Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer Superlatives

Summer is officially over at the Casa. My tomato plant is starting to look a little weird, the fall bloomers have popped out a few flowers, and my classroom is ready for the preteen onslaught waiting for me on Tuesday. I thought I'd celebrate the end of the season with a list of superlatives - plants that were exceptionally fabulous or truly hideous.

Plant Most Likely to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse



The next time I collapse into a recliner to watch Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, I'm going to bring this pot of hens and chicks with me. If you need a plant that requires absolutely zero care, hens and chicks are for you. Since zombies are horrible at remembering to water plants, despite the number of brains they've eaten, sempervivums are destined to rule the world.

Best Bloomers


If you have a sunny spot and want more butterflies, add some coneflowers this fall. While they love compost and water during dry spells, they'll bloom from late spring til frost with only a small amount of care.


'Monch's' aster is a blooming machine.It starts in mid-summer and keeps up with the fall blooming asters all through autumn. Orange milkweed, heavy with ripe seeds pods, grows through the lounging asters.



My heliopsis has also bloomed since spring. It likes moist, well draining soil and full sun. Cut it back once in early summer to thicken it up and then just sit back and watch the show. I often find butterflies using the wide flowers as basking spots. Tall annual milkweed grows in the foreground.



My Rose of Sharon bloomed twice this year. I just took these pictures on Sunday. It occasionally blesses me with a few extra flowers after the main show in June, but this year is putting on an encore performance. Lucky me!!



Best Mess


Do you see that innocent little tomato plant sticking up between the petunias in the left side of the picture?


It's growing out of a crack in the patio pavers. Don't let its precarious location fool you. 


It's now growing through the agastache, across the sign, and around the rose.



When this little grape tomato sprout thrust its head between the agastache and Abraham Darby rose in my container garden, I wondered how long its roots would survive the rotten soil under my patio pavers. I needn't have worried. Not only is it thriving, it's launched a full scale attack on its neighbors, scrambling across their branches and vining its way from pot to pot. The tomatoes are tangy and I swear they taste a bit like fish emulsion but I don't care. Any vegetable capable of growing between patio pavers, only to thrive and fruit, can do as it damn well pleases.

Happiest Surprise


My rain garden has been a fabulous addition to the garden. It works extremely well at keeping the water in my garden to replenish ground water supplies. I often find butterflies using the wet rocks as mineral licks after a storm. I'd tried for several years to create butterfly puddling stations around my garden only to find a rancid, sandy mess a week later. But a rain garden full of cheap pond rocks works perfectly!


Last year two Peggy Martin roses were accidentally delivered to me via a computer error in a new ordering system installed by an online nursery I had ordered from. My little mystery roses have grown about 6 feet this summer and even bloomed a bit this spring.


I'll prune them in late winter and train them to the fence.


The Peggy Martin rose is also known as The Rose That Survived Hurricane Katrina and is available at Chamblees.


I had given this pipevine up for dead earlier this summer. Covered with brown, sunburned leaves it looked wretched and I was irritated it wasn't thriving. I cut it back, gave it a big dose of John and Bob's Penetrate, a truly magical solution that breaks up clay soil, along with a couple of gallons of my epsom salt/seaweed solution, and it decided to grow.


I'm hoping to it will cover the front of my porch and attract pipevine swallowtails. This little Daddy Long Legs enjoys the shade of its big leaves.


Best Bad Idea



I've reached the point with these containers that I no longer cringe when I see them. It's actually all I can do not to burst out laughing. They look like a giant green octopus. If only a team of Garden Interventionists had grabbed me and stopped me from torturing these stephandra, I could have a sweet pot of impatiens on my porch. I thought the stephandra crispa, a gorgeous shade loving ground cover, would find botanical bliss in the pots on my mostly shady porch. A low arching shrub that roots where it touches, the stephandra wouldn't be able to root into my concrete patio, thus spilling from their pots in a cascade of mini maple leaf foliage. Desperate for more water and soil, if these shrubs had fingers and anything sharp, I'd be a goner.

Best Pollinator Attractor


Not only do coneflowers bloom all summer, they attract boatloads of butterflies and other pollinators.


 Swallowtail butterfly on the coneflowers. 


The number one pollinator magnet in my garden, next to the Rose of Sharon, is the 'Blue Fortune' agastache. It also blooms from early summer to fall and likes more moisture and compost than most agastaches.


Best Bang for Your Buck


I love zinnias! These were knocked sideways by a severe storm this summer but continued to grow. They just did it sideways. This picture was taken prior to the storm. Pollinators love the nectar, finches love the seed, and because they're easy to grow you can cultivate a large patch for just a few dollars. Zinnias are tough plants but they like extra water and a bit of fertilizer. Be sure to give them full sun and cut them back to keep them bushy.





68 comments:

  1. Such a long and interesting post! I love those zinnias. Have a nice week!

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  2. Tammy, nice collection of survived plants! I love the Rose Sharon, it blooms so long in your garden.

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    1. Rose of Sharon is a true champion! It's my favorite shrub. :o)

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  3. They all look great, especially considering this summer and it's heat and drought.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Our drought was very minor and I water a lot. Your area took a much more severe hit than we did.

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  4. You always give me a good laugh...your tomato plant is quite amazing and I agree that if it can grow in such a spot more power to it. I planted zinnia seeds in my kitchen garden and the hummingbirds and butterflies love all the blooms now! Nice to see you brought the pipevine back from the almost dead. It looks great! I am envious that your schools don't start until after Labor Day...my kids went back August 6th.

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    1. GA school have much longer breaks than we do. We have very short holiday breaks and stay in school until mid-June. :( I landscaped a friends front yard and she grew a tomato plant from my compost that has big tomatoes! I never know what's going to pop up. The pipevine is a true Lazarus. I thought it was half dead.

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  5. With such a wealth of beauty, you should be fortified to handle whatever challenges the young 'uns bring to the classroom. That rose of Sharon is some performer.

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    1. Thanks! I love being a teacher, my students crack me up, and my class is dynamic and goofy. Good times!

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  6. I love your Sempervivum container, very nice.
    That tomato plant is very robust. I guess that's why they refer to them as tomato vines because, left to their own devices, they scramble through other plants.
    I've grown a lot of sun lovers this year, what a disaster, should have bought bog plants instead.

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    1. With all the rain you've had, you could have filled a swimming pool! I forget they're called vines, or maybe I just didn't pay attention. What's amazing is that it's all one huge vine. It's probably about 10 feet long.

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  7. Good morning!
    Fairytale Garden. Fantastic flowers. Wonderful plants.
    Perfect pictures.
    All the time I admire your blog, but here you can see the magnificence!
    Lucia

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  8. I have a vinca growing out of a crack in a brick, like your tomato. Why do we toil and labor to give our plants such wonderful growing conditions when they can manage just fine in a brick crack?!! I love your hens and chicks container. I have never been able to grow them because I think I must over water them. This idea would give them the perfect drainage they need. Have fun back at school. I am sure you are a cool teacher!!

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    1. I watered them a few times when it hit 106 but that's it. They're growing in a metal fruit basket that kept turning my fruit black. Thanks for the compliment. :o) My class is fun and I think 11 year olds are awesome. The party starts when the gerbils escape...!

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  9. Your Shaun of the Dead reference made me laugh. One of my daughters was really into 'Shaun O.T.D.' and so for her birthday I did a Shaun O.T.D. cake....she loved it. (College aged kid) I am very impressed with your Rose of Sharon. I did buy one this summer and it is doing well, though only about 10 inches tall.
    Love your assessment of the garden. That rose is lovely.

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    1. Shaun of the Dead is a family classic! Best movie ever!! Simon Pegg always makes me laugh. I'm very impressed that you made a Shaun cake!!

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  10. I'm loving your planter idea for the hen and chicks. I'd given up growing them because I spent more time than I liked picking out grass and weeds that overgrew them. This is the perfect solution!

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    1. Even the weeds can't handle the hens and chicks "pot" so I rarely ever have to weed it. I just let it be. :o)

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  11. Some really lovely flowers and photos. The Rose of Sharon is very striking. And I really like your rain garden - I might try that idea at some stage in the future. I grew zinnias this year for the first time from seed, but I have to say mine look a bit weak and weary compared to yours; your zinnia are lovely.

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    1. I've had mixed results with zinnias in the past. They love full sun, need to be pinched or cut back to grow full, and love a bit of liquid fertilizer. I started fertilizing them with a weak fish emulsion solution when they were seedlings. Once they were about 8 inches tall, I cut them back and kept at it until they thickened up. They even grew thicker stems. :o) The seedlings also need to be thinned out quite well or they'll get long and stringy.

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  12. I love your "bests" --- even the best bad idea. I actually think the stephanandra arching out of the pot looks artistic and graceful, although you are probably right it would be happier uncaged. The bests in your garden are some of my greatest hits too, especially a little lavender aster (actually dwarf boltonia) and my pink zinnias. Agastache and Rose of Sharon made me happy too. It's fun to look back on a season and celebrate the best things that were.

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    1. My poor stephandra went to their new home today in the moist shade of a friends yard. I love it when blogs show the ugly bits, too, because it's so much more realistic. Plus, some bad ideas are better and badder than others so ya gotta just roll with it. :o)

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  13. I'm so glad you mentioned the Monch's aster, I saw some at a nursery this weekend but it wasn't blooming and I didn't know anything about it. Now based on your praises I think I'll have to go and snatch some up!

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    1. It's such an awesome plant! Be sure to cut it back by 1/3 this summer to thicken it up.

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  14. I'm impressed with that tomato plant. I had a couple of tomato plants seed themselves - but not between pavers! Amazing how the will to live can be so strong. Thanks, too, for the info about John and Bob's penetrate! I have a couple of areas that could probably use this - asap! :)

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    1. I wanted to link my blog to the John and Bob's website but their site was down. Penetrate is a truly magical solution! I've used it on some really difficult areas and saw a huge improvement!! It breaks up dry clay like a jackhammer. The soil will look the same physically but it's ability to absorb water and take in oxygen will be drastically increased. Amazing stuff!

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  15. Wow, loved this post--especially when I got to the end and read/saw your ode to Zinnias! They're wonderful, aren't they?! Congrats on the Rose of Sharon repeat blooms! I've never heard of that happening before. Those Tomatoes are survivors!

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    1. Zinnias are fabulous! So much to offer in such a cheap little seed packet. My Rose of Sharon amazes me, especially since I didn't do anything to it to encourage/create extra flowers. It just loves me!! :o)

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  16. What a great way to wrap up the season.
    I love your Rose of Sharon would love to grow one here. I looked it up and made a discovery that there are a couple of plants with that name. One has flowers that start out white and turn pink but there is another has single petalled bloom. Neither look like yours. Maybe I'll just have to enjoy it from afar in your garden.

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    1. Here's the exact cultivar: Althaea syriacus 'Ardens' Double Flowering Purple Rose of Sharon. If the single variety can grow for you, I'm sure this one would, too!

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    2. Thanks - Looks like it is available here and should grow in our climate. (crossed fingers)

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  17. This is a great exercise to end the summer season. Learning from one's mistakes is more than half the battle. I am so pleased with my 'Blue Fortune' agastache. It is, as you say, a blooming machine. My zinnas were a bust. They turned brown and grey and then died. I have the same heliopsis and like it for its long bloom time. My only minor complaint is that it is a great self-seeder. I have learned the hard way not to let it go to seed. Hope all went well in the classroom today.

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    1. That's interesting, because my heliopsis doesn't self seed at all. I had a double form that seeded a bit but it no longer does. I think the plant layer is too thick for them to germinate. Try zinnias again next year. So far so good at school. Sweet kids. :o)

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  18. There are some fine lessons here, indeed. I pull up those volunteer tomatoes and give them away, but I agree with you...if it can survive in such a way it deserves much respect. I love your rain garden and that it attracts the butterflies. Beautiful!

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    1. I'm in love with my rain garden! The first time I saw a butterfly puddling there, I just held my breath, I was so excited. I could actually see its tongue/proboscis curling and uncurling towards the wet rocks. Amazing!

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  19. Loooved your Rose of Sharon blooms. We have one here, but I don't think it can compare to yours.
    Your garden still looks very nice, even though summer is winding down.
    I think I will try growing hens and chicks again, with a setup like yours...thanks for the visual.
    Some plants thrive on neglect, so don't worry about that tomato plant. If you start to nourish it now, it will kick the bucket.

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    1. ha ha!! You're right! If I crammed some compost into its crack, it would probably die!

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  20. I hope today went well. It must be a wrench to leave your garden at the end of the summer. At least you have a beautiful place in which to unwind at the end of the day.

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    1. There are many days when I come home, change my clothes, and head out into the hammock to process/stress dump the day. I love watching the garden from the hammock. We even move it into the finished basement in the winter so we can still lay in it. :o)

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  21. Great post! I was thinking of you today and thinking there's no way I could survive if I had to teach school. lol I love your Rose-of-Sharon, it's gorgeous. And I was thinking of growing Agastache by our mailbox but I like the idea of growing it in a pot even better.

    Thank you for your kind words on my blog. I like your suggestions!! They've given me a lot to think about.

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    1. When kids act stupid it's because they're kids. It's stupid adults I have no patience for. Agastache does well in a pot. Just give it a big pot because they can get really wide. :o)

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  22. Thinking of you and the pre-teen onslaught, hope your week is going well. How did you know I loved both Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland?! must get me some hens and chicks ASAP

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    1. Sample of today:
      Student: I can't find my class.
      Me: You're at the wrong school.

      Zombieland and a bottle of wine are on tap for Friday night. :o)

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  23. Loved your post, that tomato plant must be a real fighter! I can see from your ‘best ones’ that your weather has been so different from here in London, so many of your best have not performed at all in my garden – too much rain and not enough sunshine. Loved your Rose of Sharon and The Peggy Martin rose was a new one to me, I had to look it up – lovely story.

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    1. I was really impressed by the story behind that rose. What a fighter! I'm looking forward to having it grow along my fence. It's really vigorous.

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  24. Its always good to read about what works well for people, you have confirmed that lots of echinacea will be finding their way into my garden, not that there was ever any doubt about that, but I am pondering where to plant an agastache too...

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    1. Coneflowers and agastache are winners! They good together, too. :o)

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  25. Zinnias ARE the best all around annual for pollinators, drought tolerance, deer proof and brilliant, non-stop color. I couldn't garden without them. Wouldn't want to! *heh*

    My Blue Fortune agastache doesn't have it as easy as yours. Mine (grown in pots from seed then planted out last year) live in full blasting sun, no water, no fertilizer, no pampering and they've grown over 5' this summer and covered with blooms and bees. I've found if I pamper something early, then it never seems to get tough. I had a clump of lobelia in the arbor bed. Most died. But one survived, grew and bloomed. Again, no water, no nothin'. Tough love? Or I guess I'm just a garden meanie.

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    1. My 'Blue Fortune' has had its share of torture, I assure you. It's current location is only the 3rd of 4th spot it's been in. Pampered plants don't develop deep root systems, kind of like pampered people. I'm a big believer in tough love. My kids would agree! :o)

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  26. I agree, those volunteer veggies that pop up in the most unexpected places can stay. More often than not they seem to do better than the ones I plant on purpose! Your tomato looks blissfully happy there!

    We added rocky gravel wash area around a rock fountain earlier this spring. The over spray from the fountain keeps some of the rocks damp, and we've noticed an increase in butterflies and other insects there too. It looks so much nicer than a muddy puddle in the middle of the garden!

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    1. I tried creating puddles but only succeeded in making a giant mess, instead. :o) The tomato plant is amazing to me! I also have an incredibly happy compost cantaloupe growing in between the shrubs in my front yard. When I checked it the other day it had 2 huge melons!

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  27. Extremely fun post and with an English lesson hidden in there.....love it:) Hopefully, I'll get to that point in my potting world...right now, I just stick with the Vincas. But I like your Asters and Coneflowers:) Have a good weekend!

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    1. I fell in love with vinca this summer. Such a tough plant. Coneflowers and asters will grow in pots, too! Just get a big pot! :o)

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  29. Like Clare, said, the volunteers get to stay and always seem to flourish better. My pumpkin plant has engulfed the garden like your tomato, but got to stay for all the bees it drew. Your zombie plants are funny and true. Hens and chicks I find all over the garden that the squirrels dig up, drying in the sun. I pop them back in and in no time they are happy and healthy.

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    1. Any plant that can survive squirrels and zombies is a plant to grow more of!

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  30. Love your Summer's end post and thanks for reminding me/us about the wild life that Zinnia's attract. I know that hummer's love them but didn't know that finches liked them too.

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    1. Finches rip them apart to eat the seeds but I just cut the mangled flower off and another one grows. :o)

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  31. CM - it's so surreal to be talking about the 'end of the season', but with the "500 Days of Summer" we had with all the 90 degree days ... many plants looked like they were hit with a blow torch (even with frequent watering).

    So, it's probably good that we are going into "Autumn". Thanks to you, agastache is now on my plant wishlist! I covet your 'Rose of Sharon' - a nice 7 foot white-bloomed variety sure would look Gucci in my "Cottage Garden". :D

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    1. I saw a big white Rose of Sharon today in DC and thought of you!! It was in a massively expensive part of town that I was just walking through. I've heard next summer is supposed to be even hotter. I'm planting cactus.

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  32. WOW! So much going on and in a way success all round too! That beautiful pinky/mauve rose is quite stunning :-)

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    1. Thanks! Does Rose of Sharon (althea) grow in England? Mine is the only double variety I've ever seen but another blogger found it in Australia.

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  33. So that's what a rose of sharon is supposed to look like? And sun? what's that? zinnnnnias...........

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  34. Looks like your garden had a fabulous summer! Coneflower is one plant that simply doesn't like my climate, so I will enjoy yours long-distance. They're so lovely.

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  35. Found you via "Children of the Corn" blog (I found her when I Googled images of red solo cups to send as a joke to my friend). And..found out she visited in my neck of the woods, N.VA., and saw your comment, and well, just had to jump over and say, "Hi thar!" LOVE your suburbia garden. My mom was a gardener, tended it so lovingly. She grew what she called, "purple flox" which you have, but can't recall what you called it (fuzzy violet flower). Me, I just have a balcony...

    Have to say that the pink flowers that "CofC" was trying to identify is most likely a rose, "The Peggy Martin Rose."

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