garden impostors and other July blooms

Digitalis ferruginea

The clumps of leaves on these two foxgloves were impossible to tell apart in winter, but in bloom Digitalis parviflora and Digitalis ferruginea are very distinctive. Apart from very different coloration, D. parviflora is the first to bloom, and D. ferruginea is the taller of the two.

Digitalis parviflora

In this coastal Oregon zone 8b garden, July brings the first dahlias, more lilies, and…(add intro to Beethoven’s 5th)…dierama.

opened this week, ‘Camano Sitka’
Dahlia ‘AC Rosebud’

The first dahlia to bloom by a couple weeks, ‘AC Rosebud,’ is over 7 feet tall and towers over the back fence — the only way to get a decent photo is to cut the flowers for a vase. All dahlias were planted May 2022 and no new dahlias were added for this summer.

A dark strain from Dancing Oaks, dierama hangs and sways with the Golden Oats grass Stipa gigantea.
Kniphofia ‘Timothy’
Patrinia scabiosifolia
Two plants of Sanguisorba ‘Red Thunder,’ one over 5-feet in height, the other under 3 feet. I’m assuming the taller is the true ‘Red Thunder’ — the shorter variety would be fine at the front of the border
Veronicastrum ‘Fascination’ — I can either wait for it to bulk up or add a few more plants for a bigger impact
Unlike veronicastrum, one Lobelia tupa is ample! Love the pale celadon-colored leaves as much as the flowers, about 5 bloom stalks in its second summer
Salvia ‘Mesa Azure’ slowly coming back from complete winter dormancy

Sown in spring, about a dozen Lychnis viscaria ‘Blue Angel’ were planted in the garden and in pots. Weak and spindly as small plants, I had low expectations but July turned things around. They are similar in growth habit to corn cockle, agrostemma, but maybe a foot in height.

with variegated oregano and little white flowers of Parahebe catarractae
Viscaria oculata, Lychnis viscaria ‘Blue Angel’
Madia elegans

Another annual, this one very tall, Madia elegans was brought in as plants with hopes for resowing. I saw this “tarweed” in bloom last summer, had no luck with seeds, but grabbed a couple plants this spring, very unimpressive in their nursery pots but I knew their potential: grey-green, slightly furry leaves, fringed petals, dark center, tall graceful habit, a beautiful Oregon/West Coast native. It can be grown hard or in luxurious conditions like here, where it will soar up to 5 feet. A couple stalks did break off during a very windy June but it recovered and branched out.

Scabiosa ochroleuca just opening this week — like knautia, it’s all about the clouds of bobbing dancing flowers which endlessly entertain me and pollinators. Similar is Succisella inflexa, very pale, almost white, not yet in bloom
Morina longifolia
Teucrium ‘Summer Sunshine’ spreading mat in bloom
Bought in bloom, the sublime purply/green/blue Mendocino Reed Grass, Calamagrostis foliosus, maybe a foot to 18 inches in height and width. Apparently not easy to propagate or grow so not a sure thing for surviving winter here
Salvia ‘Amante’ wintered in a stock tank with Verbena bonariensis, the salvia just now coming into bloom
Solanum laxum — I thought I stumbled onto a new-to-me vine especially suited for the PNW, but turns out it’s the old potato vine Solanum jasminoides with a new name. To zone 8b, it came through its first winter in the ground, under the awning, growing up a supporting beam.
the cardoon Cynara cardunculus hardy to zone 7
the best I could do to show the height of Peucedanum verticillare, over 8 feet — its enormity defies capture by my point-and-shoot camera and what looks here like a mad jumble is an elegant architectural presence surprisingly resistant to heavy wind

And now I get to set the record straight and correct a misidentification. I thought I was digging up Angelica stricta ‘Purpurea’ from the Long Beach zone 10 garden in autumn 2021 to transport to the Oregon garden. Prior to this post, I’ve referred to photos of this plant as an angelica. It is not. I’ve puzzled over the enormous height and lack of purple color to the umbels but assumed seed variation. Browsing a catalogue the other day, I found photos of Peucedanum verticillare — boing! Instant recognition — this is the plant! And I was growing it in the Long Beach garden in October 2020, so must have dug this one up instead of the angelica, which I also grew down south (see post here). If that’s not weirdly confusing enough, this spring I planted a Peucedanum ostruthium at the base of this plant when I thought it was angelica…

Peucedanum verticillare Giant Hog Fennel June 2023. For the record, it’s also known as Angelica verticillaris!
biennial or short-lived perennial with amazing rose-flushed seedheads
I love the drama of big plants so wasn’t too bothered by this one tripling its anticipated size when I still thought it was Angelica stricta…
Podocarpus macrophyllus ‘Mood Ring’

And lastly, I’m not impulse-buying many shrubs, but the colors on this podocarpus reminded me so much of the coloring of the leucadendrons in my zone 10 garden that I couldn’t say no. To zone 7b, it appears to be trademarked and heavily marketed. (Some of the photos may show as links only, not sure why, but clicking will bring up the image.)

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7 Responses to garden impostors and other July blooms

  1. Kris P says:

    The plants in your zone 8b garden are very different – and more floriferous, at least right now – than those in your zone 10b garden but your planting style strikes me as similar. You encourage the plants to cozy up to one another and duke it out for space and status 😉

    I’m very envious of your first dahlia as I’ve yet to see even a bud. I dug out all the tubers last November to make room for cool season plants in my cutting garden and then didn’t get around to tucking them back into place until June because the those plants hung on so long this year.

  2. Did you buy chance pick up that Podocarpus macrophyllus ‘Mood Ring’ at Blooming Junction? I stopped in my tracks—mouth agape—when I saw it. So beautiful.

  3. Denise Maher says:

    @Hi Kris – I do pack ’em in! And I’ve already started shuffling stuff around when smaller plants get smothered by the bigger, more vigorous growers or just can’t be seen clearly. That rhythm of our cool season growers in winter/spring is such a perk of zone 10, but it can delay the cutting garden’s warm season. A greenhouse/hoophouse would help with this problem!
    @Loree, you’re exactly right about the podocarpus. Just reading your post about Harlan and Mary — so glad you made it! Missed bumping into you by a hair!

  4. I am growing a number of the same plants in my Southey’s Wisconsin Z5 garden and it is so helpful to see them in a garden rather than nursery pix. My Digitalis just finished flowering and I was trying to remember which one I planted. Your photos answered that question: D. parviflora. You have a lovely garden.

  5. Jerry says:

    Ooh! Love the little green bonnets on the D. ferruginea! Very cool, as is D. parviflora. I think I planted both in my garden last year, but lost track of where one of them was placed. My garden memory hasn’t been too focused lately. Your garden is as beautiful as ever. My Lobelia tupa just made it through its first winter in the ground. No blooms yet, but looking forward to some assertive height and seeing how it competes with horsetail. Lychnis viscaria is a new one for me – so different in appearance from other species. I planted Madia elegans a couple years ago and it has been prolific to say the least. I’ve been slowly making my way through the patch ripping out the taller ones with plain yellow flowers in favor of shorter plants whose flowers have a dark red center (like yours). Hoping I can select for a shorter, more colorful population over time.

  6. Elaine says:

    So many great plants that I have never heard of before. Always an education seeing what you are growing. The hog fennel stem colour is gorgeous. Does it hold up over the winter?

  7. Denise says:

    @Linda, so glad to be of help with the ID! I’ve learned so much valuable ‘IRL” info from blogs too.
    @Jerry, I’m surprised at the height of the madia, and maybe growing conditions are too rich as it’s starting to lean. I’d love to have enough seedlings to rogue out plain yellow and select for slightly more compact!
    @Elaine, so many amazing plants to grow, I love seeking them out. Not exactly what the hog fennel will do with winter…I’m guessing collapse but which month, early or mid winter? It’s abuzz with insects and hummingbirds use it for a perch for rest breaks.

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