The Garden Guru: Short but sweet bloom times

Posted Friday, Jun. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The Junior League members have a great phrase, “Done in a Day.” It refers to a project they adopt in support of a worthy not-for-profit that fits within their missions and goals. They then plan, coordinate, staff and complete the event. The project must be something they can do in one day. They show up in numbers, and they get their task done with grace and aplomb. Charities I support have been the fortunate recipients, and those women are great!

So are the plants that I’ve brought to our table for discussion today. Like the J.L. ladies, my plants are “done in a day.” Their flowers open and close (forever) in one 24-hour period. So, I hear you asking, “Can that possibly be good? How much of an impact can a flowering plant really have if its blooms only last for part of one day?”

They can have a really large impact, because each one of these plants will keep producing new flowers over an extended period of time. Each of these plants will keep growing and blooming for several weeks, some even longer. The fact that the look in your landscape changes daily only makes it more exciting. Here are a few of the best.

Day lilies. No plant name so typifies the topic. Day lilies produce their blooms atop stems called scapes, and each scape can have as many as 15 to 35 or 40 flower buds that will open over a three- or four-week period. Some of the newer, highly improved varieties have been selected because they rebloom one or two successive times through the season.

Day lily flowers come in all colors except blue, and flower sizes range from 2 to 12 inches. Plant heights vary from 12 to 48 inches. Some flowers have multiple rows of petals (double-flowering), although single flowers are the norm. There are tens of thousands of named varieties of day lilies in collectors’ gardens. The best way to see day lilies is to attend a local show or tour private gardens.

The American Hemerocallis Society website ( www.daylilies.org) also has great photos and information. For the record, the Stout Medal is awarded annually to the single most popular/best-performing day lily in the market. Recent Stout Medal winners and finalists would make a great start for a collection.

Morning glories. Their name also gives evidence of the brevity of their blooms. They’re open when you awaken, but they’ll be closed by midafternoon. So, their “15 minutes of fame” really comes pretty close to only 8 or 9 hours.

It’s a great annual vine that can be used to give quick cover to something unsightly, but many of us grow them because we just like their cheering colors of sky blue, white or rosy pink. For the record, morning glories tend to bloom a lot more in the second half of the growing season, as days grow shorter.

Daturas and brugmansias. These closely related sisters produce stunning trumpet-shaped blossoms. Daturas (also known as moonflower, jimson weed and angel’s trumpet) display their blooms mostly upward. Brugmansia flowers, for the most part, hang straight down. All of that beauty, and just for one day (or night). But the plants keep on blooming week after week. Grow these once, and you’ll always want them back.

Do note that parts of these plants are poisonous, although children must be taught the overall lesson that they shouldn’t be grazing in the garden without supervision.

Purslane and moss rose. These two are cousins, and they come from a family filled with weeds that bloom quickly. These are the hero kids from that barnyard family. They’re bright and cheerful annual flowers that stand up to every degree of a Southern summer, grateful for the chance to be growing in the hot Texas sun. Their sherbet colors may not put a chill up your spine at 109, but they’ll take your mind off the inferno at least for the moment. They grow to 8 inches tall and 15 to 18 inches wide, and they’re also great in hanging baskets and pots.

Mallows and tropical hibiscus. Although they may look somewhat similar when they’re in bloom (most types having huge 6- to 10-inch single flowers), they’re vastly different in terms of winter-hardiness. As their name implies, tropical hibiscus ( Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) grow where it never freezes. So in North Texas gardens, you’ll either need to grow them in pots that can be brought into protection over the winter, or replace them each spring. Each is completely fine.

Hardy hibiscus ( H. moscheutos), also known collectively as mallows, are cold-hardy north clear into Canada. They’ll die to the ground with the first freeze, but they’ll regrow the following spring to do it all over again. Their flower colors include red, pink and white. Most types are single-flowering, although Confederate rose mallow produces double pink blooms late each season.

There are other fine day-bloomers in North Texas landscapes. It’s our hope that this little initiation to the concept will give you courage to include them in your own garden plantings. They’re ready to serve you, one day at a time.

Neil Sperry publishes “Gardens” magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” from 8 to 11 a.m. Sundays on WBAP AM/FM. Reach him during those hours at 800-288-9227 or 214-787-1820.

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