New Flowers From An Old Friend: Garden Bloggers Bloom Day August 2011

– Posted in: What's up/blooming

Long time readers may remember Craig Levy, who wrote for this blog for a number of months, and then went on to other things. This spring he emailed me, asking, “Would you like more plants for your garden?” Knowing that Craig used to run a nursery when he and his wife lived on the western side of North America, I was pretty sure he’d send something unusual, or spectacular, or both. And since he now lives in upstate NY, in a climate similar to mine, I was pretty sure whatever he’d send would grow. I said yes without hesitation.

Here are a few of the plants he sent that are now in bloom, with some of his comments on them. Perhaps you will hunt them up for your own garden.

Kitaibelia vitifolia


Kitaibelia vitifolia, a member of the mallow family

Craig wrote,

Large plant 5 x 5 feet or more and takes on the stature of a shrub. Pure white flowers that appear to be green and white because the petals are narrow at the base with large gaps between them, allowing the surrounding green to show through. Easily flowers for 2 or more months.

The gaps in the petals remind me of Malope, another mallow relative. But according to this mallow reference site, it is more closely related to hollyhocks and Rose of Sharon.

Mirabilis longiflora


Mirabilis longiflora, a cousin to Four O'Clocks

Craig wrote,

Tender tuber. All types of Mirabilis can be lifted and stored over winter, just as Dahlias are. Roots can be very large and these are 1 year old. Flowers have long tubes of white that open late in the day. They’re highly fragrant, even emitting through the almost opened buds. Unknown if the odor is wide spread or local to the flower. Plants are nothing to get excited about and the ratio of foliage to flowers is way out of whack. But oh those flowers.

I keep this in a pot near the porch, but I have to get my nose right into the blossom to enjoy the wonderful fragrance. Perhaps if our evenings were warmer, the fragrance would carry more.

I bet Craig didn’t have to dig this in his former home, for Annie’s Annuals calls it a perennial hardy to Zones 7 to 9. It also calls Four O’Clocks (Mirabils jalapa), another species in the same genus, invasive, when it is merely an annual here. As Craig mentioned, if you have a particularly stunning Four O’Clocks plant, you can dig up the tuber and store it over the winter like a dahlia. I did that once, but my plant wasn’t all that wonderful, and it seemed like more trouble than it was worth, when it is plenty easy to grow from seed. I will try to winter the M. longiflora tuber over the winter, as I do like the fragrance, the look of the flowers on long skinny tubes, and its common name, Angels Trumpets.

Salvia verticillata ‘Alba’


Salvia verticillata 'Alba'

Craig wrote:

Soft hairy leaves with pure white flowers. Floppy growth habit, This works in its favor because by the time its first flush of bloom is over the plants have opened up and exposed the center so a new round of growth is maturing and close to flowering. Untidy and unruly, my kind of plant.

I need to find a plant that this can weave through. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, this member of the sage family thrives in full sun–which it’s not getting–and is killed by wet soils, which may mean I will lose it next mud season. I have it growing near my purple smokebush, which is notorious for sucking the soil dry, but the smokebush is late to break dormancy. I may need to move this to the southern side of a lilac, which wakes up sooner in the spring, and thus starts pulling moisture out of the surrounding area that much sooner as well.

Salvia transsylvanica ‘Blue Spires’


Salvia transsylvanica 'Blue Spires'

Craig wrote:

Flowers of blue, later than most Salvias with an extended period of bloom. Can be really leafy plants. These are seedlings from Diane’s seeds, so I don’t know if they will be exactly like our garden clone.

Despite Craig’s description and my photograph, the flowers on my plant look like a rich purple, not blue. I have grown blue flowered salvias before, and this isn’t one of them, though it is a good looking plant.

Comparisons With Previous Years

Aside from Craig’s generous gifts (he sent other plants but they’re not blooming now), the usual Phlox paniculata and a variety of Black-eyed Susans are the prominent players in the garden right now, with a generous smattering of annuals. I am happy to say the ‘Distant Planet’ crocosmia mentioned last year made it through the winter and is blooming again. The Oriental lilies that were blooming in 2009 are completely done, but the dahlias, which were blooming in 2008, are mere buds.

Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens, and leave a link in Mr. Linky and the comments of May Dreams Gardens.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

When dealing with frost it is always best to be paranoid. In the spring never think it is too late for one more frost to come. And in the fall never think it too early.

~Rundy in Frost

Comments on this entry are closed.

Craig Levy November 4, 2011, 1:15 pm


I am truly moved by your post.

Anyone who is around me long enough will discover that I am a plant nerd/nut/aficionado to the extreme. Growing plants is my special skill and is part of who I am. It is a gift that I’ve always had and makes me feel truly blessed.

When I find other people who share my passion I can’t help but want to share my joy of all living things with them. I can’t think of anyone who is more generous with her time or knowledge than you Kathy.

As for the folks who wrote comments about Crocosmia, I have had ‘Lucifer’ for 7 years and it is going great guns. Always tall, always spectacular and with that killer color. Other varieties are supposedly less hardy here but I am so satisfied with Lucifer that I don’t feel a need for any others. Although hummingbirds and Crocosmias developed in different parts of the world, the two of them look as if they’ve always been together.

What a beautiful bon mot for me. Thank you Kathy.

Jean September 5, 2011, 10:51 pm

I’m growing the Mirabilis longiflora for the first time from seed. I started it late and it just now has formed buds. I can’t wait! Thanks for posting the photos!

Tom From Gardenia Care August 25, 2011, 9:36 am

Nothing grows better than a ‘free’ plant 🙂 I’ll keep any eye out for the Salvia Transsylvanica – its a lovely color with nice foliage

VP August 19, 2011, 4:52 pm

What a great friend to have Kathy! I like your last Salvia most of all is it resembles one I’ve seen over here at one of my favourite gardens. They’re always sold out by the time I visit – the staff buy them all up before visitors can get there!

Good to meet you in Seattle at last 🙂

Yael August 18, 2011, 6:54 pm


I love your flower, particularly the little Mirabilis longifolia. They look like little hibiscus from the angle you photographed them from. Very pretty.


Scott August 17, 2011, 1:29 pm

How very cool…who doesn’t love free plants!

Deborah August 17, 2011, 9:14 am

I have had 2 good years of luck with crocosmia Lucifer, here in our zone 4 upstate NY garden. Of course we haven’t had a really cold winter in 3 or 4 years…

Kathy Purdy August 17, 2011, 1:36 pm

. . . and good drainage counts for an awful lot. It can mean the difference between death by mud season and persevering until spring is finally here.

Helen at Toronto Gardens August 16, 2011, 9:41 am

Like Barbara, I’m as interested in the crocosmia as in your profiled plants. I’ve been smitten with crocosmia for a few years, but after Seattle it has evolved (or devolved) into a case of full-blown lust. Thanks for the Blooms Day tour. See you in Indianapolis… astonishingly soon.

Carri August 16, 2011, 12:14 am

How big are the blooms on Kitaibelia vitifolia? I like the look of them- I’ll need to search for one!

Kathy Purdy August 16, 2011, 8:05 am

I went out and measured one with a ruler. The blooms are about an inch and a half wide.

Greggo August 15, 2011, 11:08 pm

nice post. love the white.

Dorothy/Gardening with Nature August 15, 2011, 6:29 pm

Passalong plants from friends are the very best plants. Nothing more beautiful.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter August 15, 2011, 10:35 am

Although the plants Craig sent are cool, I’m really more excited about a Crocosmia that can survive a Zone 5 winter. I’ve decided I must have one for hummingbirds.

The Sage Butterfly August 15, 2011, 10:14 am

The Blue Spires salvia is beautiful. And the gifts you have received have performed so well to give us blooms for today. Happy GBBD!

Leslie August 15, 2011, 10:02 am

What a lovely gift! He knew you would appreciate it! I suppose you would say 4 o’clocks are invasive here, as in I’ll never be free of them, but I like them and just pull some out when they get too bossy. I just did that Saturday! Never had to dig them, they just keep coming back.

commonweeder August 15, 2011, 9:32 am

What a good friend. The two of you share such deep knowledge of plants. I am always learning from you. Happy Bloom Day.

Cindy, MCOK August 15, 2011, 9:15 am

What a unexpected and happy gift! I love the first one.

Donna August 15, 2011, 8:10 am

You really have a nice and considerate friend. Four O’Clocks never do so well here, even though in my masonry filled garden I have areas that can grow some zone 7 plants. Not sure if the slugs get them or what, but never had much luck with them.

Les August 15, 2011, 6:59 am

Would it be that all gardeners had such generous friends. Four 0’clocks are perennial here and can be just shy of aggressive, but most gardeners don’t seem to mind.

Patsy Bell Hobson August 15, 2011, 3:02 am

I am a fan of Four O’Clocks (Mirabils jalapa). They have never been invasive here, zone 6. It’s a word with a lot of room for interpretation.

roy h August 15, 2011, 1:52 am

i like mirabilis’s a beautifull flower