A quick August walkabout

Although the air practically drips humidity and the the nights are muggy it’s still nothing compared to summers South of the Mason Dixon line.  Plus it’s only been a few days, and it’s actually rained regularly for three weeks now and I do love a nice summer thunderstorm so I’m fine with all of it.  What a relief from the relentless dry which haunted me all of June and July (and still haunts much of the East Coast) and what a change the gardens have gone through as they try to get all the growing in which didn’t happen during the first half of summer.

front street border

I think I show this view every summer as the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea comes into bloom along the street.  It’s an awesome plant.

Here’s a quick tour of the good and bad which summer has brought to the rest of the garden… and by ‘rest’ I mean the part which I practically gave up on when the rains stopped.

limelight hydrangea

Ok so I did give this bush some water when it began to wilt and yellow. How could I risk missing these blooms!

Along the street the plants are on their own and most handle drought with style.

front street border

‘Karley Rose’ fountain grass, ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass and perovskia. The purple coneflowers didn’t make it this year and their blooms just dried up and wilted without extra watering.

The grasses really are reliable, but without a doubt ‘Karl Foerster’ is my favorite.  I think I’ve gone on about it enough in the past but please excuse just one more picture.

sunflowers and feather reed grass

Sunflowers have a knack for putting themselves in just the right spot. If I could do a mass planting of this combo with sunflowers, perovskia and Karl I would do it without a second thought.

A few of the annuals planted in June have responded to the rain and are now looking like they want to live after all.

purple zinnia

Not sure if my color choices are really on point with the annuals this year, but a zinnia looks great anywhere.

A three year old ‘Dixieland’ miscanthus has finally put its roots down and taken off.  Me and variegation are always friends so obviously there was a good chance the two of us would hit it off… and we have 🙂

sedum brilliant and dixieland miscanthus

‘Dixieland’ is a dwarf miscanthus which generally goes against my love of giant plants, but for this one I’ll be glad to avoid the floppiness of its variegated big brother, and for the mailman’s sake this size is far less intimidating.

Things start to go downhill as you look to the house.

sumac tiger eyes

Someday I’ll grow up and realize ‘Tiger Eyes’ staghorn sumac is too aggressive a spreader for smaller planting areas and too informal a look for foundation plantings, but that realization may still be decades off.

Once you walk past the tropical bed and head out back it becomes project after project.

lasagna garden bed

Weeds are once again exploding in the bed-which-I-can’t-decide-what-to-do-with. Iris bed fell through, veggie bed fell through, dahlia bed fell through… and still it sits.

At least when it was dry the crabgrass wasn’t a problem.

crabgrass weed

Most of the iris and daffodils have been dug but just enough remain that I can’t really move on with this bed either.  Plus without a lawn worth mowing I don’t have any mulch to smother the crabgrass with and its spontaneous regeneration will make for a horrible mess in another week.  But on the bright side I do see the rabbits here all the time nibbling.

The return of rain has brought a sort of second spring to some parts of the garden.

magnolia rebloom ann

Magnolia ‘Ann’ was yellowing, wilted and dropping leaves and must have been headed towards dormancy, but the rains brought on a flush of excitement in the form of summer blooms.

Even though all the fancier phlox in full sun fried, the phlox ‘weeds’ which I allowed to selfseed in this bed were saved by the shadow of the house.  There’s nothing which I like about this bed although my wife “loves!” the grassy clump of Panicum ‘cloud nine’ in the center.  I’ve tried mowing everything down and creating a dull bed o’mulch but the minute I turn my head it’s all back.

self seeded phlox

Blech. Golden yellow with washed out pink in front of the orangey brick of the house. Someone has plans to add a master bedroom to this end of the house and although someone else firmly disagrees, that opinion is usually crushed over time just like anything else which could be planted in the meantime.

To give a final dose of reality to this mess of a post here’s a photo of the roughly graded fill which has been dumped next door and which has also been added to my project list.  It sounded like a good idea when my neighbor offered to just keep going with his own fill project, but now I’m faced with digging and raking and seeding.  The plan is for a new meadow garden but it sure is an inviting bit of real estate there behind the MIL’s house.  Sunflowers would do well there I’m sure, but for now I feel like I’m in a prison chain gang as I break up the fill with a pick so I can shovel it over into the low spots.

graded fill

My yard used to go across all at nearly the same level, but now the grade has been raised several feet. I wonder how much I could raise my own yard… hmmm.

So I guess if there’s any point to this post it’s that my garden looks much nicer in a cropped closeup rather than the big picture, and that your own garden is probably much nicer than you give it credit for.  Don’t feel bad for me though, I’m quite happy in my interesting mess and I (sometimes) do enjoy the journey more than the finished product.  Plus we’re off for a few days next week camping so that’s always fun 🙂

Have a great week!


25 comments on “A quick August walkabout

  1. You could fill that fill area with sunflowers, Karl Foerster, and perovskia! Just sayin’!

    • bittster says:

      What a sight that would be! But so perennial. I’m not sure how much time I’m willing to commit to maintaining that area… considering I’ve already committed hours to leveling the fill….

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    It’s always interesting to seeing another gardener’s work-in-progress, which, truth be told, all of our gardens are. I think your berm looks fabulous. I should do something similar out front along the road, so long as the road crews leave it alone. They are very zealous with their mowing machine…I cringe every time I hear it.

    • bittster says:

      The bed along the street is actually very little maintenance compared to many of the less impressive parts of the garden. A few of the plants might be very well matched to your roadfront!
      County mowing can be a disaster, but it’s probably not as bad as all the spraying they do around here. When everything goes dead along the road I can’t understand why more people don’t complain!

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I might steal a page from your book there. 😉
        Thank god they don’t spray herbicides around here – people would flip out if they did. There is always a to-do when the power company sprays along the high tension wires, but to cut all those miles by hand would be prohibitive.

  3. Christina says:

    Love hearing you sound so upbeat. I agree with Kimberly, why not do the mass planting, it would look amazing and be very little work once planted!

    • bittster says:

      The rain really improves my attitude, a drying out, dying garden gets me down and here the plants just aren’t prepared for it.
      I will plan for something planted in mass, I’ll have to see what it will be though!

  4. Kevin says:

    I think that’s both the beauty and pain of gardening — the projects never seem to end. Everything, though, looks fantastic.

  5. Cathy says:

    I agree with Kimberley – definitely more Karl Foerster in that new area, with some other grasses and Verbena and Sunflowers in between… no watering necessary! 😉 That front street bed is great for inspiration. And Limelight is gorgeous.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve just been waiting for any excuse to divide up the Karl Foerster clumps and spread them around, I had many more clumps at the last garden 🙂
      A couple clumps of ‘Limelight’ wouldn’t be all that bad either!

  6. A second flush of bloom on the magnolia! How wonderful!

    • bittster says:

      It was a nice surprise seeing the magnolia flowering. This was actually more bloom than it had in the spring… because of the stupid late freeze :/

  7. I want to give a shout-out for the Tiger Eyes sumac – it looks fabulous! I think informal foundation plantings are the best, anyway. There’s way too much “buttoned up formality” in the foundation world for my taste.

    • bittster says:

      Thank you! I really can’t imagine giving up the sumac and have actually let it spread quite a bit. I’m hoping its fruit is as popular as the regular staghorn sumac is.
      Yeah the driveway, walk, and front porch are plenty formal. I really like the froth of sumac coming up here and there, and they’re not all that bad to pull when it gets to be too much.

  8. I’ve put a Tiger Eyes sumac in a much smaller area than yours. I think they look great contrasting with the house and more formal shrub. They can be aggressive and annoying but I love em. Your street side bed is gorgeous. What a beautiful sight for walkers.

    • bittster says:

      I’m glad you approve of the sumac out front. I think another lump of green would have been just too boring for the spot, and suckers and runners and all I still love ‘Tiger Eyes’ as well!

  9. I love the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, Frank, and have decided to put one in the space created by the silver maple that we took down. Seems we are getting a break in the sauna-like weather just in time for your camping trip. Enjoy! P. x

    • bittster says:

      We had some nice cool weather up in New Hampshire, it was the perfect late summer getaway!
      You made a great choice to add ‘Limelight’, it’s one of my favorite shrubs and the show it puts on each year is amazing!

  10. Looking at your photo, I now think that Miscanthus ‘Dixieland’ is probably the one that’s here, courtesy of the now-infamous Former Owners. At least I don’t need to keep hacking it back the way I have been doing this year with the Blue Lyme Grass and the big monster grasses in the backyard. Which reminds me, I need to get out there again with the shears and it’s only been a week! *sigh*

    • bittster says:

      Ugh. Is there no rest in your garden!? I’ve decided roundup is not quite the dirty word which everyone seems to enjoy making it in to, and a good slash and burn and turn to lawn is an action step, not giving up!
      You need to pull yourself together before leaf-fall… either that or get the number of a good lawn service 🙂

  11. Annette says:

    Your borders look absolutely stunning, Frank, all the moisture, gosh, how I envy you! We’ve had hardly any rain and are all shrivelling…the grasses with the Perovskia and your sumac border are my favourites. You’re showing some great combiantion skills, well done x PS: Just wrote a post on my ‘tropical border’ for you by the way.

    • bittster says:

      thanks Annette that’s so nice of you to say. I’m enjoying all the rain this summer, it’s been coming down regularly since the beginning of August and practically follows a gardening book as to when and how much. Trust me when I say this kind of good fortune is VERY unusual for my neck of the woods!

  12. Your garden is looking fine. So lucky you have had 3 weeks of rain. I heard we are still in drought and temps were up to 98° F. Of course my husband could be exaggerating a bit so I feel sorry for him. In London, they were having a heatwave too, but only in the upper 80’s.

    • bittster says:

      I’m practically in shock each time it rains. We NEVER have such regular rain at this time of year and it’s always a game of hoping for enough moisture so that a little fall planting can be done before the deadly cold of winter settles in.

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