Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Timex" Plants in My Yard

It seems like a good time to take stock of what's actually "taking a licking and keeping on ticking," to paraphrase the old Timex commercial.

Most of my prairie natives will be surviving this summer, even without my having watered much, if at all. The natives may not be looking great right now and most certainly aren't putting forth much effort at blooming, but they are living. With our only water source being a single well, I've been very cautious about overtaxing it with a lot of extraneous watering.

Accidentally choosing this summer to try to establish new lawns of buffalo grass has meant that almost the only landscape watering I've done has been geared towards keeping the buffalo grass alive and healthy.

So with my 2 primary water goals being to keep our well producing and to get the buffalo grass established, I'd have to say it's been a successful droughty summer, all things considered.

Two days ago, I walked around the yard and snapped a few photos of the few plants that are looking halfway decent and/or blooming, despite the summer's challenges.

In the wild areas (which got no extra water at all, of course), the Baldwin's ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii ) put on a reasonable show a couple weeks ago but has finished now, while the snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata) is in full bloom right now.

It looks like we'll have a great year for dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata), based on the number of bloom spikes I see growing up, but none have opened yet.

In the managed flower beds, rose verbena (Verbena canadensis) has a small cluster of blooms and the (new to me this year) heart-leaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) is still sporadically blooming but isn't looking particularly showy right now. The aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) looks lush and gorgeous (although it's also too early for it to be blooming), but the New England aster varieties (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) look as bad or worse than normal, with brown "legs" almost all the way up to their developing flower buds. I think it's time to pull them out and replace them with other plants whose foliage won't be such a huge detraction.

Gaillardia has a few sporadic blooms. The plants might bloom better if I'd deadhead them, but I prefer to leave the developing seed heads on for the it's simply been way too hot to bother with a slow-gardening task like deadheading.

A pleasant surprise for me this summer has been the mealy cup sage (Salvia farinacea). This is a perennial further south, but acts as an annual here. After its carefree performance this year, I'm going to be planting it much more widely throughout the beds. I'm generally not much for annuals, but this one has won a piece of my heart!

The fameflower (Phemeranthus calycinus) is another superb performer this summer. While the mealy cup sage has probably been watered a bit here and there as I tried to keep the nearby lawn from totally dying, the fameflower has gotten absolutely no supplemental water; still it has a cloud of pinky-purple blooms swaying a foot above its succulent foliage every afternoon.

Surprisingly, this brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) that survived my purge of its brethren this spring looks pretty darn good. Like the mealy cup sage, it has received a little incidental watering since it's next to the lawn, but it looks lots better than I would have ever anticipated.

Tucked back in next to Wichita Mountains goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata 'Wichita Mountains'), which actually looks like it'll be gorgeous in bloom, is a small clump of prairie onion (Allium stellatum). It's far from a showy plant, being much too small and too sparsely planted in my beds to stand out, but it's valiantly blooming despite the weather.

The final plant that is currently blooming with a reasonable number of blossoms is that old classic, summer phlox (Phlox paniculata). I have deep watered these clumps with a slow trickle a couple times this summer, so it hasn't been as carefree as the rest of the current bloomers, but I just couldn't bear to lose it. As it is, I didn't water enough to keep it in full bloom, so it hasn't been attracting as many pollinators as usual. (Sorry for the less than optimal photo.)

Speaking of which, there aren't many pollinators anywhere in my yard these days. I'm starting to see a few monarchs and I saw one dainty sulfur the other day, but that's been about it for butterflies. Solitary bees and honeybees haven't been any more plentiful. On the other hand, grasshoppers, cicadas and solitary wasps have been amazingly plentiful, and dragonflies are busily patrolling the skies as well.

It's a year to document the survivors and the non-survivors, so I need to get my garden journal back out and get busy. The summer has been such a bummer as far as gardening goes that I haven't added to it since June sometime, but that's not really the way a garden journal should be working...or so I've been told!

I'll add more flower photos as the goldenrod, dotted gayfeather and asters start sharing their beauty this fall. Not surprisingly, I'm looking forward to seeing their cheerful, abundant faces even more than usual.


Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Salvia farinacea is perennial here and is one of my star performers. The heat does not seem to faze it, nor did the record cold we had last winter. It's a keeper. And I have found, too, that Rudbeckia TRILOBA does much better than GOLDSTURM. Just doesn't seem as easy to find.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Interesting that R. triloba does better for you than Goldsturm. The reason I pulled most of my brown-eyed Susans out this spring was that last summer they were terribly prone to wilting when they got the least bit dry and they made the entire front garden look ratty. They seem very prone to droughty conditions.

On the other hand, they obviously love it here, because they reseed vigorously...which could have been a good part of the problem, since I'm not great about thinning self seeders appropriately. (Definitely a "do as I say, not as I do" sort of issue!)

I'd love it if Salvia farinacea turned out to be perennial here. I'd heard of it, of course, for years but didn't see a point in adding it to my garden until I learned about its drought tolerance this spring, when I helped our daughter spiff up her garden in San Antonio to sell her house.

Thanks for visiting, Toni. I'm in awe of your gardens and enjoy your posts a great deal.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog while looking for information on the dwarf hackberry tree. I am so impressed by your love of nature and your gift to the world in sharing so beautifully.

I intend to read every post. I still have to figure out the best way to join and share with EMG's in JoCoKs!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thanks so much, Anonymous! And I have to say that the EMG program is great. I've been involved both in Mobile, AL, and here in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Great folks! Contact your Extension office; they should have an application for the upcoming classes. Hint: Just be sure to emphasize that you're ready and willing to volunteer (and be ready to follow up on that claim)!