Wisner House will be closed from Thursday, November 23 through Monday, November 27 for the Thanksgiving holiday. It will re-open at 10:00 am on Tuesday, November 28. The Grounds will be open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm every day, except Monday, November 27 when the Grounds will be closed to the public.

What's Beautiful Now? August 2016

August is upon us and with it brings not only the hum of Dog Day Cicadas (Tibicen canicularis), but  fabulous summer flowers and the bugs who love them.  The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) has kindly allowed me to use it as a model in many of the following shots.

Agastache foeniculum

We have several Hyssops on the property, and Anise Hyssop (or Giant Blue Hyssop) is a pollinators dream.  From butterflies to bees, flies, wasps, and hummingbirds, it's a constant hive of activity and fun to watch!   This is a native that is drought- and deer-tolerant (!!) and seems to bloom non-stop (July to September).  From its square stem you can tell that it's in the Mint family (Lamiaceae) and makes a nice tea that I'm promised doesn't have a strong black licorice flavor (yuck!).   Find it on the Welcome Walk.

(Fun with language: the generic name Agastache comes from the Greek agan which means "very much" and stachys meaning  "ear of wheat" referring to the flower spikes.  I'll let you decide how apt the description is with the photo below.)

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Agastache rupestris 'Apache Sunset'

Another Hyssop, which Marc grew from seed, is proof that the love of orange is virulent.  Threadleaf Giant Hyssop, or Sunset Hyssop, is a hardy perennial that is native to Arizona and New Mexico, and you will find this subtle beauty in the Island Garden.  It has all the pros of its native counterpart, but doesn't require staking, and has beautiful delicate blue-gray-green leaves.  (For more fun with scientific names, the specific epithet rupestris means "living on a cliff", which gives you an idea of where it likes to grow!)

Those who know me know that besides being obsessed with all permutations of the color orange, I love to play with monochromatic palettes.  Pictured above is the beginning of the Welcome Walk, where Coleus 'Wild Lime', Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun', Colocasia esculenta 'Elena', and Cercis canadensis 'Rising Sun' blend to make a bright, sunny display.

Oncopeltus fasciatus

The aptly named Large Milkweed Bug on a Canna Lily leaf is a beautiful little guy who can be found near not only Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) but Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa).  Its bright coloration is an aposomatic warning, an anti-predator adaptation announcing its distastefulness which it gets from its diet of toxic Asclepias seeds.  They inject their saliva into theseeds, which predigests the seed, and then they suck it up with their long proboscus. Milkweed milkshake! But do not fear, while they do feed on the seeds of the plants that sustain Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators, they are more mild nuisance than threat to these plants.

Tricyrtis formosana 'Dark Beauty'

A personal favorite --that is shockingly not salmon, apricot, peach, rust, or some other variation of orange-- is the Toadlily (Tricyrtis spp.). Native to Eastern Asia, this genus belongs to the Lily family (Liliaceae) and has beautiful foliage and late summer flowers that look like speckled orchids.  I first met this plant at Chanticleer Gardens and was entranced at how the flowers glowed in the late afternoon sunlight during a time when all the other perennials were tired and spent.  T. formosana is an earlier bloomer (find T. f. 'Dark Beauty' by the birdhouse donation box).  Other Toadlilies such as T. 'Sinonome' bloom September to October, giving wonderful color to the late summer/early fall garden.  Alas, it is not without its flaws, as it is quite tasty to the local fauna.  But a worthy plant nonetheless. 

Trachelium caeruleum 'Lake Louise Purple'

Blue Throatwort is a perennial in its native Mediterranean habitat, and is a favorite here amongst the staff as well as the pollinators!  It is also a fabulous cut flower and is widely used in floriculture.  We first planted it last year and just had to grow it again.

Hibiscus 'Moy Grande'

One of the most stunning plants in our Freeman Medal collection, this Texas Star Hibiscus can be found on the Welcome Walk.  A play on words, it was named for the late Dr. Moy of the San Antonio Botanic Gardens.  It is a hybrid of the Texas native H. coccineus (which I actually prefer, shh) and the flowers are, indeed, muy grande!

Dorotheanthus bellidiformis 'Mezoo Red'

Livingstone Daisy is a little darling that is new to me this year, and I think I cleaned out Agway in Morristown of their entire stock (not sorry).  It's charming variegated succulent foliage is a delight on its own, and I was suprised at the bonus of the tiny pink daisy-like blooms that give away that it is related to the Ice Plant (Delosperma).  Native to South Africa, its common name is supposedly a reference to missionary and physician David Livingstone who explored the continent of Africa, and  its generic name is in honor of the mum of succulent expert Martin Schwantes.  Find it in the bed near the greenhouse.

Oenothera versicolor 'Sunset Boulevard'

Native to California, Sundrops are related to Evening Primroses (O. speciosa), but rather than opening in the evening, new flowers blossom in the morning. And look, just look at that color!  The beautiful tangerine pairs nicely with Little Blue Stem (Schyzachirium scoparium) and while some might find its habit and foliage a bit uncouth and rough, it is that wildness that is part of its charm.

Berkheya purpurea 'Zulu Warrior'

Another wild plant that you'll either love or hate is the African Thistle, or Purple Berkheya,  The foliage is rough and, well, thistle-like.  Weedy-looking, you might say.  But gosh-darnit if those feisty flowers didn't force me to see past it's prickly leaves.  Native to the Kwazulu-Natal region of South Africa, you can find our little warrior over by the fish pond.

Cestrum 'Orange Peel'

Willow Leaf Jessamine, or Night Scented Jasmine, is a cross between C. diurnum (Day-Scented Jasmine) and C. nocturnum (Night-Scented Jasmine) which are both native to the West Indies.  It will bloom until frost, and despite the name, it is neither orange in color nor fragrance, which you can only detect starting at sunset.

What else is beautiful at Reeves-Reed Arboretum?

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I don't want to spoil all the surprises, so you'll have to come see for yourself!

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