What looks good now

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.

17 Replies to “What looks good now”

  1. Still have some cross vine blooming, the angelonia has been great all summer. Pentas still blooming, grasses are looking a little worse for the wear:). Wooly morning glory is finally going up the trellis but I can’t remember why I had to have it… I’m in Edmond too, so waiting for a little heat relief.

  2. Your Beauty Berry bush is gorgeous. I saw a wall of coleus made in a garden I thought was just wonderful too. I hope to do it here next summer. Your big coleus in the garden are striking.

    1. Lisa, I can’t wait to see your wall of coleus. Were the plants in pockets or something? They must have had irrigation to them. Ooh, now you started my mind wandering. Coleus get so big here because it’s so d*^%n hot. Haha.

    2. I have several Beauty Berry bushes growing in our “Secret Place” which I think the birds planted for us. The stalks are long and leggy. I would like to know how to prune them for the best show.

      1. Well, American beauty berry is quite leggy. If you cut them back too much, you’ll sacrifice the berries the birds love. So, personally, I don’t prune mine other than in the spring I just cut off any dead pieces.

  3. Ack! You threw away JoePye when I’ve looked all over Texas for it.

    When do you start taking clippings of your coleus for your greenhouse? I thought I saw you had some propagated.

    American Beauty Berry grows all over here in the pineywoods of East Texas.

  4. Hmmm, what looks good now? Well, it isn’t the perennial flowers, that’s for sure. By this time of year, it’s usually my annuals that have taken center stage, especially zinnias, common begonais, and yes, coleus. Oh, and the caladiums!

    1. Oh yes, the zinnias are lovely now. The butterflies are grateful too. I didn’t get any caladiums this year, and I wish I had because my front flower border is boring. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. I whack my sweet autumn clematis back to the ground several times over the summer, then let it go in September. It blooms just as prettily and hasn’t grown halfway to San Antonio by the time it does!

  6. Things are so different in our two worlds, I just have to grin. Asters are in full swing here and I finally have one open blossom out of 5 hardy hibiscus with buds. I dutifully dead-headed my garlic chives last fall after you told me what a menace they were, and my original plant almost didn’t pull through the winter. Three stalks are now blooming amid the dried remains of last year’s nice big clump. Now the regular chives *have* seeded all over, and both clumps are full and vigorous. Purple heart is only a houseplant here, but I have to agree with the sentiment, “Who cares if it’s easy? Gardening isn’t easy. Let’s take our passes when we can.” Our challenges may be different, but I think our approach to gardening is pretty similar. I enjoyed your tour today.

    1. Hey Kathy, yes, it’s more like we live on different planets. Purple heart, although a succulent, overwinters here. I love it because it’s sultry yet plays well with others. And, yes, our approaches are very similar. I’m just glad I have my crazy climate and not yours. All that winter would get me down. Hugs!

  7. The grasses are starting to look even better and right now Gaura lindheimeri, excuse me, Oenothera lindheimeri really looks good. I also have the thuggish chives and even though I dig them up and deadhead them they return. Oh but the bees love them. Thanks for asking Dee. Your Beautyberry is stunning. xogail

    1. I saw that you wrote about your gaura or whatever it’s now called. LOL. Can’t wait to go read it. Oy! Those garlic chives. I never totally get rid of them either. I’m letting this small stand bloom, and then, I’m digging it up. Love ya!

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