'Cafe Au Lait' was the "It" Dahlia of a few years ago, in huge demand as a cut flower for weddings and for gardeners. It was hard to find; supply is now better. I bought tubers this spring.
It is obvious what all the fuss was about. An ivory petal with a lavender/white striped reverse creates, unexpectedly, a pinkish-pale coffee effect. You stare and stare and can't figure out why the flower appears a delicate tan. It's quite amazing. Huge, bold, and yet ethereal.
I bought three tubers. One failed (no bud eye?), one plant is weak and stunted. The last is is enormous and full of huge flowers. Allowances can be made for stunning beauty. Recommended!
It makes up, to an extent, for the general appearance of the garden--burnt.
I fear one of the Lagerstroemia 'Dynamite's is dying.
The healthy one:
The sick one:
Sigh. At least it won't be too difficult to dig out. This used to be Leucadendron 'Pisa':
This summer's tasks, normally one (watering) are two: watering, and in the garden averting eyes as necessary, from painful sights.
Despite this being summer, a few new plants. Bougainvilleas are best planted at the start of summer's heat--their subtropical root systems want warm soil to establish, and when the plant is small, the roots are frail. (When the plant is established, you'll never be able to get rid of it.) The new Bougie is another attempt at a privacy screen for our balcony. It was too hot there for tough rose 'Iceberg', so one more try, this time with much tougher Bougainvillea 'California Gold'. The golden Bougie bracts with the gold cypress and blue pot seems to work in terms of color.
A plant trade brought me unexpected treasures...
Ratibida columnifera 'Red', Pycnostachys urticifolia, and Hymenolepas crithmoides.
R. columnifera, common name Mexican Hat for the shape of its flowers, is a tough native of western high deserts--a climate providing a brutal combination of scorching summers, frigid winters, and little rain. I've seen it here and there in dry gardens, and love it, as do bees and butterflies.
H. crithmoides is a shrubby plant with needle-like foliage of the South African Fynbos region (Namaqualand and SW Cape) with pollinator-attracting bright yellow flowers. Cool!
Also from Southern Africa, Pycnostachys urticifolia reminds me of a Plectranthus (they are both in Lamiaceae) with its fuzzy foliage and shrubby habit. Here the attraction is intense blue flowers of an odd shape, like witches hats, which is the common name.
What unexpected treasures! All I brought for trade was some ordinary Aloes and Agaves, though I did give some Leucospermum and Calothamnus villosus seeds to the kind lady who provided the above three plants. She's very skilled in growing all sorts of plants from seed.
A few comforts besides the glorious Dahlia and new plants--the Lobelia 'Queen Victoria' is still alive with flowers imminent. Yes, it's a bit toasted despite several frantic misting sessions in the worst of the heat each day, but at least it survived.
And the Scabiosa 'Black Pom Pom' flowers have finally opened. Cute. Seriously cute, and the color is wonderful.