I went to bed last night to the sight and sound of lightning and thunder from a storm 30 miles to the west. We didn't get any rain from it. I awoke this morning at 5:45 a.m. to the same western lightning and thunder and hurried outside to put some inorganic fertilizer (I know...so sue me) on a few new pet roses. And then I ran into town to fertilize the K-State Rose Garden. All the time wondering when the lightning, now easily within my horizon, was going to stop me in my tracks. I had to worry about the lightning, but I needn't have worried about getting rain. We didn't get rain. The radar showed it raining on us but nothing was reaching the ground; I guess it was boiling off in the early morning heat. The storms just fizzled out in the face of the 104F temp predicted today. It is going to be a long week of plus-100 temperatures in the garden.
While I was at the KSU garden this morning, in between dodging the lightning, I had to admire the wisdom of a real gardener, one with a degree in horticulture to add to his experience, who planted the small island bed in the center of the parking lot. It is filled with hollyhocks and flanked by low airy grasses on the edges. There is no water to this bed (pictured at right) other than the meager July rains and what can be hand-carried to it, but here it is, happy and healthy and the hollyhocks beginning to bloom. The bloom above is a closeup of one of those single hollyhock blooms, beautiful in its simplicity, intricate in its color shading. And the grasses around the bed are framing it well, transitioning to the taller hollyhocks.
A variation on that theme was a corner bed in the same parking area, pictured at left, daylilies planted at the feet of the hollyhocks and taller grasses to the fenceline, but no less water-wise or harder to maintain then the island bed pictured above. I believe there are a number of lessons to take to heart here; 1) Choose the plant for the site. 2) The plants our grandmothers grew still have a lot going for them. 3) Step outside normal landscaping plants and practices when you can. 4) Visit your local botanical garden or University garden or the garden of a professional as often as you can because they are full of ideas. 5) Get a degree in horticulture if you really want to garden...because I'm quite impressed at the brilliance of this hollyhock plan and I would probably have never thought about it, amateur that I am.