Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Late Summer Flowers

My eryngo, Eryngium leavenworthii, are in full bloom. When these late summer flowers begin to bloom, I know that, even though it is still hot outside, the seasons are about to change. Click the link for my Prairie Plant Profile on eryngo.

Eryngo is an annual wildflower. The seeds usually sprout in early spring and the flowers do not begin forming until the middle of July. In August, the stems, bracts, and flowers begin turning purple.

Everything about these plants are spiny. Although, when the leaves first being growing in the spring they are not spiny at all. The young plants look kind of like lettuce (they are actually in the carrot family) u
ntil they start growing a vertical stem and that is when they turn spiny

I first became aware of eryngo at about this time five or six years ago. A couple of miles from home, there is a railroad track that I pass on my way to work. I have collected several plants and seeds from this location over the years. I patiently waited for the flowers to turn brown (and hoping they would not be mowed down) so I could collect some seeds. I went back a couple of weeks ago to take a couple of pictures of my eryngo's relatives in their natural habitat. These plants are growing in chalky soil and are about two feet tall.

Here is a close up of the wildflower growing in the wild.

Back at home, my eryngo are growing wild. My plants do not get any fertilizer or extra water, but they are growing in black clay soil, rather than chalky soil. I guess that is what makes the difference in their growth. My eryngo are over six feet tall! It seems like they grow taller each year. I don't mind the height so much until they start flopping over into the pathways and create something of a gauntlet run.

In mid-July, I experimented on a few four feet tall plants and cut them back to about 6 inches. Some of them died and others branched out with new stems. Next year, I will try cutting them back in June.

In the front garden, the lanky stems are partially hidden by the grasses, Liatris, and other plants. This may be the best location for them in my garden.

Height is probably an adaptive response for eryngo. If they grew in a tall grass prairie, they would need to hold their flowers near the top of the grasses so the bees could find and pollinate them. 
Next year I hope to have another eryngo in the garden. Randy Hyden of Gardening on the Post Oak Savannah came by for a brief visit on Labor Day and brought me some Hooker's eryngo seeds, as well as a few other other types of seeds and some tasty brisket from his restaurant.  Click here for Randy's post on Hooker's eryngo.  

I had a surprise over the weekend when I noticed my next late summer flower blooming a couple of weeks earlier than usual. Here are my first Liatris blooms of the year. More to come on this flower...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Outside My Front Door

Outside my front door today is a welcome sight, rain!

It is a nice slow rain and I hope it continues all day long. I enjoy seeing the drops splash in the bird bath. I know the plants appreciate the rain. Most of them have not received any supplemental water this year and I noticed yesterday that several were looking a little stressed. They all seem a little perkier today.

We are still below normal for rain this year. A couple of cold fronts in July brought rain when we do not normally see it and that helped to keep the garden green and blooming. My next assigned watering day is this Thursday and I was thinking that I should probably run the sprinklers for the first time this year. Maybe I can wait a little longer if this rain continues.

Next to the front door, a newly emerged pipevine swallowtail butterfly clings to a brick as its wings expand and strengthen.

Its sibling attached to the weatherstripping next to the door and emerged yesterday. I saw it flying around the garden in search of pipevine. It did not find any. The last generation of caterpillars stripped all of the plants to the ground. I saw a monarch flying around the garden too. This was only the second monarch spotting this year. I saw one in the spring and then the one yesterday. It does not appear to be a good year for the monarchs.

Some other critter built a webby cocoon or nest on the other side of the door. I will give it a few weeks to do its thing and then it is time to clean up this mess.

And that's what is going on outside my front door today. I did not say it was exciting.