A minor miracle…

With the dry hills surrounding California’s Central Valley once again exploding as if by spontaneous combustion and my own garden in its holding on for dear life and trying to survive ’til September mode I witnessed this minor miracle a couple of days ago.

small miracle 1

First, a little backstory is needed. The Garden Bloggers Fling each year is blessed with many enthusiastic sponsors whose underwriting enables participants to experience 3+ days of great private and public gardens, meals to energize us and get some really fun goodies to take home for use in our own gardens. In addition, we often have gardening professionals representing our sponsors touring with us and providing us with the benefit of their knowledge and experience.

This year David Salman, founder and chief horticulturalist of High Country Gardens, toured with us and presented a short program while we lunched at Austin’s Zilker Botanical Garden. Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, High Country Gardens has been a pioneer in sustainable gardening for over 25 years, offering quality drought resistant, native and unique plants. David has personally developed many of the plants found in High Country’s catalog and I will always remember him as the gentleman who hopped off the bus with a baggie to collect some seed from a shrub on the roadside because it was the native of something he had long wanted to propagate. As part of our swag bag we each received a lovely gift certificate to order something fun from High Country’s mail order website.

By early June I had wound down enough from Austin to study the offerings at http://www.highcountrygardens.com and made my picks. Two of the the plants I ordered were perennials I saw growing well in Austin: Callirhoe involucrata (poppy mallow or wine cups) and a Scutellaria hybrid with dark violet blooms. While the Scutellaria (skullcap) I saw in Austin I think was the native I have never seen any skullcap for sale in any local retail nursery so I wanted to give one a try! My final pick was just for fun—Buddleia alternifolia v. argentea–common name silver butterfly bush or silver fountain butterfly bush. Please note on the plant tag above I have misspelled the variety name.

Now we are all over the butterfly bush in California but what we have here is primarily B. davidii, a reliable and tough summer bloomer for us. B. alternifolia is described as a spring bloomer and has arching willow like branches with cascading panicles of lavender flowers. Ultimately a large shrub at 8′-12′ by 8′-12′ it is highly attractive to butterflies and hummers plus friendly to bees.

When my mail order box arrived I quickly got the poppy mallow and skullcap into the ground as our planting window here had really all ready run out. Crossed my fingers and dug them in! Uncertain about a location for the Buddleia, given its mature size, I added its little 5″ deep pot to a mix of containers still needing a home. It was only about 3″ tall but had some nice healthy leaves on it. The tiny pot fell on its side and got lost in the shuffle and thus went untended and unwatered FOR WEEKS. By the time I noticed it the little guy was no more than a 3″ stick with a couple of yellowed leaves and dry as popcorn.

With nothing to lose at this point I stuck it in a smallish pot (can’t even think what died in this pot) and tucked it into an area that would at least get some sprinkler water a couple of days a week. Now only a few weeks later, I have not only new vegetative growth but the wee fellow is blooming! Just the little bit of hope that a discouraged gardener needs at about the time she is thinking a condo with a 5 foot square patio is looking pretty good!

minor miracle 3

minor miracle 4

By the way, the poppy mallow (wine cups) continues to struggle but I am confident that it will get a foothold and be beautiful next year. The dark violet skullcap is having a stellar first summer, especially given it’s tardy planting. It has made a tidy little mass about a foot wide and is blooming well. Thank you, David!

4 thoughts on “A minor miracle…

  1. I hope the purple skullcap grows well for you. It’s one of my favorites here in Austin, a tough little Texas native that blooms its heart out all summer long and asks for next to nothing except sun and gravelly soil.

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    1. She’s doing marvelously well! My mound is a tidy 18” x 18” or so with not even a yellowed or crispy leaf and blooming nonstop. This one is much smaller in scale than the one I saw in your yard and several others in Austin but a man be reminder of a wonderful adventure.

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