Six on Saturday: Summer’s Spell

Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ opened its first flower of the summer on Thursday morning.


By mid-July, finally, the garden unfolds its best treasures.  All of the daffodils and tulips, Iris and Clematis served as prologue; while time, heat, rain and sunlight worked their annual magic to bring the summer garden to fruition.  And right on schedule, our garden has filled once again with butterflies and hummingbirds.

July feels like the garden’s natural state.  All of the weeks leading from winter to high summer are only preparation for this magical time. Lantana shrubs have covered themselves in nectar filled flowers, tiny magnets for every pollinator who happens by.  Huge panicles of Buddleia tower over our heads and golden yellow black-eyed Susans open around our knees.  But the best and the biggest, the most enticing to our hummers and butterflies, the Hibiscus, open their wide flowers for the first time only in the humid heat of a July morning.


Native Vitis vultina, the frost grape, winds and stretches out new growth every day, as our Rose of Sharon trees fill with flowers.


Now, the Hibiscus syriacus, the woody Rose of Sharon trees, began to bloom in mid-June, right as I was finally pulling out the last if the Violas and Gardenias perfumed the air.   They signal that hot weather has settled in and spring has faded into summer.  Bumble bees fill their flowers, almost white sometimes from all of the pollen they collect while sipping nectar deep inside the safety of their huge petals.  Hummingbirds dart from flower to flower, hovering by each open blossom before diving in for a sip.

But the larger Hibiscus moscheutos, with flowers as large as dessert plates, are still growing in June.  Each herbaceous stem is still extending towards the sun, topped with a cluster of tight green buds.  The Hibiscus stems grow taller and taller each day.  Their leaves grow larger than my hand.  The anticipation builds.

And then finally, one hot, muggy morning the first one of the season opens, and you know that summer has settled in for a few magical weeks of astounding beauty.


Native Hibiscus moscheutos blooms beside Caladium ‘Burning Heart.’  Holes in their leaves prove that both are feeding our garden insects.


I saw the first one open on Thursday.  I was just home from an early morning errand.   It caught my eye as soon as I pulled into the drive, and I was astounded, (as I am every year) at its size and brilliance.  Hibiscus open early in the morning and close again each night.  Some flowers may last only a day, some may last a few days, depending on the weather.  But they always appear suddenly, expanding and opening as if by some natural magic that the human eye can’t see.

Later in the morning, while watering in other parts of the garden, I found a second and a third clump of Hibiscus that have finally come into bloom.  These are native plants and spread their own seeds around the garden each year.  I own one hybrid clump, bought some years ago from a dealer at the farmer’s market.  The rest of our Hibiscus planted themselves and tend themselves.  I only make sure they have water when it’s time to set buds and bloom, and then cut their woody stalks back to the ground sometime in winter.


This is the fourth stalk of blossoms our Crinum lily has put up so far this year. It takes these Amaryllis relatives a few seasons to settle in and grow productive, in full sun.  These are growing at the northern end of their range here in Zone 7.


The flamboyant Hibiscus coccineus aren’t quite ready to bloom.  I watch their progress each day, give them a good watering to encourage them, and wait.  It won’t be long until their first huge, red blossoms open amid the tall red flowers of the Canna lilies.  The Cannas wait for July to bloom, too.  First one, and soon a clique of scarlet flowers tower over the perennials around them.  They also attract hummingbirds and butterflies to their flower covered stems.

What has been a mass of green erupts in gold, red, pink, purple and white:  Hibiscus, Rudbeckia, Eupatorium, Hedychium, Solidago, Crinum, Physostegia, Conoclinium, Salvia, Verbena and Alliums.  It is our garden’s own summer fireworks show of nectar laden flowers.  A visual feast for us, and a perpetual feast of nectar and seeds for our winged neighbors who float and fly and buzz through it from sunrise until deep into the evening.  For as long as high summer lasts, that is. 



Ironically, this is the least likely time of the year that we will just wander out to enjoy it all.  Mid-July always brings stretches of scorching heat and oppressive humidity in coastal Virginia.  The day is best enjoyed in early morning or late evening.  And time spent in the garden includes watering the pots and deadheading flowers as they fade, to encourage new ones to take their places.  It is the busiest time of our gardening year, and the most rewarding.

A hummingbird buzzed close to my ear this morning as I photographed a bee sipping Lantana nectar.  He was considering whether to come in for a sip when I straightened up to admire him.  Shy as always, he turned and flew up through the trees and into the upper garden.   Perhaps I’ll catch his portrait another morning.  And if not his, there will be no shortage of winged neighbors so long as summer’s spell lingers in our garden.


Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly feeds on our Lantana.


Woodland Gnome 2020

Visit Illuminations, for a daily photo of something beautiful.

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator

Hibiscus Summer


Hibiscus of many sizes, shapes and colors fill our garden this week to the delight of butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.  Actually, to our delight, as well, as we enjoy their bold colors and beautiful forms.



Hibiscus flowers call across the garden, inviting closer inspection of their sculptural beauty.



Our herbaceous Hibiscus are natives or native cultivars.  Native Hibiscus delighted us during our first summer in this garden, and they still thrill as they bloom each year.


Hibiscus moscheutos


As natives, they ask little beyond sunlight, moisture and a place to grow.  Long after their flowers fade, they continue giving sustenance to birds and structure to the garden as their woody stems and seed pods ripen and split.  Cut them in early December, sow the seeds and spray them gold for a bit of glitter in holiday decorations.  Or leave them to catch winter’s ice and snow, feeding those birds who remain in the garden into the new year.


Hibiscus coccineus


I wrote about our native red Hibiscus coccineus last August, when it normally blooms.  It has already been blooming this year for almost a week; yet another indication of phenological shifts in response to our warming climate.

We love seeing these scarlet flowers nodding above the garden, perched atop their distinctive and beautiful foliage.  I try to collect and spread their seeds as the season wanes, to encourage more plants to emerge each year.



The tree Hibiscus, Hybiscus syriaca, are widely naturalized, though they originally came from Asia.  Drought and pollution tolerant, they are easy to grow and easily hybridize in an ever expanding selection of cultivars.  Beloved by bees and butterflies, they bloom over many weeks from early summer until autumn.  These fast growing trees reseed themselves in our garden and I often have seedlings to share.


Hibsicus syriaca


Hibiscus mark the height of summer in our garden.  They bloom over a long period, and we feel a subtle shift into another, late-summer season when they finally begin to fade.


Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’


Woodland Gnome 2019


Fabulous Friday: Hibiscus in Bloom

Hibiscus moscheutos opens its first blooms of the season today.


We always celebrate when the Hibiscus moscheutos bloom.  These easy native perennials largely care for themselves.  Although they die back to the ground each autumn, they grow quickly once their stems finally appear again in late spring.



Native Hibiscus prove very accommodating and will grow in a variety of conditions.   Seen most commonly in the wild near water, they appreciate a little irrigation when the weather turns hot and dry.  They grow in a variety of soils from partial shade to full sun.  Happy, well irrigated plants grow to between four and five feet tall.

We let them seed themselves around and grow where they will, always delighted when their colorful blooms quite suddenly appear in mid-summer.  Each stem may produce a half dozen or more buds.  Once the flowers fade, interesting seed capsules ripen and persist into winter.  Many of our songbirds enjoy pecking ripe seeds from the open capsules until we finally cut their dried stems down.


Hybrid Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ is much showier than our native Hibiscus with somewhat larger flowers. Its foliage is also more attractive… until the Japanese beetles have their way with the leaves.  This cultivar was introduced by the Fleming Brothers of Lincoln, Nebraska, who have produced several Hibiscus hybrids based on crosses of H. moscheutos and H. coccineus.


While many cultivars of H. moscheutos are available on the market, I believe that most of ours are the species.  We planted H. ‘Kopper King’ about four years ago and it has grown into a large and vigorous plant. Various Hibiscus volunteers in our garden bloom deep pink, light pink or white.  We see them, too, in the marshes along the James River and creeks that feed it.


Hardy Hibiscus coccineus will start blooming by early August.


Native Hibiscus prove a reliable, hardy and very beautiful perennial in our garden.  We have more native Hibiscus species yet to bloom; and the Asian Hibiscus syriacus, or woody Rose of Sharon, is in the midst of its much longer season of bloom.


Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon


The woody shrub form of Asian Hibiscus also seeds itself around the garden, growing quickly from seedling to blooming tree in just a few years.  Although new cultivars are introduced each year, we have four or five different flower colors and forms which keep us quite happy.  A non-native, it also feeds many creatures with its nectar, pollen, leaves and seeds.


Rose of Sharon, or tree Hibiscus


It is fabulous to enjoy a plethora of gorgeous showy flowers with very little effort on our part during this muggiest part of summer.  It is also fabulous to watch the beautiful and varied bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that visit to enjoy their abundant pollen and sweet nectar each day.


Rose of Sharon in our shrub border bloom prolifically from mid-June until early September.


Woodland Gnome 2018

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious;

let’s infect one another!



“Seize the moments of happiness,

love and be loved!

That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.

It is the one thing we are interested in here.”


Leo Tolstoy


One Word Photo Challenge: Maroon

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Maroon:  Somewhere between brown and red, or perhaps chocolate and rose; with a little purple hue thrown in for good measure.

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When I think of “maroon,” I think of team colors, 1950’s cars, and lipstick.

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From the French and Italian words for  “chestnut,”  maroon reminds me of cinnamon and dried chilies; good red wine and mole’ sauce.

It looks delicious, smells of old roses, and feels like satin.

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But here it is in the garden! 

Have you ever seen a flower advertised as “maroon” in a nursery catalog?  Who would order a “maroon” plant or  flower?


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But un-named, it is a deep and intriguing color, a good foil for cream and pink. 

It plays well against all shades of green, and gives an illusion of coolness and shadow.

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And now I’m seeing it everywhere…


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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

With appreciation  to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her One Word Photo Challenge:  Maroon

One World Photo Challenge: Gold

One World Photo Challenge: Gold   Golden Turtle

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WPC: Split Second Story

The, crouching into my photo of lovely Hibiscus, "Kopper King."

Theo, crouching into my photo of lovely Hibiscus, “Kopper King.”

This is Theo.

Theo spotted me photographing his plants at the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market this morning.

Knotts Creek Nursery's display is acroos the street.  They area the ones flocked with customers....

Knotts Creek Nursery’s display is across DoG street at the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market this morning.  They are the ones flocked with customers….

He ended up selling me the plant I wanted to photograph, and a lot more!

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Knotts Creek Nursery, in Suffolk, normally a wholesaler; brought a selection of their beautifully grown perennials, herbs, and shrubs to temp the citizenry of Williamsburg this morning.

And the plants were just flying out of  the display so fast that you couldn’t hesitate.

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A beautiful Euphorbia was there and gone in an instant.  Other customers were browsing “my pile,” already paid for, before my partner could get round with the car to load up.

So the lovely Hibiscus “Kopper King” came home with us, as did some perennial Salvias, perennial Foxglove, and a Hibiscus Coccineus ‘Texas Star’.

This Foxglove came home to Forest Garden today.

This Foxglove came home to Forest Garden today.

Theo is a great salesman!  I liked him right away, as soon as he crouched into the frame of my first photo.

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We chatted, and I found out why.  It seems Theo is just finishing up his first year of teaching high school science in Chesterfield County, Virginia.  I’m sure his students and colleagues love him.

He is a bright spirit, and knows his plants.

When I asked him for not just “deer resistant” varieties, but poisonous ones;  he sent me to the Foxglove right away.

This lovely Echinacea did not make the cut.... "deer candy."

This lovely Echinacea did not make the cut…. “deer candy.”

Yes, with a raised eyebrow, but give the customer what they want,   Right?

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Split Second Story

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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