Annuals

Heavenly Blue!

High 88 F
Low  52 F

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Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue'
Can anyone dispute the name of this annual?  I can't think of a better one and I never tire of seeing photos of this flower.  I have seen quite a few on the other blogs but it is a mind boggling blue, a true blue, a serene yet cheerful blue, the blue of a perfect sky!  I must plant some next year as this one is in Mom's garden with the marigolds, Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lemon Gem'. Dsc_0016

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I should have taken a picture of this plant this afternoon as it had not one spec of color showing.  All the flowers were shriveled up but there are many buds waiting for tomorrow morning!  It is a magic plant!

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I love this combination of complimentary colors.  This is really the only marigold that I like.  It has fine, ferny foliage with a neat habit lending itself to the edge of a border where it nicely defines the space.  The scent is definitely that of the marigold.  The flower is refined, single petaled and delicate in appearance.  This marigold may look delicate but it is a durable, drought tolerant annual as is the morning glory.  It has been very dry here for the past month and these two annuals are showing little, if any, stress.  There are other varieties of morning glory but none is as satisfying, at least to me, as the true blue!  Do any of you have some favorites to share?


What's better than a sunflower?

High 84 F
Low  54 F

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Helianthus annuus (Asteraceae Family)

I posted about the height of my sunflowers briefly on the 23rd but today's drive dictated that they get a bit more attention.  So, what is better than a sunflower?  They demand attention with their bright faces and impressive size.  The one above is growing in the garden but while driving today I happened upon a sea of sunflowers standing in this field like a chorus line getting ready to dance. Dsc_0002 And dance, they do!  Sunflowers are heliotropic which means that the plant, while in its' bud stage, has the ability to turn towards the sun and rotate, east to west, following the sun's path.  Once the plant starts to flower it stops this rotation.  Quite an interesting feature of the sunflower!  I had to pull over and take a few pictures because this is not a sight you see in New England all that often.  Dsc_0005 Many of the blogs I read, from Connecticut to South Carolina, west to Texas and north to Michigan all have mentioned sunflowers.  I find it comforting that so many other gardeners are growing this plant and it is one more common point of connection made in the gardening world.  The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas and is native to North America. Native Americans cultivated sunflowers dating back to 2100 B.C.  Sunflower seeds were exported to Europe and much of the breeding for increasing the oil content was done in Russia in the 1800's.  Vincent Van Gogh painted his sunflower series of seven in 1888 which just validates the universal appeal

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of sunflowers (in my book anyway).    Sunflowers provide food in the form of the seed, oil, and sunbutter much like peanut butter.  I love to watch the birds tugging at the seeds.

Colleen at In the Garden Online had some great suggestions for sunflower projects for kids .   I think that there are all sorts of interesting projects that can be done with sunflowers.  How about a double circle of sunflowers, creating a sunflower room?  A maze of sunflowers would be fun and probably has been done. I have made notes from Kris at Blithewold to grow 'Lemon Queen' and Bob from Bob's Garden to try 'Mammoth' next year.  Any other suggestions? 


Annual delights!

High 83.2 F
Low  60.3 F

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Cosmos with a twist!

Plant collectors and addicts love the unusual.  The sight of an Amorphophallus elicits exclamations of delight!  The newest cultivars of Echinacea have been much discussed in the blogosphere.  The basic pink and white coneflower cultivars have given way to orange and yellow.  If only there were a blue!  It is no different with annuals.  The commonplace such as the ubiquitous plantings of red salvia and yellow marigolds leave me cold.  The daring and the unusual demand further examination. Take for instance Dsc_0293
Zinnia elegans ' Cactus Red'
this zinnia observed at Tower Hill Botanical Garden.  It is about four feet tall, orange, and makes quite a statement in this vegetable garden.  As I mentioned, I am not a lover of marigolds bedded out but I do like this smaller flowered marigold which makes a lovely border plant.  I believe it is Tagetes tenuifolia.  Here it is bordering Mom's walkway. Dsc_0031 It has the pungent smell of a marigold with a much finer outline and texture.
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Red Leaf Castor Bean, Ricinus communis
Then there are the mighty annuals, one of which is the castor bean plant.  I know, it does belong in the 'Deadly Garden' as Heather from Heather's Garden named the future plot, but if you have no children to worry about it is quite an ornamental plant.  The Castor bean plant, Ricinus communis, is native to East Africa and is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family.  Castor oil, one of the many treats of childhood, is formulated from this plant and seeds of the castor bean  were found in Egyptian tombs dating from 4000 B.C.  How can it all be bad?  The plant produces a fine oil which was used for those oil lamps in days of yore.  The beans do contain ricin which is very toxic.   I guess the Egyptians knew not to eat the beans or to only serve them to their enemies.  The beans each have a unique mottled pattern on them with no two alike.  They are about the size of a pinto bean.  There are both male and female flowers on one plant.  The female flowers are quite pretty, as seen here.  The male flowers are seen below the female flowers and are smooth. Dsc_0011

While this plant is not native to the U. S. it has become naturalized in many southern areas.  Many cultures depended on this plant for the oil which provided both medicine and light. Here, it is a plant which is feared by many, grown by some of us for its' ornamental value but often reviled in the press.  What are your thoughts on growing this annual?