27 June 2016

Getting Stoked

These beauties started out as seeds. They were picked up at the annual seed exchange in February 2015. I had heard of Stokesia (Stokesia laevis) before, but only vaguely remembered that it was a perennial, and that I would not mind having it.

Seeds were started last spring, and then seedlings went into the garden. I picked out a nice spot that was full of sun and good soil. The good soil part is a relative term -- relative to the soil around the property.

They grew beautiful full leaves and no flowers. This year, they sprung to life. Excitement built as the first buds started to emerge a few months ago. Then more excitement as stems branched out with even more buds. Were they blue? Were they pink? Where they bi-color? Who knew? Maybe they were not stokesia. After all, I have picked up bulbs labeled 'dwarf orange gladiolus' to find they were purple upon blooming. And, I planted a few things that never germinated, like Scabiosa, the same year.

The photos show the show at the beginning. This proud dad of a new perennial was very happy. They make good indoor cut flowers -- until all those strand-like petals decide to drop off. They close up at night and only fully open in direct sun. Clouds also tend to close them a little.

The 2-inch (5 cm), larger-than-expected flowers are a blueish purple that fade lighter as they age. The biggest issue I have is that they flopped over. The five plants relied upon each other to prop themselves up, but with a little wind, they now all fell over.

Stokesia or Stokes Aster, is a member of the daisy / aster family, and is native to the southeastern United States. There! I planted another native without knowing it was a native. It prefers wet or soggy areas, and is evergreen in some southern areas, but likes heat, and thus is considered drought tolerant. It was named after English botanist Jonathan Stokes. Shouldn't we have native plants named after native Americans?

For The Record:
  • Well-drained loose fertile soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer in autumn
  • No serious pests/disease
  • Tends to fall over upon blooming

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, phlox, rudbeckia, echinacea, liatris, marigold, Russian sage, daylilies
  • Harvested: cilantro, dill, onions

11 June 2016

Rocky Mountain Blue

The penstemon is finally coming around this spring, although not as much as I would like. Penstemon Rocky Mountain (Penstemon strictus), emphatically came out with an intense blue flower stalk on one of the plants in early May.

My penstemon, native to poor western soils, was started from seed obtained at last year's seed exchange. A few seeds produced five healthy seedlings. They were planted last spring in the front near the house where sun is plentiful, and near the driveway pavement where soil is warm in summer and consequently dries out fast. Perfect for them, I thought.

One solitary stalk from one plant shot out of the central plant, producing this cluster of blue blooms. Several protrusions on the other four plants looked like they would join the party, but they were just teasing me. Nothing materialized from them. But, oh! that one with its color.

Reading up a bit more, I learned that fertilizing is unnecessary and just produces leaves. Their location has good soil; maybe too good. I don't recall fertilizing them, but did not give them a poor gravel soil, either. One more summer, and I anticipate some excitement next year. I wonder if Rocky Mountain penstemon would make a good addition to my hell strip?

For The Record:
  • Mulched soil with no amendments or fertilizer
  • Full sun
  • No serious pests/disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: poppies, rudbeckia, stokesia, nicotiana, phlox, hostas, daylilies, coreopsis, lavender
  • Harvested: peas, cilantro,