A Lot of Work

There’s little question as to how I feel about hard work, and this is always the time of year when I start to wonder if it will ever end.  Between the pests and pestilence that try to take over every time your back is turned, to the weeds that spring with almost an unholy vigor out of any unmonitored patch of soil, to the searing heat that jacks up the water bill, I just don’t understand those people who smile wistfully and claim to just “love gardening”.  They’re probably the same people who put on a sunhat and white shorts, grab a pair of teal garden gloves and a cute little English trowel, and then head out to the parterre to plant a tray of nemesia while birds are singing and a fountain sprays in the background.

verbascum hybrid

The no-work mullein out front has topped 9 feet and greets each morning with a fresh show of buttery yellow flowers.  I love it, the bees love it, and sadly the mullein moths love it as well, and have darkened and nibbled a few of the stalks.

Here it’s a different story.  Covered in bits of green weed wacking debris, with dirt up my arms and half blind from the sweat that kept running into my eyes, I was wondering if the sore muscles and frequent blood donations were worth it.  Someone came by and said “you’re filthy don’t even think of going into the house like that, I just cleaned the floor”, so there I sat dripping even more sweat -since it’s also a billion degrees out- trying to make a little sense of it.

porch planters

Smarter people just sit on the porch and enjoy the morning light.  The porch is easy, plants get dragged out from the winter garden in the spring, and just need a little watering every now and then.

I have nothing against sunhats and teal garden gloves, it’s clearly jealousy, but I can’t help wondering why I keep doing this to myself year in and year out.

perennial seedlings

July is wrapping up so it’s probably time to finally plant the last of the (even more) perennial seedlings which seemed necessary in February.

…and then it’s a beautiful morning and the light is perfect and the house is quiet and I love it all… well almost all, the front border along the street is too dry and I’m kind of giving up on that, but all that other bother of lugging plants in and out, and dividing and moving and planting, and digging and hauling and weeding and mulching and watering… well you get the picture, I guess it’s worth it.

deck planters

Things lugged out onto the deck are hitting their summer stride.  As usual it’s a bit of a mess, but I love filling the whole place with way too much.

The deck is a safe zone although you wouldn’t think it.  I can go out there and just take it all in since the bulk of the work is done in May and June and then it’s smooth sailing until October.  Drip irrigation and time release fertilizer make my coffee in the morning and a drink at night much more pleasing than dragging a hose around  and feeling guilty about letting them dry out once again.

deck planters

I DID NOT like ‘Canary Wings’ the first time I saw it, but this spring two of these relatively new begonias jumped onto my cart.  Studies show I’m a sucker for anything with yellow leaves.  

The biggest success this year has been ‘Alice DuPont’, a mandevilla vine which has survived two winters with me so far and has finally found a place where she can show off her amazingness in a way that does credit.  She’s come a long way from the pot of brown sticks which exited the garage in May.

The far corner of the deck.  Hopefully the rickety trellis of old miscanthus stalks can carry Alice through the summer.  

I’ve added a few new things this year but nothing too exciting.  The fruity colors of the lantana and purple angelonia are perfect, but as usual I fell for petunias and calibrachoa again, and after a strong start to the summer they’re already looking a little tired.

jewels of opar

Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) came up in the soil of a gifted plant, and yay for surprises!  It’s like a pink baby’s breath, and although it doesn’t wow like Alice it’s good to also have plenty of flowers which don’t yell nonstop.  

Something else will take over for the petunias.  Nothing in this garden is ever one and done, and it’s the changes throughout the season which keep me interested.  Maybe by September even Alice will bore me!

mandevilla alice dupont

Just kidding Alice, you’ll never bore me.

When things come together you really forget all the grumbling about digging and storing cannas and replanting tropicals each year.  While the heat is sucking the life out of the perennials of June, the southerners and tropicals are stepping up. #summerstrong!

cannanova rose

Cannas by the street were supposed to be complemented by an airy froth of purple verbena… but then a clowncar of marigolds pulled up and unloaded all the orange.  But I really can’t complain about volunteers, so of course they stayed.

Even the tropical garden is back on the love-it list.  A lack of rain is stunting a few things, but you’d never know it, and even the sunflowers are welcomed back… although I did pull dozens in May…

tropical garden

The tropical bed looks less tropical and more just bright annuals this year.  Still nice to look at as you walk next door for a dip in the pool.

Admittedly I’ve allowed a few more perennials into the tropical garden this year.  That’s one less thing to worry about and I’m sure I’ll find something else to overdo elsewhere in the garden.  Right now as potatoes and onions come out of the potager I’m fighting the urge to fill the beds with a succession crop of flowers, or use the space for excess perennial seedlings.  One year, that’s the goal I have for keeping the new beds in vegetable production rather than turning them over to flowers again, and we will see 🙂

morning sunflower

Sunflowers on a Sunday morning.  It may be hot and dry, but it takes a lot before sunflowers  complain.

Hope you’re enjoying the fruits of your labor, and even if the weeds are starting to win there’s always plenty of good out there.

Have a great week!

24 comments on “A Lot of Work

  1. clarksonclan says:

    Good grief, I always love your posts! Such hard work, true, and the sweat makes it miserable, as well as the occasional sunburn. It’s a no-win choice–long sleeves or sunburn or sticky sunblock. I love your honest ramblings and photos of your beautiful garden. I was grumbling yesterday that things are never “done,” and you remind me that I’m not the only one and beauty takes time.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, it sounds like you know 🙂
      You’re right, beauty takes time so you always have to make the best of where you’re at. Right now I’m happy enough on my deck (as long as the sun is not beating down on me!) and the rest of the garden can wait.

  2. Looks great to me, but I know the sweaty, muddy feeling you are talking about. We’re currently under a heat index so I am staying indoors. But I seem to always be redoing an area and adding new plants in July and August. The Jewels of Opar are perfect. I love that plant and keep thinking I will grow some from seed, but it is just not me to garden in the winter. The yellow Mulleins are stunning. One of the stars of summer even if the moths have found it.

    • bittster says:

      There’s nothing wrong with staying out of the heat, I did the same most of yesterday and was quite alright with that 🙂
      I think we get restless as the spring flush ends, and all those new bed ideas and plant moves start to bubble up. Everyone else is calling it a year and we’re starting all over… except for the heat… i would (probably) do much more if it weren’t so hot.
      I’m thinking of changing my seed starting practices to just throwing the seed in a promising spot, scratching them in, and hoping for the best. If the plants are already doing that all the time (and it doesn’t look all bad) why overcomplicate things?

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    The heat has been relentless this year, or at least it seems so to me. Your deck plantings look great and I love the angelonia, lantana, ‘Alice’ combo. Bright and happy. I get swallowtails on my lantana on the deck and they make fine (and quiet) coffee companions.
    It has been an odd year and getting lost in the garden helps, so long as it is early or late in the day. Yesterday I bagged it by 10:30 am, just too hot to think straight!
    Stay cool and well!

    • bittster says:

      I hope the next few days bring you some relief. Here we are supposed to see a slight break in the temperatures, but then there’s always the humidity lol
      It always seemed unfair to me when after a brutal winter of snow and cold, New England would have to suffer through a heat wave. I remember trying to swim in the ocean during a 90F day in Maine. My top was roasting in the heat while the painfully cold water was stabbing my legs. Where’s the justice in that? At least there were no mosquitos for a moment 😉
      I’m missing it this summer.

  4. Yes, it’s all worth it. Alice and your lantana are a match made in heaven! Calibrachoa are sly little suckers, all perky and pretty in their baskets in early June . . . but I’ve rarely seen one make it to August looking so good. I think it’s a good year for mullein; we’ve had three strong stalks of it in the backyard, and I see it all over as I drive from place to place. The heat has been just obnoxious, though. I’ve had to tell myself many times that I better not even think about coming into the house as dirty and sweaty as I am! (Though I haven’t just cleaned my floors, because I’ve been out cleaning the garden!) Also, I have teal garden gloves, but you’d be hard pressed to see any color but shades of brown on them now!

    • bittster says:

      heh heh. So you tried to be a teal garden gloves gardener but it got too real too fast? Dirt and sweat will do that to you 😉
      My poor little calibrachoa are infested with those little tobacco budworms. I can’t find them on it but I see a sprinkling of poop on the decking underneath and I ‘m sure that’s the reason there are no blooms. I guess I could spray, but maybe I can fertilize their way out of this… if I could only motivate myself to mix some extra fertilizer…
      Who am I kidding. I’m not going to do anything and should have stuck with something even more foolproof! They are just so irresistible in May and June.

  5. Lisa Rest says:

    You have certainly convinced me it’s worth it – I am not much of a gardener unfortunately and it shows as certain things I have planted have come to dominate and disappear others. I hope to start remedying this soon and taking things more seriously, but I do find myself thinking about what I’m going to remove in the fall – when it’s cooler! 🙂

    • bittster says:

      I think most of what I do is remove things that are taking over. Today I’m thinking half the front border could go and it wouldn’t be any worse off. A bed of mulch sounds better than having to look at dry, suffering plants.
      But like you said that’s a job for the fall… except then when fall comes I figure I’ll just leave it as habitat until spring. 😉

  6. It all looks terrific to me! Your mullein “weeds” look a lot more yellow and a lot more floriferous than mine. No wonder you let them grow. Do you have the golden leaved form of Talinum, by any chance? I am right there with you wondering if it’s all worth it, which is a silly question to ask, because I can’t imagine not gardening. The question is really, “why does it have to be hot and dry when I want to garden?” and “what can I do in the garden that won’t be hindered by heat or drought?”

    • bittster says:

      Of course I don’t post pictures of the really sad areas!
      The mullein must be some sort of hybrid since occasionally I get white and like you say the flowers are bigger than the straight species. The straight species shows up here as well, but I make sure they get pulled once I figure it out, just so they don’t pollute my fancier ones with their wild pollen!
      Yeah I can’t not garden. It would slowly kill me. But this drought thing… we’ve had much worse, but after two monsoon years all my drought tolerant plantings have rotted away and the swamp lovers have taken over. Thalictrum was seeding out through the street border the last few years and now it’s all fried, crispy and black. Oh well. At least the perovskia are enjoying the extra elbow room.
      I might rip things out this week and plant bearded iris for next year. They can bake all summer and not skip a beat.

  7. Deborah Banks says:

    It looks great. I love your tropical bed. Every year I wonder if I have it in me to add some big bold plants like elephants ears to my garden. They would look great for 2 or 3 months and then I’d forget to dig them up before a hard freeze, or I’d dig them up and stash them in the root cellar and then they’d never see the light of day again. But I admire gardeners like you that manage it every year.

    • bittster says:

      Deborah I wonder the same thing every year. In the fall I hate the digging, and in the spring I hate the planting, but right now I’m just into those two months which make it all worthwhile… except for the drought… they’re all a little stunted and the dahlias are all wilting.
      Oh well, it still beats January 🙂

  8. Cathy says:

    Yes, it IS a lot of work, but yes, it IS worth it! Even if just for those short moments where you can sit and admire the garden and feel good about it before you see a weed or something begging for water! Your Mandevilla looks amazing for an overwintered plant. I have had a few in past summers but have never been able to keep them for a second season. The cannas and tropical bed are wonderful too. So much rich colour! 😃😎☀️

    • bittster says:

      I do love it, the sitting and admiring, but I often find myself in the meadow just sitting and admiring uncut grass and unplanted wildflowers and think that isn’t all that bad either!
      btw I rarely sit and admire the boring green of the lawn. I think I still have too much of it, which kind of goes directly against the less work theory! I am addicted 😉
      By the time March rolls around the mandevilla has lost every leaf and is looking dead. I try to keep it cool and don’t water more than once a month and surprisingly it comes back!

  9. Paddy Tobin says:

    Yeah, it’s work!

    Good results though!

  10. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    He didn’t have to tell but the weather man said this was the hottest July in 8 years. The weeds are about to take over here. I will just have to look the other way until it rains and cools off some. Your collection of annuals and tropicals are inspiring. I don’t understand people that find that place of Zen while weeding. I have never had the pleasure. Do I weed, yes, but only because I have to. There is a lot of have to should dos out there right now. That weather man also says it is supposed to be cooler the first two weeks of August. We will see if that cooler air can tempt me outside long enough to make a dent in the weeds.

    • bittster says:

      Seriously, I saw that as well. I think we were within a fraction of a degree of breaking the record for heat in July and it felt like it.
      Perfect pool weather though!
      No rush to get at the weeds. I prefer not having them go to seed, but it happens, and in any case letting them get a little bigger helps you get a better grip for the pulling!
      Oddly enough I’m most worried about the weedy stuff showing up along the berm. I’m afraid to say the weed killer is coming out to kill off all the mugwort, poison ivy, and knotweed before they get the roots in too deeply. Crownvetch is on the list as well, I hate it. Hopefully by this time next year I’ll have some of the daisies and rudbeckia filling in and leaving less room for the nasties.
      We had a little rain. It’s still hot but to see the grass coming back and flowers not all wilted is inspiring.

  11. We had our share of hot days but now there’s a stretch of cooler, cloudy, still, humid weather. Anyhow, your garden is looking great and I’m feeling a bit deprived by my lack of mullein.

  12. Annette says:

    Hi Frank, you made me laugh so much with this brilliant post, I had to read it out loud to Monsieur. Yes, yes, yes I feel the same every year during the summer. We’ve just had the driest July since 1965 (!) and I’m wilting with the garden right now. I’m having these dreams about a courtyard garden full of succulents (the Namaqualand way 😉 ) and a large pool to keep me cool. If I survive the current madness which isn’t sure I may one day see this dream come true. Looking at your lush garden, a true tropical paradise, I cannot quite see why you’re struggling…even weeds die here at the moment and your place seems well watered. Your porch looks so inviting – what about sitting down there more often with a glass of bubblies, just looking at the amazing garden you’ve created? You definitely deserve a break from time to time 🙂 PS: Is the pool yours? Now I must google Talinum, it’s very pretty!

  13. hb says:

    So it starts out as misery and why-do-I-do-this-to-myself, and you end up in love with all your plants all over again. Yep, been there. The better the garden looks, the worse the gardener looks.

    Your garden is gorgeous. All the color and life on your deck–love it. It’s very difficult to do that here, the sun is too constant and the humidity is too low and there is no summer rain.

    I love yellow foliage too, Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’ is a long-time favorite. That begonia is cool.

  14. AWESOME! Now you have Jewels of Opar and you will have from now on. Normally, I keep mine deadheaded which sends up another and another flush of flowers. Even so, hundreds of seedlings usually come up eventually the next year. This year, for some strange reason, I only have a few. That reminds me, I need to check on it since the Celosia ‘Cramer’s Amazon’ has been allowed to run rampant this year. I didn’t have time for the beds earlier because of the garden and picking all the sweet corn. Now, I have a little time to catch up on the flower beds… GEEZ! It really seems the more you have the more you adapt to managing time better. Mulching and drip irrigation like you have done is great and I must say your beds inspire me. Thanks for sharing this great post!

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