Performance anxiety—It’s now or never



Here’s the progress of the street planter I planted with randomly chosen Ball annuals (in addition to the cannas we always have in these). Sorry—the images were not taken from the same angle. (I always think of these scientific criteria too late.) But from any angle, it’s clear that the Ball starts did very well in their streetside planter. As did the cannas this year. Considering that it’s been very hot and not that wet, I’m happy with the results.

You can’t see the verbena and angelonia, which are hiding under the canna leaves, but they’re thriving, considering that handicap. I also tried some of the Ball osteospermum in planters at home with less than admirable results. Boy did they get leggy! And it would be nice to get a critical mass of blooms before frost. Still waiting for those.

Strobilanthes at right; rudbeckia everywhere

This is the time of year—though there is plenty of season left—when I take a good look at what worked and what didn’t in terms of summer-peaking annuals and perennials. As always, strobilanthes is a big winner. I am now using this metallic purple foliage plant in the ground as well as in containers; it branches gracefully and weaves itself among the bulbs and perennials, which—thanks to the rudbeckia lacianata, rudbeckia hirta, heliopsis, and some of the lilies—are trending yellow. Love the lacianata “Golden Glow.” Who needs a yellow dahlia, zinnia, or mum when this plant is around?


And of course, the biggest thrill this year is finally entering the vegetable sweepstakes (Saturday’s pickings above).

Did you play favorites this year?

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I planted my Tomatoes in March (should’ve been fine for my area). We’ve had such a cool summer that your bowl of produce has more ripe veggies than my entire garden has thus far !

  2. The first time I saw Strobilanthes I had a fit. It was growing on the edge of a Japanese Maple and when I first saw it I was thunderstruck. I’d never seen such a vision. We were on this bird garden tour sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited if I remember correctly. Anyways I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off asking anyone and everyone there would it be possible did they think for a novice gardener like myself to actually have one of the Strobilanthes in my garden too? ( I couldn’t pronounce “Strobilanthes” then and can’t now) And this one nice gentleman told my wife and I that if we’d follow him after we left that house to about 4 blocks from there where a nursery he knew was, that my wish of owning a ‘Persian Shield’ might come true. It did. When I got home my wife was in the front seat passenger side, I was driving and in the backseat was as many quarts Strobilanthes as I could stuff on the seat and in the floor board…..It was the first time and not the last I over bought but I was so happy when I got home and started finding little places to put them. Next to Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’, in the midst of Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’ and I let a “John Clayton’ honeysuckle trail down from the edge of a fence top on to and into one my of many that season ‘Persian Shields”…..Some of my combos, and I had so many that year that were for my money successes and some where, well NOT so successful…;-) But I was in love so it didn’t matter that much then. I was in love with Strobilanthes. Who knew you could fall in love with something called Strobilanthes. ..:-) It was kinda like my wife falling in love with me, who could have imagined it but I’m sure glad she did and I’m sure glad I fell in love with Strobilanthes. I’ve enjoyed it in my garden every year since. Who ever heard of plant that changes colors depending where you look at from? It’s like planting a chameleon.

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