Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bloom or Bust?

My garden has two big blooming seasons, one in the spring and one in the fall. The fall blooming season is, arguably, the most impressive. One of the star bloomers each fall is the gayfeather, Liatris somethingoranother. (Just in case you were not paying attention, that is a made up name because I do not know the specific variety. I think they are probably Liatris mucronata.)


The first gayfeather blooms of the season began to appear in the last couple of days. Unfortunately, this season may be a bust.

Several of the gayfeather stalks have turned brown and died. 


Sometimes a few stems on a single plant die and other times all of the stems on a plant die.

I am not sure what is causing the dead stems. It could be the drought. It could be a side effect of the damage caused in the spring when four-lined plant bugs invaded the garden. The primary targets for the bugs were the Salvia greggii, Gregg's mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, and Liatris. New leaves quickly covered the damaged leaves on the salvia and mistflower, but not the gayfeather. Most of the leaves on the gayfeather were already formed at the time the plants were attacked. The bugs left white scars on the leaves that surely restricted chlorophyll production and left the plants in a weakened state.


It could be a race against time to see if the plants can bloom before they die. Compare the picture above taken on 8-24-13 with the picture below taken on 9-14-13.


Quite a few stems died in the last three weeks. Anybody else seeing problems like this in their gardens this year?

After I took these pictures, I pruned out all of the dead and dying stems. It improved the appearance of the garden, but it is still disturbing that so many of the gayfeather stems are dying. Hmm, this reminds me of the declining health of my four nerve daisies that I mentioned last year and continues into this year. I wonder if there is a connection? Wow, that post was made at this time last year. The garden looked considerably better then. We really need some rain! At least the Salvia greggii is blooming again.

10 comments:

  1. I didn`t see the insect attacks you speak of, Michael, but have seen heat stress in the naturally watered plants in my praitie patches. This is the first year for the corms I transplanted last fall. The ones in the beds are healthy, albeit a little floppy in some cases, but heavy with buds, not quite popped yet.

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    1. Glad your plants are doing well, Randy. I am getting some rain now, so things should be looking better in my garden soon.

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  2. Good gotcha. I confess I rarely read Latin names in italics!

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    1. It is hard to keep up with some of the Latin names anyway because the botanists like to change them.

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  3. Oh no...that's awful...I remember how glorious they were last year! It's always frustrating to see certain plants decline and die...and not always for any obvious reason. I have an echinacea in my front parking strip that has been slowly withering away for months. Every other Echinacea is fine, none of them received any more/less water than the others...it's boggling. I hope your Liatris recover :-)

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    1. I suspect the plants will recover, Scott. Since most of them are affected, it is probably drought, insects, a combination of both or even other factors that I am not aware of that is causing the decline. My little bluestem looks better than it has in the last couple of years so maybe there is some sort of balance at work in my little ecosystem.

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  4. I think it has been a tough year for wildflowers with the drought. I usually see huge stands of liatris along the roadside and this year there are none. In my own garden they have done quite well. We should get rain today so I am hoping that it will breathe new life into all our native plants, especially the blackfoots. I have no 4 nerve daisies blooming. Yes, fall is usually the peak bloom time but there is still time left.

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    1. Raindrops are falling on my flowerheads, Lancashire rose. I am hopeful for a nice recovery. I saw more butterflies in the garden this week too because of the Liatris.

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  5. Hey there! I have something that looks SUPER similar on one of my rosemary - I think it is spider mites. Who knows....BUT I did spray with seaweed and the others are all fine. And after cutting the nasty pieces away, so is the affected plant.

    Either way, your beautifully natural garden looks amazing! A few dead wands, or not!

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    1. Thanks xericstyle. I did not think anything would bother rosemary other than us humans.

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