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Sorry the blog posts were a bit exiguous this long beautiful June week…to makeup for it, here is a flower: a lovely tiger lily which is in full bloom in my Brooklyn garden, in fact. Lilies are right up there with roses and irises and tulips as the quintessential beautiful garden flowers–and for good reason, look at the amazing glowing orange like magma or a sunset! I love lilies and I need to get some more, but right now we can continue to celebrate the sun and its summer ascendancy with this lovely sunny plant!

Miscellaneous ornamental cannas

Miscellaneous ornamental cannas

Canna is the only genus in the family Cannaceae.  The genus consists of 19 species of flowering plants from the tropical and subtropical regions of the New World.  Although sometimes called “lilies” they are not true lilies at all–their closest relatives are the bananas and the arrowroots.

Aquatic Cannas as the Centerpiece of a water garden at Longwood Gardens

Aquatic Cannas as the Centerpiece of a water garden at Longwood Gardens

Canna flowers are notable for huge colorful stamens—the highly modified structures of which are mistaken for petals (cannas actually have tiny easily overlooked petals).  Although cannas are a rich source of starches, they are predominantly known as ornamental flowers and they are grown as annuals far outside of their native tropics. They are popular around the world, and indeed they have become invasive in Old World tropical regions of Asia and Africa.

Red Canna

Red Canna

My roommate and I went to the flower nursery and she insisted on buying a canna (which I then thought looked vulgar and tacky) for our shared garden.  Yet the canna has proved itself a worthy garden plant many times over.  Not only are its pretty flowers an unrivaled shade of fire-engine red, it is also vigorous in the sweltering July heat and it beautifully matches the giant green elephant ears which I have planted.  The garden looks strangely tropical and magnificent with these exotic yet hardy plants.  Maybe next year I will be looking for cannas of additional colors.  It is a really lovely flower. I am sorry I initially dismissed it because of its unusual shape!  There’s probably some sort of lesson there…

I wish this were my garden!

I wish this were my garden!

A Toad Lily blossom

A Toad Lily blossom

Time for a short flower post to highlight the joys of the late summer garden! Toad lilies are delicately beautiful woodland flowers with a somewhat awkward English common name. The genus name “Tricyrtis” is not very euphonic either, but the pretty little spotted members of the lily family are a real highlight of temperate gardens at the end of August and into the still-warm fall months.

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Toad lilies are natives of Asia where various species range from the Himalayas east across China and all the way out to Japan and the Philippines. The flowers are various soft shades of blue, purple, mauve, and brown with little dark animal-like spots (which give them their English name). They are perennials which sprout from a creeping rhizome and they are hardy enough to resist extremes of both heat and cold. In their native habitat they grow at the edges of forests and bamboo groves—which makes them shade tolerant. Look at how pretty they are!

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