Kahili Ginger

Kahili ginger blooms as summer ends.

It is not the ginger that is so popular for culinary purposes, but it is the most popular for home gardens in the West. Kahili ginger, Hedychium gardnerianum, is so vigorous and easy to grow that it has potential to be invasive in ideal situations. Fortunately, it does not produce many of its sticky seeds locally. It therefore migrates primarily by dispersing rhizomes, which are not noxiously fast.

The delightfully fragrant bloom begins late in summer, and will finish soon. As many as forty small pale yellow and red flowers radiate from each cylindrical floral truss. Blooms stand neatly vertical, even if the stems supporting them lean. As cut flowers, they last only for a few days. Deadheading after bloom eliminates unwanted seed (if that is a concern), and unclutters the tidy foliage below.

However, with or without deadheading, the lush foliage is only temporary after bloom. It deteriorates as the weather cools through autumn. Cutting the herbaceous canes to the ground before they get too unsightly will expose some of the thick rhizomes. New canes will grow a few feet tall next spring and summer. On the canes, each leaf extends in the opposite direction of the leaf below it.

Lemon Bottlebrush

Hummingbirds enjoy red lemon bottlebrush bloom.

As its compact cultivars gained popularity over the years, the formerly common lemon bottlebrush, Callistemon citrinus, became passe. Most are mature specimens in old fashioned landscapes. It is unfortunate. Only lemon bottlebrush and weeping bottlebrush can grow as small trees. (However, lemon bottlebrush is now classified as Melaleuca citrina. Most Melaleuca get notably larger.)

If competing for sunlight, mature specimens of lemon bottlebrush can almost reach upstairs eaves. Well exposed specimens may not get much more than half as tall, with mounding form of about equal width. Removal of low growth to expose sculptural trunks and handsomely shaggy bark promotes higher growth above. Shearing of hedges should not be too frequent to allow some bloom.

Bright red bloom is sporadic through the year, and gets more abundant as summer becomes autumn. The small and staminate flowers are densely set in cylindrical ‘bottlebrush’ formation. These blooms are about two or three inches long, almost as wide, and popular with hummingbirds. Dense evergreen foliage is aromatic. Individual leaves are narrow and about two or three inches long.

Schedule Bloom For Every Season

There is bloom for every season.

Early spring bloom is best. That is simply how the schedule of the majority of flowers works. The priority of flowers is pollination. Pollination is necessary for the production of seed. The production of seed and any associated fruit takes time. Seed, whether contained within fruit or not, then disperses before winter. After soaking and chilling through winter, seed germinates for the next spring.

For a variety of reasons, some flowers prefer to bloom earlier, later, or randomly through the year. Some are from climates in which they want to avoid harsh weather of a particular season. Some rely on pollinators who are active for a limited time. Regardless of the reasons for their bloom schedule, early, late and randomly blooming flowers add color to the garden before and after spring.

Many flowers that bloom randomly through the year tend to bloom better and later with a bit of persuasion. Cutting roses regularly seems innocent enough, but actually deprives rose plants of their efforts to produce seed. So does deadheading to remove their developing fruit structures that contain seed. Plants respond by trying to bloom again or more prolifically than they would otherwise.

Lily of the Nile reliably provided much of the color through the middle of summer. Many gardens have some. Some gardens have many. Their color range is limited, but effective. Now that they are done, canna, dahlia and delphinium should continue to bloom until frost. Mexican blue sage that took a break after spring bloom should bloom even better as summer ends, and into early autumn.

The bloom schedule of many flowers of the Compositae (or Asteraceae) family also coincide with late summer. Some have been blooming since spring. Some just started recently. These include but are not limited to cone flower, blanket flower, zinnia, cosmos, coreopsis, sunflower and Japanese anemone. African daisy and euryops daisy often bloom well after the earliest rains of autumn.

Eucalypti that bloom colorfully, such as red flowering gum, Eucalyptus ficifolia, bloom after the warmth of summer, but before cooling autumn weather.

Color Wanes As Summer Ends

40903thumbBlack-eyed Susan, sunflowers and a few of the late warm season annuals and perennials are still blooming, and a few will continue into autumn. By that time, cool season annuals can move in; and some of the deciduous trees, shrubs and vines that turn color for autumn will be doing so. Realistically though, this can be the leanest time of year for color in the garden. Even some of the foliage that is colorful through spring and summer has faded.

There are certainly plenty of flowers in season now. However, not many are colorful. Honeysuckle vine is pleasantly fragrant as it bloom in random phases until the weather gets cooler, but the flowers are only pale yellowish white. Some melaleuca trees bloom profusely enough to make a mess, but are just as pale, and do not even provide fragrance; although some have pretty light pink flowers. Abelia flowers are pink and abundant, but are really not all that flashy against their bronzy foliage.

Some of the more colorful flowers are not quite as reliable. Princess flower, hibiscus, blue hibiscus and mandevilla certainly can bloom in late summer or autumn, but sometimes bloom earlier than expected, so have nothing left for later. The bright red flowers of blood red trumpet vine are quite impressive, but only if they are not obscured by the accompanying foliage. Some roses bloom in phases as late as the weather will allow, but actually, most are done by now.

Fuchsia and angel’s trumpet likewise bloom in a few phases once they get started, but unlike the many cultivars of roses, they are much more reliable for a late bloom phase. Escallonia blooms late with small but colorful flowers, but only if they have not been shorn in the past few months. Shearing deprives them of the blooming stem tips that they had worked most of the year for.

Butterfly bush, tree mallow, cape plumbago, bee balm and several varieties of sage and salvia are among the most reliable plants for late summer or autumn bloom. Even without multiple bloom phases, they just naturally bloom at the end of their growing season, before winter dormancy.

Six on Saturday: Mixed Bag


These are merely odds and ends that would not conform to any particular category. The first two are from my colleague’s garden that provided the pictures for last week. The third, fourth and fifth are from a nearby landscape that is comprised of native specie. The sixth is another landscape nearby, but is obviously not native.

1. Eucalyptus provides distinctively aromatic silvery foliage for young students of Outdoor Science. We keep this tree low and almost pollarded so that the students can reach the juvenile foliage. We plan to prune back any adult foliage, since it is neither as pretty, nor as aromatic. No matter how much gets cut from the tree, there is always more. We thought this tree was Eucalyptus cinerea, but we really do not know what it is.P80915

2. Lantana camara gets frosted to the ground where it is at. It might do better on a slope just a few yards away, or under the canopy of big trees nearby. It just happens to be in one of those cold spots where cold air settles on frosty nights. The dead stems get cut back at the end of every winter, and new growth regenerates just fine. However, by the time it starts to bloom nicely, it is already autumn!P80915+

3. Cornus stolonifera is the only locally native dogwood. These pathetic blooms demonstrate why it is not more popular than it is. There are more individual flowers than other dogwoods get in each of their clustered blooms, but they bloom late in summer without the flashy bracts behind them. This dogwood is commonly known as red twig dogwood, but the twigs are not as colorful as those of another species of the same name.P80915++

4. Rose, although planted, happens to be native to the region as well. I do not know the species of this particular rose. It is not much to look at, but it is worth growing in a landscape of natives. It does not get pruned like roses that are grown for their bloom. In fact, we do nothing to it. It just grows wild. Flowers are sporadic, starting late in spring, and continuing until frost.P80915+++

5. Rose hips take a while to ripen. These were probably from the first flowers that bloomed months ago. Flowers that are blooming now may not produce hips at all, or if they do, the hips may never ripen. They just do not have enough time. Fortunately, there are enough to provide a bit of color while many of the plants in this spot defoliate through winter. They do not have great flavor alone, but are fine with other herbal tea.P80915++++

6. Gazania is related to the African daisy from last week. More gazanias will be shared next week. These were planted somewhat recently to replace English daisy that succumbed to a really bad infestation of rust, so have not bloomed as much as they might have liked to if they had gotten established earlier. They will continue until frost, and can bloom sporadically through winter, before resuming bloom as weather warms next spring.P80915+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: