The colors are blooming in Petworth

by Steven Feingold

Do you ever find yourself walking around our beautiful neighborhood admiring the flowers, but with no clue what it is you’re looking at? Let me try to help. Welcome to "Petworth Blooming"... every month I’ll feature some of the most common plants seen around Petworth, and give a little info about each one. 

Black-eyed susans on 8th St. Garden Phlox, Coneflowers and Coreopsis in the background.

Summer has officially begun and Petworth’s gardens have been getting plenty of rain recently.  First up this month is the Maryland State flower: Black-eyed Susan’s. These flowers are in the aster family, which means that each “flower” is actually a cluster of many flowers. The tiny flowers that make up the “black eye” don’t make any colorful petals, but still make pollen and nectar for the bees.

Coneflowers in a garden on New Hampshire Ave.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) are great native flowers with a long bloom time. Also part the aster family, the central spiky cone is full of the tiny flowers that produce the nectar for pollinators. After flowering, the cone remains upright leaving something interesting to look at all winter long. Echinaceas are also used as an herbal remedy for relieving cold and flu like symptoms.

The centers start out flat, but as the individual flowers mature, the center develops the characteristic cone shape. Author’s garden on 4th St NW.

One of the most common shrubs planted in front of Petworth porches is the Hydrangea. These bushes are well known for having flowers which will change color based on the acidity of the soil they grow in. More acidic yields blue flowers while a more neutral pH results in pink flowers. There are also some species of hydrangea which only have white or cream flowers. Oak-leaf Hydrangea is a common one seen around the neighborhood. It’s large clusters of flowers can each grow over a foot long.

Hydrangeas with blue flowers on 9th St.

Close up of pink hydrangea flowers on 4th St.

Oak-leaf hydrangeas in front of the Petworth Library. After starting off white, the flowers have now faded to more of a cream color.

Blazing Star (Liatris) sends up tall spikes of purple flowers.  While most spikes of flowers open starting from the bottom and moving up, liatris opens the flowers on the top of the spike first. This is another good native pollinator plant and also a member of the aster family. They can be purchased cheaply as bulbs in the spring.  

Liatris spikes just starting to bloom in the flower garden in Grant Circle.

A colorful summer flower, Lantana is usually an annual in our climate since it normally grows in tropical regions.  There are many varieties sporting different growth habits and flower colors. The rounded clusters of flowers are well liked by butterflies and it will keep blooming all summer.

A short-growing, yellow lantana in the window box outside Fia’s Fabulous Finds

Both a color and a scent, Lavender is also an easy to grow plant that does well in sunny, dry areas.  Like many other fragrant plants it’s a member of the mint family (you can tell by the square stems). The flowers can be dried and used for potpourri or as a flavoring for cooking.

Lavender spilling over a retaining wall on 9th St.

Daylilies get their name because each flower typically only lasts one day and the flowers look like those of a lily. However, recent genetic analysis has revealed that daylilies are actually not part of the lily family, but rather belong in the group which includes asparagus! They are very easy to grow and come in many colors. 

Daylilies on the outside of Sherman Circle.

Coming up in July: Mallows, Cosmos, Crepe myrtles and more Asters

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Steven Feingold

Steven moved to Petworth in 2013, and he and his wife have since adopted three of the neighborhood's finest felines. He works in the biotech industry, programming robotic laboratory equipment. He enjoys gardening, hiking, carpentry and playing pickup soccer. You can email him with any plant or gardening questions you might have.

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