An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

June 14, 2008

A Smoky Bloom Day

This particular bloom day finds Tidewater in the choke of smoke from two separate fires. The first fire has burned 40,000 acres in North Carolina, mostly in Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. We have had smoke from that fire off and on for two weeks, even though it is about 100 miles away. A much smaller fire, yet much closer to home, was started this week in the Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. In the type of irony I am getting tired of, the Dismal Swamp fire was a result of efforts aimed at trying to restore a threatened species - Atlantic Whitecedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides). Because of over-logging and loss of habitat, the tree is threatened in an area where it once thrived. The plan was to re-log an area of other species so that Atlantic Whitecedar could be replanted and restored to the swamp. The logging company contracted to remove the undesirable species accidentally started the fire, and now we have the combined smoke from two different fires in which to garden. It is nauseating just going outside when the wind is coming from the south.

Anyway, on to June bloom day, and once again thank you to May Dreams Gardens for hosting this on-line monthly event. The first shot is of my Summer Chocolate Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate'). I think this is a Hines Nursery exclusive and I paid way more money than I would normally spend on a plant, but I had to have it.
Candy Corn Cuphea (Cuphea micropetala) was lost last summer because someone had sticky fingers. So I put it behind the fence this year and I love it next to this Sun Coleus.
I planted three tiny Bronze Fennels (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpurescens') about 8 years ago in the front yard and they have seeded all over the place, but they always seem to come up where I want them. The flowers are here because of bloom day, but it is the foliage that I love.
If you are already tired of Daylily pictures this year then skip the next four pictures. The first is 'Santiago Heat' doing its best to make this cable cover look good.
And two unknown varieties (I don't keep track of all of them).

'Web of Intrigue'
Some of you may also be sick of Hydrangeas, but they are my showiest blooms right now. I counted how many Hydrangeas were in my tiny garden, and was surprised to come up to fifteen. Here is 'Ayesha', and I love its waxy cupped shaped petals.
Vigorous 'Bluebird'
My $1.00 'Glory Blue'
'Pia' is a dwarf, also known as 'Pink Elf'. Never has it been pink.

'Pia' lives next door to 'Ayesha'.
'Sun Goddess' finally became purple this year.
Pikerel Weed (Pontederia cordata)
One of my favorite perennials, Salvia gauranitica 'Black and Blue'
Now I would like exchange some of this smoke, for some much needed rain.


  1. Sorry to hear about the fires. Your blooms and foliage are lovely all the same. How can anyone get tired of hydrangeas? Yours are very healthy. I love the title of your blog and the beautiful location - lucky you!

  2. Les, beautiful pictures to soften the effect of your account of the fires. It is enough to make you weep!
    The fires themselves are bad enough, but to have one caused by incompetence is too hard to bear.

    BTW, that link you did on the GBBD - it doesn't show up when I tried to make one. I'm not bothered, but curious, as I am new and trying to figure things out'

  3. Sorry to hear about the wildfires,hope they get them under control soon. It's a delicate balance when we try to change the ecosystem, even to try to correct previous human interference.
    I love the Hydrangeas. It looks like the pink elf hydrangea succumbed to the peer pressure from the other hydrangeas, "all the cool Hydrangeas are blooming in blue, Pinky."

  4. We just had about 2 inches of rain last night including some fairly big thunderstorms. We have been lucky in that area lately.

    Loved your post, Les. I hadn't seen Summer Chocolate Mimosa before. The Albizia is only marginally hardy here. I had to chuckle at
    "I paid way more money than I would normally spend on a plant, but I had to have it."
    I have so been there before.

  5. I guess it would be hard to pass up that chocolate mimosa! Was that your weird neighbor who stole the cuphea?

    Fires, huh? Don't you get rain in the summer?

  6. Wow! That chocolate mimosa is quite stunning. I too love the bronze fennel. Can't imagine 4 of them. The one we have is a giant that needs to be constantly cut back. I steep the fronds and make a lovely refreshing lavender colored tea. Hope the fires die down soon.

  7. Your hydrangea flowers are beautiful, and make me want to try to change the soil pH where mine grow to turn my pink blooms blue.

    Those wildfires sounds just awful. I hope you do get some rain soon!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  8. The smoke has been unsettling during the last few days. Great pics; I never get tired of seeing hydrangeas at this time of year. I have only one (an old passalong mophead) which blooms pink, and that's because it abuts the concrete slab next to the kitchen wall. All others here come blue, too.

    Glad to hear you finally got your "Milk Chocolate" daylily - I'm ashamed to admit this, but I hunted it down after Martha Stewart raved about it a few years ago. So far my hybrids based on it aren't much to speak of, but it's fun to see them bloom.

    I love the mimosa, too - wish I had room for one. There's an amzing use of it at Plant Delights faced down with a mass of Eucomis "Sparkling Burgundy" - you've probably seen it.

    Good job on WTKR the other day - I fumbled around until I found the video on their website. You could become the next Dabney Morgan!

  9. Maybe you'll get some of the rain that we got this past weekend to help the fire situation. I have that hydrangea 'Ayesha' but it has never bloomed. I have around 50 and it is the only one that won't bloom for me. I keep giving it another year because I think it is so unusual and different. Maybe it will surprise me this year.

  10. Sarah,
    Thanks for visiting, and no I can not get tired of Hydrangeas.

    The web is a great thing when it works like you want it. Last month's link was fine. Thanks for taking the extra step to visit.

    Sometimes the cure is worse than the illness.

    Albizia is a weed here. The highway I take to work is lined with them, but they were not planted by humans. However, they do have a life span of less than 20 years. I have heard, but haven't substantiated that Summer Chocolate is on a different root stock and not julibrissin, so hopefully that will extend its life. I will see.

    Yes that was my plant stealing-vandalizing neighbor, who is at it again, but not in my yard. Steps are being taken. Yes we do get rain, but we are currently experiencing a drought and both fire sites have a lot of timber on the ground from Hurricane Isabel, and eons of accumulated peat. In millions of years it may be coal - or diamonds.

    I'll have to try the tea as I am currently under the weather. I like to chop it up and have it with potatos or rice.

    I should be glad they are blue, I try to have very little pink in my garden, but every now and then some peeks through.

    I didn't know it was a Martha plant. That is going to change everything.

    I have never had a problem with Ayesha, in fact it can be a little too vigorous. I have to keep cutting it back so the AC unit does not get too crowded. Have you tried phosphate? It may interfere with the flower color, but it usually works.

  11. your hydrangeas are breathtaking- I could never tire of them....