One of the annual flower color combinations that did well together this season is a blue and gold patch in a skinny bed two feet deep and ten feet long. It has a medium dark blue Salvia with the varieity name of ‘Gruppenblau’ (which is German and must mean some kind of blue) in the back of the bed. With a medium green coarse leaf and tall (24 -36 inch) wand like spikes covered with small two lipped petaled flowers, this blue salvia is at the top of my list of favorite flowers. Last year we saved seeds from it from plants that were taller than the rest and had slightly bigger flowers. That’s what I planted in this spot and was rewarded with all of these plants being about 36 inch tall. Even the stems of the flower are tinged with blue. It is very striking.
In front of the salvia is another favorite flower called Melampodium ‘Showstar’. this is the combo to plant if you want no maintenance! Healthy, full, rounded, 20 inch tall, lots of yellow gold 1 inch daisy blossoms. It has no disease and a great shape. The salvia’s tall and spikey shape complements the round full and shorter Melampodium. Both of them are still at peak bloom , have never needed deadheading and the leaves of both are still looking fresh and bright green. These colors look great with the goldenrods and the purple asters of the fall season.
Behind me as I sit on the bench is a Monarch nectaring on a white phlox called ‘David’. This is one of the best phlox – it’s resistant to mildew and is always upright with a clean green look. Behind the phlox is a patch of Joe Pye Weed 6 feet tall. Bees and butterflies love Joe Pye, too.
Today since it is almost October would be a good day to go out and pull any poor looking plants and compost them. we have been cleaning up around our beds and cultivating the bare patches when we pull anything out. It makes this rest of the bed look even better.
That’s it for today. I am going to go out and enjoy this beautiful weather while it lasts!
Here we are in late summer, most of the flowers of the season have faded. That means the honey bees have to work harder for their nectar.
I was watering the outdoor potted plants this afternoon and noticed the bees “working” the flowers of our Leonotis (Staircase Plant). Usually I don’t see any bees on this plant but today was different.
The honey bees were seaching for nectar. Some were flying franticaly from flower to flower, while others were spending some time at each blossom.
Looking closer, I noticed that the “frustrated” bees (the ones flying from flower to flower) were trying to get nectar from the tip of the elongated flowers. (Please excuse the out of focus shot, it’s pretty hard to convince a bee to stay still for a picture)
While those working calmly and deliberately were gathering nectar from the base of the flower.
Looking closer at the flower, I discovered that the petals of a Leonotis flower are wrapped in such a way that it forms a funnel shape.
If a honey bee tries to get nectar from the tip, it finds that it can’t reach the base of the flower where the nectar is stored. The flower is too long for the bee to stretch her tongue that far.
A smart bee learns that where the flower petals overlap, a small crack is formed at the seam near the base of the flower. This is where she inserts her tongue and is able to easily gather the nectar.
This was a very intriguing display of honey bee behavior. I could have watched it for hours, but I was running out of time and had much more watering to do.
So, I just continued on with my work and let the bees carry on with theirs.
In In the centers of the beds, in the annual garden that I take care of, are the taller flowers. Cleome ‘Violet Queen’ is 4 feet tall, with a cluster of pure, purple, funnel shaped flowers. It starts blooming early and continues to bloom as it gets taller. It has little thorns on it so I like to keep it away from the outer edges of beds so people don’t accidentally get scratched.
One of our favorite flowers is Verbena bonareinsis. It doesn’t usually have a common name listed, but I think Purple Haze would fit very well. It’s three feet tall with only a few leaves near the base of the plant, and stiff, wiry stems with a cluster of smaller purple flowers on top. Butterflies love it, since it’s not very full looking or thick with leaves , we let it grow where ever it seeds itself. The flowers behind it can still be seen very well. It adds a dusting of purple to the garden.
Each bed has a stand of sunflowers in it this year. The one that looks the best in the beds is ‘sonja’. Only 3 to 3 and a half feet tall, it blends in with the other flowers quite well. Another bed has a sunflower in it that turned out to be 6 ft, that one looks out of place with the other flowers. ‘Sonja’ has a small flower head, 3-4 inches wide and dark yellow petals with a dark brown center. Bloomed for quite a while, still is. Plus it attracts, like all other sunflowers, the goldfinches at this time of year. They add alot of excitement to the garden, while they cling to the hanging sunflower heads and jab away at the newly formed seeds.
The bumble bees are buzzing around the cleome now. They push their way into the funnel shaped flowers to get to the nectar.
On the other side of one of the beds I can see the pale greenish tubuar blossoms of the Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’, a 18″ -24″ tall flowering tobacco. I think I will under plant the cleome with this nicotiana next year. The cleome gets bare at the bottom of the plant and the green and purple will look good together.
Butterflies and bees are all over this garden now that the morning has warmed up. It makes it so alive in here. So much to see. It really is a satisfying garden. Sight, sound, smell and the warmth surrounding me totally make the work that goes into this garden worthwhile.