Sunday, July 22, 2007

What's Bloom'in - Summer

Ah, it seems summer goes so fast - the spring flowers were just coming up. Now, in midsummer, the garden gets a little crazy. The big bloomers are large and everyone is fighting for space. Every year the garden looks a little different and one flower seems to win "most in field". This year there are a quite a few Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnaris). These flowers are long-lasting and provide good color. They bloom in yellow or rust and sometimes a combination of the two. As a xeriscape flower, they provide a good, long-lasting bloom with little water and come back year after year.

Gaillardia pulchella commonly called Gaillarida or sometimes Indian Blanket, Blanket Flower, or Firewheel is one of the easiest and showiest of the xeriscape flowers - I highly recommend it for its color and long bloom. Indian Blanket Flower, the state wildflower of Oklahoma, is an impressive and beautiful native flower found growing along roadsides, in fields and pastures, sometimes covering large areas. Galardia pulchella seems to thrive in heat and is native from Colorado and New Mexico east to Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Louisiana and it is really putting on a show in the garden.

Wild sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) grow around here in profusion and as such are shunned from the garden, but I let a few come up every year. The wild variety is small with many flowers, not much like their domesticated cousins. I enjoy them very much, so do the Goldfinches. They roost on the branches and eat the flowers. We had a Goldfinch nest in our yard this year and they produced a couple of young.

In addition, the Russian sage (Perovskia) is in full bloom; its deep purple set off nicely by all of the yellow. At about three foot tall it is a garden staple and a long bloomer to boot. Russian Sage is classified as a sub shrub or woody perennial. It performs very well in full sun and any well-drained soil. Average to dry moisture levels are ideal, and few pests bother this plant. If pruning is necessary, do so in spring when new growth appears. Prune back to just above the lowest bud.

Although,yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is not really a prairie plant, I planted it anyway. It likes the heat, does well with the dry conditions and is very showy - especially with purples. I like its rusty yellow color and it too, is a long bloomer. The flowers are very quite large and are wonderful for cutting and drying although I usually end up leaving them in the garden. Deadhead the flowers for re-bloom and cut back to the basil leaf after bloom has finished. This flower was once used to flavor beer and has quite a few medical uses, but I have it for its color and longevity.

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