Petworth flowers bring flair to close out the summer months

by Steven Feingold

If you’ve found yourself walking around our beautiful neighborhood admiring the flowers and wondering what you’re looking at, we’re here to help. Welcome to "Petworth Blooming,” a popular series featuring some of the most common plants and flowers seen around Petworth. I’ll do my best to avoid repeats from last year!

If you’re looking for a bit of tropical flair, then the Canna Lily has got a lot to offer.  Big bold leaves, and bright saturated blooms make this plant a big hit. Bulbs can be planted in late spring. Just like daylilies, the canna lily isn’t actually a lily; the closest relatives of these plants are gingers and bananas.

Yellow Canna Lily at the Grant Circle playground.

The Balloon Flower gets its name from the way the flower buds open. The ends of the petals remain fused together as the bud grows creating a puffed up “balloon”. Only when the flower is fully developed do the petals separate, exposing the reproductive parts of the flower. These flowers are usually blue, but pink and white are also available.

Blue balloon flower on Sherman Circle. Two unopened flowers in the back show the “balloon” shape.

While grown for its foliage, Hostas also sport some attractive flowers. Usually white or light purple, the flowers are carried on tall spikes. If you look closely at the structure of these flower stalks, you might be able to see the family resemblance to asparagus.

White hosta flowers along New Hampshire Avenue.

Butterfly Weed is a fantastic drought tolerant native plant. A member of the milkweed family, it can provide a host plant to Monarch butterflies, though it isn’t their favorite. The bright orange flowers give way to skinny seed pods and eventually to the flower seeds that are characteristic of the milkweed family. This low growing plant is great for low-maintenance sunny gardens.

Butterfly weed on New Hampshire Avenue.

Feather Reed Grass has become popular for a lot of institutional plantings. Clumping grasses in general are some of the most drought and sun tolerant plants around. For anyone looking at low maintenance plantings, be sure to include some decorative grasses.

Feather Reed Grass on Quincy Street.

Summer wouldn’t be complete without the Sunflower. Beloved by kids, adults and bees. Plenty of sizes and colors to choose from, but often need some staking and regular watering to get the best results.

Sunflower on Randolph Street.

One of a small handful of summer flowering trees is the Crepe Myrtle. Originally from India, Southeast Asia and Oceania, these trees can handle all the hot, dry weather of summer with ease. In addition to great flowers, mature trees develop beautiful mottled bark. Pink, purple and white are the most common colors; some cultivars have dark purplish leaves as well.

Crepe Myrtle on 9th Street.

Indian Blanket aka Firewheel is an annual or short lived perennial. The large two-toned flowers start in mid-summer and continue until frost hits. After blooming the flowers convert to fluffy white balls containing the seeds. They are easy to grow from seed and are native throughout the United States.

Indian Blanket on 9th Street.

The Cut-Leaf Coneflower has large, dark green leaves which have deep cut outs (hence the name). This native plant needs plenty of moisture when growing in full sun, but can tolerate drier soils if it’s growing in the shade. The petals are often slightly asymmetrical giving the flower a unique look.

Cut-leaf coneflower next to the Pizza hut parking lot. The rain garden here provides it with enough moisture to handle full sun.

And finally, I featured Hollyhock last month, but this double flowered version was too lovely to pass up!

Hollyhock on 8th Street

Previous Petworth Blooming Articles…

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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