It's been a hard season for the garden. A few weeks ago, deep in the middle of the hottest June on record, I stopped obsessing about the flowers. The tomatoes had not produced much. The squash were wilting at the first sign of direct sunlight. Even the agastache in the backyard was dropping leaves during the hottest part of the day. With a little rain since then, I'm more determined than ever to keep good records of the best performing plants this year. I'll use those plants to remake the perennial bed beside the driveway.
Echinacea has given one of the best performances this year. It blooms tirelessly through drought, excessive rain, and even holds itself tall when the wind threatens to level the surrounding plants. I give this one a 10/10. White Swan is the other variety I've grown all season. I'll be dividing those plants this fall to fill the voids from those that have succumbed to the ravages of a NC summer.
Rudbeckia fulgida is another keeper. Its stoic blooms remain tall and firm. The plants range from compact to sprawling, yet they rarely wilt once established. This one was divided from the first one I purchased more than 2 years ago. I'll be relying heavily on these for mid and late summer blooms. It gets 9/10. It does sometimes wilt and turn crispy if there's no rain. A quick shower brings it back to life.
Agastache. This variety is Golden Jubilee. Although the hot sun did fade the lime green foliage a bit, I still give it an 8/10. It's drought tolerant, easily pinched to create lush, full plants, and it attracts Goldfinches like nothing else. They've picked nearly all my plants of their seed. Self-sown specimens have popped up here and there over the couple of years I've grown it. I hope to add more varieties through wintersowing again this year. Pink Pop is still small and hasn't bloomed. The orange varieties are no longer with us.
Coreopsis. Specifically, the Full Moon variety has performed the best. I bought a plant several years ago when I picked up the Rudbeckia. Full Moon grows to over 30" tall and is covered in lemon buttery blooms. It's a great filler plant between the coneflowers and rudbeckia. I give this one a 10/10 even though it has suffered a bit during the hottest, driest part of the summer. A little rain or water from the hose brings it back to life almost immediately. Divisions are easy and each plant provides quite a few. It's normal for me to take 10 or more plants from each clump in the fall or early spring. I really like this one. I have never seen a self-sown plant.
Rudbeckia triloba. That's the tall one in the back. In front, R. fulgida is flopping where it can, but R. triloba stands tall. The flowers are smaller than most Black Eyed Susans. The centers are more brown than black. It does reseed heavily. I give this one a 6/10. It tends to look weedy if it's not cut back in early spring. It also reseeds heavily, but can be controlled by pulling out the tiny seedlings after a rain.
Black & Blue Salvia. Sold as an annual, it returned this year after one of the harshest winters I can remember. The key to survival is to let it die down naturally. Cutting the dead growth can cause rot to the crown. The bees and hummingbirds love the blue flowers that emerge from the nearly black bracts. I like it too. I give it an 8/10. It can look somewhat scrawny unless it's pinched as the new growth emerges in spring. I'm planning to take a few cuttings of this today. It should root easily.
Melampodium. These are one of my favorite annuals. They self sow freely, are easily moved when young, and bloom non stop until the frost takes them out. I give them a 9/10. I won't bother with collecting seeds this year. They're reliable without any help from me.
Amaranthus. Love this plant. Perilla is overly ambitious when it comes to reseeding. The tall red amaranthus here is not. Spent plants were pulled out last fall and shaken around the beds. Only a few came up in those areas, unlike the perilla. They transplant easily as seedlings. They have hardly wilted at all even on the hottest days. I give them a 10/10. The bold color against the yellow/orange blossoms that are so prevalent in my garden in summer is provided by the foliage. The goldfinches love these too.
With so much yellow, a few red hibisbus, amaranthus, and other annuals like tithonia are interspersed with dramatic effect. Yvonne's salvia hasn't done well this year, but I'll still plant it here and there. Salvia subrotunda reseeds, so I don't need to worry about that one. Cosmos...I think we all know how they are. I'll be doing this again next year.
I thought this was Inula. I was wrong. I'm hoping as the summer goes, a nice show comes.
Sunflowers have been disappointing this year. Partly I blame the lack of rain. The true culprit is the squirrel. My mammoth sunflowers have been taken down just as soon as the seeds begin to form. They are gnawed away about 6" from the soil. This one may survive since it's in a more protected spot, but I doubt it. I'll still plant these again next year.
Finally, for Darla, here's the fragrant bed with the datura that were blooming last night. I'd guess this bed has at least 30-40 plants. Some are tall and spindly, others stout and branched. The effect is pleasing. The fragrance is subtle.
It's cloudy and 77 degrees. Rain is in the forecast for the next three days, storms could be heavy at times. One visitor is gone. The other is packing her bags. It was a good week.