Category Archives: Maximillian Sunflower


It’s been over a decade

Since we have had

This kind of heat.

Generally I try not complain about the weather.

After all, my grandmother drove a conastoga wagon

From Iowa to Oklahoma when she was 18

During the summer.

What have I got to complain about!

Yet, somehow this feels different.

It is unrelenting.

I think we are on week 4 or 5

Of most days well over 100.

Keeping the garden alive

Can be a full time job

In years like this

If you haven’t prepared for it.

There are two things I did by instinct

That help my garden survive.

Granted not everyone wants a full blown perennial garden.

But adding perennials to your flower beds

Will save you time, money, water and worry.

Because perennials intend to survive

More than one season

They are more deeply rooted

Meaning they can take the slings and arrows

That nature is throwing these days.

Some even thrive on it.

So right now these things are not just surviving

But are actually happy in my garden.

And providing all the nector

The flock of buzzing pollinators living with us

Seem to need.

Happy perennials are Maxmillion Sunflower

Purple Coneflower, Tall Garden Phlox, Gloriosa Daisy,

Veronica Spicata and Sunny Border Blue and Verbena Bonariensis.

All of these not only come back but also spread.

No perennial gives more than Annabelle Hydrangea

And her cousin Incrediball.

Then there are the self seeding annuals

Zinnia, Sunflower, Cleome and the ever present Cockscomb.

These are the foundation of my high summer garden.

Other plants may bloom a little but these are the staples.

Even in this heat they only require water about every 5 days.

That, of course, is with drip irrigation.

Fifteen plus years ago when we built my garden

I ordered a really large roll of inline emitter drip line

From Dripworks.

1,000 feet of coiled drip line was like a giant snakey octopus

All over my backyard.

Once it was softened by the sun

And put into place

It has been the lifeline of my garden.

I connect the line to two faucets at opposite ends

Of the back of the garden.

We are lucky to have a well.

I turn them both on at once

And let them slowly drip for several hours.

That’s right.

I want the water to go deeply

To the low roots of even the biggest plant.

The water will draw the roots even deeper

Helping the plant survive

The 114 degrees predicted for next Tuesday

And the two weeks near zero

That will surely come next February.

I don’t know whether plants are like people

Or people are like plants.

But I do know that without my deep roots

And firm foundation

The last 2 1/2 years would have been

Even more difficult.

For me and my garden.



Filed under Annabelle Hydrangea, Bees, Bugs, Bumblebee, drip irrigation, Garden Planning, Gardening, Gardening;Perennials, Gloriosa Daisy - Rudbeckia, HELIANTHUS, Maximillian Sunflower, Perennials, Purple Coneflower - Echinacea, self seeding annuals, Sunflowers, Tall Garden Phlox, Uncategorized, Veronica Spicata, Zinnia


Since I garden in the southern great plains

There are things I’ve come to expect

In late summer.

Grasshoppers come to mind.



Photo credit Debra Mitchell

Humidity is definitely a factor.

And it is often accompanied

By heat.

As I look out onto my garden.

I almost feel like I need to apologize

To the brave plants

Basking in the heat of the day.

Yet, some plants seem to not just survive

But thrive.

I can’t take credit for too much planning

But I do know I want cutting flowers

All through the growing season.

So there is some intentionality

To my methods.

And as a result.

When I went to cut for my Sunday church bouquets

I was pleased to find plenty to pick.

So how does this work?

If there’s a star in my garden

All season long

It has to be Annabelle Hydrangea.


I have a hedge of five planted at the east end.

They have bloomed since late May.

Starting with fluffy white blooms

And maturing to the lime green that I love

Since it goes so well with many other flowers.

I’ve cut them all season

And they still have lots to give.

That’s why I’ve added them to the corners of my garden house.

And last fall in a front bed.

I even wanted a hedge of them in front of our new fence

But lost out to John’s desire for more Crepe Myrtle.

The next jewel of late summer arrangements

Is tall garden phlox.


If you cut it back in the spring

The blooms will be delayed until early July here

And they will still be going strong in August.

These two flowers alone

With their big blousey blooms

Are a great foundation for arrangements

Large and small.

Cleome is another gift this time of year.

It’s a funky flower that brings interest to both the garden

And arrangements.


Cockscomb is just beginning to come into it’s own.

So start cutting and don’t stop

Or you’ll have a cockscomb only garden before you know it!


Now fill in with some blues and purples in the Veronica family


Add Zinnias


Maxmillion Sunflowers


And Dahias.


And you have a “Dog Days” arrangement

That will make you smile each time you pass by.


Like much in life

I can’t change the heat of August

But I can find joy in the blossoms

It produces.

Take care,






Filed under Bouquets, cleome, cockscomb, Dahlias, Flower Arrangements, Garden Planning, Gardening, Gardening;Perennials, Hydrangea, late summer garden, Maximillian Sunflower, Tall Garden Phlox, Uncategorized, Veronica Spicata, Zinnia


To everything there is a season

And a time to every purpose under heaven

Familiar words.

And true.

I’ve come to realize over the years that some people seem to time their deaths.

I first realized this when a man named Bill Frass died.

Bill was a kind, gentle and happy soul.

He was also an Iris fanatic.

A plant your backyard full of Iris kind of fanatic.

I first encountered Bill when my neighbor Geraldine shared some of his iris.

After that he was my guide during the annual iris rhizome sale each July.

But the thing is Iris only bloom for a few short weeks each spring.

Somehow Bill managed to die while they were blooming.

His fellow Iris fanatics cut their precious children for his funeral.

The room was filled with Iris.

Full of the scent and aura that was Bill.

What a send off.

I’ve also read about Henry Mitchell.

For years he was the garden writer for the Washington Post.

He died after an afternoon of plating Daffodils with a friend.


Leaving this world with dirt under your fingernails

Having planted the hope of spring.

I like this plan.

But for me the most poignant is the story of when my father died.

It was two years ago this week.

My father was many things.

Most of all he was a farmer. 

His life would take him to meet world leaders

Their conversation would more often than not be about farming.

But there came a time in his late 80’s to stop his active involvement in farming.

It’s a gut wrenching decision echoed by families all through the farm belt.

His decision was made in typical Henry style.

Get the facts – make the decision – don’t look back.

So it was that spring that he came to his last harvest.

Elliott came home to be a part of his own history.

The wheat was cut.

It was a record crop.

All through that summer Daddy came three times a week to my home for lunch.

That had been his pattern for several years.

He could no longer stroll through my garden.

Instead we would sit in the breakfast room and watch the garden grow and change.

We would talk gardening, farming and politics.

I had a sense something was changing but didn’t know what.

He was winding down.

I think I’ve mentioned his theory on color in the garden.


Only Red!!!

Then there is my theory.

Everything but red.

Except in late summer

When the cockscomb takes over.

It’s the only red flower I grow.

It blooms wildly

Actually out of control this time of year.

There is one non red flower that Daddy liked.

Maxmillian Sunflower.

A late summer blanket on the prairie.

And so it was to be.

His last days came when his beloved country side was covered in Maximillian Sunflowers.

And cockscomb filled my garden.

The Wednesday before his Saturday services

Elliott and I drove through the countryside and cut sunflowers, cattails and maize.

Actually we stole the maize from the field of an old friend.

Along the way we laughed and cried a little and remembered.

We basked in the glory of the sunshine and a life well lived.

We took it all to the florist who filled two urns with fabulous arrangements.

They flanked Daddy as friends came from across the state

To say goodbye.

To tell stories to his grandsons.

To celebrate his life.

At the same time I asked my local florist Ryan to go to my garden

Cut everything he needed to make the casket flowers.

Make it red.

He did.

It is true.

To everything there is a season.

Even for giant spiders.  Sloan and Cassidy just came by on their nightly spider check.  It’s gone….till next season.


Thanks Elliott & Debra letting me use some of your pictures.


Filed under Cattails, cockscomb, Daffodils, Gardening, HELIANTHUS, Iris, late summer garden, Maximillian Sunflower, Orb Spider, Sunflowers, Uncategorized