For as long as I can remember, Augusts in my Midwest garden call to mind the word baked. Particularly the last few years. It rains, rains, and rains for days and months on end, breaking records and flooding fields. Yet just as abruptly as it began, it comes to a fast halt. Then it gets hot, and then we bake. The ground splits open in revealing cracks, and the garden gets dry and parched. Happy August!
But three plants caught my eye tonight. Three toughies that know how to stick it out, even better than this gardener who retreated long before dusk tonight as a hard line of mosquitoes doggedly pursued his every step.
Scutellaria incana– You may remember me extolling the virtues of this plant, commonly and unfortunately known as hoary skullcap, during my travels through the Ozarks last year. In effort to stem the tide of inevitable purple prose from my fingers, I’ll offer these brief words of praise. This shade-loving, rocky woodland native glows in cobalt blue tones in the months of June and July. Electric blue, in the shade, in JULY!? What more should I say? The habit can be a little lax on some forms, but not to the point of flopping over into a disheveled heap (unless you garden in 10 feet of pure compost, at which point most things will probably collapse). If you can’t handle lax, prop it up with a shrub or something.
Sedum telephium ssp. ruprechtii ‘Hab Gray’– This unfortunately uncommon sedum deserves a place in American gardens. The Royal Horticultural Society no doubt did a disservice to this plant when they decreed in their last sedum trial at Wisley that this plant lacked comely, ornamental traits. For the record, I’m not quoting here, but at least trying to emulate the haughtiness. They chided its cream flowers which turn to shades of chocolate (although they chose some ghastly adjective like brown to describe them in their report) as altogether unsplendid. They bashed its mysterious marine-colored foliage as boring. Bleh. This workhorse plant deserves greater praise. Only this year has it collapsed in my garden, likely due to extraordinary amounts of rain and not of any innate problem. It’s foliage is exquisite, its stems red and contrasting, and its cream flowers merely creamy topping to an already pleasant dessert. It even seeds around politely, so once you like it you’re guaranteed just a few more.
Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’– Perennial followers of this blog know that I have a fetish for this plant. It’s on my desert island list (as is the Scutellaria mentioned earlier), a list of a few dozen plants (or more if I choose) that I absolutely couldn’t live without, even if stranded on a desert island in an otherwise temperate climate. Many personalities have had a hand in this plant, and a simple search of my site reveals too much about this plant already. Bottom line–even when in a baked garden, it still looks fab.
P.S.–Dearest readers….I’m going to try a more regular, shorter, and truncated blogging strategy. So you may be hearing from me more often in the form of little ditties like so, rather than the expository essays which you all, no doubt, find endearing and charming. And so it goes with good intentions and all…