The front border among other things

It stopped raining long enough this afternoon for me to get out there and do some watering.  The deluge of nearly 1/10 of an inch did little more than dampen the top layer of mulch and cancel a Little League game, but it was enough to cool things down at least.  Maybe it also gave the pestering hordes of gnats a nice drink as well, God only knows they must be getting tired of sipping my blood and sweat all month.  Here’s how the lawn out front looked yesterday morning.

dormant lawn

Needless to say I don’t bother watering the lawn.  I feel like watering the lawn is a gateway drug to bagging clippings, spraying for weeds, thatching, aerating, spraying for grubs… all those tedious chores which would ruin this vacation from mowing.  On the down side it looks like crap until the rains come back.

I hope my crabbiness about the weather doesn’t come on too thick.   Weatherwise I feel like I’m riding one of those shoddy, barely-passed-inspection carnival rides where you get thrown back and forth between burning and freezing, drought and flood, and all you want is Dramamine and a Tylenol when it comes to a stop.  Maybe today’s misting and this week’s milder temperatures will improve my outlook.  I think it will, especially when there are flowers toughing it out and cheering me up.

linaria purpurea

A new one this year is Linaria purpurea (toadflax), a hopefully hardy and long blooming airy perennial which was seeded out last year. The seed was supposed to be for ‘Canon Went’, a pink version, but only one or two stalks came true. No big deal as I like it just fine in the regular lilac-blue color.

I’ve done next to nothing on the front border since mulching it with shredded leaves in March… and weeding and deadheading once in May.  That’s great because it still looks decent enough, but not so great since I like to add a few patches of hard working annuals and tropicals in there to brighten up the summer months.  This pattern of neglect isn’t way out of the ordinary though, so even if it’s getting late for annuals I’m 99% sure that if I finally get it planted there will still be a decent show… but I’m not doing the same for the foundation bed.  It’s so dry the majority of the perennials are wilted and dying and I have no desire to even look at it long enough to even consider carving out a few watered spots for annuals.  The blue fescue border was de-seeded last weekend and in general it looks good enough, so I’ll leave it at that.

blue fescue border

I pulled off all the fescue seed heads and the foundation planting will just have to stay like this for the summer… although I may have to airlift out a few hellebores.  They look terrible all flat and yellowing and it may be time to find them a spot in the backyard with a little shade.

It’s curious to me how some years an odd balance tips and suddenly your most reliable standards vanish.  This year the front border is missing the hordes of rudbeckia which dominated last summer and in their place is a nice wash of rose campion (Lychnis coronaria).  Many people look down on this old fashioned, reseeding, short-lived perennial, but I love it for its tolerance of droughty soils, its soft gray foliage, and its cheerfully bright flowers.  It’s a perfect compliment to the nearly-a-weed white of the oxeye daisies.

allium seedheads

The front border from the near end.  This perspective is perfect for avoiding all the gaps and holes which become apparent when the border is admired head on 🙂

My absolute favorite right now isn’t even a flower though, its the dried round seedheads of allium ‘Pinball Wizard’.  Big fluffy spheres which seem to float above the border are just perfect this year and I’m planning on lifting the bulbs this week to spread them out a bit (the original single bulb has split into four now and I don’t want it to have any overcrowding issues.

lychnis coronaria rose campion

Rose campion, oxeye daisies, and another view of my lovely allium seed heads.  Might as well enjoy the dried stalks since everything else seems to be on its way to drying up completely as well.

Once you move towards the far end of the border things go downhill fast.  Everything in this border gets done from the near end to the far, and unless I’m making a strong effort to be fair, all the good plants, best mulch, nicest compost, most delicate pampering…. all that happens at the one end and rarely carries all the way through to the other side.  I’m pretty sure that the most obvious solution to this problem is to make the border wider again.  More room, more plants, more excitement… the natural choice when faced with a border which might already be a little too much work 🙂

late June perennial border

If I can get a shovel down into the rock hard lawn I could easily bring this border out another foot or two without interfering with third base (which is usually located right next to the chartreuse leaves of the ‘Golden Sunshine’ willow).  I’ll just need to plant something which can handle a few missed kickballs and base overruns.  

Digging will have to wait until August at earliest.  Who knows what there will be left to plant in August, but we’re approaching phlox season and no bed digging is worth the risk of interfering with flowering phlox enjoyment.  Just today one of my new ones opened and it is so amazing I’m sure you’ll see it here shortly.  Wow is all I can say, and to be honest I haven’t been this completely excited about a new flower since at least last week.

the potager in June

The potager in June with its freshly mulched beds, newly concrete-reinforced rebar archway, and the first bright reds and pinks of tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata).  There are even a few vegetables planted (although the boxwood still needs trimming).

With all the work I’ve done recently in weeding and trimming you might be able to tell I’m now trying to catch up on the blogging.  Well, blogging and watering of course… but please bear with me as sore muscles recover indoors and I throw out a bunch of posts in what might be too little time, and please feel free to skip commenting or even ‘liking’ since I’d hate to wear out my welcome!

Enjoy your week and I’ll be back Thursday to join up with Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome for her Thursday Feature.  Maybe I’ll even feature the new phlox, although saying that pretty much guarantees a woodchuck or deer attack tonight…

21 comments on “The front border among other things

  1. Pauline says:

    Your front border is amazing, I love your choice of plants, such lovely combinations! Your soil must be the opposite of mine as you grow all the plants that I would love to have but can’t because of our heavy clay and rain!

    • bittster says:

      Haha, you are welcome to my poor, thin, droughty soil anytime, but it does help in keeping things on the lean and slug-free side! Believe it or not the soil is actually quite heavy, it’s just that it dries out and then doesn’t let the moisture back in, so the top inch will get water but the roots further down remain completely dry… but then again I think if it rained endlessly even my soil would rot just about anything.

  2. Chloris says:

    And here it never stop raining. Endless, rain. The sun comes out now and then, but not for long. At least I have no use for the hose this year. I wouldn’ t mind a bit of your scorched earth for a bit. Linaria purpurea is very pretty and seeds around everywhere. It looks lovely with the silvery Artemesia.

    • bittster says:

      So sorry to hear about your rain. I can only imagine the slugs and snails frolicking and procreating in the dank shadows of your garden. I hope the skies clear shortly and you can get back to enjoying warmth and sun…
      Or maybe a trip is in order? Retreat is an often underated option for when the weather constantly insults good sense.

  3. Christina says:

    Linaria grows in the countryside around the house and last year some came in, there are a couple of plants again this year so I’m happy. After just one week of heat, I’ve had enough but will have to put up with it until September but I mustn’t complain too much when I read Chloris’s comments and know what it’s like to have endless grey days and rain – not nice!

    • bittster says:

      Good to know the linaria can handle a little stress, it looks so delicate I was worried about it drying out.
      Feel free to complain about the heat, I know I would. When I lived in Texas the relentless heat and drought and gray landscape for weeks on end just sucked the life out of you. I hope you have it a little better than that!

  4. Annette says:

    Poor Frank, hope your wilting will end soon. Weather is funny this year. Here it has been so English, my borders have never looked so good (are they English too? 😉 ). I’ve got Linaria too and it seeds about everywhere without ever becoming a nuisance. Your front border looks nice, Lychnis is just a fab plant. I think my new book may be of interest for you as it deals with the sort of problems you’re facing. For the time being, check out Lauren and Scott Springer Ogden’s ‘Plant-driven design’ which I love…think you’d enjoy it too. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      🙂 your new book will be exciting I’m sure! I’ll have to keep an eye out for the Springer Ogden book, I remember reading about Lauren (then just Springer)’s landscape out west and was amazed by the variety and hardiness of the plants she was growing… and of course the beauty. It really is amazing the diversity of plants which rarely are invited inside the garden gate.
      I hope you find some time to let your borders make an appearance soon. They were already a sight to behold last year!
      I’ve broken down and watered the front bed. I’m hoping to get a few annuals in and keep them going through the dry… I already have them started, might as well take a chance!

  5. If you think your border looks grim, you must be a very clever photographer. I think it looks very good. We had a warm winter and an unusually cool spring, which threw everything in my garden into confusion. Now we’re into proper summer weather–hot, muggy, disgusting; literally scorched earth. I have oceans of spurge threatening to take over the entire front yard, which could use a redo anyway, but I don’t dare dig anything up until Labor Day because it’s going to be just. too. hot. On the upside, I love my bees, I’m getting tons of green beans, and the tadpoles in my rain barrel are growing their legs. Hang in there!

    • bittster says:

      Good to hear from you, I just checked my reader to make sure I was still getting your posts and when I did that, one mysteriously popped up. Hopefully they’ll all show now since I had a lot of catching up to do. Congrats on the bees!
      We’re into a cool spell today and I broke down and watered in preparation for planting. I don’t do ‘scorched earth’ well and if a little water means not being depressed from now to September I’ll just have to deal with the water bill when it comes!

  6. Cathy says:

    I do hope the phlox gets overlooked and you can show it to us. That border with the Lychnis is looking great – I love it too for its sheer stubbornness, refusing to be beaten by the hottest of summers. What is the grass flowering in that border? I think you might end up loving the Linaria as much as I do too. Mine has seeded itself around in both pink and purple and looks great all year. Occasionally I cut tall bits down and it sends up new shoots constantly. Hope your weather settles a bit. What a turbulent year it has been weatherwise so far!

    • bittster says:

      I’ll have to try giving the Linaria a trim when it looks a little tired. The stalks look so healthy when they sprout up, I love the solid stems and perfectly grayish upright foliage, and I think you’re right to have it as a favorite!
      The grass is ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass. I love it and I think it’s safe to say it’s my number one grass.
      I wonder what kind of weather we will see over the next few months. I think the last time we were in a similar pattern it was a long cool, yet dry summer. I want my swimming weather though 🙂

  7. I am sorry you are still dry. We just got rain earlier this week, and before that our lawn looked like yours and I was putting off planting anything because it was dry. But we got an inch and I spent the day working through my “after a good rain” list. How did you de-seed the fescue? Clip it with shears or pull the seeds off by hand? Either way sound tedious. Looking forward to Thursday’s post!

    • bittster says:

      yup, de-seeding the fescue was a pain. I pulled and plucked the stalks and my hands were sore for a day or two afterwards. Me thinks this is as far as I’m going with a fescue border since anymore plucking would put me over the edge!
      We had a little unexpected rain last night so hopefully it helped, but we really need a good day long soaking to get down through the foliage and mulch and into the soil.
      Something about a good rain re-motivates you just like it does the plants. Hope you moved along down your list, your online pictures seem to say yes since I’ve been noticing cultivated soil and no weeds on the background 🙂

  8. I guess you didn’t get all the nice rain we did on Monday afternoon–I accidentally left a cooler open on the driveway, and there was more than an inch of water in it! Then we had a bit more on Tuesday, too! It’s been nice to give the hose a break!

    • bittster says:

      Yeah the rain mostly missed us and I was out watering the next day. It barely gets to the soil between overhanging leaves and dry mulch. Your garden looks far greener, I guess that’s how things roll in the Highlands!

  9. I love Rose Campion, and need some in my garden. A local friend has promised me some of hers, but hasn’t ponied up yet! I also lost most of my Rudbeckia at the far end of the rock garden, and am looking for something to replace it. I’m not sure I’ll put Rudbeckia back in there; in the past few years the woodchucks have developed a taste for it. *$#@%$#”**!

  10. I have the same linaria and it will seed itself around the garden very gently. Maybe adding soaker hoses would help with the watering. I hook up the hose to mine and let them run for a few hours. Easy stuff! Gotta love phlox season! Spider mites have attacked some of my phlox again but they’re blooming anyway. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      I’m looking forward to the Linaria spreading around a little. I see that it’s already got some ripe seeds ready to scatter.
      For some reason I have no faith in soaker hoses. My first (and only) attempt ended up with a hose that watered a few spots too much and missed the rest. I’m far too controlling to let that happen!
      I never did follow your advice and trim back the spidery phlox. The woodchuck came along and did it for me and it seems to have worked! It’s just going to bloom a little later 🙂

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