July temperatures are above normal today, but it is the middle of an Oklahoma summer so I’m not surprised. This post started out as one for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, but I missed the 15th so now it’s about summer flowers for summer heat instead. You can’t go wrong with these tough beauties.
I don’t like summer heat, but I do love summer flowers. Other than going out at daybreak to pull a few weeds, take a few pictures and make sure everything is watered, I don’t stay outside much in summer. I prefer movie theaters or a good book instead. Everything growing slows down in summer, and I do too. The past two weeks the mercury has been set between 95F and 98F, with high humidity and mosquitos courtesy of all that life-giving spring rain. I feel like I’m living in Louisiana or maybe Houston, instead of Oklahoma. Who wants to put on bug spray to just take a picture or two?
I did venture out there today though for you. Just look at all the summer bloomers I found.
Oklahomans and Texans, while you wait for cooler fall temperatures, you need something to make the yard pretty even if you do stay indoors at work or home. Everyone needs summer flowers in their garden repertoire. Otherwise, the grassy weeds will just take over your flower beds. These are the summer flowers I’ve come to rely upon in summer heat. Later, this week, I’ll talk about my favorite foliage plant, coleus, that takes the garden all the way into October.
First, some flowers to grow from seed. There are so many, but these are a few I planted this year. Some actually reseeded from previous years. When I’m in the garden, and I see a four o’clock from the Salmon Sunset type I grew a couple of years ago, it makes me smile. Mother Nature is one of the best garden designers even if she is a bit messy.
Elsewhere in the garden, I have yellow and white four o’clocks and the pink heirloom type. I don’t put these near each other to keep them from mixing.
Another flower I once planted that self sows is gomphrena. These are shorter varieties, and they now come back every year. In spring, I pull up many of them because they will crowd out other plantings. You quickly learn the seedling stage of these self sowers. I had some white gomphrena earlier. I only like the pink, purple and red, so I pulled the white ones as they began to bloom. I do the same with the washed out purple larkspur I grow from seed. If a stray purple one shows up, I pull it as soon as it blooms. I want the blue ones, but even blue seed varieties sometimes have errant purple flowers in there too.
If you want a summer blue flower that is easy to grow from seed, try cornflower ‘Blue Boy’ (bachelor buttons.) They are super easy to grow from seed, and in our long summers, you can plant them twice. Simply sow the seed outdoors. Botanical Interests has some very nice seed for these silver-leafed beauties. That ‘Irish Eyes’ rudbeckia was also grown from seed. You can start them indoors and transplant or sow outside. Because they are perennial, they take awhile to get going.
Glorious sunflowers. You see one in the feature photo above, but here’s a gallery of sunflowers I’m growing this year. I planted all of them from seed that I just sowed outdoors. Sunflowers don’t like to be transplanted which is why your child’s Dixie cup project from kindergarten probably died. Just get some seed and sow it together. Water and watch it grow. Keep an out for caterpillar damage from Checkerspot butterfly larvae. You can spray your plants with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.) like Bonide Thuricide Bt. Insect Killer to stop some damage. It’s an organic control. I have a hose-end sprayer of it. The caterpillars eat Bt., and they don’t feel like eating your plants anymore. It doesn’t harm other pollinators. Now, before you think I hate Checkerspot butterflies, I sacrificed many of my beautiful black-eyed Susans to the them. Checkerspots love the fuzzy R. hirta type of Susans. They aren’t as excited about R. fulgida ‘Goldsturm.’ A lot of my pretty cultivars were destroyed all the way up to the flower. I think they’ll come back next spring though so I’m not too worried. Sunflowers, on the other hand, take awhile to grow, are annual and a commitment. I didn’t want to lose them. I bought a lot of my sunflower seed from Renee’s Garden and Botanical Interests. In the past, both companies have given me seeds too.
Zinnias are another summer favorite. I’m surprised that mine aren’t covered in mildew this year from the humidity, but so far, they aren’t. I grow a lot of zinnia seeds. In fact, I turned half of the vegetable garden into a cutting garden this year. The only problem is I can hardly bear to cut the flowers. How silly is that? I love bouquets, but I also love the flowers outside. I’m shaking my head at myself as I write this. As soon as I finish this post, I’m going out there to cut some zinnias. Promise. Two favorite zinnia seed varieties I’m growing this year are ‘Queen Red Lime’ zinnia and ‘Burpee Rose Giant Cactus.’ I bought the latter from Baker Creek, and my ‘Queen Red Lime’ seeds from Chiltern Seeds. However, you can now get them several places in the U.S., and you might get more seed. Chiltern’s was a bit skimpy on them for the price. I’m also growing a ton of other zinnias so I’ll do a gallery of them too. Click on the photos to see them larger.
Stepping away from seed, but maybe not all the way, let me show you some of the black-eyed Susans here. Below is one of many ‘Cherokee Sunset’ varieties. ‘Cherokee Sunset’ is a seed strain so you can get different color variations and sizes along with single and double blooms. How fun is that?
These were terrorized by the aforementioned caterpillars, but the blooms are fine. I didn’t take a photo of my double amber Susan because it is now only blooms with skeletonized leaves. I grew ‘Cherokee Sunset’ from seed last year. I started them indoors and planted outside after frost. They didn’t do much the first year, but this year have been spectacular and tall. The pineapple lilies are also growing well. It’s taken years, but I am now pleased with them.
Another R. hirta I’m trying this year is ‘Chocolate Orange,’ a shorter cultivar. Tiny pollinators were all over these flowers when I took photos this morning. They must have good pollen. I will say that mine aren’t as orange as in photos online. They have a much larger yellow band. You can grow these from seed. I bought my plants from our local nursery.
If you like large flowers, and who doesn’t, try perennial Hibiscus ‘Moy Grande.’ I also grow ‘Luna Red’ and a small cranberry one, but none are as beautiful as my giant ‘Moy Grande.’ It would stop traffic if I didn’t live out in the country.
Perennial hibiscus are easy to care for. They like full sun and some water, but they aren’t picky about drought or soil. Grasshoppers are their nemesis so you’ll need organic NOLO Bait in spring, or they will eat them to the ground. Perennial hibiscus die back to the ground each winter so cut them back after a freeze or in early spring before they emerge. It’s hard to believe they grow to such a massive size in only a few month. Bumblebees love them so much that I often find one asleep in spent blooms when I deadhead in the morning. The poor, startled little things just fly away.
I have so many other flowers we could discuss, but I bet you’re tired of reading. Save some room in your summer garden for even a few of these wonderful flowers. Remember, too, you can always plant seeds for summer flowers in your vegetable garden. Flowers increase pollination, and there are no veggie police to stop you. It’s your garden. Do what you like.