It appears a little catching up needs to be done.  A gardener’s life is always hectic in the spring but for a while I was doing just fine keeping up.  Not to brag but this spring was exceptionally well under-control, with weeding and seeding and cutting and moving all happening close to when they should… something that has never happened in years prior here at the sorta ‘burb.  I was even halfway close to getting all the new purchases into the ground within days of buying them, rather than nearly killing them two or three times before planting.  Let me tell you it’s amazing what a difference that makes!  But then the blahs hit.  Relentless mowing and trimming and spider mites and weeds and the whole ‘what’s the point’ thought process set in as June turned into July and the temperature and humidity tag teamed each other to new heights.  When you reach the end of your ‘around the garden weeding tour’ only to find yourself at the start of the next ‘around the yard weeding tour’ it can get a little discouraging, and to be honest that’s where I left off.  Most of the new plants and annuals were in the ground, the automatic drip lines to the container plantings were working, all the insects were well fed… so off to the pool, a weekend at Omi and Opa’s, some porch sitting, and then a week off to Disney to realize how good I had it all along.  Miles of trudging through 100F+ heat indices and then waiting on lines for every foreseeable human need can change a person, and I have returned renewed.  Here are a few late June/ early July highlights to begin my return to gardening. 😉

clematis ville de lyons

Clematis suffer here in poor locations with shoddy supports.  I finally moved ‘Ville de Lyons’ to a decent spot and she’s rewarded me with a wonderful show of flowers.  Now I just need to move a nice blue to the other side!

This post may seem entirely random because it is.  I don’t bother taking pictures when I’m disgusted with the garden so all the last few weeks can offer are a few furtive scurries outside when I felt like I had to get a few pictures onto the camera even though I knew there wasn’t much worth documenting.

common milkweed

Common milkweed right next to the front door.  Of course it’s the absolute wrong place for a weed so  I trimmed it down to two feet the day after it was flattened by a storm… only to see my first Monarch butterfly 24 hours later.

Speaking of documenting, I do have to tally up another $33 for two amazingly grown, full of buds, Japanese iris which I bought for myself as a Father’s Day gift.  I know I shouldn’t count them since they were a gift, but being that I was surprised with an actual gift certificate the next day I guess I shouldn’t push my luck so onto the 2018 tally they go.

iris lion king

Iris ensata ‘Lion King’ is a lot of everything.  Maybe this is my own personal point of ‘too much’ because I prefer the simpler purple one I bought the same day, but I guess we’ll see next year… assuming I can keep it alive 🙂

Add on a random tornado that touched down about seven miles down the interstate.  That’s the second one in about two years, kind of bizarre considering no one remembers ever having tornados here before.

tornado damage

Fortunately the tornado hit a purely commercial area, later in the evening after things had closed down.  Timing was everything.

Then the heat and humidity descended.  Heat for us means upper nineties so if the Southerners can excuse a little whining I just want to say it felt really hot.  Not hot enough to scorch the lawn yet (and spare me from all the mind numbing mowing) but it was hot enough to wake up every bug and blight and get them energized and inspired enough to take on the plant world.

june front border

Apparently thick haze wasn’t enough to mellow out the harsh light of mid-day, but here’s the front border just waking up from it’s June lull.  Some color, but still mostly green.

The big grasses are one of the plants which seem to thrive on heat and dry spells.

ornamental grasses

Along the street the variegated giant reed grass is looking awesome again and the pink fountain grass (Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’) is flowering up a storm.  Last year all the rain had the fountain grass too lush and green and completely floppy.

One plant which did not appreciate the humidity were the hollyhocks (Alcea rosea).  As the flowers began to open up from the bottom of the seven foot stalks, the orange spots of rust followed behind, creeping from leaf to leaf.  Just for the record I don’t remember rust on hollyhocks being such a plague years ago when my mother grew these.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find that this is some new strain which came into the country somewhere along the line, and has ended any hopes of fungicide-free hollyhock growing on the East Coast.

hollyhock rust

The orange spots of hollyhock rust working their way up from the base of the plant.  This will not end well.

A garden which actually enjoys some heat and humidity is the tropical bed.  The cannas have yet to take off but given a little water and fertilizer I know they will (and I’m even more confident about that since this photo dates back to the end of June).

june tropical garden

The red of ‘Black Forest’ rose continues to heat up the tropical border, but a few other things are filling in.  Verbena bonariensis and the first dahlias are just a few weeks away.

I would guess there are plenty of hot and dry spots in South Africa, so it doesn’t surprise me that the prickly daisy flowers of Berkheya purpurea look fresh and happy opening up in the heat.  I haven’t quite figured out yet why I like thistly plants, but this prickly, perennial mess is one of my favorites!

Berkheya purpurea

Berkheya purpurea looing as good as it gets in the rock garden.

Another mess which absolutely thrills me is the meadow garden.  In early July the grass is just beginning to dry off, and the golden rudbeckia and orange butterfly weed fill it up with color -even if golden rudbeckia are one of my least favorite colors.

meadow garden

The meadow garden with a smattering of aspen saplings which have been allowed to sprout up.  Of course they’ll end up casting too much shade, but right now I love the rocky mountain meadow look.

I leave you with one last bit of randomness.  I’ve been nursing a ‘Chuck Hayes’ gardenia along since picking it up at the nursery late last summer.  I tried the same thing the year before but of course killed it just as it was about to bloom, but second time must be the charm.  With the new plant I carefully did nothing other than take it into the garage to escape the worst of the winter, and then water just enough to keep it alive.  No silly fertilizing, or repotting, or anything else that would mess with the healthy plant that I had, all I did was wait patiently as it set buds and then finally decided to open up a few which had been forming all spring.  On the first day of the most brutal, heavy, enveloping humidity ‘Chuck Hayes’ opened a bloom and filled the air with his Southern perfume, and it was just like I hoped it would be.

gardenia chuck hayes

Gardenia ‘Chuck Hayes’ in bloom.  Another catch it while it’s still alive moment in the garden.

And then the blahs hit.  It’s really not as bad as it sounds since I’ve already seen the other side, but to make a long story short, the garden survives.

$33 worth of gifts to myself

$738 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

18 comments on “Before

  1. March Picker says:

    Nice recap of all you’ve been up to. The gardenia is sublime.

  2. AWESOME!!!! Your yard and beds are beautiful! Did I already say AWESOME?

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    When the heat hits I don’t get out much. The garden must carry on by itself. Your garden is doing quite well it appears. I like your Father’s Day gift.

    • bittster says:

      I agree. Back in the day I thought being a landscaper would be an awesome job… now I know better, I’d melt in the sun on the first afternoon.

  4. We are having a tour this weekend by the North American Conifer Soc. which is holding a regional mtg. here. Of course, conifers were the main plant that died in my garden over the brutal winter. Still big holes that have not been filled. Trying to get ready for a late July tour had us both seriously talking about selling the house. You are right that it all does get to be too much sometimes and you just have to turn your back on things until you somehow get interested again. Now that the garden is weeded within an inch of its life (with paid help!)f and everything is ready for Saturday’s tour, I think we may decided to stay a while longer! Your garden, as usual, looks so much nicer than you give yourself credit for. And your meadow is just wonderful. I always see them with spring blooms and this is a lovely change.

    • bittster says:

      All the best for you tour! I hope the rains think twice about dropping in, and if they do then let is be a gentle shower.
      It does feel great to have all the lose ends tied up and everything under control for a few weeks, isn’t it? Mine still isn’t there but at least a few parts are settling into their summer holding pattern. Weeding isn’t a two week circuit, now I can do it in four or five afternoons 😉

  5. Peter Herpst says:

    Impressive success with that gardenia! Mine usually die after a while. Your garden looks great but I understand the desire to just turn your back on it sometimes. Sounds like you’ve had some fun times away from the garden this year. Hooray!

    • bittster says:

      I noticed a few yellowing leaves on the gardenia this afternoon. It might be following it’s ill-fated brother soon enough!
      My daughter told me all I do is plants and go on the computer and look at more plants. Maybe some time away isn’t the worst thing 🙂

  6. johnvic8 says:

    You are hanging on, indeed. Your gift to garden ratio seems just about right.

    • bittster says:

      Even hanging on is enjoyable. When the temperatures are comfortable and the birds are singing there’s really nothing about the garden that can bother me much!

  7. Annette says:

    Never seen your meadow garden before and I must say it’s gorgeous. You know the older I get the wilder 😉 . Your garden still looks lush and green. Your tropical border is a star. Have the same grasses but must say Pennisetum orientale isn’t performing nicely anymore after the time and I doubt I shall be able to remove/replace it at this stage. Same applies to my Miscanthus which will hopefully continue to perform until I die! Do I hear a tad of garden tiredness here? I think so and in a way it’s comforting to know one is not alone feeling like this. It’ll go away again, no doubt. Happy summer days…don’t forget to enjoy in between the weeding rounds 😀

    • bittster says:

      Yes, the clumping grasses can become bears, can’t they! Last year I removed three miscanthus and a panicum and it took quite some muscle. I sharpened the shovel in between two of the miscanthus because I swear their roots were dulling the metal. The pennisetum gets a chunk or two sliced off each spring to keep it from taking over. In general they’re nearly trouble free 364 days of the year, but that one day when you need to work on them….
      I’m enjoying the lushness this summer. It’s the second summer that we’ve enjoyed fairly regular rains and I far prefer green to the usual brown and gray!

  8. Love the meadow garden. I also love Hollyhocks but I’ve given up on them because the rust just overwhelms them in our garden. Those Burkheya purpurea are great.

    • bittster says:

      The rust has officially decimated my hollyhocks as well. Now I just have to get around to ripping them out. Of course I know if I find a seedling I’ll let it be, even with the rusty mess they’re still fun to have.

  9. Oh boy do I ever know the “what’s the point” feeling. It hit me yesterday as I did a walkabout after the recent spate of hot/humid/rain/humid/rain/hot cycle we’ve been in. I found myself thinking “Is it September yet?” in anticipation of lower humidity; I find that I start wilting after only about 15 minutes lately. I was tougher when I was younger, lol

    • bittster says:

      I hear you. The humidity saps nearly all my gardening will, and I understand how Southern gardens develop that ‘romantic decay’. Nobody down there wants to lift a finger in July unless they’re writing a check to the landscaper!

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