Friday, September 23, 2016

Septic Field Gardening

While considering the possibility of making a new flower bed on our septic pad, I've been researching the "do's and don'ts" of gardening over field lines.  What follows is a rambling blog post that is part a history of our yard, part a record of the information/recommendations I've found regarding gardening over field lines, and part nebulous plans for the proposed flower bed.

Photos of our septic pad (from a variety of angles) are scattered through the rest of this (lengthy) blog post.  (All photos are from August 19th of this year, by the way-- a few weeks before the last round of survey photos.) Here's one to get the ball rolling!

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

For those who don't know, when your home needs a septic system (usually because there's no city sewer system nearby to tie into), your soil has to pass a "perc test" (percolation test) before the septic system can be installed.  Essentially, the test determines whether or not the soil drains quickly enough to make a septic system sanitary.

Our soil did not pass the perc test, so we had to have a septic pad constructed.  This raises the grade of the land and improves the drainage.  The downside of a septic pad is that it can sometimes be very obvious-- a large rectangular mound near the house.  We're fortunate that you can't even see our septic pad from the front, because of the lay of the land and all the soil brought in before building our house.  From the backyard, there is a decided slope on two sides of the pad, but I flatter (delude?) myself that it's not unattractive.

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

(We could eventually plant something other than grass on those slopes, but at this point, it's far down the list of priorities, since the grass is doing a decent job of controlling erosion.  Gardening on the slopes would remove the necessity of mowing them, but they'd be quite a large addition to the area I'd have to maintain with weeding and mulching.  I don't think I'm up for the challenge.  Not unless Donald is bitten by the gardening bug and suddenly wants to spend hours every month weeding, too-- and that seems unlikely. (g) He has his own hobbies, and they don't include pulling weeds, strangely enough!)

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

But to get back to the point of this blog post... The top of our septic pad is very dry in the summer, and even after all these years (more than 15 years since the septic pad was first installed; over a decade since the house was built, which extended the raised area), the grass has failed to cover all of it, despite a feeble attempt or two at "sprigging" with grass from elsewhere in the lawn.  Parts of it are reasonably well-covered with grass, but others are far more weeds (grassy and otherwise) than "good" grass-- then there's a less desirable grass that's slowly spreading across one section of it...  (There's a fine example of the weed patch in the photo below.)

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

As a result, I've been toying with the possibility of creating a new flower bed on part of this trouble spot.

I've hesitated, since a new flower bed means more work, but if it's done properly, it can be a fairly low-maintenance flower bed.  (As you'll read below, it really needs to be low-maintenance, according to the experts.  If ever there's a place for an almost "self-tending" garden, this is it!)

Also, because it's right off the back of the house, overlooked by several windows, it's an area we see every day-- and therefore deserving of a little extra effort in the name of beautification.

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

I brainstormed a little, then did some searching and found, among other things, this useful page from Clemson.  (The information is tailored for South Carolina, but much of it should hold true for the rest of the South.)

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

I was pleased to find that many of the plants I'd already jotted down are on Clemson's list of suggestions for planting over field lines.  There is no shortage of options!  Many of these are very hardy, prolific plants, so I can easily take divisions from the ones already in my garden.

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

First, it's very important to note that you should definitely not plant a tree-- even a small, ornamental tree-- or shrub over field lines.  Those water-seeking roots can do extensive (and expensive) damage to the system, so save those plants for other places.

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

Next, it's recommended that you not dig or otherwise disturb the soil over the drain field any more than is absolutely necessary.  Don't add additional soil, either, beyond what may required to repair erosion damage or slight unevenness in the grade.  (So raised beds are out!)

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

The general rule of thumb in all matters is to leave the septic field as it is, as much as possible.  For instance, avoid plants that need frequent division.  Select tough plants that can survive with typical rainfall and naturally-present nutrients, reducing the need for frequent watering and fertilizing.  It's even suggested that you keep the layer of mulch to a minimum-- something that surprised me.  Apparently a thick layer of mulch can "restrict evaporation of soil moisture", which interferes with the function of the septic system.  For the same reason, it's best to avoid groundcover plants that create too dense of a cover.

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

...To be completely honest, I think some of these guidelines may be taking things a little too far.  Maybe there are situations where all this vigilance is truly necessary, but I suspect that our septic pad doesn't require this level of kid-glove treatment.  But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe it really is that sensitive...

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

Two more suggestions:
--Try to limit foot traffic over the area-- and on a related note, choose low-maintenance plants that won't require frequent, hands-on attention (which of course increases foot traffic).

(Okay... But if you have lawn over the field, isn't the lawnmower going to be just as likely to compact the soil as the gardener walking here and there every so often?  Also, our septic pad is part of our yard, not some sacred nesting-ground of a nearly-extinct species.  It is meant to be used, so we'll use it.  If the "traffic" of us and our dogs walking and-- dare I say it?-- running over the septic pad eventually does lead to it needing attention, I guess that will just be part of the expense of living and being a homeowner!)

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

--"Always wear gloves when working with the soil in the drain field area to minimize your exposure to the soil and any harmful organisms in it. This applies to many gardening activities such as digging, planting and weeding."

(I have no plans to plant fruits or vegetables on or near the field lines, and I'll almost certainly be wearing gloves when I do the initial digging of the proposed "pad bed", but I really do think that there's an over-abundance of caution on display, here.  So I can't even pull weeds on the pad bare-handed without risking some sort of... contamination?  It's a wonder I haven't contracted septic-system-itis by now!  I've definitely pulled weeds, dug, and planted in soil along the edges of, if not directly in the center of the septic pad-- and I'm sure I wasn't always wearing my handy-dandy hazmat suit-- or even gloves.  It never occurred to me to worry, and so far, it seems there was no serious need for concern.  ...But thanks for giving me something else to worry about!)

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

...I think that covers all the (many, many) rules about what you can't or shouldn't do.  Now let's get to the fun part-- the options for planting!

- - - - - - -

I'm focusing on my own personalized, semi-narrowed-down list of possibilities, but the link further up the page includes quite a few more.

So, based only on what I already have in the garden, ready for division/propagation/transplanting (or have already ordered to arrive this fall, in the case of some of the bulbs), here are my ideas for plants in full sun and dry soil:

--purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
--blanket flower (gaillardia-- may function more as an annual)
--yarrow (drought-tolerant, but can be invasive, depending on species/variety)
--Mexican petunia (Ruellia brittoniana 'Purple Showers'-- in a sunken pot to restrict its spread?)
--bat-face cuphea  (not sure yet if a true perennial here, but very good summer grower)
--purple heart (Tradescantia pallida or Setcreasea pallida)
--orange daylily (either plain single or 'Kwanso')
--black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm')
--swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius, not sure about dry conditions...)
--succulents (sun-loving succulents in a pot)
--bog sage (Salvia uliginosa, despite the name, reputed to adapt to dry soil, too.  This one is not on Clemson's list, by the way.)

--muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
--river oats (Chasmanthium latifolium, can be aggressive spreader if seeds not removed)

--montbretia / crocosmia (in a sunken pot to keep somewhat contained?)
--Spanish bluebell (Endymion hispanica)
--star flower (Ipheion uniflorum)

Clemson's list of recommended plants doesn't include specific annuals-- perhaps because they can require more foot traffic and disturbing the soil to replant every year-- but they do say that annuals can be used.


- - - - - - -

Next, there's the option of garden ornaments.

--We have a small sundial that could look nice on the edge of the proposed bed.

--An obelisk (with or without a vine, because an obelisk can also provide support to nearby non-vining plants) could also add another element of all-season interest.

--A tall and/or largish container (planted with succulents, possibly, or a grass or drought-tolerant perennial or annual) could provide a focal point-- but I imagine the experts would say that it's best not to have something solid covering much of the field lines area, as it could impede evaporation.  One or two pots shouldn't be a problem, though.

--We have a small bird-feeding station we're working on, out in the garage.  (It's on pause until cooler weather.)  We'll have to be careful, when we dig the hole to put up the post, to be sure we don't dig into a pipe or something... It would also be possible to just place a simple shepherd's hook from which to hang a small (lightweight) bird-feeder.  The feeder itself is something to look at, and if you succeed in attracting birds, they fill the garden the movement and interest.  (A birdhouse-- decorative, functional, or both-- is another option.)

--I can imagine a small section of picket fence (or an old bedstead) looking charming in a wildflower / meadow-style / naturalistic planting that would be well suited to the parameters of field line landscaping.

- - - - - - -

Now that I've more or less decided that I will make a flower bed on the septic pad, I have to start thinking more specifically about where exactly I will position it and how big it will be.  Originally, I was planning to fit an oval into the curve of the existing border, but now I'm not so sure.  I might nudge it down a bit further.

This is the view from the back patio (and there's a very similar view from the house).

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

Would it be nice to look out over a grassy path (wide enough for the mower) and see a casual flower bed there?  What shape would it be?  A fat oval or more elongated?  (It must be easy to mow around, and I prefer curves to straight lines.)

Or would it make more sense to scooch it off to the right, leaving the area directly in front of the patio as open lawn?  My current inclination is to site the new bed in front of the patio, even if it's not centered there.

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

If/when there's a new flower bed here, the views from the gravel path will change significantly between this summer and next.  I think it will be an improvement.

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

Contemplating a New Flower Bed

If this summer ever actually goes away, this new proposed flower bed will be one of the main undertakings for the cool season.  Even if I don't do the planting before spring, I will have plenty to do just settling on its location, handling the grass/weeds already in place, putting down mulch, and deciding on a layout for plants and small ornaments.

At this point, the possibilities seem endless!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Garden Survey -- September 2016

I'm less and less enthusiastic about garden survey posts, after the middle of summer, because I'm less and less satisfied with the look of the garden!  It feels messy with weeds and past-prime plants.  (The weather's nice enough that I could be pulling weeds, but I'm still slacking off.)  Even some things that have yet to bloom for the year are starting to look sad and sloppy!  (I'm not sure what's gone wrong.  Cutting them back at the wrong time?  Too much water?  Too little?)

Looking on the bright side, there are still many things blooming.  There are many butterflies and a least two or three hummingbirds doing battle on a daily basis.  Cooler weather will eventually arrive, which will be my cue to make some big changes outside.  A good winter's rest will do wonders to rejuvenate many of the plants, and there's always the hope that next year will be even better.

- - - - - - -

Off the covered patio and to the right. 

There are some pots congregated here and there, along the banister.  Some are cuttings I rooted but have never planted.  Then there are the clearance plants I ordered online.  None of them have bloomed, and they probably won't, this year.  I think the tuberoses got too late of a start (and maybe not enough sun).  Ditto for the pineapple lilies (which snails or slugs have been pestering for the past month or more).  The white-flowered muhly grass is a small clump, but definitely growing a lot from when I first planted it.  Orange bottle-brush ginger will not bloom this year, I'm sure, but it's doing pretty well, considering a late start and the tininess of the rhizome.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

The umbrella palm has been very happy in its new location, but it has begun to flop somewhat.  I might try to give it some sort of support, next year, but the flopping's not terrible, and it took most of the summer for it to get even to this point.  I like the shape of umbrella palm-- like a living firework.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

A different angle. 

Some of the plants along this path have tried to sprawl across it.  I need to cut them back, but they're not doing any real harm.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Further down the "straight and narrow path". ;o)

You can't see very well in this photo, but the trellis to the left is where the passion vines are planted.  The caterpillars have eaten all the leaves and flowers, as I've written before.  The vines are still there, but I doubt it will do anything much more until next spring-- if even then.

The other trellis is supporting pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana).  It took a while to really rev up, but the vine is going crazy, now.  I'm amazed at how far it has wandered in one or two directions.  The flowers have started in earnest, too.  Not an early-blooming vine, in this climate.

In the right foreground is the bog sage.  On the left is tithonia (Mexican sunflower), which is getting tired and ugly, but still blooms.  I haven't had the heart to remove it, because the flowers still attract plenty of interest from the butterflies.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

The little stepping stone path from the gravel circle to the front lawn.

Kind of a mess, here... The bog sage, as you can see, is loose and floppy.  On the right of the stepping stones are what remain of this year's seed-started daylilies.  I've lost a number of them during the summer.  Too much water, probably.  However, there should be enough remaining plants to make it worth the time and money.

The flowers on the right that look white are actually the very pale pink flowers of the double-flowered rose of Sharon from my paternal grandparents' garden.  These roses of Sharon have been a bright spot, this year, and I hope they'll only get better, next year.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

A slight turn to the right.

The loropetalums have begun a late-season flowering.  Nothing compared to their big burst of bloom early in the year, but nice, all the same.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

It looks like a jungle (jumble?), and maybe not in such a good way.  (g)  Well, ok, I still kind of like my jungle, even if it is messy...  Better to embrace the messiness of the outdoors than to try unsuccessfully to train and wrestle it into order, perhaps.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Ducking into the semi-shade garden...

This is a part of the garden that I think may be undergoing a renovation.  I'm not completely satisfied with the use of the space, and I suspect that many of these gingers would be happier with a little more sun.  Getting the right amount of sun in our yard is tricky.  I don't want to scald them with too much hot, direct sunlight, but they might grow better and healthier with just a little more.  Then there's the soil to consider.  They like a humus-heavy soil with a fair amount of moisture in the summer, but in the winter, they can rot if the soil stays too damp.  The no-damp-winter-soil requirement takes some of the partially-shaded areas of our yard off the list immediately...

Unfortunately, from what I've read, gingers might be better transplanted well in advance of cool weather.  In that case, I might need to wait until they emerge in spring/early summer.  (Some gingers can be slow to emerge until the weather heats up quite a bit.)  I'll do a little more reading.  Even if I do need to wait, it's not as though I have any definite plans, yet, anyway!  There are one or two other small jobs I could focus on, first.  (Just one or two very small jobs... (g))

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Back down the path in the other direction.

Not much to say here... The border on the right side gets a lot of sun (which maybe isn't obvious in this photo, taken first thing in the morning, before the sun had gotten high enough to peep over the trees to our east).  The one on the left is more shaded, though parts of it get decent light, too.

There are plenty of plants that thrive in full sun, but most of what I have planted here is only of short to medium height-- well under 3 feet tall-- lots of daylilies, but also purple heart, coreopsis, crinum, and so on.  My only complaints for this part of the border would be that it could do with a little more vertical interest and late-season interest-- but the latter is a nit-pick, because there are things planted here that look good all summer (and a few of the daylilies are rebloomers).

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

The shadier strip on the other side presents more of a challenge.  This year, we tried to address part of the problem by planting a couple more dwarf gardenias.  If they do well, they'll provide a nice, evergreen backbone for the border.  I've also been very impressed by the variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata').

I could've sworn I blogged about the flax lily when I first planted it, but now I can't find it, so maybe I overlooked it.  Too bad, because I would have liked to have known when I planted it, and a "before" photo would be useful, too... Oh well, it was sometime in early to early-mid summer, and I believe the clump has grown quite a bit since planting.  If it comes through the winter alright, I may try dividing it and using it to fill in the gaps between the gardenias.  Because it has such attractive foliage, it is beautiful for months at a time, without relying on the fleeting appeal of flowers.  (Actually, it's supposed to be evergreen, so we'll see...)

Though some sources describe it as needing "constantly moist" soil, others say it is drought-tolerant.  I can only add that my clump of variegated flax lily has thrived this summer in a shady spot without any special care.  (However, I did water pretty much the whole flower garden during particularly dry spells, earlier this summer.)  It can suffer from rust, but so far, I'm more than satisfied with mine.  (I'll try to get some photos of it, one of these days...)

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Further along the curvy path.

The viburnum at the back is getting big.  It seems to become infested with Eastern tent caterpillars at least once a year-- two or three times, this year.  If you catch them early enough, it's not so bad, but I loathe those disgusting caterpillars.  It's not a pleasant chore, removing them.  Some of the leaves look a little crispy, right now, but on the other hand, it's blooming again... This probably wasn't the best location for a viburnum-- too much hot sun-- but its coping well enough that I have no immediate plans to try to relocate or remove it.

Late this summer, we've lost some large patches of creeping phlox, which was a disappointment.  They were so lush and healthy-looking!  They died out shortly after a period of very heavy rain, and I'm fairly certain that had something to do with their disappearance.  Oh well.  Fortunately, one or two smaller patches are still hanging on.  Considering that I got my start of this plant just last year (from Mom's garden), it didn't take long to get to a decent size before.  No reason it can't recover just as quickly.  Some of it may not have died all the way down to the roots, too, so the "dead" spots may come back on their own, next year.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Not much to say here... The new arbor is still waiting for its finishing touches.  One of these days!

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

West of the bay window...

This area needs weeding... Behind the clump of crinum (on the left) there's some of the swamp daisy.  Everywhere I have swamp daisy growing, it's started to "fall open" in the middle, now.  It spent most of the summer getting taller, but staying fairly upright and dense; now it's begun to open up and spread out a bit.  This makes it look messier, but since I see flower buds, there's no way I'm touching it-- not until it has bloomed.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Near the garage...

In the back (middle of photo, stretching up against the fence), there's that mystery plant that has turned out to be an undesirable wintercreeper.  I'll be removing that, this winter.  Not sure what will take its place.  Maybe canna lilies?  Something with a little height, ideally, since it's the back of the border.  Sun-tolerant ginger lily would work, too.  Maybe a mingling of the two.

The red-and-purple-flowered bat-face cuphea has conquered a large area of this garden bed.  It has bloomed all the warm season and will continue to flower until the cold nips it back.  I'm trying to collect seeds, in case it doesn't survive the winter.  This plant does need space to ramble.  Otherwise, it just grows right over any smaller plants in its path.  I'm sure that cutting it back would keep it within bounds, but that would probably require repeated trimming through the season.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

To the south of the garage...

This year, the Mexican purple sage (Salvia purpurea) looks sooo scroungy!  I'm not sure why.  I cut it back two or three times, this summer; maybe I didn't do it right.  Next year, I might cut back harder, but only once.

The tea olive is slowly gaining size.

The clump of pink/purple (depending on who you ask) muhly grass seems larger than last year.  It has yet to bloom, but I'm expecting it soon.  Most people describe it as looking nondescript until its late-season cloud of bloom, but I like it all summer long-- and even into winter.  It's not especially showy when not in bloom, but it's a nice textural contrast to most other plants, and I like its low, billowy form.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

From the back lawn...

The cannas took a while to grow, but they filled in the blank spot effectively.  I'm not sure I'll leave them here for good, but I'm happy to have canna lilies in the garden.  If I do move them, I'll probably try to replace them with something that won't take as long to get to size.

I do like the contrast between the large, tropical canna foliage and the tiny golden leaves of the 'Sunshine' ligustrum.  (That ligustrum is a favorite anchor, and I'm happy to report that some of the cuttings I took this year have rooted.  I'll be planting some elsewhere in the garden, sooner or later.)

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

This west-facing border is mostly past its prime.  Some plants need cutting back (which will, with luck, rejuvenate them for next year).  Others are just played out-- like the remaining celosia and tithonia, which looks dreadful but is still blooming... I've been leaving it for the butterflies, but eventually, it has to go.

Then there are the two sages.  'Pizzazz Purple' has done really well all year, but now it's gotten a bit scraggly.  Tall, but scraggly.  Blooming, but scraggly.  It will die back with frost, so I guess I'll leave it until then... Salvia leucantha has only recently begun to bloom, so it is probably the best-looking plant, at the moment.  It got big this year!

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

Here, you can see more of the expanse of "lawn" (glorified weed patch with the occasional spot of grass) on the septic pad.  I have a long blog post planned on the subject of this area.  Most of it is already written, in fact.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

On the other side of the west-facing border, we have a bug-eaten moonflower vine (which still blooms well, despite the nibbled leaves) and some clock vine that has finally decided to clamber up the rustic obelisk.

I believe this will be the last year for the obelisk.  I'll almost certainly remove it, this winter.  Not sure what the plans are for this part of the garden.  It needs a lot of work, and there are limitations on what can and will grow here.  Ornamental trees are out, because of the septic field lines nearby.  Even shrubs are not a good idea, out past a certain distance from the house.  The soil is very dry in summer, so drought-tolerant plants that can handle hot sun are best-- but of course we're still in southern Alabama, so humidity is (almost) always with us.  There are plants that can do well, here, though.

Garden Survey - September 9th, 2016

And that does it for September's delayed garden survey.  Last year, I stopped the garden surveys in October.  I haven't decided if I'll do the same this year, but if nothing else, I hope to have progress to blog about, even if it doesn't merit a monthly "survey" entry.

- - - - - - -

I've just been looking back at last year's September survey, and I'm amazed at how much has changed in the past year.  There's room for plenty more improvement, but we've come a long way, already.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Gulf Fritillaries

I wrote last month that there were many Gulf fritillary caterpillars on our red-flowered passion vines.  Well, they've chomped and chomped until the vines are practically bare.  I hope the vines will recover-- at least put up new shoots next spring/summer, if not new leaves before frost.

Assuming the vines survive, next year (if I can work up the enthusiasm) I think I'll pick off some of the caterpillars.  I don't mind sharing plants with butterfly caterpillars, but this is taking things too far.  I want to enjoy some flowers-- or at least a few leaves.

And still they come!  There are so many Gulf fritillaries visiting other flowers, and I imagine some of them are still laying eggs on those poor, denuded vines.  This is why bugs annoy me.  I know they're just doing what they do, but they're so greedy!  (Only half joking here...)  Plus, caterpillars look creepy-- a fact that is only slightly ameliorated by the knowledge that they'll eventually turn into butterflies.  I'm just caterpillared out, for the year.  Bah-humbug! (Get it? HumBUG?)

Here's a large caterpillar, back when there were still some leaves to eat...

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

The odd-looking thing beside the caterpillar in this next photo had me stumped, until I looked around a little online.  Apparently, that's the old skin of the caterpillar.  It had just shed it.  Notice that the caterpillar's "spikes" are pale ("blond", some call it), compared to the usual black (as in the photo above).  That's what the spikes look like when a caterpillar has recently molted.  They darken with time.

Want a gross-out factoid?  The caterpillars typically eat their molted skin.  :oS  Blech.  (I'm sorry, but that's just disgusting.)

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Quite a bit further down the fence, there's a gate where I noticed several chrysalises/chrysalides.  I can't be positive, but I imagine these are Gulf fritillaries in the making.

Unfortunately, one of them was being attacked by a particularly mean-looking wasp:

Wasp Attacking (?) Chrysalis

At least, I assume the wasp was attacking it-- trying to get inside and eat it, probably.  (Yuck again.  Nature can be so gross.)

I hope that some of the others make it!  (Otherwise, we may have sacrificed our passion vines for nothing, to be completely selfish about it...)

Gulf Fritillary Chrysalis

I'm sure some of them will survive to maturity...

Gulf Fritillary Chrysalis

I guess that's why there are so many of them to begin with...  

Gulf Fritillary Chrysalis
Nature may be gross, sometimes, but it knows its business pretty well.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Flower Photos for September

Late summer is not my garden's prettiest time of the year.  Part of this is due to my tendency to slack off in all gardening duties; another issue is planning.  There are probably things I could plant that would carry the flower beds through to fall more successfully-- both late-blooming perennials and annuals that I could start from seed in mid-summer.

However, even with my neglect, there are things still in bloom, on display whenever I can bring myself to leave the air conditioned house and brave the mosquitoes and the humidity.

Gladiolus callianthus 'Murielae' (peacock orchid).
These have been a success-- especially considering that they were a spontaneous clearance purchase.  This year, there haven't been tons and tons of flowers open at any given time, but there have been a few here and there over the course of the summer.  If they survive the winter and multiply, the display should only improve in summers to come.

Peacock Orchid

They're scented, too, which is nice-- though I've found that I need to bend down to sniff them to detect their perfume.  With more blooms open at one time, they fragrance would probably carry further-- and atmospheric conditions probably affect it, too.

Peacock Orchid

Salvia leuchantha.
Most of the summer, the Mexican bush sage stayed modestly in the background.  It grew to a good size, but it didn't attract much attention without any flowers.  Then, two or three weeks ago, I started noticing flower buds, which hang down despondently:

Mexican Bush Sage

Gradually, they grow in size and hold themselves upright.

Mexican Bush Sage

The fuzzy purple calyxes open to make way for purple flowers, which attract butterflies and hummingbirds and anyone who likes purple flowers.

Mexican Bush Sage

A late-season bloomer.  It should be blooming until frost-- one of the first late-season flowers to open in our garden, this year.  I hope others will soon follow.

Mexican Bush Sage

Heliconia psittacorum 'Lady Di'.
This heliconia bloom has seemed to last forever!  I took a photo of the flower just opening in late August.  As you can see, it's still going strong.  I've seen hummingbirds curiously poking at it from time to time, and from what I've read, hummingbirds are the main pollinators of heliconias.

Heliconia 'Lady Di'

Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising'.
Though I haven't been deadheading like I should, there are still some new flowers.

Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising'

Celosia 'Mega Punk'.
I believe I wrote recently that much of my celosia was past its prime, some of it even flopping into pathways.  I've cut back some of it (and harvested seeds for next year).  Other plants, I've left where they are.  Those I left are still putting on new blooms, despite the flopping.

I need to learn more about celosia, sometime.  Maybe it would last longer if I deadheaded it, at some point in the season... I'm sure that staking it would keep it from flopping (as much), so I'll try to remember to do that, next time.

I've been amazed at the amount of seed that comes out of these celosia seedheads!  I cut some off, put them in an open paper bag to dry-- and life being what it is, it was quite some time before I returned to them.  Leaving them alone to dry was apparently just the right thing to do, though.  I tipped the bag's opening over a bowl and the seed just kept pouring and pouring out.  The pieces I harvested more recently are still holding onto their seed (too damp, I guess), so I'll try to forget about them for another week or two.

Celosia 'Mega Punk'

Hedychium coronarium 'Elizabeth'.
I added this ginger lily to our garden last summer.  It never bloomed, last year, but this year, I've seen at least two promising buds.  Unlike the "heirloom" ginger lily, which has white flowers, 'Elizabeth' is supposed to have raspberry/reddish-orange flowers.  I'm curious to see the blooms, because it seems that people don't agree on just what color the flowers are.

The fragrance is described as "honeysuckle-like", so I'm also interested in comparing it to the typical white ginger lily fragrance (which is wonderful and supposedly the strongest perfume of the ginger lilies).

Ginger Lily 'Elizabeth'

This ginger must be tired, because it's trying to lie down on the ground. ;o)  But seriously, I think it might like a little more sun, so I might try transplanting it, sometime after the flowers are done.  'Elizabeth' can get tall-- 6' to 9' tall-- but ours is staying quite a bit shorter than that.  A little more sun might help it reach its full potential.

Ginger Lily 'Elizabeth'

Salvia uliginosa (bog sage).
Still blooming!  This plant is a sprawler (and maybe a creeper, too, based on what I've read more than my own experience to date), but it does bloom and bloom from spring until fall.  The flowers are small, compared to the size of the plant and its airiness.  I can imagine some would think it has a weedy appearance, but I like it.  I do think I might try to move it a little further off the path, though, once the frost kills it back to the ground.  It takes up more room than I was expecting, and though I don't mind brushing past a plant with a few bees on it, the wasps are more intimidating.

Bog Sage

Hibiscus syriacus (rose of Sharon, unknown variety).
The two pale-pink double-flowered roses of Sharon are doing well.  I'm amazed at how quickly they've grown, considering that they started this year as tiny twigs.  I never expected them to bloom so soon!

Earlier in the summer, I planted a volunteer rose of Sharon in the front yard (the new island bed).  In the past couple of weeks, it began to bloom-- in white.  That makes the second volunteer rose of Sharon that I thought would be single purple (w/ red eye) that has turned out instead to be single all-white.

If I want more of the single purple, it seems like the easiest, most reliable way to get them would be to take cuttings from the one I already have-- especially now that I see how quickly they grow from cuttings.  Not sure I need more of the purple, but I do like it...

Rose of Sharon

There are a variety of colors of self-seeded annual vinca (Madagascar periwinkle) scattered here and there around the yard.  They seemed to take a while to get started, this year, compared to last.

Madagascar Periwinkle / Vinca

Ruellia brittoniana 'Purple Showers'.
I'm actually just guessing that this is 'Purple Showers', because it came to me as a pass-along identified by the common name only (Mexican petunia), but I think it must be.  It's not a dwarf form, and though it spreads by runners, it doesn't seem to spread by seed.  

I think the Mexican petunia needs thinning, and I plan to do that sometime in the next few months, before spring.  The Mexican petunia does have a habit of meandering without asking permission, but so far, it hasn't moved too quickly, where I have it planted, so I'm keeping it there.

Mexican Petunia

Thunbergia alata (black-eyed Susan vine).
The black-eyed Susan vine has finally grown vertically instead of just making a mat on the ground.  I'm disappointed that it took so long to get tall and question whether I'll try that again next year.  Oh, I'm sure some of it will volunteer  in the two or three places it's growing this summer, but I'm just not sure it's worth planning for it to grow on a given trellis or obelisk.

The flowers can be pretty, but you have to be prepared for it to grow everywhere you didn't plan (like into the rose bushes) while studiously ignoring the handy vertical support you intended it to scale.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

A few daylilies have been blooming again.  At the moment, they're mostly yellows, as it happens.


Tulbaghia violacea.
The society garlic has mostly just sat there, this year-- but it's still there, which is more than I can say for certain other disappointing plants.  And it's even bloomed a few times!  I'm hopeful that it will do better next year, though, because so far, it hasn't exactly been impressive.  

Society Garlic

Gaillardia (blanket flower).
This is another one that could have been better, this year.  I started a bunch of them from seed in spring, but most of them haven't done much.  Some are flowering, but they're not as impressive as they were last year.  This may be one of those plants I should be starting later in the year, instead of in spring.  There's also the chance that they'll pick up in the next month or two and put on more of a show, after all.

Blanket Flower

Curcuma 'Scarlet Fever'.
My last photo isn't of a flower at all, but rather of some attractive tropical foliage and stems.

I'm seriously considering doing some rearranging in the semi-shade garden.  I don't know yet if I will-- or how much rearrangement is even possible, given the limited amount of shade-- but I'm not completely satisfied with things as they now stand.

I think some of these gingers could take a little more sun, for one thing.  For another, I'd like to be able to get back in there-- or at least see back in there-- a little more easily.  Also, I don't love it that the flowers from the crepe myrtle tend to stick on the large banana-like leaves of the two curcumas underneath.  It's not a huge problem; the gingers certainly aren't hurt by it, but I think they'd look nicer without the mess of fallen petals (which stick to the dewy leaves and dry there).

Curcuma 'Scarlet Fever'