In bloom this week.

Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) have been blooming continuously since the beginning of July in the rock garden.
Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) have been blooming continuously since the beginning of July in the rock garden.

Some of the plants of boreal Jacob’s ladder in the rock garden, which were cut back hard earlier in the summer when they were going to seed, have rebloomed. Not as showy as their first flush of flowers but still welcome colour in the rock garden, which is primarily a spring garden.

Boreal Jacob's ladder (polemonium boreale).
Boreal Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium boreale).

I cannot recommend showy tick-trefoil for borders or small gardens: it is too lanky and in bloom for too short a period to justify it, and its sticky seed pods are a nuisance if you or a pet comes too close. However, it is a lovely component of meadows and naturalization projects. It is a favoured host plant for the caterpillars of Eastern Tailed Blue butterflies.

Showy tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense)
Showy tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense).

The first yellow daisies of late summer – sneezeweed and grey-headed coneflower – have been joined by cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), a robust and quick-to-flower giant which can easily reach to the eaves of a single storey house. The seeds of cup plant are nutritious and sought out by goldfinches and other seed-eating birds over the winter, so the natural impulse is to let the plant go to seed. However, be warned. Cup plant seeds itself generously in gardens and, unless the seedling cup plants are recognized and removed, a natural garden can be replaced by a cup plant plantation. Cup plant’s close relatives from the tall grass prairie, prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) and compass plant (S. laciniatum) are both so slow to get going they need to be coddled by the gardener for their first couple of years.

Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum)

Butterfly milkweed is finally in bloom. It has been very late to develop this year. Its bloom is overlapping with the first of the swamp asters, which is just weird.

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): bright orange flowers and a medium height make it ideal for a sunny border.
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): bright orange flowers and a medium height make it ideal for a sunny border.
Swamp aster or purple-stemmed aster in the swale garden.
Swamp aster or purple-stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) in the swale garden.

Our oldest plant of Culver’s root flowered in July and has now gone to seed. Two-year old plants of this slow-to-mature prairie species are flowering for their first time and are in bloom now. They are shorter than they will be when fully mature; their elegant white candelabra are tucked in among their neighbours. When happily settled in, the tips of the long spires of this lovely plant can reach six feet high or even more.

Culver's root (Veronicastrum virgini_.
Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum).

Cardinal flower. What else can I say. Except they are hard to get a good photo of. Intense reds and oranges are not handled well by my digital camera – the intense orange of Mexican sunflower also comes out as a fluorescent blob of colour.

carddinal
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

Cardinal flower’s close relative, great blue lobelia, is also in bloom right now.

Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica).
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica).

I don’t fuss with annuals too much but I like my Mexican sunflowers and I also sowed some seeds of love-in-a-mist. (Nigella). They are an amazing true blue and their seed pods are silly – a combination of striped balloon and jester’s hat.).

Love-in-a-mist (Nigella).
Love-in-a-mist (Nigella).

The Allegheny fringe is still extending its delicate tendril and blooming. It has reached the eaves of the studio, climbing some jute twine I provided for it, and has now started to drape downwards rather elegantly. I do love this native biennial.

Allegheny fringe or climbing bleeding heart (Adlumia fungosa).
Allegheny fringe or climbing bleeding heart (Adlumia fungosa).
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Published by

Trish Murphy

Artist: botanical, still life, and natural history illustration. Garden designer: native plants and naturalistic gardens

7 thoughts on “In bloom this week.”

  1. Great post, Trish. Thanks for all the info!! Can you tell me how tall your harebells are? The ones we’re growing at the FWG are very tiny – about 15 cm tall – but I have much taller ones at my cabin – more like 50 cm. I assumed the latter were non-native?

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    1. They are about 30- 40 cm high. The seed came from a high-quality pine barren site in eastern Ontario. I really think I can assume they are a native strain. I am growing them in full sun on thin acid soil over rock but they do get a bit of extra water from the hose from time to time and they do not have any big competition. They are growing with blue-eyed grass, early saxifrage, pale corydalis and some non-native creeping thyme. There is some variation between them – one plant is very leafy and full with few flowers.

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  2. Cup Plant is one of my favorites, though I’ve had some of the stalks break in recent storms. I grow harebells but they don’t look nearly as good as yours. The lobelias are beautiful – I’ve grown both the blue and red, but they faded away. I’d like to try Nigella, I saw lots of it when I was in Oregon in June.

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    1. Cardinal flower does fade away rapidly without the spring sogginess. Great blue lobelia is more adaptable but it too will fade if too dry. It often seeds itself around and shows up in a spot a little more to its liking -often a little damper than where you put it. Nigella – which is not native – has proven to be easy from direct sowing in spring. The feathery foliage makes the seedlings easy to identify. I got my seed from the Rock Garden Society Seed Exchange.

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