Thursday, July 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday: ghosts of July past

Lilium Citronella

For Throwback Thursday I'm going through my photo albums, looking at plants that I photographed in early July in past years but are in my garden no longer.  Some of these were lost just recently, after our coldest winter in 20 years, but some of them died from poor growing conditions, neglect, or simply because I lost interest and removed them to try something new.  As I like to tell people, the secret to being a successful gardener is to keep killing plants.

Begonia hybrid seedlings
Begonia hybrids (2011).  These were seedlings of a cross that I made on a whim, only because I had both parents blooming at the same time.  The cross was between B. grandis, the "hardy begonia", and B. sizemoreae, a tropical species from northern Vietnam.  A few of the seedlings turned out to be fairly hardy and survived two or three winters, but despite the beautiful foliage they weren't as vigorous or as heat-tolerant as I would have liked, and the last of them finally died this past winter.

Lilium 'Muscadet'
Lilium 'Muscadet' (2010) was a lovely lily that performed well in a container for several years, but after I decided I liked the enormous fragrant flowers enough to finally plant it directly in the ground last fall, it just never came back.
Datura wrightii
Datura wrightii (2010) is drought and heat tolerant, and the night-blooming flowers lend an element of magic to our hot, humid summer evenings.  This is a common, low-maintenance plant often found growing in neglected places in DC and never really goes away.  I first planted it over 10 years ago; the plant is unreliably perennial but the seeds can remain dormant in the soil for years, germinating when disturbed.  Sometimes I let the seedlings grow, sometimes I don't.  They grow fast and will bloom by mid-summer, with a long blooming period well into the fall.  I like this plant for its large tropical-looking flowers, which open at dusk and last until noon the next day, but the plant is enormous, sprawling, and ultimately takes up too much real estate in my tiny garden.

Passiflora caerulea
Passiflora caerulea (2010) is a beautiful monster that you should be careful about inviting into your garden.  This vine grows fast and will smother everything in its past.  In addition it suckers aggressively from the roots, popping up all over the garden.  But the flowers are attractive and exotic-looking, and are produced all summer.  Our neighbors dubbed them "Dr. Seuss flowers" but I think were half-afraid the vines would grab their dog or one of their children.   After returning for several years, and surviving an attempt to eradicate it, the plant was finally killed by the recent winter.

Oenothera a.k.a. Gaura lindheimeri
Oenothera (formerly Gaura) lindheimeri (2009) is one of the few plants that has performed well in a pot on my rooftop deck.  The plant is sun, drought, heat, and wind tolerant but it wasn't quite cold tolerant enough to make it through this last winter.

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Hemerocallis 'Moonlit Masquerade' (2008) is a daylily I wanted so badly to love.  The pale flower were lovely, practically glowing at dusk, but more of a peachy-orange than photos usually show, and the foliage was a horrific rat nest all summer.  This has been a common problem with most daylilies I've tried.

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Phlox paniculata 'Robert Poore' (2008) did so well in my garden for so many years that I can't quite get used to it being gone.  It was truly mildew-free, a vigorous grower and quite floriferous, but I think I just let it dry out one too many times.

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Cleome hassleriana (2008) is a plant I finally gave up on after one too many harlequin bug infestations.  This annual re-seeded quite reliably (even excessively) but it's not as drought-tolerant as it's cracked up to be, and the flowers tend to wilt on hot, sunny days.  Best viewed (and photographed!) in the morning or on overcast days.

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Trachycarpus wagnerianus (2006): oh, this one hurts.  This was one of my babies, grown from seed planted in 2000 or 2001, but I lost two of them a few years ago and the last one was killed this past winter.  They were so adorable as seedlings.

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Hemerocallis, unknown cultivar (2005)

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Hemerocallis 'Blackeyed Susan' (2005): this and the above are two more daylilies I gave up on because the terrible post-blooming foliage all summer more than cancelled out the beautiful but short-lived flowers.

Lilium Citronella
Lilium 'Citronella' (2004)

Lilium Nippon
Lilium 'Nippon' (2004): this and the one above it were lovely true lilies that petered out in my garden after just a year or two.  I've had this problem with numerous lilies I've tried.

Agapanthus Headbourne Hybrid
Agapanthus "Headbourne hybrid" (2004): don't let the photo fool you, those flowers are tiny.  I always loved the idea of hardy agapanthus but while this seed-grown strain is quite hardy, the foliage is weedy-looking and the flowers are small, forgettable, and produced for a very short period in the early summer.

Hemerocallis unknown cultivar (2004): I never did figure out the identity of this one, which was planted by previous owners.  The flowers were very large and brilliant orange, but I never got around to transplanting it as it was slowly shaded out by a japanese maple and other plants around it.

Lilium lancifolium
Lilium lancifolium (2004)

Lilium unknown (2004)  Can you tell that I like lilies?  So many people grow beautiful lilies but most that I've tried have done poorly for me; I suspect my soil is just a bit too dry for them, and I'm not very diligent about watering.

Crocosmia Lucifer
Crocosia 'Lucifer' (2003)

Crocosmia Lucifer closeup
Crocosmia 'Lucifer' (2003): this essential "tropical look" plant was one of the first things I planted in my garden, and it performed spectacularly well for the first two or three years.  This was by far one of the best hummingbird plants I've ever grown, but the foliage never looked so good again.  After seeing it ruined by spider mites year after year, I finally removed it because I simply don't have room for ugly plants in my small garden.

And isn't that what it's really all about?  Most of us don't have the luxury of unlimited space (or cash); we're forced to make choices about what we grow, and we tend to grow the plants that do well and look good, because who wants to look at ugly plants?  Unless we're obsessive about a particular plant or group of plants, we adjust our plant selection to fit our growing conditions rather than the other way around.  And so the garden changes over the years, as we lose or give up on some plants and continue to try new ones.  But I don't regret having grown any of these plants, and looking through my old photos, I'm certainly tempted to go back and try some of them again!


  1. That's a beautiful selection of plants from your past John. I totally agree with your last paragraph, you've summed it up perfectly. Losing and letting go of plants are all part of the process and one learns lessons along the way.

    1. People are often shocked when I tell them that I've tired of a plant and gotten rid of it, but especially in a small garden like mine, it's either that or never try anything new!

  2. Those are beautiful and I love the photos. Very good photography. I also have some favorites that come and go. And sometimes my photos of them ( at their best, of course) are the best memory.

  3. Beautiful Ghosts.

    A better substitute for Always Afternoon if you like a small daylily with a purple eye is Pandora's Box. Pandora is paler, I think. Ugly foliage has not been a problem with it, but all ugly foliage needs is a haircut.

    Mrs. Greenthumbs wrote a humorous article once on giving her lilies all the compost she had and they were not appreciative enough to keep going.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions; I did try 'Pandora' several years ago--I seem to recall it didn't do well but for whatever reason it didn't make much of an impression me. I keep hearing about how drought & neglect tolerant daylilies are, but the truth is that they need good soil and regular watering to do well.

  4. The lily with no id is probably L. speciosum, a Japanese species. Lilies do fine up here in NY, but we have the lily beetle to contend with, and it is quite devastating if not controlled. Maybe its too hot down there in DC, lilies tend to like cool roots at least. Enjoyed the photos of the other plants, too bad those hybrid begonias didn't make it, they are quite pretty.

    1. Thanks, you're probably correct; I simply didn't have the name recorded. Lilium regale has done well and lasted a long time; I love the fragrance but wish the flowers would last more than a week or so!

  5. Awesome post! You have had so many unusual blooms in your garden. The Passiflora caerulea is one of my favorite plants. I lost mine too this winter. I might be getting rid of my daylilies also because the blooms only last for so long and then I'm left with foliage that doesn't look nice. I'm always on the search for new plants to try out (which in my yard also means getting rid of something). I think I'll look into some of the plants in your post since they are very nice!

    1. Thanks Alex! I've been "mining" my old photos for blog posts and this seemed like a perfect excuse to use some of them! I like trying new things every year, but I do miss some of these oldies...