Monday, August 17, 2015

"Keepers": Late Summer Bloomers

I went fishing with my dad all my life until he became physically unable to get out. In addition to how to bait a hook and cast a line, he taught me which fish should be thrown back (too small, too bony, not to his taste, etc.) and which were "keepers". Lately, I've been thinking about my garden plants in this way--those that should be kept and those that should be thrown back (metaphorically, of course). 

What makes a particular plant a keeper varies from one person (and/or garden) to another, but most gardeners value a plant's attractiveness, fragrance, etc. Or it may be a particular function that the plant serves, for instance, to act as a screen or control erosion. Then we consider how much effort the plant requires in return for whatever it offers. When the positives of what the plant gives us outweighs the cost/aggravation/work of growing it, we have a keeper.

One of the things that makes a plant a keeper for me is mid- to late-summer appeal: color and/or bloom. Today I walked around the garden to see what is providing bloom in mid-August. Also, high on my list of criteria for a "keeper" is disease resistance and easy care. While not totally anti-chemical, I generally don't want plants that require frequent spraying or heavy doses of fertilizer. In the next few posts, I'll talk about the plants I'm evaluating as keepers.

I decided that our Drift roses are keepers. We have several that are currently going through a flush of blooms. These have been blooming almost continually since early spring. You may recall that I took out several roses this year that appeared to be infected with rose rosette disease, including several Drift roses. I left the roses that did not appear to be infected and crossed my fingers they would make it. So far so good. I cut back the one shown below after its last bloom flush, and it rewarded me with these flowers. While the foliage in the picture looks great, it is not representative of the entire plant. The older foliage has some black spot but, in my opinion, looks pretty good given that it has not been sprayed at all this year.

Drift Rose 'Peach'

Here's another Drift in bloom, with the black spot more visible.

Drift Rose 'Coral'

Another plant that is blooming now and may be a keeper, at least for another year, is the hardy hibiscus, 'Midnight Marvel'. It is now starting its second flush of bloom this summer with no special care, except for a heavy trimming following the first flush. I like the red bloom, but I bought it for its dark foliage, which has not been dark in our garden. So in the fall, I'm moving it to a sunnier area and trying it for another year. If the foliage is dark next year, I'll keep it. If not, it will be re-homed. 

Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel'

In the next post, I'll talk about some other plants that performed well for me this summer and are likely to be keepers.

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