Overheard in the garden after a long rainy spell. . .
You’re looking lovely as ever, dear Mrs. Cottontail. Tell me, can you help me find the sun today?
No, I’ve not seen the sun, Wolf. And don’t sweet-talk me like you did Red Riding Hood. You can’t worm your way into my tales.
Well, have you seen the sun, elegant White Rabbit?
No, no, no, and I can’t look now. I’m late I’m late I’m late. And you’re not invited.
Goodness, gracious me, everyone, listen up, listen up, the sky is falling. Can’t you feel it on your heads? That’s why there’s no sun.
No brain at all, some of them. No brain at all.
And what are you mumbling about, Eeyore? You can’t say you’re not informed, because I just informed you.
Henny Penny, the sky is not falling. Anybody knows that what’s falling is rain.
He’s right, Henny Penny.
You’ve got it all wrong, Eeyore. And the rest of you, too. I’m telling the king.
Wait everybody. I boldly interrupt this odd convention of storybook characters. Before you go back to the pages in your books, can anyone tell me where I can find the sun?
Ahem, dear lady, maybe you should look around your garden. Maybe the sun is hiding in your garden. And while you’re about it, see if you can find Mole and Ratty, too. They promised to go messing about with me today.
Before I can say thank you, they scatter.
Of course, the sky hasn’t fallen as Henny Penny says. Nor is it hiding in my garden. But Toad may have a point. Maybe when blossoms glow like gold on days of pewter and lead, it’s because they’ve caught sunbeams that have gone missing. Here are some pictures of plants that bring sunbeams to our garden from early spring through late fall.
Daffodil/Narcissus ‘Tahiti’: The orange flecks really brighten the petals of this daffodil, don’t they? They remind me of flouncy petticoats. For us this daffodil blooms fairly late in spring, so its fresh clean look is a nice surprise when other daffodils are fading. They don’t get the full sun in our garden that daffodils would like, but our dry summers and wet winters suit them well. I look forward to them every year.
Golden Ragwort: (Senecio aureus or Packera aurea) A native woodland spring bloomer before trees leaf out, rarely used in gardens. Too bad. Bright dazzle-your-eyes gold dandelion-like flowers rise above handsome foliage. Leaves, purple on the undersides, remind me of violet foliage and makes a nice groundcover all season.
Seedheads are tufty puffs that fly about on a breeze, but seeds rarely take hold for me. Instead, I divide the plant in spring, careful to place new plants is a moist, somewhat shady area.This picture captures its somewhat rangy character, and maybe that’s why other people don’t plant it.
Columbine: (Aquilegia sps.) I don’t know where my yellow columbine came from. It seeded in behind my back somewhere in tme and bloomed this year during our rainy spring.
I love it. Will it be back next year? Not looking good. The plant is not strong and may very well disappear before summer is over. Maybe it will drop a seed that will surprise me in some future year. Perhaps a sunbeam or two will revive it.
Its relative, the native columbine is a tall, strong grower and seeds prolifically in gardens here. Some people think it is weedy, but I savor the red and yellow blooms.
Coreopsis: (Coreopsis grandiflora) A native spring/summer bloomer. In other people’s gardens coreopsis grows in waves, returning year after year and seeding in. The challenge for those gardeners lies in maintaining order among reckless extravagance. Fortunately, I have been the lucky recipient of this extravagance. Unfortunately, said plants turn stingy as soon as they touch my soil. Those that survive are a real treat.
Azaleas: (Southern Indian Hybrids) There’s a hint of late-afternoon sun shining through rain clouds, casting its golden spell over the leaves on these evergreen azaleas so well suited to the south. We grow ‘George Taber,’ ‘Mrs. G.G.Gerbing’ and ‘Formosa’ and keep them pruned to about four or five feet. They are less palatable to deer than other types of azaleas. Massed, their pale leaves act like a tranquilizer in our pell mell garden.
Missouri Sundrops: (Oenothera missouriensis) Native. The quintessential sunshine blossom. A daytime relative of the evening primrose, in late spring its blooms explode. After deadheading, the stems are best camouflaged by other plants. In fall I find ground-hugging rosettes, precursors of new plants. Mine are well-traveled: from a neighbor’s yard to mine, then up to New Hampshire and back to me when mine succumbed to drought.
Yellow Flag Iris: (Iris pseudocoris) One evening these iris, which we grow in a ditch by the road, glowed in the western sun. I did not take advantage of that moment of glory, so, like the proverbial fish, my prize photo got away. I once thought it was native, a relative of blue flag, but the Latin name translates as False Sweet Flag. These iris are vigorous spreaders, and can edge out natives.
Rudbeckia Irish Eyes: (Rudbeckia ‘Irish Eyes’) Despite the name, it’s a native like all other rudbeckias. The centers of the large daisy flowers are a pale green. They are light and airy and even when the air is still, they seem to dance in the garden. The bloom is similar to that of cutleaf coneflower, but on shorter stems and earlier. For us, bloom begins in late spring and continues into summer. Collected seed generally comes true.
Boston Ivy: (Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Fenway Park’) Not an ivy, but a relative of Virginia creeper. This goldy-chartreuse gem is named for the Boston Red Sox stadium. Here it is climbing the faux stone applied to our garage after tree damage from Hurricane Isabel.
It would like a spot with some afternoon shade, as it tends to lose color in summer sun, but it’s on this wall forever. You can’t easily take Boston Ivy down once established because its frog-toes-look-alike suction cups from holdfasts remain after the ivy is gone.
Still, we love it. It makes us feel that we were to the manor born.
St. Johnswort: (Hypericum frondosum ‘Sunburst’) This handsome spring-summer native is a cheerleader. Petals are inconsequential, but brilliant pompoms of pollen-laden stamens are a magnet for bumblebees. The bees’ speed and efficiency gathering pollen into “baskets” on their legs is a wonder. Happy and hardy in good sun. Our original died after heavy shade encroached.
Cutleaf Coneflower: (Rudbeckia laciniata) Not a coneflower. Like all rudbeckias, a native summer bloomer. It grows best in moist soil and is a carefree, vigorous spreader that makes a handsome groundcover all season. Late summer it sends up tall stems capped with masses of yellow daisy-like flowers. But the real show begins when goldfinches alight on the waning flowers and pick over the seeds.
Goldenrod: (Solidago sps.) After seeing exuberant goldenrod growing in the gardens at Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-on-Avon, I wanted goldenrod in my garden, coarse stems and tough leaves included. Errant singles I pull, but I leave clumps if they are polite to other plants. Sometimes they are not, which is why the garden turns into a jungle as summer wears on. I leave flower heads for birds to forage and cut plants down in spring.
Swamp Sunflower: (Helianthus angustifolius) A native fall bloomer. Tall, with narrow leaves, the plant sometimes looks like tangled hair, but its blooms are a knockout, oases of pollen and nectar for late-browsing insects. It grows easily in moist places but needs room in a naturalized area. (Not near the front door unless you are a nature nut, which I may be, but there are limits.) It reseeds because I leave seed heads for the birds, but seedlings are easy to pull.
And let us not forget the highlight of the early summer garden: the yellow Daylily, a charmer in spite of its frazzled blooms here. After a week out of town, I will be snapping away, and it won’t be photos.
No matter the weather, I have plenty of sunshine in my garden. . .