Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, August

Stachytarpheta 'Nectarwand Red', red false vervain, Pipevine Swallowtail. Thanks to Leslie Kuss and the Moth and Butterfly I.D. group on Facebook for their help. Bloom Day.

Hello friends! I’m actually making it to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day this month on the actual day! I think it’s the first time this year. Go me!

Tiered borders with Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm,' 'Becky' shasta daisies and 'Bright Eyes' phlox is blooming with abandon from all the rain.
Tiered borders with Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ black-eyed Susans, Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ shasta daisies and ‘Bright Eyes’ Phlox paniculata are blooming like crazy from all the rain. Thank goodness for black-eyed Susans! They knit my entire summer garden together.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is sponsored on the 15th of each month by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens. Hop over there to see what’s blooming in other people’s gardens all over the world.

Rain again fell on Little Cedar today. We had several pop-up showers that didn’t last long, but when I went out to take photos, it was so humid my camera lens kept fogging up. Then, I came inside and realized all my pictures were black.

Arrrgh! No, I did not forget to remove my lens cap. I have no idea what happened, but it’s all fixed now. I ran back outside and took more photos as thunder boomed all around me. I was quicker than a frog sliding into a lily pond except I hopped back inside.

You know I have to include a photo of my favorite rose, 'Carefree Beauty,' a/k/a 'Katy Road Pink.' If this one ever gets Rose Rosette, you'll find me in the closet having a good cry.
You know I have to include a photo of my favorite rose, ‘Carefree Beauty,’ a/k/a ‘Katy Road Pink.’ If this one ever gets Rose Rosette, you’ll find me in the closet having a good cry.

We didn’t get any rain in June and July, but August has been a different story. I think over three inches fell on my little garden, and that makes my heart glad.

Trying to achieve the ever-elusive symmetry.
Trying to achieve the ever-elusive garden symmetry. Nothing in life is perfect. It’s not supposed to be.

I returned from GWA’s annual meeting in Buffalo, NY, last week, and I’ve been playing catch-up in and out of the garden ever since. I filed two columns with two different editors today and last week. I also harvested a ton of vegetables in my potager and cutting garden. I did a little live video on Facebook of the harvest.

As for blooms, because of the rain, we’ve got some. I wandered my overgrown ornamental garden this morning, and I feel rather bad about my neglect of it. After the garden tour, I lost all interest in these beds and borders.

Perennial garden doing its thing. Tightwad Red crapemyrtle in front. Purple crapemyrtles behind.
Perennial garden doing its thing. Tightwad Red crapemyrtle in front. Purple crapemyrtles behind.

I can hear you clucking. I’m sorry. I just worked so hard in it that I lost myself a little. I tried so hard to make it perfect that I forgot why I even garden.

Do you ever do that?

After the tour, I ran off to Garden Bloggers’ Fling and wandered other people’s gardens on tour, grateful that they weren’t mine. When I returned home, I was still tired. I overworked myself, and there’s a lesson, or as my friend, Mary Ann, of Gardens of the Wild, Wild West, would say, a pony in there somewhere. Maybe stop working so hard and trying to be so perfect? Maybe?

(Click on the photos to make them larger.)

I’m happy to say my vegetable and cutting gardens saved the day and me in July. They just seemed to ask for nothing, which isn’t true of course. I worked steadily in them too before the tour. However, they were ready for harvest, and harvest I did. I still have tons of tomatoes on the vine. I’m going to write another post on the cutting and vegetable gardens as soon as I catch my breath. Anyway, they made me remember why I garden.

Why you ask?

Because I simply must. I’m a writer and a gardener, and I must garden and write if I am to breathe. And, in these trying times, we must all remember to breathe.

Luckily, the ornamental beds and borders, while as wild as western mustangs, are somewhat contained by their formal edges and straight lines. I’m lucky ornamental gardens are forgiving. I just wish the Monarchs I’ve been seeing would get with it and lay some eggs. I’ll bring their caterpillars inside and raise them for a new generation if they do. I have tropical milkweed and perennial Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed, planted in many places–wherever it’s sunny. Oh, and if you live in Oklahoma don’t feel guilty for using tropical milkweed. It’s not going to kill your caterpillars. It dies all the way to the ground each fall so no worries. I’m saving seed this year to grow my own. I like A. curassavica ‘Silky Gold’ better than the orange one. Not being from Oklahoma State University, the University of Tennessee or the University of Texas, my favorite color is not orange.

I do, however, like a soft orange bloom, and some flowers are exquisitely beautiful in various shades of orange. Take agastache for example. Agastache Kudos™ Ambrosia is growing in a container on the deck. I never could grow agastache in my garden. The plants always rotted about Midsummer no matter how I prepared the soil. In a weird moment of buying plants online in a snowstorm last winter, I ordered two agastache plants. When they came, I was horrified and told my friend, Faire from Fairegarden. She calmly suggested I grow them in pots since it worked for her in Tennessee. Faire is a gardening guru in my book so I tried it. When it worked so well, I bought two more. I plan to bring these inside my greenhouse this winter and keep them for next year. I just used good potting soil, but if you’re worried, you could work in some sand too. The hummingbirds and I are very happy.

Agastache Kudos Ambrosia.
One bloom spike of Agastache Kudos™Ambrosia.

Another plant that’s really pleasing the butterflies and me this year is Stachytarpheta ‘Nectarwand Red’, red false vervain, a Bustani Plant Farm Introduction. Isn’t it beautiful? How about this Pipevine Swallowtail? Be still my heart!

Special thanks to Leslie Kuss of Growing a Garden in Davis, and the Moth and Butterfly Identification Forum on Facebook for their help in identifying this butterfly.

This is why I garden. Happy Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden Book Giveaway

Benzakein with Julie Chai. Book Giveaway

Guess what!

I’m doing another book giveaway with the help of Chronicle Books and Erin Benzakein of Floret Farm I love Erin’s work. Don’t know Erin? Well, where have you been? She’s an extremely popular flower farmer, cut-flower style setter, mother, seed purveyor, and so much more. Erin’s Instagram account boasts 389,000 + followers. Can you say, “Wow!?

I was so happy to help out with her blog book tour. I mean, just looking at these photos is like taking a vacation to Skagit Valley, Washington, one of my favorite places on Earth.

“I have found tremendous joy in growing and sharing seasonal flowers and foliage. My hope is that my book will help others discover this joy and provide practical information to grow the garden of their dreams.” Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books and Erin Benzakein.
“I have found tremendous joy in growing and sharing seasonal flowers and foliage. My hope is that my book will help others discover this joy and provide practical information to grow the garden of their dreams.” Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books and Erin Benzakein.

Since my blog is very photo driven, I asked for a photo essay, and Chronicle Books sent me some beautiful photos of Floret Farm’s flowers and Erin, along with her quotes.

Sit back, grab a cup of something, tea, coffee, a cocktail and peruse the beauty. This is just some of what you can expect to see in the book which I have read.

Sit back, grab a cup of something, tea, coffee, a cocktail and peruse the beauty. This is just some of what you can expect to see in the book which I have read. Note: I was given a copy of the book for review from the publisher. 

“In the book, I share all my tried-and-true techniques for growing great cut flowers. Whether you want to grow flowers for pleasure, as food for bees and pollinators or as a potential side business, you’ll find step-by-step instructions alongside beautiful photos from my garden for inspiration.”
“In the book, I share all my tried-and-true techniques for growing great cut flowers. Whether you want to grow flowers for pleasure, as food for bees and pollinators or as a potential side business, you’ll find step-by-step instructions alongside beautiful photos from my garden for inspiration.”

The book does give detailed instructions for growing your own cut flower garden. The instructions are clear and concise, and I loved the photos. They are scrumptious as you can see.

A summer day full of zinnia harvesting at Floret Farm.
A summer day full of zinnia harvesting at Floret Farm.

I’ve bought zinnia seeds from Erin several times and other beautiful flowers for my own cut flower garden beds. I am especially fond of the ‘Oklahoma Salmon‘ variety. I love cutting gardens. They are such fun to create and grow. Just don’t forget to cut your flowers and bring them inside to enjoy.

About zinnias

Erin says, “No cut flower garden is complete without these versatile, easy-to-grow blooms. Just be sure to look for cultivars that are made for cutting gardens (versus bedding plants) such as the appropriately named ‘Benary Giant’ series, the massive magenta ‘Uproar Rose’ and the ‘Persian Carpet’ mix.”

About dahlias

Erin is also a big fan of dahlias as am I.

We grow more dahlias than any other flower here at Floret.  Dahlias come in a rainbow of colors and are nearly unmatched in terms of flower production. I’ve been bitten by the dahlia bug and have so many favorites that it would be impossible to narrow it down to 20, much less three.”

Dahlia 'Golden Scepter' Floret Farm
Erin holds an armful of Dahlia ‘Golden Scepter.’

Erin also suggests that you let plants do double duty in your garden.

About foliage

“A lot of beginning gardeners focus on growing flowers with big, showy blooms and forget to plant enough foliage to round out your summer bouquets. If you already grow herbs and vegetables in your garden, many of your plants can serve double duty.  Here are a few favorites that can be used for food or foliage in a summer bouquet:

“Mint: I was advised to never plant this vigorous spreader but am so glad I ignored them. Mint is available early in the season, has a great vase life and adds a lovely fragrance to bouquets. My favorite varieties are Apple, Peppermint, Pineapple (white variegated) and Spearmint.

Basil, especially one with red or purple foliage is great in bouquets too. Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books.
Basil, especially one with red or purple foliage like ‘Aramato,’ is great in bouquets too. Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“Basil:  Easy to grow, fragrant and abundant, basil is great for both cooking and floral design.  With deep purple flowers, glossy foliage and a fantastic scent, ‘Oriental Breeze’ has been a favorite of mine for years. Other great varieties to grow include ‘Cinnamon’, ‘Lemon’, ‘Cardinal’ and ‘Aramato’.

Dill makes an excellent filler in flower arrangements.
Dill makes an excellent filler in flower arrangements. Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“Dill: With big yellow umbel shaped blooms, dill flowers add an airy textural element to any summer bouquet.

“Shiso ‘britton’ (Perilla frutescens): Common in Asian cooking, this plant also is popular among floral designers who love its contrasting colors.  The serrated, bi-colored leaves of this culinary herb are green on top and a pretty burgundy-purple underneath.

Book giveaway details:

We’re giving away a copy of Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms along with a bunch of Floret goodies: a garden day planner, calendar, and seeds! For a chance to win, just leave a comment in the comment section below. The contest ends at Noon on March 20. I’ll pick a winner on March 24, 2017, with a random number generator. You have to leave your name and email address (unpublished) to enter. I can’t contact you if I can’t find you. Please note this giveaway is only open to continental U.S. residents.

Also, don’t forget my other garden tool giveaway is ongoing. Please feel free to enter it too. It’s an exciting spring!

If you follow along with the whole tour, you will have multiple chances to win!

Visit the other participating blogs below to learn more about the local flower movement and Floret Farms; plus, each blog post will offer a chance for you to win.

Participating blogs:

 

Buy the book here: www.floretflowers.com/book
Follow Floret:
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UPDATE: Denise Whitehead is our winner. I’ve contacted her so Floret can send her the goods. Thanks to everyone who played along.