Mexican Hat and Black-eyed Susan Vine

IMG_5562Because I edit a garden magazine, I’m constantly tempted by new plants — whether they are new on the market or just new to me. This year, I’ve planted two “new to me” plants that have brightened up different spots in the garden.

On the front porch, I put a Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) in a pot. Despite the common-name reference to a favorite prairie plant, this vine is tropical. It was easy to grow from seed and once out on the porch, it started to climb its support. Vines grow 5 to 10 feet long and can be used as a trailer in a window box or hanging basket or as a climber on a trellis. The 2-inch-diameter flowers come in orange and yellow shades and contrast starkly with the deep black eyes at the plant’s center.

IMG_5476In the July/August issue of Northern Gardener, native plants columnist Lynn Steiner recommends Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) for its diminutive size, attractive foliage and bright flowers. This is a tough plant that preforms well in dry conditions, sun or light shade, and has an unusual, sombrero-shaped bloom that inspired the common name. When I saw some plants on sale, I bought three. They seemed to struggle a bit at first in the bed, which has plenty of shrub roots, but they’re blooming now and seem to be establishing themselves.

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