Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gardening: September Bloom Project

After thinking over my lament about excessive May focus from yesterday, I've decided that this year I'm going to put some effort into getting the garden blooming in September.

Photo of purple coneflowers.
Now, there are some things blooming in September. But aside from the all-important Japanese anemones, most of September's blooms are leftovers - roses and coneflowers and buddleia and daisies that aren't quite tired enough to give up for the year. Beautiful, but I've been looking at them since June. I want to watch something new develop.

But what? For one thing, big, showy individual blossoms. I know what Henry Mitchell said about "the tremendous effect of small flowers massed". I also know that he liked flowers the size of dinner plates and leaves the size of garages. So I'm not going to hide my vulgarity. The Japanese anemones will supply the elegance, and these new flowers will supply the circus balloons. Not that I demand that the blossoms be quite that big - the size of my fist will do just fine.

Also, I demand flowers, not flowerlike structures. So, no ornamental brassicas or alliums. I realize that allium flowers are composed of many smaller flowers, but that's not what I'm after. Monstrous single blossoms, that's the goal here. (And if you tell me that chrysanthemums, say, really have flowers the size of a head of a pin and all those petals are just leaves? I'll hide under a pillow and pretend I didn't hear you.)

Photo of a large red/yellow chrysanthemum bloom.
Chrysanthemums and dahlias are top candidates- though dahlias don't generally wait until September to get going. I also read that some delphiniums bloom in autumn, and delphiniums are certainly showy enough for anybody. Hydrangeas, too, can be satisfyingly gaudy, but the appropriate shrub-sized partly-sunny spaces are already filled with moderately dignified oakleaf varieties (yes, I did forget them in the list of what blooms), so no giant puffballs for me.

I confess that I am thinking longingly of puffball hydrangeas as I consider the large spaces occupied by the David viburnums, especially since Himself hates the viburnums passionately. But it's the David viburnums, and the green winter structure that they provide, that make the skeletal winter remains of the existing hydrangeas tolerable. And they're in my flower bed, the one that Himself washes his hands of. So I think they stay.

Photo of a blossom of Lilium MartagonWhat else? One website got my hopes up by putting Gerbera daisies, fabulously gaudy things, in their "autumn flowers" list, but that appears to be a cruel joke - everyone else speaks of them as summer flowers. I'm guessing that they're autumn flowers if you're a florist.

Lilies? I only like the kind with extremely recurved petals. Martagon lilies? Turkscap lilies? My lily ignorance is, sadly, substantial. But research suggests that August is the latest that I can hope for blooms from Martagon lilies.

Oh, and phlox. The tall perennial white kind. It blooms very nicely along with the anemones, on those rare occasions when it doesn't go to mildew.Photo of a sunflower blossom. I realize that I've forgotten the biggest flower of all - sunflowers! I'll be growing the ten-foot monsters as part of the snack garden, but I could scatter the cutting kind around as well.

So it's a plan: chrysanthemums, sunflowers, phlox, possibly some delphiniums, and probably some dahlias and lilies sneaking in a few weeks early. At least, it sounds like a plan. Now, of course, to choose which ones. Good thing it's catalog season.

Coneflower photo: Mine.
Chrysanthemum photo: By Juni. Wikimedia Commons.
Lily photo: By Marcus Koljonen. Wikimedia Commons.
Sunflowr photo: Mine

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