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It’s Poppin’: July 7th

July 7, 2023


We had plenty of rain this week interspersed with high humidity- you might not think that type of weather makes for good flower viewing, but when it’s cloudy and wet, our gardens simply glow with pops of color throughout.

The Holden Arboretum

At the Arboretum this week, I’ll point you to our Butterfly garden. While there, you’ll see three important plants for pollinators. First up is common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Once a pest, this plant is now revered for its monarch-rearing capabilities. Unfortunately, widespread use of herbicides in crop fields has greatly diminished common milkweed across millions of acres of Midwest farmland. We now ‘let it live’ in most places in our gardens. Its flower is pretty spectacular too- just be sure to fully examine its complex uniqueness! Spiked blazing star is another beautiful plant that tends to be a butterfly magnet during peak summer. It’s a prairie species that has been readily adopted for the home landscape. It’s not fond of competition, however, so give it plenty of space in your home landscape. Finally, the wonderfully native purple coneflower, found in Ohio’s western prairies like Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve a few miles west of the Columbus exurbs, is starting to bloom. It’s been a mainstream perennial for quite some time now and it’s fantastic for butterflies as well. Leave the seedheads on the plant late in the season and you’ll be sure to see American goldfinches coming for a quick bite to eat.

common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca
Spiked blazing star
purple coneflower

Cleveland Botanical Garden

I had the fortune to meet Asia Armour this week, who has designed a wonderful “art in bloom” bed along the Allee adjacent to the Geis Terrace. Her choice of three Coleus, a pink geranium, and blue salvia simply glow on a rainy day. The plants are maturing and looking beautiful! A unique plant that many stop and ask us about that blooming right now bear’s breeches, Acanthus mollis. It looks a bit like a giant-flowered mint, but it’s not in the mint family, but in the closely related Acanthaceae. It and relatives are distributed around the Mediterranean region and further east into Asia. Finally, there’s a shrub in the Western Reserve Herb Society garden that is begging me to show you– it’s Calycanthus floridus ‘Aphrodite’, a cultivar of our native sweetshrub. While you must head to the southeast to find this long-blooming shrub in the wild, it’s been blooming for over a month at the garden.

Coleus, a pink geranium, and blue salvia
bear’s breeches, Acanthus mollis.
Calycanthus floridus ‘Aphrodite’

These are just a few of my favorites this week. There are a host of new blooms scattered throughout the sunny areas of our garden. What will you find?

Thomas Arbour

Thomas Arbour

Curator of Living Collections

I grew up in northeast Ohio, graduating from Stow High School. I attended Hiram College, where I learned to love plants through the mentoring of Dr. Matt Hils. After Hiram, I obtained a Master of Environmental Science at Miami University, completing an internship with The ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves in Columbus to help convert the Ohio Natural Heritage Database from paper maps to a GIS-based system. Over 20+ years, I worked with ODNR in central office in Columbus as a rare plant botanist, wildlife research technician, nature preserves administrator, and finally, the state trails administrator. In these positions, I had the opportunity to document many of Ohio's rarest plants and plant communities.

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