Spider sense


Since I didn't get around to planting any annuals this year, flowers are sparse in my August garden. Thankfully I can count on my non-stop cleomes (Cleome hassleriana). Another one of my easy-care "invasive" plants, cleomes are South American annuals that reseed generously. They begin flowering in June and keep blooming until we get a hard frost in late October. They don't mind heat or dry conditions, and any flower that can look so cheerful in the droopy part of summer is welcome in my garden.  I've wondered why their common name is spider flowers (I seem to be drawn to all things arachnid this summer). They do have a spidery appearance—the stamens stretching out from the flowers like long legs dancing in the air—but the way they bloom continuously is like watching a spider weaving its web as it climbs. A ring of darker new flowers forms a crown at the top of the flower head, and as they open they become lighter and softer, their stamens reaching out around them. The flowering keeps moving up as seed pods extend out in a whorl around the stem. If I cut them back, they branch out and form new flower heads, but I like keeping a few uncut, just to see how far they will climb. Taller than me! When the seed pods are dry I collect them for re-seeding next year. Though every summer I'm surprised by cleomes that spring up in the most unexpected corners. Just like garden spiders.