The most visually stimulating flower gardens contain not one type of plant but a brilliant array of various species. When choosing flowers to cultivate, consider a mixture of diverse colors, textures and heights. Plants bearing tall spires of flowers reaching toward the sky add a sense of grace and elegance to most garden schemes. Such statuesque bloomers include sunflowers, mulleins, hollyhocks and foxgloves.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are large stalked annuals bearing cheery, sun-shaped blossoms. These iconic flowers reach heights of 8 to 15 feet. Many exquisite sunflower varieties are available to gardeners, including the vermillion and copper Autumn Beauty, the 12-foot-tall golden-blossomed Russian Giant, and the soft burgundy and maroon Velvet Queen.
Native to the plains and grasslands of North America, sunflowers adore full sun and pH neutral to slightly alkaline, well-drained soil. A regular supply of water will increase height and flower yield, although dry conditions are tolerated. Sunflowers typically grow in spring, flower in summer and die in autumn. Left to their own devices, they will re grow from seed the following year. The seeds of this plant are edible and are used commercially to make cooking oil. They also attract cardinals, blue jays and woodpeckers.
Mulleins are members of the Verbascum genus. These woody, perennial herbs are known for their tall spikes of eye-catching flowers, as well as their ease of care. Common mullein (Verbascum thaspus) bears low-growing rosettes of large grayish-green leaves the texture of thick flannel. Its cream-colored to golden flowers are borne on a central stalk 2 to 3 feet in height. Purple mullein (Verbascum phoeniceum) is similar in structure, producing showy, bright violet, five-petaled blossoms. Like sunflowers, mulleins prefer full sun and slightly alkaline soil. They are generally hardy in growing zones 4 to 9, and they bloom in summer.
Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) are perennial or biennial flowering plants loved for their elongated vertical spires of attention-grabbing, open, five-petaled flowers. These blooms, which emerge from late spring to midsummer, manifest in a multitude of colors ranging from purplish-black to pale pink to deep indigo. Heights of more than 5 feet can be attained.
Hollyhocks are hardy in zones 4 to 9. They flourish in pH neutral to slightly acidic, fertile, well-drained soil and adore full sun. Unfortunately, they are also prone to a fungal disease called rust, which causes reddish-brown spots to appear on their broad leaves. Rust-infected leaves should be identified and removed as soon as they appear.
The foxglove plant (Digitalis purpurea) produces attractive stalks 3 to 5 feet high, bearing abundant purple or pink, bell-shaped flowers with dotted insides. These flowering beauties are generally biennials, or plants with life cycles lasting two years. They thrive in neutral, well-drained soil. Unlike sunflowers and mulleins, foxgloves prefer partial shade to full sun and may be planted in the dappled light under trees. They are often seen decorating fence rows. This plant is highly toxic. No part of it should ever be eaten.
- Photo Credit Flower garden image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com SUNFLOWERS image by brelsbil from Fotolia.com Flowers of mullein growing in a wild garden image by hazel proudlove from Fotolia.com hollyhock image by Henryk Olszewski from Fotolia.com foxglove image by nix pix from Fotolia.com
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