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Bloom Highlights

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Sources for "What's in Bloom: Bloom Highlights" listings include the Chicago Botanic Garden's staff and database, as well as the publications and records of other botanic gardens, institutions, and the scientific community.

Buenos Aires Brazilian Vervain

This Brazilian vervain (Verbena bonariensis 'Buenos Aires'), a nonhardy perennial, differs from the straight species by having larger lavender-lilac flowers on shorter flowering stems. The plants reach close to 3 feet in height by the end of the growing season in Chicago-area gardens. Their honey-like fragrance is a powerful attractant for pollinating insects and hummingbirds. Plant this perennial in full sun.

In USDA Zones 7 to 10, gardeners should deadhead the flowers to prevent seedlings from establishing in natural areas.

Inspiration Passion Flower

Deep violet to lavender flowers in the most fantastic, out-of-this-world shape are produced throughout the year in mild climates or during the summer when used outdoors in Chicago-area landscapes. Sprawling and climbing to about 5 feet in height, this cultivar is small enough to grow in a container. In the tropics, the leaves of passion flowers are the preferred food plant for butterflies. Plant the passion flower in full sun and well-drained, moist soil, and provide a trellis or support for the plants to clamber over.

Italian White Cucumberleaf Sunflower

If Italian White sunflowers (Helianthus debilis ssp. cucumerifolius 'Italian White') had steamer trunks, they would be covered with stickers from exotic locales. No one is quite sure who first took seeds of a creamy, white-flowered variant of the southeastern Texas annual sunflower to Europe, or how it made its way to Italy—where it thrived. What we do know is that Italian immigrants brought the seeds back with them to the northeastern United States (primarily) when they emigrated.

Creamy white petals surround a dark-brown center on 3- to 4-foot plants that sometimes have purplish blotches on the stem. Like other sunflowers, this cultivar thrives in full sun with adequate fertilization and well-drained soil. Sunflowers of all kinds are beloved by a number of species of native (and exotic) birds; perhaps the most colorful are goldfinches. Thousands of acres of sunflowers are planted annually, worldwide, for oil production. Although the plant is a native of the United States, sunflower oil was first produced in Imperial Russia in 1835. The oil has been used for food, frying oil, in cosmetics, and to protect the skin of premature infants from infections.

Landscape Shrub Rose

Deep golden-yellow 5-inch flowers are swirled with ruby red outer petals on Strike It Rich™ landscape shrub rose (Rosa 'Wekbepmey'), a disease-resistant grandiflora (hybrid between a hybrid tea and a floribunda parent). Strike It Rich has a spicy fragrance and is noted for its long, elegant, pointed buds. The deep green, disease-resistant leaves are accented with red stems. Plant this rose in full sun and provide room for good air movement to decrease the incidence of foliar diseases.

Strike It Rich was a 2007 All-America Rose Selection winner described by the AARS as "the twenty-first century version" of its ancestor, Rosa 'Sutters Gold', which received the AARS award in 1950 for its gold color and fragrance.

Panicle Hydrangea

White Diamonds® panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Hypmad I') was developed by Michael Dirr, Ph.D., at the University of Georgia, and it features pure white flowers for eight weeks at the end of summer and beginning of fall. This is a more compact panicle hydrangea cultivar that matures to between 4 and 6 feet in height and width. Plant White Diamonds® in a sunny location and water during dry spells. As the flower bracts age in the fall, they turn burgundy pink.

Sage

Clear blue flowers are produced atop this tall, non-hardy perennial from July up to frost. Plant this salvia in full sun and water to establish the root system—thereafter, it will be drought tolerant. It provides a blue-flowered height component to containers and in the landscape. This is also a great annual for attracting pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to the garden from summer through to frost.

Spreading Petunia

Intensely colored flowers ranging from magenta to pinkish purple cover this mounding annual from June through the onset of cold weather in late fall. Plant this petunia in full sun and well-drained soil, and provide room in a container, hanging basket, or the landscape for it to spread up to 3 feet. It's a favorite of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds searching for a reliable source of nectar and pollen throughout the growing season.

Star Cluster

Continuous clusters of vibrant, fuchsia-colored flowers cover this naturally compact selection that thrives in the bright light and warmth of summer. Average, well-drained garden soils with good air movement are ideal planting locations. Great selection for containers, hanging baskets, or a spot of color in the landscape. This is a pollinator magnet of the first order, providing nectar and pollen to an array of insects and hummingbirds throughout summer and into fall.