Summer flowers for summer heat

Sunflower with bumblebee; Summer flowers for summer heat

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.

Hemerocallis 'Cherokee Blanket' daylily with Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm,' a perennial so easy to grow that it's ridiculous. Still, don't plant this black-eyed Susan anywhere that is boggy or wet because it will take over with its underground stems.
Hemerocallis ‘Cherokee Blanket’ daylily on rebloom with a spotted coleus and Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm,’ a perennial so easy to grow that it’s ridiculous. Still, don’t plant this black-eyed Susan anywhere that is boggy or wet because it will take over with its underground stems.

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.

Tightwad Red crapemyrtle with H. 'Venetian Ruffles' daylily.
Tightwad Red crapemyrtle with H. ‘Venetian Ruffles’ daylily.

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.

Salmon Sunset four  o'clocks closing after a night of partying hard
Salmon Sunset four o’clocks closing after a night of partying hard.

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.

Gomphrena that came back from seed. It is a shorter variety.
Gomphrena that came back from seed. It is a shorter variety.

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.

Panicum 'Northwind', 'Blue Boy' bachelor's buttons, Rudbeckia 'Irish Eyes'
Panicum ‘Northwind’, ‘Blue Boy’ bachelor’s buttons, Rudbeckia ‘Irish Eyes’

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 Rhirta 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.

Eucomis 'Oakhurst' pineapple lily with Rudbeckia hirta Cherokee Sunset.
Eucomis ‘Oakhurst’ pineapple lily with Rudbeckia hirta Cherokee Sunset.

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.

Rudbeckia hirta 'Chocolate Orange'
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Chocolate Orange,’ a shorter variety.

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.

Hibiscus 'Moy Grande.'
Hibiscus ‘Moy Grande.’

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.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, June 2015

Triangle bed on the left side

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, June 2015, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. If it’s June in Oklahoma, then you must know it’s all about the daylilies, or hemerocallis, if we’re being botanically literate. Here are my bloom day posts for 2014 and 2013. Daylilies are always the stars of my June garden, but sometimes the roses join the party too.

Tiered borders with green smoketree.
Tiered borders with green smoketree. ‘Ogon’ spirea is on the right.

Hemerocallis, as many of you know, means “beauty for a day,” so this botanical name makes perfect sense for a flower that only blooms for twenty-four hours and then is gone never to be seen again. Luckily clumps produce many, many flowers so we can enjoy them for two months or so, if we grow cultivars that bloom extra early and late. The latest daylily in my garden every year is ‘Autumn Minaret’ (Stout 1951.) It’s a worthy plant in any garden. Place it at the back of the border because it gets so tall. Because I have so many photos this time, I’m putting the daylilies in galleries. Just click on the smaller photos, and you can view them in a larger format.

Fortunately, we’re a week or so behind schedule, which will be good for the daylily show at Will Rogers Park Exhibition Center next weekend. I plan to be there and show off some of my plants. Daylily season should peak at the end of this week or the beginning of the next. When the daylilies are in bloom, my garden always reminds me of brightly-colored clown pants. It is a garden of many colors, varied shapes and heights. It’s crazy and joyful. I love it so.

Before we launch into total daylily addiction, I want to show you a few of my hydrangeas. They are peaking right now too. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is clearly not intimidated by all of the hydrangea newcomers added to the garden this year. Instead, she is strutting her stuff for all to see. I am ever grateful for this beautiful plant, and I’ve added starts to other parts of the garden so that her beauty will ever shine.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' from the side. You can see her in many other poses on this blog.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ from the side. You can see her in many other poses on this blog.

‘Annabelle’ is native to the U.S. and must have tons of nectar because she is a pollinator favorite. I just love those large, puffy white blooms. Don’t you? I don’t have good luck with the macrophylla hydrangeas. I know many people in Oklahoma do, but it just gets too hot and dry in my garden. H. paniculata, H. quercifolia and H. arborescens are more forgiving. As I wrote in an earlier post on perennial gardens, I’ve planted several new ones this year. They are just beginning to have their moment in the sun’s warm rays. I’m grateful for all the rain this spring and summer because it’s made transplanting easier.

Back garden with Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers' and my purple chairs. The crapemyrtles are 'Pink Velour.'
Back garden with Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ and my purple chairs. The dark-leafed crapemyrtles are ‘Pink Velour.’

On GBBD, it’s easy to just show beauty shots of individual plants, but that doesn’t give you an overall picture of how the plants relate to each other in the garden. This month, I’m trying for a mixture of each. Let me know if you like it.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. There are four long beds at the end of the back garden. I once grew veggies in them. We moved the veggie garden to another spot on the hill. This is the second long bed
There are four long beds at the end of the back garden. I once grew veggies in them. We moved the veggie garden to another spot on the hill. This is the second long bed

Now, for more daylilies…. Would you like a few growing tips too?

Daylilies are shallow-rooted creatures so it’s not a good idea to plant them when temperatures are over ninety degrees. Still, one plantsman sent me three or four last week when we’d had our hottest weather yet. I planted them in the shade of other plants and watched them closely for rot. If you get a double or single fan of a particular plant, watch it closely. When you move a clump, it’s easy to keep alive, but small divisions are harder, especially when the mercury climbs. You can place a child’s umbrella over new plantings too. I’ve done that many times over the years. As for care, they don’t ask for much. Once established, they are fairly drought tolerant, but they also love water. The number of blooms you get is all determined by clump size. Fertilize with an idea of creating larger clumps. Daylilies love nitrogen. They also love shredded leaf mulch. I use both. This year, I fertilized with Back to Nature. All that manure helps increase clump size. However, I don’t do that every year because it might cause them to be over-fertilized. Aphids are attracted to clumps especially in the spring. Lady beetles will take care of some of the problem, but a blast of water from the hose end sprayer helps too. I also fertilize my daylilies at the same time I do my roses. They respond well to rose fertilizer too. I use Jobe’s All-Purpose Organic granular fertilizer for my roses. I also like Mills Magic Rose Mix. If I’m only doing the daylilies, I use a lot of Milorganite. I’ll be honest. There are a lot of good organic fertilizers out there, but I like the granulated ones and Moo Poo Tea the best.The others with chopped alfalfa blow in the wind. Plus, they mess with my asthma. I usually make the manure tea and use it in a hose end sprayer when summer has sapped the garden’s strength.

Here is another post on growing daylilies that breaks down the Four B’s to Daylily Garden Zen.

Those are my pretties for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. I can’t wait to go around and see what’s blooming elsewhere in the world. Thank you Carol for continuing this meme year after year.