Star Spangled Summer Bloomers
from July 1999

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Summer gardens can be themed tapestries of color or wild collections where the plants are left on their own to sort things out. Here are some red, white and blue flowered bloomers for your summer garden palette.

Aristea ecklonii gives us intense true blue flowers over a couple of months, with many six-petaled 1/2" blossoms on multiple branched flower stems, rising to 2' high above iris-like deep green, flattened leaves. They form well-behaved 1' high evergreen clumps that widen slowly; maybe spreading to a foot wide in a year. Mix in a perennial border giving full sun on the coast or partial shade inland, good drainage, and moderate irrigation. This beauty comes to us from South Africa. Hardy to 20 deg. F.

We are just beginning to see the deep blue flowers of Allium sikkimense, from the Himalaya range. These have very fine onion foliage of dark green, with 8-12" blooming stalks topped with nodding flower heads of a dozen or more bright blue tiny starry flowers. Like other onions, these prefer a well-drained, sunny situation with winter rain, yet kept drier in the summer. Hardy to 15 deg. F.

Another showy mountain native is our own Silene laciniata from Southern California, Baja, Arizona and New Mexico ranges. Narrow, 3" long green leaves form a low mound until late spring when the branched flower stems shoot up to 2' high with 15 to 25 buds and flowers per stem, blooming over a long period. The many pointed (almost like fringe) orangey-red 1" broad, flat-faced flowers rise from a slender tube and are tremendously attractive to hummingbirds. Plant these in a border with nearby companions that can help keep the sometimes lax branches upright. They prefer sun, good drainage and though drought tolerant in nature, will look better in the garden with some water. Hardy to 10 deg.

Last year we offered an Achillea millefolium, dwarf white form that came from Sonora Pass. This year, with all the good rains, our plants are thriving and growing much larger and are full, with robust flower stems to 18" high. The flower clusters are 2 to 3" across and a bright white. Also at this time we have Achillea 'Paprika' with brilliant orange-red flowers, Achillea 'Salmon Beauty' with light salmon shaded flowers, and Achillea 'Red Beauty' with red flowers. All of these are wonderful border fillers given moderate water, sun, and some drainage to the soil.

Calandrinia umbellata has brilliant magenta cup-shaped flowers that open with the sun. Their cheery flower clusters are held on 8" stems above furry, long thread-like leaves that form a low mat. They are native to Peru and Chile and are semi- hardy, preferring a warm, sunny spot with good drainage and rich soil.

From New Zealand, we have Dianella intermedia with narrow dark green leaves somewhat like Phormium foliage. Right now they have sent up their airy 3' high branched flower stems filled with many buds and one or two tiny white star flowers at each tip. The real show begins when the enamel blue-purple fruits form, which will happen later this summer, continuing throughout fall as the fruits hang on for months. Thrives in partial shade in most soils and given moderate water. Hardy to 18 deg. F.