Soon to Bloom — Part V (August)

Bloom there it is!


Getting to Know the Natives In Your Backyard, A Month at a Time

My native plant garden offers up small miracles on a daily basis. Seeing a brand new colorful bloom on the end of a green spike is like finding a 5 dollar bill in a parking lot. You get a quick sense of thrill, which is then quickly replaced with the thought: “How did I get so lucky today?”

Like the grand finale in a fireworks show, it is hard to believe that these gorgeous blooms sat so still all summer barely paying a passerby any mind.

This “Blue Cardinal Flower” or Great Blue Lobelia (pictured above) created such thrill that I immediately realized: “Oh boy, I am WAY behind on my Soon to Bloom for August!” And I think I now know why nearly a whole half a month has gone by and I still have not updated the Soon to Bloom. I have been so preoccupied filming butterflies that I completely lost track of the flowers.

Tiger Swallowtail
Great Blue Lobelia or Blue Cardinal Flower (Lobelia siphilitica)

This is the first time I have seen this blue flower in my garden as it was just planted this summer, just a few weeks prior to the writing of this post. I just love the detail in this little plant. I say that lightly, it can grow to be a height of 1 to 3 feet. Part of the reason it can be referred to as the twin to the Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), but in blue. This is a lovely woodland garden plant that thrives in shady, moist soil. In fact, don’t leave your house for two weeks in August without a friend to check on water levels if there are limited number of afternoon and evening thundershowers. They won’t tolerate a drought.

Turtlehead pink (Chelone cuthbertii) or Turtlehead white (Chelone glabra)
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)
Flat-topped Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia

Among other native plants that sit around calmly all summer and then put on a bursting show at the ending weeks of the summer are shown above. Like the grand finale in a fireworks show, it is hard to believe that these gorgeous blooms sat so still all summer barely paying a passerby any mind. You know that the fireworks usually end in one last big spectacle, and then the oos and ahhs get better and better. Then one day you meander about and Boom! Your garden is alive even more than it was two weeks ago. Even my Alum Root is blooming, I did not capture a photo of it though.

Like its water loving neighbor, the Chelone spp of plants including the pink turtlehead and also white turtlehead among others also prefer a wet habitat like the Lobelia.

Turtlehead (white)

Of the plants mentioned above…one of them should be noted to come with its own red flag warning: aggressive spreader! Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) has absolutely no trouble self seeding itself all around the beds. Just be weary of that! They are really more pale purple than blue, and are a delight: small lavender bombs that resemble more of a pom-pom with tiny hairs. They have recognizable leaves too. They are heavily veined and toothed (jagged edges) resembling the mint family, yet they are in the aster family. They can tolerate full sun, but will wilt if left to dry out too much. We have a mass grouping on the outermost edge of our rain garden. They are at the base, and the taller Cardinal flower and Obedient plant sit directly behind the Blue Mistflower. We also have them sprinkled about in two small understory plantings, one in full sun, and one in part sun. I have also had success with them in a large deck planter box in full sun. They have, without fail come back every year for going on 3 years now. (Shout out thank you to my Garden Club of American friend Suzanne B. for that one seedling that is now an entire box full!)

Rain Garden flanked with Blue Mistflower and a teeny bit of the Flat-topped Goldenrod showing in the top right corner

In the above photo, I say “teeny bit” of the Flat-topped Goldenrod showing, because in fact…the cluster of blooms is easily two feet across. Those tiny flowers bloom into more of small hedge. One plant can be up to a foot across in full bloom!

Stay tuned for perhaps one more installment of Soon to Bloom in September. Yes…things are still yet to bloom!