Friday, August 15, 2014

"Not quite birds, as they were not quite flowers, mysterious and fascinating as are all indeterminate creatures."
-Elizabeth Goudge

The summer doldrums have hit the container butterfly garden pretty hard. As this is the first year of its existence and have introduced many unfamiliar plants that I've never seen before or even heard of, the first season has become an immersive learning experience.

The two basic criteria in choosing plants for the Container Butterfly Garden were their abilities to attract and support various butterfly populations, and for their beauty in the garden.

Container gardening is very different than growing directly in the ground. Limits in root space, the heating up of containers in the bright summer sun with its effect of elevated potting soil temps and subsequent effect on evaporation rates, all add up to a very different maintenance strategy.

Plants grown in the ground have the advantage of almost limitless root space, the insulating effect of large amounts of soil for their roots, and the capacity to accept and retain vast amounts of water for consistent hydration; and the fact that adding fertilizer to the ground tends to keep it available longer in the root zone for plants vs. in a pot where repeated waterings can quickly leach it out through the bottom, shortening the time for their intended benefits.

 Observation has shown that some plants seem to be made for containers, whereas others are not without much coaxing and hand holding. Plant divas are better left to perform on a stage composed of terra firma rather than within the constraints of potting soil in a pot.

As such, next year's container garden will see quite a few divas replaced with container heartier fare. These freed up pots will allow the addition of more milkweed plants which do extremely well in containers. Lantana camara has done well and is a great nectar source. The butterflies here LOVE the three different scabiosas I planted, so, some of the smaller pots will be receiving divisions of existing ones.

The Liatris spicata I'm happy to say, will reside once again in the garden. The beautifully colored flower torches of this butterfly magnet will grace several new and existing pots. The inflorescence of Liatris has a peculiar habit of blooming contrary to the more popular manner of starting at the bottom and successively opening as the flowers ascend up the stalk. Liatris starts at the top and works its way to the bottom blooms. What advantage this gives the plant is a mystery to me.

Liatris spicata, Gay Feather; Blazing Star

How unfortunate Echinacea purpurea and the several rudbeckia I own have succumbed to the heat buildup of their potting soils this summer. During the spring and early summer, they gave the impression of amazing things to come, but since have flagged and even "bit the dust". The echinacea is barely surviving, but I love this plant, so I'll try to nurse it along as best as can be done. Both echinacea and rudbeckia species make wonderful additions to a conventional garden; alas, not so for the container garden here...

Echinacea purpurea, Purple Coneflower

More later on the continuing saga of blooms that bombed.

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