Doomed

Dahlberg daisy

Here are a few snapshots from the yard taken this week. The low tonight will be 25°F, according to the weatherman. It’s possible that some of the plants will survive that, thanks to the microclimate near the house. However, the 20° forecast for Friday night will probably do them all in. These are likely the last garden pictures of the year (though indoors the very red orchid has a fresh set of buds).

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Dead Catt blues

Each of the very red Cattleya flowers lasted a full four weeks. Even after they finally fell off the plant, they retained their form and pigments. They look particularly colorful when illuminated from the back.

The freakish freezes earlier this week wiped out most of the morning glories before they bloomed. Not all, though: those growing on the fence under a mulberry tree survived. Apparently the canopy of leaves conserved enough heat that the vines were able to weather the 24°F temperature. Those particular plants were lagging behind the others, though, and they still might not bloom before the next hard freeze.

The afternoon before the first freeze I cut the flowering stem that was furthest along and put it in water inside the house. Today the first and probably last flower opened; my efforts were not completely in vain. Much as I like the color blue, though, I probably will grow something else next year.

(The Burpee seed packet states “75 days to bloom.” Nope.)

Potential blues

I’ve always wanted to grow morning glories. When I was young, my parents wouldn’t let me — they’d heard that the seeds were full of LSD.1 In Wichita I never had a place for them. But now I finally have fences and old stumps suitable for vines, so I planted some “Heavenly Blue” seeds in the spring. The vines grew strongly. However, they never showed any inclination to bloom until this month. Now the plants are full of buds, and soon should be masses of blue — maybe. Unfortunately, the forecast for next week includes a freeze. Perhaps the temperatures won’t be as cold as predicted, or maybe the vines can take a few degrees of frost and survive to bloom. But if the freeze does kill them prematurely, I will not be happy.

A few last snapshots from the garden:

Dahlberg daisy (Thymophylla tenuiloba) is possibly the most under-appreciated of all garden annuals. It blooms profusely from late spring to frost, has attractive finely-divided foliage, stays low and makes a tidy ground cover, and tolerates hot and dry conditions very well. Despite its virtues, I’ve only once seen plants offered at a garden center. Fortunately, it’s easy from seed, which is available online.

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Pain in three dimensions

Cenchrus longispinus, one of my least favorite grasses, is abundant in lawns and along paths. All the spines on the nutlets are quite sharp, and they are covered with microscopic barbs. They readily catch on socks and penetrate skin and are painfully hard to remove. The photo above of the vicious little plant is a crossview stereo picture, with the right-eye image on the left and vice-versa. If you cross your eyes, you can see the menacing thing in three dimensions. It’s easier to do than to explain how; this is as good a guide as any.

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Red red red red red

One of the plants I ordered in the spring from Sunset Valley Orchids bloomed this week. It’s a very red “Mini-Catt,” i.e., a miniature Cattleya. The flower is two inches wide on a plant about seven inches tall. There’s no fragrance that I can detect, but with color like that I’m not going to complain. Click on the picture to see it with better color (WordPress makes colors duller when it reformats images); right-click and open the link in a new window to see it much larger than life size.

Exactly what the plant is, is complicated. It was listed as “SVO 9263 – Pot. NEW HYBRID (Slc. Virginia Dickey ‘ Diamond Orchids’ AM/AOS x Pot. Higher Multiplier ‘Diamond Orchids’ HCC/AOS).” “Pot.” is short for “Potinara,” a multigeneric hybrid involving Brassavola, Cattleya, Laelia and Sophronitis; “Slc.” is “Sophrolaeliocattleya,” with Sophronitis, Laelia and Cattleya. However, taxonomists are always up to mischief, abruptly moving species from one genus to another, lumping some genera together and splitting others into pieces. Sophronitis has recently been placed within the Cattleya genus, and the other genera have been tampered with as well. Calling my plant a Potinara is probably inaccurate now, but it’s convenient, and I don’t know what the proper name would be.

Summertime blues

I started some Linum perenne this spring. It’s a perennial, and I didn’t expect much from it this year. However, the seedlings grew strongly and have been blooming spasmodically all summer. The individual flowers are small, but during the main flush of bloom in early summer established plants are solid blue mounds. (I had a fine specimen years ago that in flower was a blue hemisphere with a radius of about fifteen inches. Then the family cat decided that it was a nice spot to nap.)

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Hank and Annie

Two more lilies are blooming in my garden, Lilium henryi, above, and “Anastasia.” L. henryi is a Chinese species that is supposed to be indestructible. Mine is four feet tall this year, but it can get over six feet when established. The stem is thin and willowy, so if you live in a windy place like Kansas, it needs to be staked. Anastasia is an “orienpet,” a hybrid of oriental and trumpet species. The flower is large, over seven inches across. The plant is supposed to get up to six feet tall, but mine is barely three feet, making photography a bit awkward. I expect it will grow taller in coming years.

Coming soon: Sherri.

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Milk and beards

We had a few mild days with little wind between storms this week, so I made a trip out to the nature center to see what was happening there. The answer is, not much. It demonstrated once again that, of all the fifty states, Kansas likely has the lowest ratio of native plant species to total area. According to my guidebooks, what few interesting plants there are that grow in the state are concentrated in the eastern corners. Out here in the middle of flatland, there is very little to catch the eye. The milkweed and penstemon were the standouts.

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More yellow

One of this year’s experiments started blooming this week. Mentzelia lindleyi is a hardy annual from California that I seeded outside in early March, along with poppies and Phacelia1. The flowers are about two inches in diameter. They’re supposed to open in the evening and close in the morning, but these have done the opposite — not that I’m complaining. The plants are about a foot tall and probably will grow taller, though I doubt that they’ll reach the three feet that some sources claim. The leaves are long, thin and deeply lobed; they look skeletal, and the plant overall is scrawny. Should you grow it in your garden, I suggest giving it leafier companions.

Mentzelia is a genus of the Loasaceae, a family known for fine flowers and stinging hairs.2 Mentzelias don’t bite, but they do have barbed hairs that can cling to fabric and fur. The stems and leaves feel like sandpaper.

Mentzelia lindleyi is supposed to be heat- and drought-tolerant and bloom for two months3. Summer is nearly here. We’ll see how it does in Kansas.