And the clouds opened

For some reason my little valley has been missing all the rains again, and up until last week it’s just been dry, dry, dry…. until Tuesday.  The cold front came through and we enjoyed two days of on and off rain, and the garden just soaked it all up.  It reminded me of one of those nature specials out of the Serengeti.

heucheras in dry shade

You can’t even weed this rock hard “topsoil”. My new heucheras are toughing it out, but this bed sure won’t make it onto a postcard any time soon!

The grass dried up, the trees started dropping leaves, the waterhole pulled in all the wildlife, and animals were on the move.  Anything not within hose range shriveled up, but at least the temperatures were low.  Last year we had a hot baking which killed off the weak, this year I think everyone should recover.

asclepias tuberosa during drought

Asclepias tuberosa is a tough one. I planted these seedlings out last summer and after a few weeks they shriveled up and died due to neglect. Spring resurrected them and they are now trying so hard…. but they’re not cacti!

It looks horrible though.  The front yard had two sprinkler days and just looks dry, the back looks dead!  Here’s the director of cinematography following me around getting the shots that I missed.

lawn dead from drought

I would call this dormant. The weeds even gave up.

But just like in the nature specials, when the rains return the landscape springs back into life.  I took a couple pictures at the end of the two days and although a few things look a bit battered, even the dead back lawn is giving out a sigh of relief.

front border with hydrangea

The front street border starts to put on its best show at this time of year, and although polite people would refer to its plantings as “a riot of color” others would call it a mess. Suits me just fine though!

The front foundation bed is a much calmer mix this year.  No bright oranges or over-bright coleus, but all my good intentions from last year of removing the overgrown evergreen and NOT letting any sunflowers grow up kinda fell to the wayside.

foundation planting

I don’t think I can physically pull and compost a sunflower, it’s just unethical to me…. sunflowers and dogwood seedlings, can’t pull either one.

I spend way too much time admiring the “Limelight” hydrangea.  It’s just about at full bloom now and I love its green going into white phase and the way its heavy flower heads are held up on strong stems.  It’s the only white plant out there, and it does stick out, but each spring I look proudly at its buds and imagine how much bigger the show will be!

limelight hydrangea

“Limelight” hydrangea nearly overwhelming the border….More of a purple-yellow theme going on here, but none of my planting plans are ever set in stone.

For some reason prior to the rain the yard was overrun with birds.  Flocks of starlings, catbirds, sparrows, house finches, hummingbirds, goldfinches, cardinals, doves, robins and mockingbirds would swarm each morning.  A large cherry and staghorn sumac berries brought in the fruit eaters, but the others were just all milling about looking for what-nots.  With all those hungry eyes it’s no wonder I’ve seen so few butterflies.

holes in lawn from birds feeding

The day after the rain the back lawn was riddled with all these bill holes. I don’t know what they found in the freshly wetted grass, but there was a flock of around 50 who kept milling around going from lawn to cherry to sumac to lawn.

Strangely enough since the rains came there seem to be far fewer birds.  I need to get out there and explain why their straying from script is throwing off the documentary.  On TV the return of the rains always brings on the migrating hordes!

sunflowers, dahlias and cannas

The rains were just in time for the former tropical bed. Leaves were starting to wilt and I just didn’t have it in me to add another bed to the water-triage list.

So we are back in business.  I hate drought and I hate watering and between the two of them dry spells always get ugly.  Now if it can only get a little warmer again this could have the makings of a great end of summer rally.

Ipomoea quamoclit

Maybe the birds can stop pecking off the tips of the cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) long enough for it to scale the arbor. It’s heading for the top but the birds are relentless. Good thing it’s not a bunny though, the other side for some reason is abused daily by our single resident baby bunny, and can’t even start climbing.

I should be thinking fall garden but I’m going to hide behind denial for a few more days.  The cool weather is supposed to warm up again and hopefully summer will stay strong for another couple weeks.  It’s hard to deny though as the cyclamen sprout and the corn ripens.  Go away autumn, I’m not a fall person!

26 comments on “And the clouds opened

  1. Cathy says:

    Good to hear you got some rain. That grass was looking very sad! Ours was also suffering, as the rain we had was just not enough combined with the heat – but that all ended this week and we seem to have similar conditions to you now. It’s more like April than August at the moment!
    We get woodpeckers on the grass after rain and they peck to get ants out of the ground, leaving holes everywhere!

    • bittster says:

      We also have some large woodpeckers called flickers which do the same, but I haven’t seen any since spring. I can’t imagine a diet filled with ants, peach crumble sounds much better!
      The heat makes such a big difference. For as short on water as we were not having a hot baking sun made all the difference.

  2. Pauline says:

    Wow, your plants recovered nicely and you now have plenty of colour to enjoy. Even though we don’t like rain, us gardeners know that we can’t do without it and the plants show their appreciation by flowering beautifully, your borders are beautiful.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Pauline. I thought of you last week when the rains came through. There was very little damage, but the wind did knock over my pole bean tower!

  3. We went through a similar drought a couple of years ago. We don’t realize the importance of water until we don’t have it. Your flower beds look great! Asclepias is a great drought tolerant plant so it should be fine. My hydrangea is confined to shade as our summer sun, heat and humidity would shrivel it dead away. But it’s one of my favorite shrubs. We are having an unusual cool summer this year so all the plants are enjoying the reprieve.

    • bittster says:

      The cool weather is a bit odd and I’m not sure I like it. I’ve been thinking about autumn way too much and August is just not the right month for that!
      I did almost lose the hydrangea one summer. The leaves had shriveled and dropped before I got the water out to it. This year it’s been on the watch list since I like it so much 🙂

  4. You really do have it dry there. The recent storm missed us, even though it was dark and threatening. The borders full of color are my kind of summer display. I love all that color. Big difference in the grass color in your images. It looks rather crispy in the photo where “even the weeds gave up.”

    • bittster says:

      I’m always amazed by how the grass returns from the dead after a dry summer. Not all grass will do it, but mine seems to be of the tough sort.
      I love the color too. There’s plenty of time for monochrome in the winter!

  5. Amazing what a little rain do, isn’t it! We kept missing out on rain here too, until this past Tuesday and Wednesday, and things were looking rather worse for the wear. All better now though! I also am not a fall person, and have not liked the chillier weather of the last few days. Some leaves are beginning to fall, and I am crying inside! Do you have a deer problem where you are? I would love to plant a hydrangea, but I’m scared of what our large deer population would do to it. Finally, your front border is a lovely riot of color, not a mess! It reminds me of my own rock garden, only yours is tidier!

    • bittster says:

      I wish I had the rock slope to put together a rock garden like yours…. I know I know, the grass is always greener!
      I don’t mind the cooler temperatures as much as I mind the season winding down. Boy oh Boy do I hate fall 🙂
      We’ve seen a deer or two here, but they’re not (yet) a problem. As the industrial park behind us grows in I think the deer will find it to be a nice place to raise a family compared to the mine-scarred wasteland it was formerly. I guess there’s good and bad in that.
      The hydrangea blooms on new wood, so even a nibbled down plant will bloom each summer, assuming they don’t eat off the blooms….

  6. pbmgarden says:

    Glad the rains found your garden again. It looks so lush one would not know you’d had drought. Love that hydrangea, well worthy of long gazes.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve been keeping up on the watering for the front yard, so when the rain came everything was ready to just soak it up! Watering helps, but there’s nothing like a good gentle summer storm.

  7. Chloris says:

    You really did need that rain. Your garden is looking great.. I love all the sunflowers, why would you want to get rid of them? Hydrangea Limelight really does steal the Limelight. It is gorgeous.
    I am resolutely trying to ignore the signs of Autumn too, but it gets more difficult every day, specially as it has turned quite cool here and I found yet more Colchicums out today.

    • bittster says:

      hmmmmm. Colchicums already. I’m hoping they stay underground for another two weeks if possible. I’d rather not see that solid a sign of autumn just yet.
      I love the sunflowers, so maybe a few will sneak in again next summer. But I do like the flexibility to change out annuals every year!

  8. Christina says:

    Glad your rains arrived just in time for the back garden grass by the look of it, though grass usually does recover that’s why I think you were right not to water it. The ‘used to be’ tropical bed still looks pretty tropical to me! I’m in the riot of colour gang for the front planting, don’t be so hard on yourself Frank.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Christina. I think I may have looked at a few too many gardening magazines with their designed and planted for the moment looks and always have those in the back of my mind. I’m still happy when anything puts out a bloom, and still love the surprises. Once it all becomes repetitive routine I think it starts to feel like work.
      I always feel a twinge of guilt when I pour all that clear clean drinking water onto the grass. It makes me think of all the parts of the world where this would seem a crime.

  9. I was glad for the rain, too, as my water barrels were empty. This cool weather is creating havoc in my vegetable garden where the peppers and cantaloupe just refuse to ripen. A couple of hot weeks would be nice before fall. Can’t believe we are talking abut fall already — where did the summer go? P. x

    • bittster says:

      mmmmmm, cantaloupe! One of my favorites.
      I’m also hoping for a few more hot days before the days become too short. I can’t even think of things like frost and snow right now, but I guess we still have a few months. Keep that in mind!

  10. I have been in that situation before, where it rains everywhere but on your garden. What a horrid predicament! Like you, I don’t try to water everything and the lawn goes dormant. But it is no fun for the gardener. My clay soil gets too hard to weed as well, and you certainly can’t plant anything. Glad the dry spell has broken for you. Around here I am starting to think about pre-colchicum clean-up.

    • bittster says:

      Same here with the colchicums. I still wanted to move a few and fortunately my less than perfect cleanups have left dried foliage right where the bulbs grew. It’s as if they just died back last week, and I kinda wish that was true!
      I hate the hard baked soil, it really drains any enthusiasm I might have had for weeding. Since the rain I’ve really made a dent in the crabgrass population!

  11. That is incredible to see how the grass sprang back to life. I hope you do enjoy a lovely end of August. Gardeners wait through the miserable months of Winter for THIS! Sunshine and warmth!

    • bittster says:

      It really is amazing to see what a good rain will do, and I’m glad it came early enough to enjoy the garden still before summer winds down. I think there’s plenty of time left but I’m surrounded by nay-sayers to the left and right who take joy in reminding me that winter will freeze back all the blooms! Maybe I should protest by not shoveling their driveways when the inevitable comes!

  12. Annette says:

    Guess the worms were emerging and the birds heard them. You can see our blackbirds tilting their heads and listening before they strike. Our valley got regular rain this summer…even now it’s drizzling a little, the Irish used to call it a soft day. Everything is lush and green and it saved me a lot of time because I usually spend hours rushing around with hose and cans at this time of year. I shan’t complain (too much) 😉

    • bittster says:

      Even regular rain can wear out it’s welcome sometimes. I guess for me it’s a tradeoff between needing to water and not needing to mow. I’m not responsible enough to water regularly and the plants suffer, but enough of the real needy plants are connected to a drip system and it really is a lifeline during hot dry weather.

  13. Well written and engaging post! I also hate drought and watering. We’ve had some dryish stretches in July and August but not too bad. But why on earth would you want to get rid of sunflowers? That’s madness, man.

    • bittster says:

      I don’t think I could get rid of the sunflowers even if I tried. When they sprout up so eagerly in the spring the thought of pulling them requires more ruthlessness than I am capable of.

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