Imma Savage

The weather is hot, the weather (was) dry and the gardener spent a three day weekend spreading mulch. He was not lazy. He showed no mercy. Sentiment was shed like a stream of sweat as plants were moved, underperformers were whacked, and all the mistakes and shortcomings of 2020 were buried under a fresh brown frosting of shredded bark mulch.

Edged and mulched, the front yard looks very... neat.
Edged and mulched, the front yard looks very… neat. Not bad considering the lawn has only been cut once in five weeks.

There was actually more involved than just three days of hard labor. The weekend before I had the gardener start ripping out and chopping down anything which didn’t please me, stunted things, dried up things, things which were just too crowded and taking up too much space. A few runs were made for free township compost, and the most promising plantings got some pre-game mulch to hold the moisture and give a good shot of nutrients going prior to the big event.

Along the street there’s no towering wall of sunflowers this year. Even the purple coneflowers were stunted and about half were pulled due to the lack of rain. Thinning, some compost and watering, and then a coat of bark mulch really made a difference.

Transplanting annuals in 90+ (33C) heat should be frowned upon, but since the gardener was not smiling anyway it seemed appropriate. The zinnias and verbena survived.

About two wheelbarrows full of fennel left the front border, plus a bunch of other dried stalks from June. Now I can almost see the stunted cannas and butterfly bushes.

I have to admit I’ve been watering the zinnias and a few other things for the last few weeks. It’s been worth it, and since I’ve been informed on exactly how much the water bill has gone up, I can tell you exactly how much it’s been worth. No doubt it will be worth even more next month when an even higher water bill surprises the mailbox.

Agapanthus ‘Blue Yonder’ has earned its regular watering. Perfect foliage and at least three weeks of this strong blue color is quite awesome, and I hope no one is tiring of seeing this same plant every year.

When I went to order the mulch, my mulch guy said “that’s a lot of mulch”. He was right of course and the price was not so I cut back to the smaller truck and still had plenty. Several areas remain which could have used a coating, but as I filled the last load into the wheelbarrow I was thanking my mulch guy again and again for saving me from myself.

Around the side of the house and into the backyard. Moisture from the neighbor seeps down through the tropical garden and from a distance it looks almost lush 🙂

Mulching in August is probably a stupid move, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from my gardener. It takes forever for him to work mulch in between plants, and of course things need clearing out, pruning, and edging and all that adds to the work involved. On the plus side, there’s less mulch needed since a full flowerbed usually doesn’t need mulch extending any more than a foot or so in from from the edge. Less mulch means less money and I think you know where I stand on that.

Most of the best gardens boast classic topiary in one form or another. Obviously we would expect no less here in almost suburbia.

The potager did not need mulch, but that of course did not spare the vegetables from my savagery. Potatoes were dug, onions harvested, and another few tons of zucchini were brought into the house for processing and gifting. A woodchuck was trapped. The trap was brought over to the car for a trip elsewhere. The woodchuck escaped… fortunately just before the trap was placed in the car…

Cabbage transplants are in although this family rarely eats cabbage. Perhaps the woodchuck will return and take care of that, just like he took care of the broccoli (leafless stalks, lower left corner) and parsley (leafless stalks alongside orange marigolds).

I took my woodchuck frustrations out on the boxwood. Even in my most savage moments there’s a calm satisfaction in seeing an unruly hedge go from wooly to neat, and although the zen of trimming with expensive hand shears is extremely overrated, I did survive.

The potager is too neat. Trimmed hedges are nice, but I think it needs more jungle so perhaps this week’s rain will do the trick.

As the gardener continued to mulch past the potager he could feel his will to live slowly begin to fade. Fortunately the pile of mulch remaining in the driveway was also fading, and with just a few more edges to do that works out just fine. More mulch might have tempted me to just bury the entire shade garden and put it out of its misery since the weak little rain showers which almost kept the lawn green never penetrate the red maple canopy which shades this area.

Everything looks wilted and sad, but for the most part nothing ever dies. Of course it never really looks good either, but…

Dry beds and dry mulch did have the advantage of being easy to clear, and easy to shovel and spread, but the dust was terrible. Normally I’d just put on one of my dust masks, but since the mulch was in the front yard I didn’t want the neighbors seeing and thinking I don’t support our leader, so I suffered my way through and tried to cough it all up later.

Dry but neat.

So the job is now done. We are expecting around two inches of rain today as the remnants of Isaias pass through and the view will likely change, but at least the mulch should look even nicer as plants (hopefully) burst back into life. The gardener will need a few days to rest up and rehydrate as well, so that works out… although there are still bags and bags of daffodils to go through and cyclamen need repotting.

Fortunately it never ends. Have a great week!

29 comments on “Imma Savage

  1. Su says:

    Love your topiary – I have 2 similar shrubs and I may just do that instead of having them yanked out (they encroach on the front walk).

    • bittster says:

      Thanks! If you’re already considering the big yank then by all means have a little fun with them first. On the other hand I was visiting a friend this week and really liked their formal yew pyramids, and thought to myself I’m being silly with this whole smiley face thing. Maybe I need to start a few yew cuttings this weekend and just do both 🙂

  2. You write so well, it is a joy to read. Sounds like you are suffering from the same drought as we are here in Ohio. It is cool and actually raining this week, and coming your way.
    I get my water bill every quarter, so I’m expecting a biggie between $300 – $500. A few years ago it was that high and the water company told me I likely had a leak somewhere and to investigate.
    Love your Agapanthus. I’ve only grown them this year, in a pot because I was told they like to be root bound. I see you grow yours in the ground. Do you dig them up and bring them in over the winter? Any advice would be appreciated. Mine have not bloomed.

    • bittster says:

      I’m embarrassed to see how slow I am with these replies, all that mulch spreading must have really worn me out!
      I hope you’ve had a little rain to get by, and I hope the winds spared you! We haven’t had much of anything, but the tropical storm systems dropped enough rain to keep the lawn green… and in need of mowing… today…
      I’m sorry but I had to smile a little when I imagined the water company telling you there was a leak somewhere and you playing along innocently with the leak theory, while knowing all along it was going to the garden. That’s how I always respond when someone points out how much the bill is up. I usually blame the kids.
      I wish I had advice for your agapanthus. I’ve also been told they like to be rootbound, but then I have friends who’s plants are practically breaking out of the pot and still not flowering. I would try giving them a summer of plenty of water and fertilizer… it can’t hurt, right?
      Mine is in the ground. It’s a zone 5/6 hardy type(‘Blue Yonder’) and seems to love the full sun, heavy soil. I had my doubts it would live, let alone overwinter, but here we are five years later!

      • Thanks for the agapanthus advice. Unfortunately I don’t remember the variety. I’m in zone 5 (Columbus, Ohio) and since you are in PA, I figured we might be very similar in climates. I’ll have to contemplate for awhile what to do for the winter care.

      • bittster says:

        Good luck! Yes, we’re about the same as far as climate so I wish I had better advice, but I’ve always heard potted agapanthus can be tricky.

  3. Your “topiary” did make me laugh! My gardener was very lazy and did nothing of worth over the weekend. Too. Damn. Humid. I LOVE your Agapanthus. Show us pictures every week, every year, LOL! We’re up to a little over two inches of rain here today so far, and it’s still coming down steadily. I anticipate that the weeds in the remaining section of the terrace garden to be done will come out much more easily tomorrow than they were when I was last out there! Too bad your woodchuck escaped. Where did you plan to “liberate” it? People can be mighty touchy if they see you release one too close to their own property, and I think the state isn’t fond of having them released onto state lands, either. Best done under cover of darkness. I have a few annuals that need to be transplanted, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it yesterday evening. Humidity is supposed to be lower for a few days after this rain–maybe I’ll finally get my own work done! Spending too much time today perusing Scheepers for new bulbs and Bluestone Perennials. I’m a bit disappointed in the selection Santa Rosa is offering right now.

    • bittster says:

      Did you see that the high for Sunday is only 76F here? I bet it’s even lower in the Highlands, so a beautiful day to weed??? Of course not! I think we can find something better to do, but at least the upcoming week is only into the low 80’s and there will be the possibility for civilized gardening.
      We take the woodchucks to the far end of the industrial park and hope they’re not the most gifted of pathfinders. So far this last one’s cage trauma seems to have made him reconsider settling down in the area…. I hope…
      Santa Rosa is is only recently offering retail again and I don’t think everything is available as less than a flat-full. I agree though, I miss the big list!
      I was eyeing a few chrysanthemums from Bluestone. Maybe next year… I’ve been so good this season (relatively speaking and of course snowdrops don’t count).

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    Gosh, Frank, I was sweating right there alongside of you, you described it so well! This has definitely been the summer of detoxing through sweat, lol.
    Looks good, refreshed and ready to head into the last flush of the season. (Can’t believe fall is only 6 wks away, what??)
    Looks like NY and PA are getting the brunt of the storm, we’re just at the eastern edge, so at least we’ll get an inch or so. We could use a good soaking, but I’ll take what we get.
    Hope your power stays on and the wind spares your yard. Stay safe!

    • bittster says:

      Yuck. Is fall really that close!? I’m still planting annuals 🙂
      We did get a nice amount of rain and things look much better, especially with the mulch! I may even order some more and finish all the far corners which I skipped… but that’s just crazy talk.
      Your garden is doing excellently. I never realized how many annuals you plant, they sure do well!

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I don’t think a Savage would have a big smiley face in his garden. You probably just felt savage working in the heat. I am savage just sitting in the heat with a cocktail. UGH… and with drought on top of the heat it just ain’t pretty. Your garden looks so good with it’s new coat of mulch. I rather like fallish mulching. You can see where your plants are so you don’t bury them. I bet the rain you get from that storm will last a little longer in the ground with the mulch in place. I would never tire of looking at that Agapanthus. It is quite handsome. Woodchuck! I hope you scared the daylights out of him and he is on his way out of your territory. We had an opossum on our patio this morning. Annie (our dog) about got it. It played dead then soon took off to safer space when I got Annie back inside. Opossums are under my protection after I found out they eat ticks and other icky pests.

    • bittster says:

      So far the woodchuck hasn’t been back, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until his cousin strolls in. The parsley is only just getting it’s leaves back so it may be time!
      Opossum are one of my favorite backyard visitors, they’re so mellow and calm, even if they get caught up in the trap they just hang out until you let them go… and then they hang out for a while until they’re ready to go. We had one getting caught every night for three nights just because it liked the food we were using for bait 🙂
      The rain has brought the garden back to life but now it’s turning dry again. The mulch did help, but when it only rains a few drops I don’t think it gets to the roots, and a few drops is all we have been getting. Even my daughter said she misses having a thunderstorm downpour this summer… although I don’t need a derecho or some other crazy weather!

  6. Great writing. Really enjoyed reading this post as long as I didn’t think about how how hot and mulch-covered you were. Hope you got some rain and hoping we get some, too. My August water bill is always the big one of the year. That Agapanthus is worth sharing daily.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks, it wasn’t as bad as I make it sound since the pool is always just a yard away and when it all comes down to it, it’s a strictly voluntary enlistment so I can go awol for a drink or rest anytime I want! We did get rain but could already use some more.

  7. Deborah Banks says:

    Your garden looks amazing in its edited and well-mulched photo ops. I figured you always feature the Agapanthus just to irk us zone 4/5 gardeners. They are lovely! When our upstate NY climate really heats up (in 3 or 4 years I guess), I’ll definitely be planting it also.
    How exactly did that woodchuck ‘escape’? Did someone related to the gardener have a hand in it?
    We’ve been desperate for rain here too, although us country bumpkins don’t have to worry about the water bill or even about draining the well. We have springs on our hill that feed spigots near the gardens in gravity-fed system, but still there’s only so much watering a girl can do. Luckily today we are getting our share of the hurricane water and then some! My rain gauge is up to over 4.5″ and counting! Time to go admire the creek.

    • bittster says:

      Someday soon I hope the agapanthus is big enough that I can spare a piece for you and Cathy. I don’t even mulch it, so there is a possibility you could get it through a winter without building a greenhouse over it, and the color and form are so unique I think it’s worth it.
      The woodchuck somehow pushed up the end of the trap and squeezed his fat little head and body through. We all just stood there with our mouths open! I had just taken him out front for his photo op, so we have plenty of before pictures… for the one that got away 🙂
      Your water supply sounds great. A spring and a creek are so much nicer than an industrial park and I wonder why I’m not more serious about looking for a different property. A few weeks ago I was dreaming about 56 acres with a pond and creek, but then the pricetag sank in and all the mowing and maintenance and I decided small isn’t all that bad either. I’ll just stick to snowdrops and pass on the oaks.

  8. pbmgarden says:

    Your yard looks amazing and I’m encouraged by your mulching success. I’ve been wondering about mulching now too. I think it would lift my spirits. Hope you get some rain. We had a little from Hurricane Isaias but dry summers are a bore.

    • bittster says:

      Absolutely! Dry summers really are a bore and they just bring me down. Watering can help but it’s just not the same as a good downpour, and the sound of thunder and the smell of watered soil can really wake up your spirit. It always comes and goes. That’s why we all have other hobbies as well.

  9. Cathy says:

    Very neat and looking great! 😃 I love the topiary. 😉 I could do with some mulch myself, but can‘t bring myself to do all that hard work in the heat of August! Let’s see how the month develops… Your front and street borders look really lovely and I am relieved to see some sunflowers that do not make mine look small… yes, mine also are very stunted this summer. I even have a couple flowering at about a foot off the ground!
    The tropical bed is looking very lush and colourful too. 😃

    • bittster says:

      Haha, there are plenty of one foot sunflowers here as well, they look like stunted rudbeckia rather than towering flowers and I feel bad for them! Hopefully they set seed and find a better situation next year.
      Good luck on the mulching. It feels good to have a few spots where things are under control, although the neat edges do put a lot of pressure on the gardener to edge and trim after he mows… which of course is more work again!

  10. Indie says:

    It looks really great! It’s amazing how much a difference cutting and some fresh mulch makes, though whew! that sounds like a job! This heat and drought has been brutal. I fear for my coming water bill as well. I ordered and spread mulch this spring but did not order enough – a good chunk of my garden is mulchless and paying the price in the abundance of weeds.

    • bittster says:

      I know what you mean! My neighbor was stingy with dumping his mowed leaves, and because of that the whole front border had to go without this summer. I think all the spare time from staying home was wasted on trying to keep up with the weeds which resulted. Mulch in May probably wouldn’t have been the worst idea.
      I’m considering another smaller load to finish up all the spots I didn’t get to… it feels kind of extravagant to mulch twice in one year but it is such a work-saver and I have saved money by not going plant shopping much (but just ignore the water bill lol)

  11. WOW! I am amazed at your yard as always. I kept getting stuck every time you mentioned “the gardener”… I didn’t have much time with the flower beds and potted plants this year because of the garden. I don’t need any flower beds when I can just admire yours. All looks incredible! I was almost halfway through your previous post when I came to my senses and had to go back and leave this comment. Thanks for sharing!

    • bittster says:

      Haha, I was thinking the same about your “vegetable garden”. It looks more like a small farm to me and to see it so weed-free makes me feel guilty about the way my tiny daffodil patch looks. Flowers are nice but it’s so much easier to justify the work of a vegetable garden, especially when you walk in with an armload of dinner!

      • Somewhere I believe I have to find balance between what I want it to look like and what it actually looks like, what i want and what I can manage, what I want and what I need. OOOOUUUUCCCCHHHH!!!!

  12. I haven’t done any mulching this year, but in spots I have used excess weeds and cut foliage to fill in a few blank spots. Overall I think your place is looking really good, especially given the rough summer conditions. This year’s sunflowers and Tithonias have also been a bit disappointing in our garden as well, though maybe they will make up for it in the final weeks of summer.

    • bittster says:

      That’s been my new policy here as well. Less compost pile, more pulled weeds and trimmings stuffed under the skirts of plants as a mulch. It saves all that time running debris back and forth and really cuts down on the guilt of an overflowing compost mound.
      I’m sure the tithonia will surprise you in September. The sunflowers might give up by then, but the tithonia seems to live for a big October flourish.

  13. hb says:

    That is a glorious Agapanthus–would never get tired of such a blue. Is it hardy for you in PA?

    Also enjoyed seeing the wide views of your gardener’s work, and hope you got the 2″ predicted, and further rain since. Such effort should be rewarded.

    I’m still trying to convince myself to mulch ASAP; I was ready to order a mountain of it in January and then–broken arm. My self-convincing is not working and your comments on the misery of it in summer heat did not help. ;^) Maybe September…

    • bittster says:

      Absolutely wait until September! Your heat and dry weather make this stuff look like the kindergarten of gardening struggles, and to think of all the digging and moving you did one handed I think you deserve a break!
      This agapanthus dies down in the fall and is hardy. Hopefully it’s very hardy and not just taking advantage of our past few mild winters, I would hate to lose it now that it is establishing!
      We did get some rain, it’s reinvigorated both garden and gardener and I hope some more comes along shortly.

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