The baseball postseason is about to start, and again the White Sox are nowhere to be found (thanks to the Minnesota Twins ripping their hearts out and showing them to them before they died). Despite that disappointment, I realize that this time of the season really shows us who are the elite players, the ones who have those intangible qualities of coming through in the clutch, leadership, and making others around them play better.
What does this have to do with gardening? Well, this is the garden's postseason too. At this point the plants that are still blooming, or whose performances remain in vivid memory, are those that held up through adversity, through challenging conditions all summer, and were the best that the garden had to offer. Now they're facing new foes like light frost conditions and shortened daylight, but the elite plants keep blooming and keep adding interest.
That's why this is the time to choose the season MVP, the Most Valuable Plant.
I'm pleased to say it was a difficult decision, thanks to the exemplary performance by so many members of the team. The nodding wild onions (Allium cernuum),
cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis),
and Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) were all impressive, despite a drenched start to the summer and then extreme heat and drought conditions later on.
The habaneros and chili peppers were quite possibly the stars of the vegetable garden, and I am still harvesting and storing loads of hot peppers.
And the nectaroscordums earlier this summer were so cool that I ordered 10 more, which should be arriving any day now. At times 2010 felt like the Year of the Onion around here (until my actual vegetable onions set flowers and crapped out in terms of producing anything edible; however, the green onions were fabulous).
The asters have had a standout year, particularly the smooth blue asters (Symphyotrichum laeve), which barely survived last year.
I'd have to give these the "Comeback Player of the Year" award, not quite the MVP.
The elm-leaved goldenrod is without a doubt one of the best additions to my garden in the past few years. Planted only this June, these little goldenrods have settled in and bloomed like crazy since August.
It's now getting close to mid-October and they're barely showing signs of fatigue. It was hard to NOT call them the MVP, but really a more accurate award is Rookie of the Year.
So who was the best of the best? Really there's only one who deserves the title: the 'David' phloxes.
These beauties burst into bloom in midsummer and still (again, it's October) have flowers clinging on, an unprecedented show of strength and longevity, particularly in light of not only this year's drought (which started right around when they began blooming), but also my repeated, extended absences from the garden. Abuse from Mother Nature and neglect from the gardener could not stop them! Granted, there were some flopping issues, but considering the above-mentioned factors and their vigorous blooming in spite of it all, I was not inclined to let that remove them award contention.
Their white flowers added a brightness to the garden that was greater than their size or hue would suggest. And, in true MVP fashion, they made the purple hyssops and pink cosmos around them look even more colorful. Most impressive, in my garden where powdery mildew has decimated too many flowers (and is still doing so to my Monardas), this mildew-resistant cultivar has lived up to the hype.
Congrats, 'David' phloxes! You are the 2010 Most Valuable Plant(s)!