During and After

Summer vacations and gardens gone wild are two things that seem to come up regularly each year, and I’ve noticed many of the better bloggers will do posts on preparing your garden for a longer absence.  Here’s my two cents.  Do everything you know you should have done already but have been putting off, and then go enjoy yourself.

pandora animal kingdom

Florida in July is not enjoyment.  The kids seem to like it but my only moment of ‘not bad’ was seeing the new Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Cycads, fantail palms, tree ferns, massive rock outcroppings on what used to be flat sand…

It was as hot up in Pennsylvania as it was in sweltering Orlando but fortunately a well timed rainstorm kept everything relatively happy.  My plants are used to hit and miss attention so one more week wasn’t all that big a deal.

deck containers

The deck containers would have fried without watering, but an automatic drip system makes them almost carefree, even with a full sun baking each afternoon.   

I guess I can just pick up where I left off.

weedy garden

These are my new phlox.  Only the most adept word-find champion would be able to find any phlox in this mess, but trust me I managed to dig them out yesterday afternoon 🙂

For some reason this year seems like so much more work than any other.   I suspect it’s the result of my cheap nature and the way it’s keeping me from buying a nice, luxuriantly rich, delivery of shredded bark mulch (and its lovely weed smothering qualities), but it could be anything.  My deepest fear is that I may in fact be getting old, and I may in fact have a more ‘intense’ garden than I should.  My daughter informed me last week that all I do is look at plants or go on the computer and look at plants and maybe she’s not all that far off.  I kind of pointed out that I also brought her to her friend’s, picked up her brother from somewhere else, went to the store, met mom for lunch, picked her back up, went for ice cream with her….


The potager in need of a grooming and a hedge trim.  Growing vegetables might be the most time consuming component of the garden… even if you’ve only got my word to go on when it comes to there being any actual vegetables in there.

So now I’m working through the garden one more time to get it presentable.  Throwing lawn clippings down as a mulch is helping, here and there the weeds might be slowing down, and overall the flowers are trying to make a go at it.  At least the bugs (both good and bad and indifferent) don’t seem to mind a little ‘woolliness’.

swallowtail on phlox

I’d like to think this beautiful yellow swallowtail is the child of one that was hanging around the garden a few weeks ago.  I like that there is so much life sharing my garden. 

Some of the woolliness comes from my weakness for self-seeders.  With phlox season ramping up there’s the excitement of new seedlings which snuck in while I wasn’t looking, and the surprises that come with new faces.

phlox paniculata

It takes plenty of diligence (maybe more than I have) to keep your phlox colors pure.  This may look like the same clump but it’s actually ‘Cabot Pink’ in the back right half and a stray seedling to the front left.  Slightly different petals and a tiny bit shorter, but the real giveaway comes on cool mornings when the seedling takes on a blue tint.

The phlox might look nice but they’ve been giving me trouble this year, even with decent rains and halfway decent care.  Spider mites are swarming and the usual sprays of water and fertilizing haven’t done the trick.  For as much as I like tall garden phlox, they really only tolerate me.  Maybe someday I’ll make them happy.

weedy garden

My failed poppy patch.  You may be able to spot a few purple blooms in there but for the most part it’s weeds which seemed to have sprung up overnight.  Hopefully I can get at this today before the rain hits.

Relatively speaking the front border is doing much better than the back.  It’s not nearly as colorful as last year, but it’s far less work than the potager, and only needs a strong beating back every now and then to keep looking decent.  Last year I expanded it out as much as two or three feet and worried about what to do with the space.  This year the perennials have rolled in and I barely have a few spots for annuals.  Hmmmm.  Ten minutes after saying I want less work I’m considering ripping out perennials to make more room for annuals.

front border

I feel like the border is dull this year.  The coleus I usually count on for foliage color have been brutalized by beetles and other less interesting things are trying to take over their space.

Don’t worry.  This should be the last post where I whine about how much work gardening is, and go on way too long with the woe is me theme.  It’s really not that bad and since I took these pictures I’m nearly all the way around the yard with the straightening up.  Plus there’s plenty of stuff to admire while I’m trudging on 🙂

lilium silk road

‘Silk Road’ might be my favorite lily.  It fills this whole end of the border with fragrance, doesn’t need staking, and gets better each year even in a terrible spot.  My dream for the future is that it becomes a clump of several bulbs and adds another two or three feet in height!

Enjoy your weekend, the weather here has been excellent for time in the garden and in spite of my daughter’s harsh assessment I’m still planning to do a lot out there today.

22 comments on “During and After

  1. Does your daughter read your blog? I thought about rising to the challenge of finding phlox in that third photo and but then realized I could be doing that in my own borders, so why chose a virtual challenge over an actual one?

    • bittster says:

      I don’t think anyone in my family reads this blog! They have far more sense and much better things to do. But your question makes me think back to the days when a child or two of your own brood would write guest posts on CCG. I bet they’re much busier with other things now as well!
      Yeah. I cleared out the phlox and I bet they’re already swamped again. Lush and overgrown still beats out brown and dead any day though 😉

  2. Cathy says:

    Hi Frank. I seem to have missed loads of your posts so will sign up again! The front border really is looking good! 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Cathy!
      I hope you’re enjoying the summer. I just went back to check your last few posts and I can’t believe how pretty June looks in your garden. I bet the heat and drought is been hard on July’s flowers, but rain will come and things will bounce back!

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I think all gardeners go through these ‘spells’. I hit a wall last year. This is better despite no rain and many days with temps in the 90s. I am just ignoring all of it. The only good thing about the no rain and high temps I have had fewer weeds. What did I just say? I hope the weed gods aren’t reading this.

    • bittster says:

      Yes, I’ve also noticed that the rain brings out more weeds than you can imagine! I think early summer is the worst, but even now it seems like as soon as a spot is cleared a forest of all kinds of things jumps right up!
      Still better than drought though. I just stay inside and hope for the best when it’s like that.

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    My kids complained when they were little, too. It’s a family joke that I always used to say, “In a minute!” and of course, many minutes would roll by! 😉
    I think every gardener feels there is no ‘catching up’ in the garden. With summer heat and rain, the weeds are always ahead. By mid-August, I give up and wait for the first frost.

    • bittster says:

      ‘In a minute’ sure gets its due here as well! Unfortunately the kids figured out time now, and I at least have to call for five or ten minutes or else they’re on me as soon as the timer runs down!
      I’m saying ‘uncle’ on many of the weeds. If it’s anything halfway attractive I just leave it now. Even it it means a six foot tall sunflower in the middle of the marigolds, at least it means nothing else will grow in that spot!

  5. This post really spoke to me, Frank. This year seems like so much more work to me also. But it’s not because I’m cheap (I bought mulch), it’s because I’m really getting old. Not you! Also, I definitely have a more ‘intense’ garden than I should. Whining helps, so whine away. Your garden is lovely! P. x

    • bittster says:

      I think I’ve cleared that July hurdle. It is what it is and looks good enough, right?
      I really don’t think it’s the getting old thing. I’m 100% positive there’s something in the air this year that’s making the weeds grow faster and the work seem harder. Hopefully it blows away by September 😉
      I am considering groundcovers though, and am appreciating the lower maintenance stuff more. It’s amazing how often the ‘grand plan’ for this garden changes!

  6. Deborah Banks says:

    No kids here to complain, but my husband sometimes whines about never eating dinner until 9:30 pm. During the week especially, when my time outside is limited due to work, I resent coming in before dark. I haven’t gone away for a week, but most of my evenings now are spent picking blueberries, and then just before night fall, trying to spot a few Japanese beetles to squash. The garden is pretty neglected. I’m in 3 foot maintenance mode now. If a weed is 3 or more feet tall, I pull it out.

    • bittster says:

      🙂 I love the three foot maintenance rule. I’m going to add that to my list of options.
      This weekend I went for the usual garden stroll and didn’t even bother squashing a bunch of japanese beetles. Maybe a bird will get them I thought…. either way in a few weeks they’ll no longer be a problem.
      We had our first decent blueberry harvest this summer, it was a big production of course, with pancakes and cereal toppings for all!

  7. Kevin says:

    I don’t think we can ever catch up in the garden. There is always something to do — even if you never travel for vacation. At some point, it is what it is and — like you said — go have fun.

    • bittster says:

      There’s a lot to be said for the natural look… and to most of my visitors they just call it an ‘English garden’ look… obviously they’ve never been to England.

  8. susurrus says:

    My dad was a garden and nature lover who had to retire early through ill health. If he’d have had chance back then to look at flowers online, he’d have loved it.

    • bittster says:

      It’s amazing to think how much any hobby has changed over the years. I remember reading and re-reading the few garden books I had, leafing through the winter’s seed catalog supply, setting the VCR for that one or two gardening show that was aired at bizarre am hours… now it’s almost all right there 24 hours a day online. It’s almost addicting at times!

  9. Not having kids, we’ve never been to Disney world but that photo with the rocks is pretty wild. All kidding aside, I think this has been a hard gardening year with weather killing stuff, giving us a late start to get out in the garden and weeds like I don’t remember. And yet I just went plant shopping twice in the last four days and am ripping out and redoing things just like I do every year about this time. No wonder we complain about too much to do. Love the drama and color in the butterfly photo and those lilies are stunning. I have Black Beauty but I really like the look of yours. Maybe I need some!

    • bittster says:

      Funny, isn’t it? We must be two of the only people who get overwhelmed with all the work and then go out the next week to visit a nursery! I did the same thing, I bought a few plants last week and then went back Saturday and got another one that I got it in my head that I couldn’t live without! At least you bought hardy shrubs and perennials though. I picked up a few annuals, a couple tropicals, and only one thing which stands half a chance of wintering over, but in my defense I left behind a particularly attractive banana plant.

  10. Peter Herpst says:

    Your daughter is right, there’s so much more to life than looking at plants and going to the computer to look at plants like visiting gardens, worrying about your plants while you’re gone, buying plants and garden stuff, and browsing your stash of seed and bulb catalogs. Your garden survived your absence well and looks fantastic as usual!

    • bittster says:

      😉 I like how you think!
      I’m so glad no one knows how much time I spend thinking about plants and how I could add a few new ones or change a spot in the garden or replant something that needs a better spot. At least when it’s all in my head I can look halfway normal when someone’s going on and on about a rough day at work or some clothing challenge.

  11. I love that last photo of ‘Silk Road’ with the sunflower. A nice piece of luck that it rained during your vacation. I do also get those moments when I think I’m devoting too much time to the garden. Though since our kids have moved out of the house, I don’t get much pushback from the next generation any more.

    • bittster says:

      That’s a thought. Right now I have people here demanding snacks and wanting to play this game or go to that person’s house… I can only imagine how much trouble I could get into when they don’t need me anymore.
      Actually I hope that never happens 😉

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