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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.

Cherry Brandy Black-Eyed Susan

Burgundy flowers with a darker eye zone and dark brown disks are produced throughout the warm months on Cherry Brandy black-eyed Susan, a cultivar derived from a wide-ranging native North American species. The species has fuzzy, narrow leaves mostly near the base. It is a short-lived perennial, usually cultivated as an annual. This cultivar grows to about two feet tall, with flowers 3-4 inches across. Butterflies love to visit the flowers for their nectar, while various seed-eating songbirds flock to the dried flower heads for ripe seeds in fall. Plant in full sun, and water only enough to establish the plant root system.

Jester Ornamental Millet

Chartreuse young leaves with a wash of burgundy mature to a deep, rich burgundy color, matching the color of the burgundy seeds held well above the foliage. This ornamental cultivar of the agricultural millet grows best in full sun, well-drained soil, and warm temperatures. The wind-pollinated flowers attract all types of bees looking for a source of pollen, while the burgundy-colored fruit will attract every songbird in the neighborhood and beyond in fall. Stocky enough to provide a height element in large containers, it is most frequently used in the ornamental landscape where the foliage and fruit provide a great contrast to the surrounding green leaves and brightly colored flowers.

Pop Eye Pink Chryanthemum

The breeder describes this species as a "unique and eye-catching magenta-purple ring of color surrounding a bright green disc, with pink petals." This tough cultivar will tolerate the first light freezes of fall while maintaining its distinctively colored flowers and compact spreading habit. Mums benefit from planting into the garden or containers before the buds begin to show color—this permits their root system to establish itself before the high water use flowers come into their full glory. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are all attracted to the nectar-rich flowers.

Santa Barbara Mexican Bush Sage

Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara' is a nonhardy perennial first discovered in a garden in Santa Barbara, California. It features a compact growth habit, and its hairy, silver stems produce velvety, purple flower spikes with light lavender flowers. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, we find this plant very useful because it starts blooming in September, making it a great alternative to chrysanthemums in the landscape. As a member of the mint family, it has stiff, square stems and leaves scented like pine. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths all visit the flowers to gather nectar. This plant is deer and rabbit resistant and prefers full sun and slightly dry soils.

Shrub Rose

Rosa 'Radcor' Rainbow Knockout® grandiflora rose blooms from mid-June until the first frost, producing five-petaled flowers of coral pink with a yellow center. The new foliage is burgundy and ages to a deep green. Hips (rose fruit) are produced in fall and carry over into winter. This rose is among the most resistant to diseases of any rose cultivar. Plant it in moderately fertile moist soils with plenty of room between it and the neighboring plants to provide for good air circulation.

Snapdragon

Soltice™ Orange Tricolor snapdragon grows to 20 inches in height, and features orange-yellow flowers with a white tube and spicy fragrance. It blooms earlier than other snapdragon varieties and performs well in cool weather, in full sun, and with adequate moisture. Deadhead to encourage repeat bloom throughout the summer and into fall.

Swamp Aster

Swamp aster is an herbaceous perennial that grows upright to a height of about 8 feet under full sun and medium to wet moisture conditions. In late summer and early fall, it produces blue and purple flowers that fade to white, and it is attractive to butterflies. The plant is mostly used as a bedding or border planting.

Waterlily Autumn Crocus

Waterlily crocus (Colchicum 'Waterlily') delights and thrills gardeners in September and October when the large (6-inch tall by 5-inch wide) double flowers begin to open. Reliably hardy in the Chicago region, the plant has broad green leaves that are produced in spring and die back in early summer, so the flowers appear to spring from the bare soil in fall. Deer and rabbits dislike the chemicals in the sap, but slugs, for some reason, appear resistant to the chemicals (only a problem in wet falls). Plant these bulbs in full sun to partial shade and avoid disturbance. Over time, the original bulb (a corm, actually) will produce "daughter" bulbs, resulting in dozens of flowers.

This cultivar is the result of a cross between Colchicum autumnale 'Alboplenum' and Colchicum speciosum 'Album'. Through the miracle of genetic recombination, these two small-flowered white cultivars created this very large-flowered lavender cultivar, which sports dozens of petals in a single bloom.