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October Blues

Cool blue-purple 'Raydon's Favorite' conspires with Indian grass to impart a lavender tinge to my slag driveway. I like it!

It has been a while since I posted an update about my new street-side (formerly driveway) bed.

Things are coming along quite well considering the harsh growing conditions.

Right now the stars of the show are an aromatic aster variety called ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius ‘Raydon’s Favorite’) and a striking blue Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans).  Both are first year plants and, considering that, are creating an amazing display.

I have grown the straight species aromatic aster for years and it is a fine plant.  This selection seems to have a more prolific flower display with flowers that are a little larger.

My research indicates that ‘Raydon’s Favorite was first sold by Allen Bush at Holbrook Farms.  Bush received a piece of the plant from Raydon Alexander of San Antonio, Texas.  The accompanying note stated that this aster was Raydon’s favorite.   Mr. Alexander believed that the plant originated near Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

The Indian grass is a seedling from a Mississippi Black Belt Prairie remnant.

Indian grass is one of my favorite native grasses.   It has a striking upright growth habit. Foliage is often bluish and the flower clusters are copper colored.

This was a lucky pairing.   These two blue /purple companions are the coolest combo in my October garden.

 

Summer Stars

Gordonia or loblolly bay sports pristine white camellia-like blooms.

Several months ago with the help of some friends, I planted a wonderful new bed in my front yard.

The bed is situated on abysmal compacted soil that used to be part of the driveway.  The horrible soil is riddled with chunks of gravel.

My plant palette consisted of mostly native wetland and prairie species.  Surprisingly, due to the tenacious nature of these contenders, almost everything I planted has done really well.

This spring I enjoyed the ‘Forest Frost’ phlox, zig-zag irises and the Virginia sweetspire.

Now that summer has rolled around, a new set of stars have taken center stage.

Just this week the gordonia or loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus) produced her first flowers.  I chose the gordonia for this bed because it is evergreen and will grow tall enough to provide some screening.  Also its narrow upright growth habit should allow this tree to fit into my small space without encroaching on the power line.

Gordonia flowers look like single white camellias with a tuft of cheerful yellow stamens in the center.  On close examination, you can see that the white petals are bordered with a fine fringe.  Instead of withering on the plant, the flowers fall off while the petals are still white.  As the tree matures, we can drive in on a carpet of flowers every June!

The bumblebees and other pollinators love Bedstraw St. John's Wort.

Behind the gordonia a beautiful native Bedstraw St. John’s wort (Hypericum galioides) is blooming non-stop.    The flowers are golden with puffy clusters of stamens in the center.   A constant parade of bumblebees travel to and fro with their baskets full of pollen.

This is a souvenir plant.  I grew it  from cuttings collected on a float trip down the Chunky River.  The glowing blooms remind me of happy times canoeing with my pal Peter Loos.

Nearby the ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’) is throwing a crop of unseasonably early blossoms.   I have grown the straight species aromatic aster for years but this is my first experience with this cultivar.  I am impressed so far by the precocious blooms and healthy deep green leaves.

'Raydon's Favorite' aster is a precocious bloomer.

All these blossoms attract an array of pollinators.  So… every time I step out my front door there is something new to admire.

A swallowtail butterfly sails by…

A gordonia blossom drifts to the ground…

The golden St. John’s wort bobs under the weight of a hefty bee…

And the unexpected asters reflect the perfect June sky…

It all reminds me of a poem I was forced to memorize back in Junior High School.  The poem is the prelude to  “The Vision of Sir Launfel” by James Russell Lowell.

The part I remember best goes like this:

“…There is no price set on the lavish summer,

And June may be had by the poorest comer.

And what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, come perfect days..”


				
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