Chesterton Tribune

Some fall plants blooming ahead of schedule this year

Back to Front Page





Wonders and Weeds


July is for …. summer getting ahead of itself.

I thought it was just me, but several people have commented lately on how plants are blooming ahead of schedule. A perfect example is the fall-blooming anemone, which avid gardener Betsy Poparad observed is fully budded. It seemed my daylilies began blooming early this year, and I’ve had a chrysanthemum blooming for several weeks. The mauve mopheads of eupatorium or Joe Pye weed, generally flowering in the fall, are doing so now.

My unscientific guess is that the near-90 degree weather early this spring triggered plants to start the bloom process. What will be blooming in September and October, I wonder? Maybe we better get the last of the garden center annuals and get them planted for fall color, eh?

Also in its full glory now is blue vervain or verbena hastata, a five foot-tall, sun-loving prairie native. My mother plant was a lonely soul I didn’t get planted last year yet bloomed in its one-gallon pot and wintered over. It took revenge on me, self-sowed and now I have about six vervain towering above their neighbors.

The small flowers, at the top of each branch, are narrow tubes ringed with tiny lavender blue flowers around the base. I cut some branches as filler for a flower arrangement but they tended to wilt despite being in water. Plants have to perform on several levels to make it in my garden, and the jury is still out on vervain.

One plant I am thrilled over is the crocosmia ‘Babylon’ that just opened this week. This is the reason we hybridize. Crocosmias throw fans that have hummingbird-friendly flowers along the ribs. True red ‘Lucifer’ has tons of 1 1/2-inch flowers, but ‘Babylon’s are twice as big, a paprika orange with red flares and a yellow throat.

My ‘Lucifer’ clump is four feet tall and wide; its arching strap-like leaves engulf a small maroon wigelia that will have to be moved. I will be anxious to see if ‘Babylon’ grows that large, too.

I think one goal of hybridizing, in addition to better flowers or disease resistance, is maximizing the number of flowers versus leaves. Daylily hybridizers have been doing this for years.

It’s great to get excited about a neat plant like ‘Babylon’ because I can ignore the weeds, black spot, Japanese beetles and mildew I see on other plants on my way to the crocosmia.

I have somewhat of a mystery after returning from an overnight trip to Indianapolis. Something ate several of my dahlia stems at 24 inches above the ground. The lower leaves were not touched. A nearby mum also was munched but no daylilies, which appeal to deer.

Passing motorists probably thought I was crazy because several times one night I would suddenly turn the flashlight on the dahlias, hoping to catch the perpetrator in the act. No such luck. I may have to call the Dunes State Park naturalist on this one.

Whatever it is will get a rude surprise: I lightly dusted the dahlias, saved from last year, with the insect repellant Sevin, foul-tasting to be sure. I realize now I first could have tried soap and water instead.

My buried treasure continues to unearth itself.

We live on a two-lane state highway and there have been rumblings that a planned 1,200-seat banquet hall down the road might require the highway to be widened taking a good chunk of the front yard with it. In case that happens, I’ve begun widening the east border toward the house.

The area obviously was where they dumped cinders from the coal furnace; I began sifting those out first. Next I hit small pieces of concrete. Then I hit a solid “clunk!” and the dirt wouldn’t yield. After abusing my shovel as a pry bar (this is why I choose contractor-grade garden equipment) I began loosening what turned out to be 25 whole bricks. What a find!

There may be more buried as I continue to expand the border. I hope so. Our property was the Hickory Grove dairy farm at the turn of the last century and we have a picture of the place in 1894. Just visible on the east side is what appears to be a brick building by a windmill. These are probably my bricks, which I used to border the bed where I found them.

I also dug up a metal Bayer aspirin bottle top, grooved to twist it. I need to find out when Bayer stopped using metal screw tops. I’ll check that out right after I weed, treat the rosebushes for black spot, squash some Japanese beetles and cut down the mildewed plants.


posted 7/28/2004