Monday, October 11, 2010

2010 Post Season Garden Awards

All across the country right now baseball fans are cheering on their teams, hoping they reach that pinnacle of the All-American pastime--the World Series.  Inspired by another Rose, and fellow baseball fan, I thought this would be a good time to give out post-season awards.  However, since neither Rose, a Chicago White Sox fan, nor I, a fan of those not-so-lovable losers the Chicago Cubs, have a team to cheer on in the post-season, we are turning our attention to our gardens instead for candidates worthy of being named MVP.

First let's look at one disappointing candidate who was not even considered for an award.  These 'Royal Magenta' supertunias performed beautifully last year, spreading through the porch planter and trailing down its sides, just as I wanted them to.  Because of their coachability last year, I gave them a starting position once again this year.  But although their early season batting average was high, they went into a late-season slump and eventually had to be cut from the team.

Other Supertunias were equally disappointing over the long haul.  These 'Creme Brulee' looked good through the heart of the season, but totally disappeared by September and had to be sent back to the minors, replaced by those September dependables, pansies and violas.  And we won't even talk about the calibrachoas!   Their batting slump started much earlier in the season, prompting the owner to question the wisdom of spending the money to acquire them in the first place.  However, unlike the disloyal management of the Cubs who traded two of my favorite players, Ryan Theriot and Derrek Lee before the end of the season (I'm still mad at them for this!),  I'm going to chalk up their poor performance to a difficult season and give both the Supertunias and calibrachoas a chance at starting again next year.

This season was a difficult one for my garden team this year.  Many players folded from the heat and lack of constant rehydration.  But there were three that seemed unfazed by the less than ideal field conditions.


First off, the Golden Glove (for fielding percentage for those of you who are non-baseball fans) award goes to the Susans.  Last year I planted two, maybe three, of my very first Rudbeckias--one or two 'Goldsturms' and one Rudbeckia hirta.  This year there were too many to count, and I have no idea which plant is which.

Perhaps they also deserve the Silver Slugger award for batting percentage, since they had to slug it out with all the other volunteers for space on the field.  But the Susans didn't seem to mind, finding space where they could, and cooperating well with all their teammates.

Always eager to please, it's hard to miss their cheery faces, especially when the sun intensifies their golden glow.  They were chosen for the fielding award, since they were so talented at catching flies . . . and bees . . . and butterflies.  (Okay, so maybe this analogy is getting a little old . . .) 

You might have been surprised that I didn't choose my signature flower, the Purple Coneflower, Echinacea Purpurea, for some type of award.  True, it achieved its usual superstar status this summer and is surely destined for the Hall of Fame, but I decided to look at season-long performance rather than just a one or two-month blaze of glory.  Though the Susans have mostly turned to seed like the coneflowers, there are quite a few of them still blooming and keeping their field positions. 

The last two awards also go to consistent season-long performers:

Rookie of the Year has to go to the Salvia, 'Wendy's Wish.'  I was looking for another 'Black and Blue,' which did so-so in my garden last year, when I spied the hot pink blooms of this new salvia.  Little did I know when I bought this plant what a superstar it would become.

Trying to capture the appearance of the whole plant defies my camera and my photographic abilities.  A photograph on a bubblegum trading card just can't do it justice; this is one player you have to see in person to appreciate.

Nope, not much better.  You'll just have to take my word that it has bloomed non-stop all summer and, purely by accident, became the focal point of the lily bed once the lilies stopped blooming.  Add to its impressive stats that it is also a hummingbird magnet.  Several times as I was weeding or watering this flowerbed, a hummingbird would come to sip nectar from its blooms. 

And now the most coveted award of the season--the MVP--goes to 'Lucky Lemon Creme' lantana!  For many years different varieties of lantana have been used in containers, but this was the first time I planted it in the ground.  It soon became obvious to me that it loves the outfield much better than being a designated hitter.

Never before did I realize what a butterfly magnet this plant is.  It was a great season for butterflies, and every one that visited my garden made time for a refreshment stop at the lantana. From the Red Admirals Painted Ladies (thanks, Shy Songbird!) . . .

. . . to the sulphurs . . .

. . . to the numerous Buckeyes . . .

. . . to the Tiger Swallowtails, as well as many other types, the lantana was a favorite, often covered in a fluttering of wings.  This butterfly magnetism was a quality exhibited by several other plants in the garden, but what really vaulted the lantana into first place for MVP were its other statistics:  blooming non-stop all summer, no need to deadhead, drought tolerance, and exceptional growth.  To be fair, it may have had an advantage over other annuals and perennials this year because of field conditions-- lantana loves heat, and  that was something we had plenty of all summer long.  I might add that other varieties of lantana probably would have performed just as well as 'Lucky Lemon Creme.'  I picked this soft yellow to border the lily bed so that it wouldn't clash with the oranges and reds of the lilies.  But since my color scheme eventually went out the window as usual, next year I might opt for a more colorful lantana. 

As a final justification for the awards for 'Lucky Lemon Creme' and 'Wendy's Wish,'  just look at these before and after photos.  You'll see in my first attempt at drawing on a photo, a crude red oval showing the location of the lantana in mid-June.  A flat of small lantana seedlings were planted here between two plantings of alyssum.  Next year the border will be all lantana, since the alyssum didn't perform nearly as well.  In the middle you'll notice a blue circle indicating the barely visible 'Wendy's Wish,' which I located only after zooming in and in on this photo.

Here is the same bed now--no need for arrows, because both are clearly visible, though the lantana, to the far left, looks white in this sunny photo.  Some cynics might accuse both of these players to have used performance-enhancing drugs to achieve this stature, but I assure you other than a few infrequent applications of fertilizer to the lantana and probably none on the salvia, both 'Lucky' and 'Wendy' are true natural athletes.  Their physical stamina this season edged out all the other competitors.

Since both the lantana and the salvia are annuals, their contracts will have to be renewed next year.  But rest assured, this owner/gardener has been so impressed by their superstar performances this season, that I will do whatever it takes to sign them again next year!


  1. Cute post Rose. I'm not surprised about your petunias. Of course here we can't get them to look too good past June.

    Lantana is always a winner for me. Luckily for us, we can treat it as a perennial here.

  2. Your garden is very pretty! That lantana is hard to beat and a winner each year for sure. Your write up is most creative and fun to read too.

  3. Hi Rose, it was fun seeing your garden and learning your favorite picks. And I understand baseball a little more now too!

  4. Love the baseball themed post Rose! ;) You had some real winners this season in the garden. I'll have to check out that Lantana & Salvia for next season.

  5. I'm so glad you had fun naming your garden MVPs too, and thanks for the link love! I can understand your frustration at the Cubs' trades, but at least Derek Lee is in the playoffs, and he's a good guy so I'm happy for him.

    I really, really need to grow lantana. I love the flowers, I see it everywhere, and I have a sunny, dry area in my front border that would be perfect. It and your salvia were deserving winners!

  6. I like this post! Very clever use of the baseball theme. :)

    Lantana 'Lucky Lemon Creme' looks yummy. Gorgeous shot of the Buckeye.

  7. Such a clever post, Rose! I loved it. It looks like several homeruns occurred in your garden this year. :)

  8. You had a winning season with many home-runs, Rose. I remember your post last season ... where did the year go!

  9. Ooooo, Black-eye Susans. Don't see them so much out here, except in botanical gardens. And, yet, I love them....better than the "fancy flowers." They've been a fave since I first saw pictures of them as a child in dusty, northwest New Mexico!

  10. Such a fun post, Rose :) Very cleverly written! I don't know a thing about baseball but enjoyed it very much. The photos of your blooms and beds are lovely.

    Of course I particularly enjoyed the butterflies :) I did notice the one which you referred to as a Red Admiral was in fact a Painted Lady but when I enlarged the photo I noticed it was correctly labelled so I suspect it was a slip of the tongue/finger! It is so easily done, I once called a Great Tit a Blue Tit or the other way round on my blog and of course I, like you, knew what I really meant :)

    Anyway, what a butterfly magnet the Lantana is, I must get some.

    I do like those Buckeyes, you have so many butterflies there which I wish we had here.

  11. That was a lot of fun to read. And your plants appear to be so healthy. As much as I look at and appreciate flowers and color, I also look at the textures and shades of green. That often tells so much about a garden. You have a wonderful garden. Thanks.

  12. The cream lantana is especially beautiful and enhanced by the butterflies.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  13. Rose, you're my go-to person for garden picks if I ever move back to Illinois. Sorry I can't say the same for baseball teams. Cardinals it is and always will be:)

  14. beautiful, i really love the lantana :)

  15. Great post. There may be an MVP, but it looks like all the players in your garden are earning their keep. Beautiful photos.

  16. You played this one well, Rose - and deserve an award for the most puns packed into one gardenblog post!

    I saw something about Wendy's Wish being a kind of accidental hybrid found in an Australian Garden - it's quite amazing. A Salvia vanhouttei had a similar season here but it's also not very hardy. I'm thinking of trying to take a few cuttings as insurance against not being able to find it next spring.

    Are you also going to Root, Root, Root some Salvia for the home team?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  17. Great analogy Rose. You had a great team this year. There are always disappointments in the garden. Luckily there are those that pick up the pace when others die down.

  18. Loved this post! What a great way to show case the true winners in a graden. Next year I am going to get Wendy's Wish after seeing how well yours did(I still don't know why I didn't get one when you did!). I have been amazed at how well it has grown in your bed. I did get a couple of Lanatas for containers and have been very happy with them. I will take a cue from you and try planting them in the ground next year(help me remember). I think the heat was just too much for the petunias and the calibrachoas. Last year they did so well in containers, but this year even with constant watering they were a poor show. Like you, though, I know next year I will try them again.

    Hey the Yankees are still in the running!:)

  19. Susie, I think it was just too hot and dry for petunias and the calibrachoas this year.

    Tina, Thanks; the lantana will definitely be part of the border next year again.

    Monica, I know you're not as much of a sports fan as I am, so thanks for putting up with all the puns:)

    Racquel, The lantana is a winner for sure, and I hope I can find this same salvia next year.

    Rose, Derrek Lee is such a good person, I hated to see him go. But you're right--at least he's getting to play for a winner this post-season. Do try lantana next year!

    Sweetbay, Thanks; the Buckeyes are one of the few butterflies still around this fall.

    Rosey, This summer was a real trial for the team, so I'm thrilled with these superstars:)

    Joey, The summer did fly by so fast, but as hot as it was I don't think I enjoyed it--or baseball--as much.

  20. C. Marie, The Susans are natives here, so they're pretty commonplace, but I love them. Thanks for visiting!

    Songbird, Thanks for the correct i.d. I did have the photo marked as a Painted Lady, but then I second-guessed myself because I always get it and the Red Admiral confused. The butterflies were the real winners in my garden this year!

    Steve, Thanks for visiting; I've bookmarked your site for future reference. I need all the help I can get in landscape design.

    Maggie May, The flowers always look prettier with butterflies:)

    W2W, I'd never try to change the mind of a Cardinals fan:) This year they faded in September, reminiscent of the Cubs:)

    Rachel, Lantana is a great plant and easy to care for in any garden.

    Pat, Thanks, but not all did so well in this hot summer.

    Annie, Thanks for the interesting info on the salvia--yours does look very much like this one. I am definitely going to try to take some cuttings of it for next year. And thanks for being such a good sport:)

    Lisa, Yes, I did have a lot of team players in a slump this year. Still no rain about you?

    Beckie, I'm so glad I tried the lantana in this border; it seems so much happier planted in the ground than in containers. If I have any luck in saving 'Wendy' I'll give you a start. Of course, the Yankees are still in it...which is why rooting for them is no fun. I'm enjoying Illini football right now instead:)

  21. Dear Rose,
    A very fun post. I always enjoy seeing your butterflies. It is still warm here and I saw a few Monarchs this afternoon. I will miss the bugs...
    Happy Octobering.

  22. Your colorful blooms, humor and butterflies really cheered me up. I’m more of a garden fan than a sports fan myself.

    Thanks too for your kind and understanding words on Stella. I’m glad you still talk of Rocco fondly.

  23. What a great post, rose, and how well you kept it going.

    I'm not surprised that lantana won: it's very lovely.

  24. What a team! I agree attention has to be paid to rookies. it keeps them motivated. In my garden the Susans are moving to Senior League play; maybe even club managers. Now if I can find a Wendy's Wish! What a player! gail

  25. Cute post Rose. I do like that Salvia, that dusty rose color is really nice.


Thanks for stopping by. I love to hear from you, so please leave a comment. I'll try to reply here, but I'll definitely return the visit.