Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rain and Raucous Annuals

The storms since last Friday have been magnificent! We have had everything from a gentle afternoon drizzle to fierce nighttime downpours with lightning flashes that lit the sky, claps of thunder, and driving horizontal rain. Saturday night the winds quickly escalated to over 70 miles per hour and through the blazing lightning, various lawn items could be seen flying past the window! These rains have truly altered the landscape of the garden and the plants have grown inches with the nutrients coming from the sky.

Lightning is produced in thunderstorms when liquid and ice particles above the freezing level collide and build up large electrical fields in the clouds. When these electric fields become large enough a giant "spark" occurs between them…like static electricity. This process causes oxygen and nitrogen to combine in the air and fall to Earth within the rain. Since nitrogen is the major ingredient in fertilizer, we may thank the storms for the greening of our world.

For those new to gardening, there is nothing better than planting a bed of annuals which will provide color all summer. Lasting only one season, annuals are fun to play with so plan a not-too-serious ‘theme garden’ this year. Once on a whim, we had a South American themed garden and filled a bed solely with flowers that had a Mexican flair and would attract butterflies. It seems flowers originating in South America have the brightest and deepest colors, the easy habit of drought survival and they all seem to shout Fiesta! We planted Mexican heather, red and yellow Nastursums, deep purple Petunias, scarlet red Chile Pepper Scabiosa, electric blue Salvia, scarlet and deep yellow swirl Zinnias, and anything else that seemed fun. Everything was planted too closely, all with contrasting colors adjacent to each other. The result was a childish intermingling of colors spilling out of the bed by mid-July.

Or perhaps plant a Gothic garden as something to please the family teenagers. There are a variety of ‘dark’ choices to plant. Black Mourning Bride, of the scabiosa family is a perfect choice. A native of the Mediterranean, it has been in Europe since 1629 and grown here since colonial times. Called the pincushion flower and prized by Victorians, it is still used in Portugal and Brazil as a funeral flower. Its showy and fragrant little blossoms last to three weeks when cut making it a prize for the cutting in the garden. Its flowers also attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds further enhancing its continued popularity". Whatever you choose to plant, don’t necessarily follow the rules… simply enjoy the season.

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