Plants – Autumn Superstar – Tithonia/Mexican Sunflower

In my back garden you’ll find a towering plant near eight feet in height. I didn’t know Tithonia (Tithonia diversifolia), often called Mexican Sunflower, could grow so tall. The petals open up for me in late summer and are surprisingly velvety to touch. The seeds were part of a Wildflower Mix by Botanical Interests. The plant grows in a plot of ground once prepared as a square foot garden. The amended soil, vermiculite, mushroom soil, etc., must still have some ‘POW’ remaining; the plants within the confines grew much larger than average.

The size the plant reached in one season amazes me. Unfortunately, Tithonia is an annual and won’t survive my southern NJ winter. I saved mature/ripened seeds and will replant in Spring. The ground hasn’t frozen yet and is still soft and workable; this week, in addition to the seeds I saved, I will also scatter a few Tithonia seeds throughout my garden beds in hopes they will grow when warm weather returns. Seeds overwintered in the earth always grow best.

The flowers blossom at the end of a long stem, perfect additions to floral arrangements. The stems remain sturdy in a vase, the flowers, if picked at peak bloom, stay fresh and lovely for over a week. The stems can be cut short or tall for height.

Requirements for growing Tithonia:

*7-10 days for germination

*Sun for most of the day

*Needs at least three feet of spread room

Will I grow Tithonia again. Oh yes…I am saving many of the seeds and intend to leave the remainder for the birds to nibble through the winter. I will leave the plant in place instead of cutting away. The branches and any leaves that stay on the plant will provide shelter for the birds and also give them a chance to land and check for predators in the area around the bird feeders.

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day and Friday Skywatch challenge.

Phlowers – Amaranth/Love Lies Bleeding

Amaranthus caudatus – Love Lies Bleeding, is a beautiful annual plant. Mine self seeds and comes back every year in the same spot. It is a heavy plant, bending over in summer storms when laden with flowers.

The flower heads droop down, in a deep magenta/crimson shade. Often the strands will touch the ground.

My Love Lies Bleeding grows in full sun. When the flowers reach a good length I often cut them where they join the stem, rubber band them together, and hang them in a dark closet. Harvesting and drying them is that easy…but wait…I should have put something beneath them to capture the seeds that fall out as they dry.

I have also dried the flowers in my dehydrator.

One drawback is the inevitable chewed leaves on the plant. The lush foliage is attractive to bugs, and is also a green that can be eaten by people. The leaves can be used like spinach and sauteed. The seeds are a type of grain and can be dried, cooked, and eaten like porridge. They can be ground into flour. Amaranth is gluten free.

I love this unique, old-fashioned cottage garden annual. Love Lies Bleeding is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Phlowers – Deluge of Pink Flower Showers

Who would believe this gorgeous deluge of pink florets is atop the humble herb Oregano? I have quite a few Oregano plants in the front of my herb garden border. Not only flavorful, this member of the mint family is a healing herb. Oregano is a wonderful herb to use for its preventative/medicinal qualities. As with most foods and herbs, organically grown Oregano is the best choice.

Oregano florets draw pollinators by the dozens. Today, along with the honeybee, I also spotted wasps, bumblebees, cabbage white butterflies, hoverflies and sweat bees on the blossoms.

The Oregano blossoms are my entry into Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers – Friday Gems

Black-eyed Susans are a reliable flower in my gardens. They usually don’t last the whole summer, and often fall victim to downy mildew on the leaves, but the golden sunshine they display is worth growing them. I’ve never been able to eradicate the mildew once it starts, so my remedy is to plant a late-flowering annual nearby to take over when the Black-eyed Susan withers away. This Photograph is part of Skywatch Friday.

The plants are part of the sunflower family and will turn their faces to follow the sun. There are many varieties of this beautiful garden flower. The long stems make them a perfect choice for floral arrangements.

Black-eyed Susans are a reliable self-seeder. Let them go to seed and they will return every year.

Black-eyed Susans are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Phirsts – Summer/Fruits and Flowers and Flutters

I’ve experienced several summer ‘firsts’ this week.

My plum tomatoes, grown in dollar store buckets and organic soil, have just begun to bear ripe fruit. I’m thinking of ripening these a few more days before I heat them in olive oil and a little garlic powder. Ladled over a bit of pasta, they will be a summertime treat for lunch.

I bought a few of those bargain packages of lily mixes this Spring. Usually, when I buy these mixes, the first year flowers are smallish. Oh my! This year I feel blessed because my package yeilded this amazing yellow lily. Whoo-hoo! Every time I see it I want to sing. It’s gorgeous, but the one drawback is it doesn’t have the lily scent of Stargazers and other fragrant varieties. Still…the color more than makes up for the lack of fragrance. This lily is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Next week, I’m hoping to write a series on how I save and bring to maturity Black Swallowtail Butterflies. I’ve shared these steps in the past on the blog, but hope to be a bit more thorough this year. I’ve discovered a few new tips quite by accident. Today, the first chrysalis yielded the treasure developing within. This is one of the best early butterflies that has ever hatched on my porch. It was huge. The Swallowtail climbed out of the chrysalis around 9:00 a.m. I have found most of this species emerges at this time . He/She dried off for near three hours and then flew toward the doorway of the porch. I opened the door. The butterfly was very strong and fit. It flew up to about twenty feet and was over the neighbors house and out of sight in less than ten seconds. Hurrah! I hope it finds a mate and creates many more generations of Swallowtails this summer.

Phlowers – African Daisy

My African Daisy plants are blooming. I’m thrilled! In mid-Spring, I sprinkled them on lightly-troweled soil within the confines of my butterfly/wildflower garden, and they are coming into bloom.

The colors are lovely, and even the foliage is a pleasing blue-grey. The buds are fun to watch as they open; I love seeing the first glimmer of color within the tightly folded interior.

I’m hoping one of the plants opens up into the rosy pink color portrayed on the seed packet. These flowers are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.

I’ve kept the seed packet in my garden notebook. I grew quite a few seeds this year from the Botanical Interests line. Everything did well, and next year they will be my first choice for seeds. I found this brand of seeds at local nurseries. They are not carried in the big box stores. Botanical Interests is having a 40% off seed sale through June 17th.

The Spruce has a great how-to article on African Daisies: How to Grow the African Daisy

Phlowers – Common Evening Primrose

Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera bieinnis) is blooming in my garden today. It is another welcome volunteer wildflower in my herb garden. Most parts of the evening primrose are edible or medicinal. The flowers also draw goldfinches to my gardens when they begin to set seed. I never trim off the dead blossoms after the plant blooms; being able to watch goldfinches alight on the long stems, and eat the seeds, is one of my summer joys. These plants grow in gardens, in meadows, along roadways, and I have even seen a few very hardy plants growing in the cracks of concrete sidewalks and blacktop.

My Common Evening Primrose is my entry in Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers – Yeti Nasturtium

Pale yellow is one of my favorite garden colors, and surprisingly, I find it one of the hardest shades to find in annual flowers. Gold is easy, bright yellow is easy, but a creamy, near white yellow is a bit difficult. You can imagine my delight this past Spring when I found a packet of pale yellow Nasturtiums in a seed display. I bought a packet with high hopes, and I have not been disappointed. “YETI” has lived up to it’s seed packet illustration, and boasts the creamy yellow I had sought for my garden pots.

Even the perky buds of this plant please me. They remind me of ponies before they unfurl their petals. The foliage, resembling small lilypads in shape, is a deep pleasing green with beautiful centers and veining. Even better, most parts of a Nasturtium plant are edible.

The plant has a robust look, but on closer inspection you’ll find a delicate interior with feathery fronds and puffballs of pollen. Did you know that Nasturtiums have medicinal properties?

I also love the Alaska variety of nasturtiums for the amazing variegated foliage.

I sowed some of my Nasturtium seeds indoors mid-winter. They did fairly well, becoming a bit leggy, but still manageable. Planted in hanging basket pots, they are already in bloom. I recently planted several more Nasturtiums in the ground. I soak the large seeds first, and then without any fanfare, just push them about a half inch below the surface of the soil. The sprouts are easy to spot, large, and with the distinctive lilypad leaf from first showing.

My “Yeti” Nasturtium is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Phlowers – A Week of Roses/Mr. Lincoln/Fragrant Red Rose

I’ve grown Mr. Lincoln for years. In the early 2000’s, I first planted a few of these roses after a kind lady gave me a bouquet of them from her garden. I had never smelled a rose with such a strong and beautiful fragrance. The roses thrived in my side yard, but a few years ago, when we had to take a large oak tree down, the rose bushes were moved and didn’t thrive in the new location.

This year, I found several Mr. Lincoln roses at Walmart. They were such a good price I made a Walmart run to every store in our area. I found five that were in good shape and planted them a second time in the side yard. The roses are growing way beyond my expectations. I feel they are a gift to me from God. I had looked for them online, and the price and shipping was outrageous, so I had decided not to order them this year. I’m thrilled to quite unexpectedly have these beauties in my gardens once more.

Mr. Lincoln is my choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlower – Tuberose Begonias

I purchased this beautiful Begonia last week. Shhhhh….if truth be told, I purchased three of them and placed them in a terracotta pot to grow indoors. The plants fill a 10 inch pot, creating a gorgeous view from all sides. I’ve been turning the pot a quarter turn each day to keep the stems growing and blooming evenly. I have the plants in one of my sunniest windows.

I’ve grown begonias sold for outdoor planting, indoors, for many years. They do very well living inside the house. The one problem area I need to be careful of is not letting the top of the soil become soggy. I plan to use some of my leftover seed starter mix on the top layer. I have a devil of a time getting this medium to become wet for planting. Maybe it will be the perfect soil topping for the begonias, and keep their lower stems dry, while easily letting water reach the roots below. Another tip for growing begonias in terracotta is to frequently wipe the upper lip of the pot with a damp rag. This will remove built up salts that could eat through a stem that rests upon the pot’s rim.

I found a good site with great information on growing tuberose begonias outdoors – Longfield Gardens – TIPS FOR GROWING TUBEROUS BEGONIAS.

My beautiful pink begonia is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers – Blooming in the Garden/April 23, 2021

I love bleeding heart bushes and their blossoms. The heart-shaped droplets truly do resemble hearts. These beautiful florets are my choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day.

From just a few rhizomes my grape iris have multiplied over the years into several large patches of deep purple bloom. These are also a Springtime favorite of mine. The fragrance they emit is outstanding.

Grape hyacinths are blooming in shades of periwinkle along the borders of several gardens.

The Johnny-Jump-Ups that overwintered are filling the hanging baskets and blooming over the edges. They are gorgeous.

Phlowers – Flower of the Day/Bright Yellow Alyssum

The beautiful gold tones, the delicate details, of Yellow Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis) are blooming in my garden today. A perfect choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day and also Bright April Squares Challenge from BeckyB of Winchester.

My Plant is about ten inches tall, and about that size in width too. I planted it last Spring and it came through a snowy New Jersey winter very well. The flowers only bloom one time for me, but the bluish green foliage blends in well with other garden plants.

My golden alyssum florets and stems press perfectly. I gather a few and place them between the pages of a book. Long after the outdoor blooms have come and gone, the pressed flowers from this plant are still vibrant and intact.

The Spruce has a great article on growing Yellow Alyssum. (Aurinia saxatilis)

Phlowers – Blooming in the Garden/April 9, 2021

I planted a new Forsythia in the side garden. It seems to be doing well, and the bright yellow blooms have been a mood booster for sure. The Forsythia is part of this week’s Friday Skywatch.

Daffodils are still opening and blooming in several different colors and sizes.

Starflowers are opening up in the side garden.

Siberian Squill, one of my Springtime favorites, reflects the gorgeous blue of the sky. This dainty flower is my choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day. (I had originally, in error, named this bulb plant as Glory of the Snow. Reading another bloggers post I realized I had the wrong name and changed it to the correct label.)

Periwinkles are my ‘never-give-up’ flower. They are surrounded on all sides, overtaken by English Ivy, yet they wiggle their way through the tangled stems and bloom every Spring.

“Flowers are the music of the ground. From earth’s lips spoken without sound.” ~Edwin Curran (American Poet)

Phlowers – Blooming in the Garden 3/26/21

We lost a shrub over the winter and replaced it this week with a beautiful Pieris japonica. The brilliant magenta florets and evergreen leaves make it a perfect choice for our front garden.

There are daffodils blooming in most of the garden beds.

These Johnny-Jump-Ups, bought in Autumn, over-wintered in my garage. A few weeks ago, I moved the baskets to my back porch, and now they are hanging outdoors in full bloom. There were days they looked pretty bad, but they continually amaze me and perk back up. They are my Flower of the Day in Cee’s FOTD challenge.

Hyacinths are blooming again. Daffodils and hyacinths are my most reliable Spring bulbs. I cut one of the blossoms and put the florets in grain alcohol, 190 proof. I created a floral scent with vodka this year, and hope the grain alcohol, with a higher alcohol content will extract the scent even quicker. It will take weeks of renewing the scented flowers before I will be able to sense a fragrance. The original post can be found here: Plants & Preserving the Good.

The grain alcohol is very strong. Within minutes it completely faded the bright pink flowers into near white. I hope it absorbs the scent just as quickly. I’ll update the progress later in the Spring.

 

Phlowers – Flower of the Day-Bougainvillea

All summer I waited for my Bougainvillea plant to bloom. At least three years old, I expected it to be loaded with blooms as it had been the previous year. Just like so many other things in 2020, the bougainvillea refused to bloom. In the Autumn, I almost composted the Bougainvillea, but decided to give it another chance.

I’ve been rewarded with soft pink blossoms. In reality, what appears to be blossoms are really bracts, the flowers are smaller than a dime and a nondescript white. There isn’t much upkeep to these plants if you place it in bright sun. I keep it trimmed way back indoors since the thorny stems can really tear skin. Other than watering once a week, I have pretty much ignored it. Maybe that’s the secret. One funny change in the plant, outdoors the bracts are magenta, inside the house they have bloomed in a soft pink shade.

I haven’t been able to take part in Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge for quite a while; I’m glad to take part today.

Place – Sanibel Island/The Land

I am not exaggerating when I say I have wanted to visit Sanibel Island, Florida, for more than four decades. We tried to drive down once with our seven month old son in his car seat. We only drove for seven hours before realizing the nightmare of a long drive with an active baby was not going to work for us. That son is now over forty, and that’s at least how long I have wanted to see this beautiful island.

You might wonder why. What is the pull? Easy to answer…the lure of the island for me is the seashells. Sanibel beaches are considered some of the best for shelling in the world. After visiting in early October of this year…I can totally support the claim. I have never seen so many shells, or so many beautiful varieties, strewn across a beach.

Beyond the lure of the beaches and warm water of the Gulf of Mexico is the beauty of the plant life. I love flowers and foliage of all types. The island supports many tropical plants and trees. The West Wind Inn, a beautiful place built on the beach, has gardens filled with lovely flowers and trees.

I’m not sure what this tropical beauty is named, but I am using it as part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Another flower I saw in abundance was this tropical version of Black-eyed Susans. The flowers resembled the ones I grow, but the foliage was very different, thick and dense, able to withstand the heat and salt in the air.

We visited two beaches in addition to the beach in front of the West Wind Inn. The Lighthouse Beach has a fishing pier. We saw dolphins in the water there. There is quite a bit of parking, but the restroom facilities were a long hike.

Our favorite beach was Bowman’s Beach. It was a long, long walk from the parking area/restroom facilities to the water, but so worth it. We went here twice, and some of the best shells we gathered were found on this shoreline. I waited a long time to go to Sanibel, I hope I can go back soon, and not have too many years between my visits.

Phlutters – Backyard Butterflies Part II


“O LORD, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures.” ~ Psalm 104:24, NLT

I ended Part I of ‘Backyard Butterflies’ with a photo of this Monarch Chrysalis. Since that post, the butterfly has gone through its metamorphosis and emerged.

I didn’t see the butterfly break out of its yellow-green chrysalis, but I did notice it soon after.

After it dried off a bit, the butterfly began to explore the nearby garden. I watched throughout the day as the Monarch became acquainted with the sweet nectar in my garden.

The dahlia is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers – Forget-Me-Not

I love the clear blue of annual Forget-Me-Nots. The blossoms are smaller than a dime, and the foliage is unspectacular, but the way the color reflects the sky thrills me. I might try to grow a few in the house this winter. Although the flower is small, the annual variety produces a large and interesting seed, often found in wildflower seed packets.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits. ~Psalm 103:2

If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under. ~ Ronald Reagan

These beautiful annual Forget-Me-Nots are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers – Harvesting

Angelonia, in a gorgeous shade of coral, or is that fuschia, or is that pink? My pick for flower of the day and Cee’s FOTD Challenge.

I have been lax in my posting, not because I want to be, but because I am super-busy harvesting my flowers for pressing. I’ve pressed, hundreds, no, I’d say more in the thousands this summer. One reason I press so many is only one in three is perfect enough to be posted to my Etsy shop. For hydrangeas, the odds are even worse, only about one in five flowers is pristine and without spot and blemish.

I recently created a short fifteen second videotape, recommended by Etsy to advertise your shop. I thought you all might like to see me in action on my ‘Flower Farm’ harvesting flowers and foliage to press. In the Autumn, things will slow down, and I will have more time to blog.

Phlower – Daisy and Visitor


“Four things on earth are small,
yet they are extremely wise:
Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer. ~Proverbs 30:24-25

When I downloaded my photograph of a daisy growing against the chimney I was surprised to spy a tiny ant on one of the petals. I wonder how high we would have to climb to match the ant’s ability to travel up the two foot plus daisy stem. Amazing!

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.