Weekend Notes: Floral Fireworks, Lean on Me, and Gardener in the Rye

A Glorious Weekend. After whacking us around for the last couple months, Mother Nature decided to take it easy on us poor mortals for a few days. First we got some serious rain (finally) on Wednesday and Thursday. Then Friday was the kind of day summers should be made of: sunny, dry, warm but not hot. As luck would have it I took a vacation day that day and got to spend it in the garden.

Lilies, Joe Pye, coneflowers, cleome, anise hyssop, butterflyweed … summer in living color.

The rest of the weekend was not bad. Humid, but “only” in the upper 80s. Tomorrow it’s supposed to go back up to 100 degrees. Well, it couldn’t last.

Joe Pye weed ‘Gateway’ with cup plant in the background. ‘Gateway’ has richer color than sweet Joe Pye weed, both in flowers and stems. Not quite so tall, also, and blooms later.
Black wasp on the milkweed. Judy really did get up close and personal this time.

The other thing that made this a glorious weekend was the color in the garden. Now begins the time of year when there seems to be floral fireworks going off, in part because the tallest plants do seem to be blooming almost in the sky. The sweet joe pye weed and joe pye gateway have hit their stide, as have the Cup Plant. The ironweed is just barely starting though, and the downy sunflower has a week or two to go, so the summer show is by no means over.

Bumble bee nectaring on wild bergamot.

Then of course, there is the scent of my ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies. We used to have a cat who would express contentment by lying down on the sidewalk and wriggling around. The fragrance of ‘Casa Blanca’ makes me want to do this, but I restrain myself because the neighbors think I’m odd enough as it is.

‘Casa Blanca’ with cosmos and anise hyssop.
Monarch of the milkweed.


Lean on Me. Since it rained I have spent a lot of time staking. Given my love of really tall plants, I have no right to complain. If I don’t want to stake, I can just grow coreopsis ‘moonbeam’ and landscape roses or dwarf shrubs. Even so, I find myself getting irritated at some of the plants. “Stand up straight, for pete’s sake,” I scold, as if they are slouching children. I find that plain old twine is the best thing to use in staking, better (and much cheaper) than all the different fancy ties you can buy at the garden center.

I am pleased that some plants are doing a good job of holding each other up. My nepeta, for example, does a pretty good job of supporting the yarrow growing behind it, as well as the blue stem goldenrod, which in turn keeps the anise hyssop from flopping.


Gardener in the Rye. I might as well just tell you: I am through with wild rye as an ornamental grass. I tried to make it work. I tried Virginia wild rye (Elymus virginicus) and silky wild rye (E. villosus). Yes, I like the seed heads, but here’s the thing. It won’t stop flopping. OK, I don’t mind staking an 8′ Joe Pye weed, but a 3-4′ grass? I don’t think so. Also, it’s really hard to stake grasses in a way that doesn’t make them look like they’re wearing a corset. And did I mention that they seed themselves a bit too liberally?

Purple coneflowers with switchgrass.

I saw that Anton’s is selling switchgrass in gallon containers in a buy one, get one free sale. Might head over that way next week.

19 Comments on “Weekend Notes: Floral Fireworks, Lean on Me, and Gardener in the Rye”

  1. Jason, I’m so happy to hear that you got some serious rain. Your garden is looking happy and beautiful. Casa Blanca lilies make me swoon. My mother had them growing in her garden, and we she died (two years ago this month), I asked the florist to include Casa Blanca lilies in the floral arrangements for her funeral.

    Here’s hoping for more beneficial rain and more beautiful blooms.

  2. Beautiful! I love all of the fragrant oriental lilies & mine are just starting to pop! Go ahead, wriggle on the sidewalk, your neighbors need something to talk about! I’ll trade you some cool Northwest breezes (High today will be 67) for a few degrees of heat.

  3. Hello Jason, those are some incredible pictures of your garden and I’m really taken with the Casa Blanca lilies. I’ll be looking to see where I might be able to squeeze in a few in my borders. That black wasp looks mean and I would leave it well alone too. While you’re getting rain, we’re finally getting some sun and temperatures are climbing this week to something resembling summer averages. We might actually be able to eat outside on the patio or – shock horror – have a barbecue!

  4. Oh, yes, I know what you mean about the leaning plants and the need to stake. I have one very tall Daylily plant that would flop to the ground without some support–naughty plant. 😉 Your garden looks oh so much healthier than mine. Judy is a great photographer!

  5. Great photos. I would roll around and not worry about the neighbours, after all, a garden is there to enjoy. I lie on the gravel and look at the stars if I feel like it (we have no grass), also I spend hours sitting outside (climate permitting) discussing the daily progress of each plant with my husband and feel no shame that the neighbours must think we’re obsessed.

    How come some plants grow straight and tall for some people and others just flop for me? I have a couple of cornflowers that behave like groundcover.

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