Yes, that is a box full of chrysanthemums. Let me explain why such a wildly uncharacteristic flower, for me, is blooming in my otherwise mostly austere and dryish garden.
It’s part of the ongoing experiment of trying cut flowers in containers. Last year it was cosmos (mildly successful, but a much shorter bloom period than I hoped, and so much watering!) Dahlias are also intense upkeep in containers and not happy in the best conditions I can muster for them. Florist-style mums seemed like a fun experiment, so I ordered five spidery kinds from Bluestone Perennials last fall which were potted up in gallons in May. And they’ve remained in gallons all summer. Unlike dahlias, the mums are beginning to bloom on much smaller plants. The leaves are tougher and more sun resistant and overall healthier, and they don’t seem as sensitive to occasionally dryish soil. I know, mums. But dahlias and gladioli were once witheringly dismissed as déclassé too. I can honestly say that my box of mums has been less problematic than cosmos or dahlias. True, they don’t have the range of shapes and colors that dahlias do, nor the willowy elegance of cosmos, not to mention that they skip summer bloom entirely. And this doesn’t mean I want to be surrounded by grocery store foil-encased pots of dwarf flowering mums — where gaudy flowers are concerned, I’m in the less is more camp and prefer to keep pollinators happy with the tiny flowers of, say, calamint. But this experiment in pots has been fun. I would never grow them in the garden, only a cutting garden. (Floret Farms writes of their rediscovery of chrysanthemums here and links to King’s Mums growing instructions here.) Chocolate cosmos has also been easy in containers, clean leaves, cuttable stems, moderate size.
This toothy Aloe divaricata ‘Chompers’ I found plant shopping yesterday, however, will definitely get planted in the garden. Winter blooming, with a multibranched inflorescence, but it’s mostly about the leaf coloration and teeth with this one. It can get big, to 5 feet high and across, but is easily manageable by thinning out the offsets.
The ‘Chompers’ aloe was planted this morning in this newly reworked area that has seen a lot of planting action lately. Agave geminiflora, in a pot for years, was also moved here recently. It spills out beautifully from a pot but was in too much shade, and it will color up deep red here in full sun. I like the shape echo here with Agave stricta ‘Nana’ too.
Most of my aloes are winter bloomers, but ‘Rooikappie’ is the rare repeat blooming aloe. I love how when it blooms, a small patch in the back garden becomes a little slice of the African veldt — with liberal applications of imagination! I’m amazed that these succulents in grass are still getting enough sun at their bases to bloom, but for this to continue a success the grasses will have to be thinned.
Brassaiopsis hispida was doing so well in a container that I decided to take a chance on planting it in the garden, where I don’t have to worry about missing a daily watering. Another member of the Araliaceae, Schefflera taiwaniana, was planted in morning sun on the north side of the house, carefully watered, flourished all summer, but still took a wilt dive when temps rose into the 90s. I dug it up and it seemed to be recovering, but collapsed when we hit 97 — even though it had been moved into full shade! The brassaiopsis seems unfazed by the heat so far, and the trevesia seems to revel in it.
To protect it from Billie the digger, rather than store this unused tuteur, it makes a handy plant protector.
The Agave geminiflora’s empty container became home to an Alcantarea imperialis that needed a larger pot and a tongue fern (Pyrrosia lingua) I had growing in a wooden orchid basket. The fern loved life in that mossed wooden basket and was surprisingly difficult to extricate after residing in it just a few months.
One pot of coleus can make quite a statement. I like the simple strong colors versus the wildly variegated kinds.
Alternanthea ‘Purple Knight’ is another good strong single-colored tropical. This has been in the ground since last December, dying back early summer then putting out lush new growth late summer.
Another plant that makes an impact and is easy in a pot is Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow.’
Passiflora ‘Flying V’ produces flower buds all summer, but it’s only in late summer that they really fully open enough for a decent photo. Odd…
Hibiscus mutabilis is another heat lover. This one needs attentive watering, maybe less so after its first year.
Another worthy mention for summer containers is Begonia luxurians.