are adorable, Stachytarpheta frantzii, purple false vervain–also comes in blue and red–and Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Neon’ sedum–just beginning.

Okay, that’s what looks good now. The crapemyrtles are still doing their thing, and it won’t be long until I’m writing about asters and true garden mums. However, I want to hear what you like best about your garden this time of year. For me, it’s the sweet late-summer days. Don’t let them pass you by my friends. They shorten with each passing hour. Get out in the garden and enjoy it while it lasts.

Travelogue: RHS Garden Wisley

The house at Wisley seen from the far gardens.

Good morning campers! Did you think the travelogue was over? Ah, no, it is not. We have many more places to go and things to see. Click on the galleries below to see the photos in a larger format.

Today’s garden destination is RHS Garden Wisley in Woking, Surrey, GU23 6QB, given to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1903 by Sir Thomas Hanbury. However, George Fergusson Wilson was the real spirit and driving force of the garden. Sir Hanbury bought the property after Wilson’s death. It seems he was into saving gardens as he bought others too. In Wisley, Wilson created the oldest section, called the ‘Oakwood experimental garden,’ in 1878. He was set upon growing difficult plants. I laughed when I read this description because all gardeners seem to be about growing difficult plants. Wisley has quite the pedigree as do most places in England. You can’t go anywhere in Great Britain that you don’t stumble over history. If the U.S. were as old, maybe we would see the same. We do have great arboretums and historic botanical gardens–Longwood Gardens, among others, comes to mind–but most aren’t as old as those in England. We just don’t have as long a history from which to draw.

I suppose as history goes, Wisley is rather a young English garden. It’s also HUGE and covers 240 acres. In some ways, it reminds me of all public gardens I’ve visited. It’s full of plant collections, has large greenhouses–which I love–long walks, espaliered fruit trees, a rose garden, splendid views, and so on. I found it a bit overwhelming. I tend to like more personal spaces, but it was very beautiful. After Bill and I walked around most of the garden, we decided to go have tea. We had tea in nearly every garden we visited. I should do a whole post on tea. I wish American gardens less processed food like their English counterparts. The English are especially good at sweets. Every garden and pub I visited in England had something gluten free for me to eat. Everything had dairy, but I was able to eat dairy there with no problems. I don’t know why, but I have my suspicions. Food in the gardens is considered expensive so if you’re on a budget, you may want to pack a lunch. We did bring some lunch, but later had cream tea. Such a lovely thing, cream tea.

This was actually a cream tea at Harrod's, but it will give you an idea. When you've walked a large garden all day, you need a yummy respite.
This was actually a cream tea at Harrod’s, but it will give you an idea. When you’ve walked a large garden all day, you need a yummy respite. Of course, Harrod’s tea is served on Wedgwood China. And, yes, that’s a gluten free scone.

What I’d give for a delicious gluten free scone and clotted cream right now.

I’m shaking my head to bring myself back to reality. Okay, back to the gardens. If you’d like to learn more about the history of the Wisley, just clickety click the link.

Of course, you know we stopped in the temperate house while we were there. They were in the midst of a pelargonium (often called geranium here, but actually a cousin) show, and had lots of lovely varieties. I liked ‘Rimfire.’ Check out that color. No, it probably wouldn’t like Oklahoma’s hot, sunny days. I thought the planters were shaped so nicely too. Also, they were on castors so they could be rolled in and out of the space. Smart. When I travel to botanical gardens, I always hit the temperate house and avoid the warmer greenhouses. It’s hot enough here at home, and I’m not into desert plants, or even tropical ones indoors. I can grow so many tropicals outside here.

If you liked this travelogue, I have more! You can also travel with me to Sissinghurst Castle and Hever Castle. I’m determined to take you on my entire English and French trip. That way, we’ll both remember the details before I get too fuzzy on them.

One more thing, before I let you go, here is a wonderful video from the RHS showing Wisley in all its glory from the sky. It’s worth watching. You’ll get a real sense of the gardens that I’ve shown you in photos.