Friends, it’s truly a surprise anything is blooming right now, considering our punishing temperatures – high nineties every day! – and total lack of moisture. Also, please send tax-deductible donations to help pay our extortionate water bill. But! We do have a few bright spots of color around the farm that we thought we’d share.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a member of the marigold family.
We planted a number of different flowers, including calendula and marigolds, in our raised beds to both provide visual interest and to attract beneficial pollinators. Although calendula doesn’t love our intense summer weather, most seem to be doing reasonably well and will hopefully bloom again in fall’s cooler temperatures.
Almost all Helianthus species are native to North and Central America.
What’s more cheerful and pleasant than sunflowers? The state flower of Kansas, sunflowers are perfectly suited to our hot and dry conditions. We have dozens that have self-seeded, and we simply let them run wild – no supplemental water, no attention, no care at all. They’re terrific for bees and other pollinators, and it’s absurdly entertaining to watch them turn their “faces” in the direction of the sun.
This is likely Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead.’
Lavender, a genus of the mint family, also thrives in our high-plains desert. This is another drought-tolerant plant that requires no attention and no additional water, and it keeps blooming long after others have wilted in the summer heat. I’m working on rooting cuttings off this healthy bush so I can plant it in lots of other ornamental beds.
Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) just starting to bloom.
We were gifted wild bergamot cuttings last year (thanks, Jim!), and they’ve done really well this season. The flowers are a lovely pale purple, and this plant’s common name – bee balm – shows its importance to pollinators. Like the lavender, we’re working on rooting these cuttings and expanding the plantings around the property.
Cylindropuntia whipplei ‘Snow Leopard’ in bloom.
It should come as no surprise that cacti do well here. We have a particularly difficult south-facing patch that just seems to be full of weeds no matter how much effort we expend, and although it’s currently in use as a wheat trial bed, we’re eventually hoping to convert it to a hardy, low-maintenance cacti rock garden.
Some of our onion stalks are more than five feet high!
As we’ve discussed previously, it’s essential to have flowers blooming at different times in the season to keep beneficial pollinators content. We’ve let the onions in our raised beds go to seed, and the bees adore the enormous globe flowers. We’re not collecting honey at the moment, but it would be interesting to find out if it had a distinctly savory edge from the alliums.
Cotton thistle (Onopordum acanthium) is hugely invasive in our area.
And finally, our eternal nemesis: cotton thistle. (Fun fact: this is commonly but incorrectly referred to as Scotch thistle, but the Scottish national emblem is actually Cirsium vulgare, or spear thistle.) This invasive weed has colonized massive tracts of land here; its drought tolerance makes it difficult to eradicate. Its prevalence in pastures presents challenges for livestock grazing and the vicious spines penetrate the toughest gloves easily. We try very hard to pull it out before it goes to seed, but inevitably a few are missed. Certain thistles are used as alternative medicine treatments; if cotton thistle is ever found to have health-giving properties, our cash crop is ready to go.
Here’s hoping you spot some beautiful blooms in your neighborhood this week, friends. Stay calm and stay healthy.