My Gardens This Week–Second Week in July
Another of my favorite flowers is Purple Prairie Clover (Petalostemum purpureum). A purple fringed tutu of tiny blossoms begins to climb up the tubular cone early in July and becomes a long purple cylinder as the season progresses.
It gets even better–bright purple-stemmed, golden-orange anthers emerge through the purple petals, a stunning contrast. Purple Prairie Clover grows 1-3’ tall on stiff stems with sparse, compound, needlelike leaves. It grows in full sun in dry to mesic soils.
Amazingly, it grows in sand prairies and gravel hill prairies. This is on top of a gravel kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin. I would guess that it is blooming right now–go see it.
In my garden it blooms with Stiff Coreopsis, Prairie Baby’s Breath, and Wild Petunia.
Prairie Baby’s Breath is another favorite of mine. You won’t, however, find this plant listed under Prairie Baby’s Breath in your catalog. The common name for Euphorbia corollata is Flowering Spurge. (Would you rather buy a plant named Flowering Spurge or Prairie Baby’s Breath?)
It does, indeed, resemble the more familiar Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata) of florists’ bouquets and old-fashioned gardens. Prairie Baby’s Breath grows 1-4’ tall–its stiff stems branch out near the top and form a flat-topped corymb of dainty, five-petaled flowers that add an airy note to any garden in July and August. Although it appears to be quite delicate, it is a common hardy plant found in dry and mesic prairies, sand dunes, in pastures, and along railroad tracks .
All right–one more favorite–Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis). Its brand new, cheerful, lavender-blue, flared trumpets greet the dawn every morning in July and August. The blossoms do indeed resemble the annual petunias we are familiar with, but are smaller and not as flared. A sprawling plant, it makes a charming edging to a prairie garden. On sunny days the blossoms close by noon but will last all day on cool, shady days. It, too, is found in sandy and gravelly areas, but not in Kane County.
My friend June arranges Wild Petunia, along with Nodding Wild Onion, between clumps of Prairie Drop Seed in her entrance garden.
Not the least of the charms of this delightful plant is its penchant for seeding itself about with reckless abandonment. One day, in late summer, several years ago, Wild Petunia blossoms appeared in the grass in my front parkway! First just one, then a sprinkling as the week wore on. I finally had to mow the lawn and with it the petunias, but within a few days, they were blooming again. I began mowing around the petunias so I would have the flowers for the rest of the summer.
A few years ago, I hired the boy across the street to mow my lawn with his mower. He set the blades lower than I had set mine; consequently, the petunias in the lawn didn’t get a chance to grow big enough to bloom. So if you want to have these charming bouquets in your lawn, don’t mow your grass any shorter than two inches.