It’s Six Weeks Past the Solstice…

… many flowers have bloomed and withered,

but others are coming into their own now,

in the gardens,

and in the wild places.

The other day – another bright and sunny one –

I thought I would see what’s blooming

at the Botanical Garden nearby:

IMG_4233

Here are descriptions of the flowers above  – with a little botany thrown in:

Hydrangeas are at their peak now. The first photo and the two after it show a pure species Hydrangea – H. aspera. No hybridizing here – just as nature made it, and isn’t it gorgeous? Plant breeders like to play around and hybridize to bring out certain qualities, and mostly they do come up with improvements on the species. But I like to see the species itself, too.  This one is native to China.

The fourth photo is a close up of the flower of Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), a southeastern U.S. native shrub.

Then the Coneflower – Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’Echinacea is another American native. You may be familiar with cold and flu remedies made from parts of certain Echinacea species. As with many plant-based “natural” remedies, studies produce contradictory evidence as to their efficacy – some say they work, others claim they don’t.

The typical coneflower is purple or pink, but plant breeders somehow managed to create this nice off white cultivar with softly drooping petals that show off the bold head of disc flowers. Did you know that the “petals” around the head are (botanically speaking) ray flowers, which serve to draw attention to the plant? The head is made of many disc flowers, and that’s where fertilization and seed formation happen. So what we call the flower is actually hundreds of disc and ray flowers packed into an attractive bundle.

In the second Hydrangea photo above you can also see the two types of flowers – tiny reproductively active ones in the center where the bee is working, and pretty ray flowers around the edges, attracting pollinators – and us, too!

I’m not sure which white lily that is in the sixth photo, but it looks to me like Casa Blanca – a wonderful old standby. This one seems to be bursting with energy.

A view of the top of the Perennial Border at the garden shows Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus caroli-alexandri)  in the foreground and Pervoskia atriplicifoliaRussian Sage – behind it.

The eighth photo is a geranium, Geranium ‘Gerwat’ Rozanne, thought to be a hybrid of two Himalayan region geraniums. That gorgeous deep blue makes a good counterpoint to the hot colors that often predominate late summer gardens.

A close up of Perovskia atriplicafolia, or Russian sage, follows. It’s a very popular perennial, native to Central Asia, which blends beautifully with other plants.  It has a strange, pungent scent that I like, and when I see this flower I often crush a little in my hands and inhale deeply. Apparently I haven’t gone far enough though – the leaves can be smoked for a mild high, according to internet sources! And supposedly you can put the little flowers in a salad.

Then, a fat and happy bumblebee enjoying the pretty pink Siberian yarrow, Achillea sibirica ‘Camschatica Love Parade’. Maybe it’s time to talk about naming plants! I don’t know why, but someone decided to use a strange spelling for Kamchatka (a Russian province where the flower is native). Then on top of that they had to tack on “Love Parade” when they named this cultivar.  Well, I can guess why the “Love Parade” – it’s just pure advertising, isn’t it?

Siberian yarrow is native to an arc stretching from Canada through Alaska, over the Kamchatka Peninsula, and on down through parts of Japan, Korea & China.  It was used in both Chinese traditional and Native American medicine (and it still is).  My favorite use though, is for the I Ching, that ancient book of divination.  A bundle of 49 stalks of Achillea sibirica was painstakingly counted and divided following a complex method to produce one of 64 hexagrams, the meaning of which was then used to answer a query.  For centuries a method using 3 coins has been more popular than using yarrow stalks because it’s much quicker. Now there’s an even faster click method – the online I Ching.

Other yarrows, like the well known white wildflower Achillea millefolium, are common in many places worldwide and have been used medicinally and spiritually for tens of thousands of years (the name is from Achilles, of the Greek legend).  This link contains an extensive history of yarrow use along with some literary references.

Next is a close up of Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata ‘Schneeflocke’) – so much prettier here, where it has room to billow, than squashed into a tight bouquet. Originating in Europe and Asia, it has gotten out of hand in some parts of the U.S., becoming an invasive species. But in Peru it’s an important export for the florist trade.

More Hydrangeas follow – the white one with pink edging is H. paniculata ‘Ruby‘ and the final one is H. macrophylla ‘Jogosaki’ – a lacecap hydrangea from Japan.

While photographing a Hydrangea bloom I noticed a shiny green blob on a nearby leaf. It was so small I reached for my reading glasses to be sure – and yes – a Tree frog! How many times have I looked in vain for these wonderful little creatures, and never found one? So here’s the tiny guy with the big voice: our (very common) Pacific Tree Frog.  I’m sorry the photo wasn’t in better focus, but it was hard to get it just right.  Still, you can see its amusing expression – why so glum? It’s a beautiful day!


40 comments

    • And do you have a paid designer and a slew of volunteers? This place is very big, with a number of different gardens and hundreds of volunteers to look after everything. The rest of us do what we can with what we have, right?

  1. I’m glad you included the descriptions and botany…..
    It was interesting reading about the Siberian yarrow. I have the common achillea millefolium and lately I’ve been enjoying their new lease on life with another vibrant stage of blooms.

    • Oh, how nice that you say you actually read and enjoyed the text. i understand a lot of people are just too busy to wade through that much writing, especially if it’s not their favorite subject. So it’s fun to know you enjoyed hearing about the Siberian yarrow. I’ve always loved yarrow too. Thank you!

  2. You must be thrilled with these BB . Its so lovely to see such flowers in great numbers for me who usually has only one or two due to lack of space and choice of planting areas Lol . I certainly have tried so oftem with the ‘dying swan’ 😦 I have two Bears Breeches and a Blue Hydrangea which is only finally proving to me it’s worth the space in the big pot and won’t be turfed out onto the compost … ah sigh..
    Beautiful close captures of floral details you clever thing 😉
    What a bonus the little tree frog !

    • It’s such a pleasure to be able to wander through a nice garden not too far from home, so you’re right, I’m a happy camper whenever I can take photos and there and some turn out nicely. I had a good-sized house & lot once with loads of space to garden and I totally loved it. I also had a garden maintenance business for awhile so I got to spend time tidying up some pretty nice places. So I know what you mean because I too am currently without the space, and without enough sunlight at home due to tresstreestrees to plant anything more than a few pots, some of which – oh, maybe half! – don’t even make it. Oh well! We find our visual pleasures where we can – I know you do!

  3. I wonder if the pure Hydrangea is available on the market? Everyone had them in their gardens when I was a child, but they all had the big round flower clusters like the commercial ones have today. I love the way these grow. The Yarrow fascinates me too. This is a beautiful photo of it. And Mr. Frog. Well, what can I say, he’s grumpy. The first tree frog I ever saw was sitting on the sink counter in a bathroom in the new house that we had just moved into. I about fainted from fright. The frog was so bright green that he didn’t look real. I was afraid to touch him so I moved him with my tennis racket to the out of doors! I have no idea how he got there.

    Your photos are really superb with gorgeous color. I enjoyed this very much, Lynn. 🙂

    • Those Hydrangeas from our past (I am about the same age as you, and also grew up in the northeast) are a different type altogether. There are different “pure” Hydrangeas – i.e. more than one species, and then there are probably thousands of cultivars. Great, funny story about your tree frog encounter. I really have searched for them many times, so I was so pleased to see this guy. I found a mail order nursery for the Hydrangea – http://hydrangeasplus.com/asperaa/ – it’s the last one on the page – H. aspera Villosa. There are a lot of different H. aspera cultivars out there, too – not necessarily a bad thing. But in any case, that type of Hydrangea is so much more graceful than those round-headed ones. Thanks for your comment, and for reading all the way through!

  4. Wonderful photos, and I loved reading about the plants. I grow many of them but not all. We have our own eastern tree frogs, brown in color, and they are in full song these days (or nights, really).

    • Thank you – yes, the Eastern ones are the ones I used to hear and looked for so many times. I associate them more with spring, but maybe I’m forgetting already…I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about the plants, and I know you grow a lot of great ones in our garden!

  5. Absolute stunning images! Very well toned I am glad you didn’t over do it! I’d be ready for spring if it weren’t fall!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s