Around and About

August always goes too fast and this exceptional year is no exception.  I blame the puppy.  Hours are spent entertaining and attending to little Biscuit’s whims, and even though I’m sure everyone in the household can hear his 4:30am whimpering, it is only the gardener who fumbles for his glasses and stumbles to the door to let him out.  We enjoy the sunrise together but the conversation is entirely one sided and repetitive.  “Go potty, go potty…. go potty”.  Eventually the gardener gives up and heads inside for his coffee, and it’s usually then that the message clicks, and the paper towels and wet vac come out.

biscuit the yorkie

Stubborn little Biscuit the Yorkie

Hydrangeas are much more reliable.  Even in a sleep-starved state the gardener recognizes how foolproof Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is, and as long as it gets some water, a springtime trim, and full sun, the show is always on for August.

limelight hydrangea

Limelight hydrangea along the street.  The rain from hurricane Isaias has everything looking much fresher.

Weeds are a problem when the mulch is thin but you never know what else will pop up on the bare earth.  I have no idea what a hydrangea seed looks like, but apparently they happen, and if you ignore weeding long enough they can grow up and turn into something nice.  They’re entirely in the wrong spot which is not as nice, but I’m sure the gardener will be right on that and have it moved within the next decade or two.

limelight hydrangea seedling

With so much green this seedling has to be a child of Limelight.  Three years is all it took, and trust me, even with the neat mulch and greening crabgrass this part of the border is not typically well cared for and these still succeeded!

Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens bloom every year here on the new wood which grows each summer.  The colors are limited to whites and pinks but considering it’s been so long since I’ve seen a flower on the big mophead hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) I don’t even remember blues and purples and miss them about as much as I miss unicorns and rational government.   Maybe reliable and the tried and true are boring, but there’s only so long you can listen to how great blue hydrangeas are before you realize it’s all just hot air.

annabelle hydrangea green

I planted ‘Annabelle’ next door and love it all summer, even now in its all-green phase.  My MIL prefers the mophead hydrangeas so that’s what is growing to the right.  She claims its flowers are blue although I’ve never seen the proof.

Speaking of next door, for some reason the redone potager construction has gained me the kind of street credit which the rest of the garden never did.  Out of nowhere there have been landscaping questions and design ideas for next door, all of which will hopefully include pulling out one of the green mounds of hydrangea and not that much extra work for me…. hahahahahaha,  that was fun to write but I know it won’t be the case.  The conversations also include filling in the pool and “putting one in your own yard because it’s just too much upkeep for me”.  We will see.

potager pergola

The potager is still relatively restrained for August.  Vegetables are still visible and a few unwatered pots of succulents hopefully class it up a little… even if all I did was take two pots off the deck and drop them right into the blue planters.

I hope it’s understood that a pool will never go where the potager beds stand.  The vegetables and flowers may not be as refreshing as the deep end of a pool but they’re still inspiring in other ways and probably less work.  If we actually ate more vegetables that would probably help, but even if all the tomatoes become pizza and all the zucchini gets deep fried that’s a start I guess.

vegetable garden paths

So far so good for the sand paths.  I probably rake them more than I need to, and I’m sure next year they’ll make awesome seed beds for weeds, but today they look great, and I’ll just take today.

Since the potager is under decent control I figured it was still hot enough to clear up the mess I refer to as the compost pile.  Moving mulch in the heat is fun, but moving compost adds all kinds of spiders, worms, and centipedes into the mix so in some ways it’s even better.  My new policy on all things gardening is to do less, so for the compost pile this means putting less on via hiding pulled weeds and trimmings under plants, throwing anything you can onto the lawn and (eventually) mowing it up, and also using one of the raised beds in the potager as a dump for all the local trimmings and waste.  Eventually the plan for the raised bed is to coat the debris with some soil from another bed and just plant on top of that.  If you want to be fancy I think it’s called sheet composting or hugelkultur, but I’ll just call it a saved trip from across the yard and to the official compost.

compost area

A much tidier compost area.  I won’t dare show the before photo but just consider that I found a bench, several pots, and a few sections of fence under the mess so it was definitely past time for a cleanup. 

I don’t know if you noticed, but outside the compost area is a new planting of nekkid ladies, aka surprise lilies, aka Lycoris squamigeria.  They were previously in the potager and after 10 years I would guess I’ve seen all of three flowers come up, so I think they like the new spot.  All this in spite of the March transplanting after their foliage had already started to come up.  Usually they hate transplanting and out of principle don’t even come up the next year, but six stalks in the one group and two more in another and I’m thrilled.  I think they also like the deeper soil and summer shade here as well.

lycoris squamigera

Lycoris squamigera looking perfectly fresh in the middle of August.

I’m hoping the other Lycoris I planted last year do nearly as good as these.  They were from an excellent source, perfectly packed, and looked freshly dug but still wouldn’t humor me with a single bloom last summer.  At least they sprouted this spring to prove they’re not dead, but I wouldn’t mind a few flowers on top of that… especially since other gardeners are already showing off their plantings in full amazing bloom.

lycoris sanginea

The orange surprise lily, Lycoris sanginea. 

So besides finding surprise lilies in the compost area I also found some surprise pots, all nicely filled with potting soil and ready to be planted.  The next step was obvious… well maybe not so obvious.  In spite of the magic going on I’d had enough of the bugs and heat and humidity, so it was into the relatively cooler winter garden and its dozens of neglected cyclamen and snowdrop pots.  I repotted.

repotted cyclamen

The cyclamen have multiplied and are ready for fall while a few cuttings were stuck into a few pots.  Look closely and you’ll see my dead New Zealand sedge.  Honestly I still can’t be sure if it’s dead or not so I’m not sure how that qualifies as ornamental… but you know… 

Adding pots to a garden which already has plenty of pots sounds a lot like just adding work, but it’s really not.  In a bit of foresight two years ago I bought enough fittings for a second drip irrigation setup.  Last year I found an irrigation timer on clearance.  Last week I put it all together and opened up the whole side of the house for shade containers.  Hmmmmmm 🙂

brugmansia miners claim

The dripline came just in time for Brugmansia ‘Miner’s Claim’.  The dead stick from last year has finally put on enough growth to need regular watering in order to continue looking uber awesome.  I don’t even care if I ever see another lame pink flower on this thing… although I won’t complain.  

Shade containers will be a new thing and I’m sure I’ll be complaining about them by the fall.  I’m going to start nosing around for free brugmansia cuttings immediately either by gift or stealth, so let this be your fair warning when I invite myself over for a garden tour.  Under the cover of social distancing I’ll try to behave myself but I make no guarantees, only after the fact confessions.

camellia ashtons supreme

Oh look.  There’s already a potted camellia ‘Ashton’s Supreme’ ready to move into the new container garden.  I think these are flower buds forming for the autumn so of course I’m super excited it’s forming flowers under my care rather than dying. 

Besides being a poor garden guest I’m also starting to go on too long so let me wrap things up.  Elephant ear from edge of Florida parking lot.  A weed down there but here it barely survives each winter, even when I try to pamper the tiniest bits of life indoors under lights.  Sometimes I’ve resorted to dumping out the remains and hoping the water and heat of summer bring some life back to the tiniest bit of living root, and so far it’s worked, but I dread the winter when I finally lose this treasure.

elephant ear

Someone is loving the heat and a steady IV drip of miracle grow and water this summer.  I just potted up another offset for the new shade garden.

This potted elephant ear (I’m not sure of the exact species so lmk if you have an idea) looks deceptively tame in the photo, so let me assure you it’s pretty big.

elephant ear

I love the wrinkles and swirls of green in each leaf.  At four feet long I still expect them to get a little bigger still before frost.

Oddly enough I didn’t even plant the tubers of the regular elephant ears because… well because I’m fickle.  These are bigger and less floppy, so I guess that’s the reason.

deck planters

The sun containers.  Watered via timer every 12 hours and all I have to do is sit with a coffee in the morning, and an adult bev in the evening.  I hate watering so this is the only thing which keeps them going.

Don’t let an empty compost bin and a few repotted plants give you the impression I’m just a flurry of activity and hard labor.  I’m not.  It’s been two weeks since my last post and there’s only so long you can cruise on the high of a mulch job completed, so this is probably the least I could do.  Oh, I also mowed the lawn.  Go me.  At least there’s been no pressure to do nonsense like painting or new closet shelves.  The dog has been a handy distraction for things like that since I wouldn’t want to wake the little beast with hammering and stuff.

Hope you have a great week.

16 comments on “Around and About

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Biscuit is a breed that is notoriously difficult to potty train so I have heard. Good luck with that. At least your garden doesn’t get you up at 4:30. ha… Your tidy project in the compost area is nice. It looks like you had a good time filling all those little pots. I hope everything grows well. Do you have room for a pool? I mean can you give up enough garden for a pool? hmmmm Some serious thinking needs to be done regarding that development. AND who is going to pay for it??? It might behove you to go next door and clean the pool occasionally. 😉 I have those overgrown hydrangeas that don’t bloom. They are so touchy. Frost get mine almost every year, plus they are in too much shade. I need to pull them all out and plant something different. Have a great week

    • bittster says:

      Giving up room for a pool will be torture, especially when I can’t even grow a waterlily or two in it. A natural pool would be awesome but that would never fly around here! Right now I know who would pay for it, so I don’t see it happening any time soon 🙂 and I already take care of the pool so I think the big problem is someone who spends too much time worrying about algae and water chemistry while looking out a window, but that’s her right.
      I’m trying to convince next door to get rid of their overgrown hydrangeas and replace them with something that actually flowers. I’ve promised that it won’t be “too much of a jumble” and that I really am capable of creating a neat garden, but so far they’re unconvinced. As the one who does nearly all the yard work there, I think we will eventually reach an agreement. I’d also really like to rip out the azaleas who’s buds are not hardy enough to handle our winters. An azalea which doesn’t bloom may go well with the hydrangeas, but for me I don’t see the point!

  2. rusty duck says:

    I knew there would be a benefit to neglecting the weeding for months – hydrangea seedlings. I shall be out at first light tomorrow to check.
    Biscuit is very cute. You could forgive him anything. Yes?

    • bittster says:

      Of course Biscuit is forgiven everything. For some reason it is the gardener’s fault when accidents happen 😉
      There are so many benefits to neglected weeding. By August I don’t even have to bend in order to weed!

  3. Well if I were visiting a garden that happened to have a Miner’s Claim brugmansia, I might snitch a cutting myself. That is some elephant ears. I have one called Distant Memory and it doesn’t go dormant so I have to nurse it along as a houseplant. I’m thinking I’m tired of doing that. In general things look great so your laziness must be paying off.

    • bittster says:

      Distant Memory looks veeeeeery cool. When you get sick of it, let me know!
      Although it is one of the type which I struggle to overwinter. The “nursing along” thing doesn’t last long around here.
      The brugmansia is much easier. Drag into frost-free garage. Ignore for five months. Drag out again. Water pot of sticks and sweep out all the dead leaves. Plant regrows.

  4. March Picker says:

    Biscuit is adorable. You have been busy, even if you claim you haven’t, and the proof is in your weed-free pathways, Frank. I have been adding many hydrangeas to these gardens over the years we’ve been here, and they do not disappoint. So faithful!

    • bittster says:

      You have a much better climate for the fanciest hydrangeas, and of course I’m jealous. Here in the Northeast they only do well further south or along the coast, so until I’m gifted a beachhouse they’re just not happening!
      The weed free paths are hopefully going to last for a while. Rains are bringing on a few weeds but hopefully a little raking will end that without too much effort!

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    Gosh, Biscuit sure is cute, but I know that Yorkies make up for their size with attitude. ‘Rots o ruck, Rorge!’ 😉
    The deck and potager are looking fine, and the elephant ear and belladonna lilies are phenomenal. Hard to believe it is mid-August and fall is around the corner. Where the heck did the time go?

    • bittster says:

      Biscuit already has an attitude far larger than his physical size so I hope we can manage him. If not, I guess we are turning the house over to him and the kids 😉
      Seriously. How is August already ending?

  6. Chloris says:

    Well, it all looks as if you have been incredibly busy. I’m very impressd by your potager, all so beautifully tended, with raked paths. Your H. Limelight is gorgeous, I have never heard of it seeding, and the lycoris are lovely. I have recently acquired 3 brugmansias, I like your variegated one. I love the Elephant Ears, but Latin please, here Elephant Ears is bergenia and it’s certainly not that. Is it colocasia? Whatever it is I want one.

    • bittster says:

      Three new brugmansia? That is an excellent development. I used to have a few, but lost them when I moved to a barely liveable renovation, and then was worried about replacing them while the children were small.
      I think the elephant ear is Xanthosoma sagittifolium robusta but that’s based on me looking at photos endlessly and not based on any real botanical expertise. It’s a South American species though, and listed as somewhat invasive in Florida, so it does make a little sense.
      I would never consider putting a bergenia leaf on an elephant and calling it an ear. I would name a snowdrop Galanthus grandiflora first!

  7. Cathy says:

    Your new puppy Biscuit will keep you even busier! He is very sweet though. I remember when our wolfhound was a puppy and I carried her out to wee in the middle of every night, hoping she wouldn’t wake up enough to want to play! The potager looks so well cared for, and I love that Limelight hydrangea. I am tempted tot ry growing one here, but wind and dry ground may not be ideal….

    • bittster says:

      Biscuit is already getting his own way. He insists on sleeping with company and will bark endlessly without it. I don’t think this is a good idea, but other family members do and I don’t mind the extra sleep.
      Definitely give the hydrangea a try! Mine does wilt and complain when things get dry, but my soil is also only about six inches deep so deeper soil would probably cure that.

  8. hb says:

    When my dogs were puppies they peed every 10 minutes, which with 2 dogs alternating meant once every 5 minutes. Where was it all coming from? I never knew. Cute little Biscuit–this, too, shall pass. Grown adult before you know it.

    You may not be doing much in the garden, but you are doing vastly more than I. Here it’s quickly water the most vulnerable plants just as the sun (death star) rises and spend the rest of the day in the house. This, too, shall pass.

    The Lycoris squamigeria look very similar to what in my area we call “Naked Lady” which is Amaryllis belladonna. Blooming same time of year too, apparently.

    There’s something good about plants that are weeds in one climate and just survive in another. You have the beauty of the Taro without it ever being a weed. Seems like a plus.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, I also don’t know where all this pee comes from! I swear he never drinks!
      Each week he gets better…. but then a terrible day comes along and I wonder what we’ve gotten into 🙂
      I hope there is a break coming your way sooner than later. Those long stretches of heat and dry really wear me down, and I go stir crazy when I’m kept in the house. I guess its kind of like our winters, except for all the sweating and heat exhaustion.
      I would love to grow Amaryllis belladonna. The colors seem so much more intense but alas… just not hardy enough and apparently does not like to be pot grown. I was told you’re either cold enough for the Lycoris or Mediterranean enough for the Amaryllis, but you can’t have both 🙂

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