Datura ‘Black Currant Swirl’

I planted D. metel ‘Black Currant Swirl’ earlier this summer hoping that it would become a tall and showy feature in the middle of my late summer garden. One of its nicest features are its flowers – pretty bell or trumpet shaped flowers in super-swirly shades of purple and white. The flowers are up-facing, rather than pendulous like the more commonly known ‘Angel’s Trumpet,’ a cousin in the closely related brugmansia family.

So, what’s not to like about Datura?

Well, for one thing, the entire plant is poisonous – leaves, flowers, seeds and all. For another, this plant does not have a pleasant aroma. The tag said something about gardeners praising it for its “night-blooming beauty and fragrance”. I guess I’m not hanging out in the garden late enough in the evening to catch a whiff of its beauty or its purportedly sweet fragrance because, to me, it has the aroma of dirty sweat socks. (Trust me, I’m a mom and an expert at sniffing down that odor.)

This plant sprouts walnut-sized green balls with knobby purple spikes, each fruit containing hundreds of seeds. Very poisonous seeds, so I’ve read. I have also read that it’s wise to remove the seed pods before maturity because they tend to self-seed and can become invasive…and the seeds can be viable for years to come.

Oh, great! Just what I need – another “invasive” in my garden. Hold on a sec while I don a pair of gloves and head outside armed with my trusty snippers.

There! I’m back. The surgery has been performed.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not sure I like this plant as a whole. I had such great expectations it would become a show-stopping centerpiece in my front yard’s most visible flowerbed.

Our two person jury is at an impasse. My husband really likes it. He thinks its cool and wants us to keep it. Me? Well, maybe it’ll grow on me, but I think it’s just ‘kinda meh’ and taking up valuable garden real estate . I’m thinking I’d be happier with another hibiscus strutting its late summer stuff in that spot.

‘Tie Dye’ Hibiscus (rose mallow) growing by the front door

Any thoughts or suggestions from my fellow gardeners?

Sorry, only five photos this week, but that’s it for my Six on Saturday. If you are a gardener (or just like to play in the dirt), you should really pop on over to our Six on Saturday host Jon’s blog “The Propagator”. You’ll find all sorts of gardens to tour with just a click, lots of inspiration, and collective wisdom from gardeners around the world – each sharing six things from their garden on Saturdays (unless they’re perpetually late bloggers like me).

A Lesson on Hibiscus

“What is that big pink flower?”

I would be well on my way to becoming a very wealthy woman if I had a dollar for every time I answered that question posed by someone who stopped to admire the pink hibiscus in our front yard.

As a gardener, it is very gratifying watching people stop to admire our flowers, and even more so if they want to talk about them or ask a question. This time of year, admirers often want to know more about the giant pink flowers by my front porch. Gardener-types usually want to know what type of hibiscus it is. I know there are many types of hibiscus, but I really know very little about them. It was time to learn more about this amazing flower. Like any good student today, I went to Google and did an internet search. There are many amazing tutorials and articles from which to glean, but my favorite was this excellent post. Please click on the hyperlink if you are equally curious to learn more about a flower which delivers such beauty to the late summer garden.

Rose mallow Hibiscus ‘Tie Dye’

Happy gardening!

Hello August!

One highlight of my Saturdays is joining up with blogging gardeners from all around the world for a virtual garden tour. This group called Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator, who provides the inspiration and forum for a weekly, six photos at a time show ‘n tell. If you’d like to take a peek at the gardens too, just click on the Propagator’s site and give his weekly post a read, then scroll on down to the comments section where you’ll find loads of links to explore. Without further ado, here are my six (okay, I know it’s Monday, but a couple of grandgirls were here visiting and grandkids trump gardening and blogging).

My sweet grandgirls – I mentioned last week that I was away from home visiting family. On one of the days (the hottest day) I took my granddaughters to nearby Illiniwek Forest Preserve and did a little impromptu photo shoot. What a lovely place.

Such a sweet time with my three lovely grandgirls

Phlox Cleanup Experiment – If you read my last gardening post, Tending the July Garden, you might recall that before I left on that trip I had tried a homemade concoction for cleaning powdery mildew off my garden phlox.

Powdery Mildew Concoction:
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Liquid Soap (I used organic Seventh Generation)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Gallon Water

I also promised I would let you know how it worked.

In this photo you can see the before and after. Pretty dramatic. Not perfect, but I was pretty impressed.

Well… here’s how it looks a week later.

I’m pretty bummed. I think I’m on the right track though. The concoction works well, but I may have been a bit too aggressive in my cleaning and managed to bruise the leaves. I will back off on the liquid soap the next time, as I think it probably disturbs the protective coating of the leaves…maybe just a couple drops. I also think it will work better if I use it when I first notice powdery mildew.

‘Tie Dye’ – On a happier and more beautiful note, my hibiscus ‘Tie Dye’ is still busy producing stunning flowers in my front yard. (And Japanese beetles are still trying their hardest to devour them.) I showed you a closeup last week, but here’s a step back to show you it in scale relative to my front porch.

Daylily season is (sadly) coming to an end, but some of my late bloomers are still putting on a pretty good show. My husband and I enjoy this little deckside patch of daylilies while we enjoy our evening meal.

Annual Regret – It’s this time of year when I lament not having planted more flowers which would provide color through the fall months. I do have zinnia, petunias, cosmos, hydrangea, and a few other late summer bloomers trying to keep the show going. Joe Pye Weed and a native aster are also doing their thing right now keeping the bees buzzing and butterflies happily flitting about.

‘Mighty Chestnut’ is one of my late blooming daylilies which provides a punch of late summer magnificence. It’s a heavy bloomer – so many scapes and SO many flowers. When it is finished blooming, I hope I will remember to take a division or two from it and get it going elsewhere.

Let me end this week’s six photo tour with this thought:

“We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it is our garden that is really nurturing us.”

Jenny Uglow

Tending the July Garden

The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never tended a garden. 
- Ray D. Everson

I’m away from home for a few days and envisioning weeds taking over my garden as I type and Japanese beetles treating my beautiful flowers as a sumptuous buffet.

Lily ‘Stargazer’

But time with my family trumps gardening. The garden can wait.

Right now my garden is awash in a rainbow of color. The peak of daylily season in my garden will inevitably begin to wane in the next week or two.

TOPGUNS ‘Mandarin M’elange’

A supporting actress has made its dramatic entrance in this week’s garden show: the beautiful balloon flower. The photo below captures several stages of its fascinating growth. First is the tight little pentagon-shaped bud. Then, almost overnight it seems to ‘inflate’ looking much like a balloon. As its petals unfurl, the blue-violet color begins to emerge and deepen. Then comes what I call the ‘fairy ballgown stage’ when the petals flare slightly open. Once fully open, the flower transforms into a sweetly upturned bell.

Platycodon grandiflorus (Balloon Flower)

Rose mallow (hibiscus) ‘Tie Dye’ is loaded with buds this year and should provide a punch of lovely pink until autumn. Though planted by the house, these beauties garner attention from passersby. It’s a bit of a challenge keeping Japanese beetles from munching on them, but I am keeping ahead of them so far.

Rose mallow (hibiscus) ‘Tie Dye’

Last week I mentioned my problem with powdery mildew and asked for your advice. One reader suggested washing with baking soda and water, so I mixed up this concoction and gave it a whirl on my favorite phlox, ‘Glamour Girl.’
Mix together:
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Liquid Soap (I used organic Seventh Generation)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Gallon Water

Here’s a before and after – pretty dramatic cleanup, I would say. We’ll see if it works. I will give an update in a future post.

Before and After

Well, that’s my little garden tour for this Saturday. If you’d like to tour a few more gardens, check out Six on Saturday hosted by The Propagator who provides the inspiration and forum for a weekly, six photos at a time show ‘n tell. Just click on the Propagator’s site and give his weekly post a read; then scroll on down to the comments section where you’ll find links to a variety of gardens to explore. Have fun!