Sunday is not only Father’s Day but the Summer Solstice — the longest, most direct sunlight day of the year. Bright summer flowers seem to exceptionally vivacious in this light and the Island Garden has quite a parade of color now.
Red Hot Poker (Knifophia ‘Alcazar‘) fits its name and the season well. It is one of our few hardy African perennials. I have had friends bring back pictures of it from the high elevations of Kilimanjaro but most garden ones come from the high elevations of South Africa. It is pollinated by sunbirds in its native Africa but American hummingbirds and orioles visit the nectar-rich flowers here.
Locally native Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is one of our most brilliant wildflowers. Here it is on the Island Garden prairie but we have wild populations of this plant on our native prairies on the Byron Shutz Nature Trail. It signals to me that I had better take some time to hike the nature trail as several species of butterflies are in flight when it blooms and at no other time during the year. Look for Coral, Banded, Hickory and even Striped Hairstreaks nectaring on this plant. It is a milkweed and a host plant for Monarch butterflies as well.
The Asiatic hybrid lilies are in full bloom in the gardens are one of the best eye candy plants we have. They come in reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, white and almost purple. I could not find the label to identify the cultivar of this Asiatic lily on the Island Garden: there are too many cultivars to remember!
The Green Santolinas (Santolina virens) are also in full bloom on the Island Garden’s living wall. Santolina is actually a tender evergreen shrub but survives most winters and blooms in midsummer. The yellow flowers are quite a sight atop the ferny green mounds of foliage.
Beds alongside the pools of the Island Garden are full of bright flowers: Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria), Brookside Geranium (Geranium ‘Brookside‘) and Veronica (Veronica spicata) make a cool meadow-esque composition.
One of our few, late blooming azaleas is in full bloom: the Texas Azalea (Rhododendron oblongifolium). We got our plant from an Arkansas nursery as this azalea is native almost into Missouri but mainly from East Texas to Northern Arkansas. It is a great native shrub with flowers perfect for a shady evening garden. Taxonimists have lumped it with the eastern Swamp Azalea because you can’t tell them apart when flattened on an herbarium specimen. They are very different in the garden!
Put on your sunglasses and sunscreen and make a trip out to see Powell Gardens’ vibrant flowers of the solstice. Be sure and stop in the new Heartland Harvest Garden as it is now open daily and the veggies are growing as fast as weeds.