Catching Up On July

Guess who fell off the wagon last month?

This guy.

This was the year I had planned to inundate the worldwide web with post after post of questionable garden content peppered with somewhat bland comments and marginal quality photos, a complete year of quantity over quality.  It was a mass-media dream that had the potential to gain me at least five new subscribers and boost my stats by as much as a couple hundred views over 2020… and… anyway I’m not on track, and surprisingly it hasn’t made much of a difference in my life.  Surprising.  But I do want a record of this year’s gardening adventures (for better or worse), so let me get back on the ball and start with a flashback to last Wednesday’s (nearly a week and a half ago) return from seven days away at the beach.

garden after vacation

It was steamy hot and wet while we were away, and the garden jumped ahead to a new level of lushness… even if it is a little wooly and lacks color.

A garden abandoned for a week isn’t a big deal, but there were also two smaller trips before that, and quite a bit of other crap earlier in the month (it was honestly not a good time), so things weren’t set up very well to begin with, but it happens, and now looking back I have to say I’ve been shockingly busy for a change and I’m looking forward to showing nicer photos in the next post… but we’re not there yet 😉

silk road lily

‘Silk Road’ was frozen back and missed 2020, but lo and behold she is filling this end of the garden with beauty and fragrance as if last year never happened.  I think we would all like to do the same.

Since I suspect someone might be looking for ‘leaving the garden for a week or so in the summer’ advice, and wants a few tips for their own vacation away, now might be a good time to make this post useful with a list of what one should do before leaving.

cardoon flower

The cardoon is flowering alongside some more fragrant lilies(‘Leslie Woodriff’ in this case).  Just so you know, this picture does not do credit to the way the cardoon flowers glow.  I hope I can get a better photo this week.

Here’s my guidance for prepping the garden before you go away:

  1.  Do everything you were supposed to do in April, May, and June but you just never got to.
  2. Pick every last flower bud off the zucchini a few hours before you leave.
pond scum algae

I noticed a bit of algae before leaving, but it exploded while we were gone and is now even pushing the duckweed out and away.  It sure did clear up the water though!  Regardless I’m raking it out even if it is kind of interesting.  It’s some kind of filamentous algae although less fancy people will call it pond scum.

I’ll admit I only did #2 on that list, but still there were a few other highlights besides returning to pond scum.

mildewed phlox

The phlox which were moved to one of the shadier raised beds are not happy.  Mildew, floppiness, and I had really hoped for better in the “improved” site.  Fortunately the ones left in the old beds look healthier.

The mildew, weeds, and neglected plants didn’t happen in just a week (although it’s nice to have a vacation to blame), fortunately these are the before pictures and I’ve been busy since.  Much has been attended to… although all I did was ignore the mildew and hope for some miraculous rebirth of healthy foliage.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to just look forward to next year.

overgrown flower bed

The phlox are actually doing nicely in here, I just need to uncover them.  Seriously.  It’s really not as bad as it looks.

Phlox and a few other things did not like the heat and endless thunderstorms,  but a few things loved it.  The tropical plants are soaking it up and exploding into leafy lushness!

castor bean plant

This ‘Carmencita’ castor bean plant was just a little thing before we left, now it looms over just about everything.

And my first agapanthus seedling has flowered 🙂

hardy agapanthus

I was shocked to see this three year old agapanthus seedling put up a flower but here it is!  Now hopefully it clumps up and blooms freely every summer.  It spent last winter in the front bed unprotected, and fingers crossed it will continue to be completely hardy.

And I have a flower on my new Crinum!

crinum milk and wine

Crinum x herbertii, the ‘Milk and Wine’ lily could be this year’s most expensive annual (almost as much as a new snowdrop!)… or possibly an exciting new perennial that only needs a little winter protection?  We will find out.

Since this post has been all over anyway, I’d just like to finish with the latest caladium photo so everyone knows they’re still all alive and well.

starting caladiums

One by one I’m getting to see all the surprises my 5 pounds of mixed caladium tubers contains.  This isn’t my first year growing caladiums, but for some reason I’m obsessed with them this year.  

And that’s the after and before post all in one.  I’ll say it again, I’ve been busy and how often do you ever hear that from me, so hopefully I can get a few decent pictures this weekend and share the results.  Have a great weekend!

18 comments on “Catching Up On July

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It appears that the garden didn’t miss you one bit. It is nice that the caladiums held well while you were gone too. Interesting about the agapanthus being perennial for you. Is it a hardy variety? I have never had luck with caladiums before this year. I bought a couple of caladiums that had been forced in a greenhouse early in May. I planted one in a pot and one in the ground when it warmed up some. They are doing great. I wish I knew which variety they were. Oh well, I will just sit back and enjoy them. I hope you enjoy yours too. Cheers.

    • bittster says:

      I don’t know any of the names of my caladiums, but I did sort them out to get a few of the same into each pot. I’m still on the lookout for new ones though. I’d love a green speckled one, but any caladiums are hard to find around here so I might be out of luck. It’s turning into an obsession for some reason, and I really need to step back for a week or two. Maybe moving them into garden positions rather than blocking the garage with a big group of them on the driveway would be a good start…

      • bittster says:

        Oh, and the agapanthus is a hardy variety (I hope). I have another which just started flowering last week. It’s been in the garden for a few years and seems quite happy (and hardy).

  2. Agapanthus seedling? I am happy if I can get an agapanthus bulb to bloom! And don’t fret, some of us don’t go to the beach for a week and our gardens don’t look any better!

    • bittster says:

      You know that if I had to grow the agapanthus in a pot it would just fade away. Being able to grow them in the garden with all the natural seasons to trigger growth and flowering is a real plus.
      heh heh, the garden looked like I’d been already gone a week quite a few times already this year!

  3. Lisa Rest says:

    I can relate. Our rain came late this year but when it did, my garden, if you can call it that, exploded in kind and I have towering plants everywhere, with very little time to take control of the situation. There might be even more of a need to feel in control these days… Your garden looks fabulous to me.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Lisa! I’d always rather have towering, overgrown plants rather than stunted, droughty plants any day. But I’d always take both of those before having to live in a garden of endless lawn.
      I wish I had better photo and camera skills. I’d try and present all the birds which have been visiting lately. They seem very happy hunting bugs, eating sunflower seeds, and stealing blueberries and I’m really happy about it. This is the first year a pileated woodpecker has been stopping in. They’re so big I was in awe the first time I saw it, but I’m just as excited to see a few wrens breeding here again. I think they froze out a few winters back.

      • Lisa Rest says:

        I would love to see a pileated in your yard! Wow, that’s quite impressive! I don’t have a lawn in my little backyard at all anymore so everything else has been competing like crazy this summer. My trees need some taming too. I guess I didn’t read the fine print warning about what can happen in 20 years. Lol.

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    I was just thinking of you today, wondering what you were up to and here is your post. July was so hot and rainy, that it is no wonder your garden is exploding. Your caladiums look happy with the humidity and I’m impressed with the agapanthus. Not something I’d expect to see in the Northeast.
    My lamb’s ears and phlox look terrible, but the trees have not looked so lush in ages. Our waterfall is running like it is spring instead of going down to a trickle as it has most Julys of late. Even the ground in low places is squelchy. I’m surprised the monarda look as good as they do. Rabbits have continued to feast away and I finally ended making wire cages for most of the annuals in an effort to salvage some. Hope this year is a one-off, I’d hate to deal with them every year!

    • bittster says:

      Yeah, I don’t know why this summer has been so busy, but it has. Hopefully things slow down enough to enjoy it… which I’ve been doing, but not as much as I prefer 😉
      The lushness is cool, isn’t it? Some of the taller annuals like sunflowers are bigger than ever and I’m trimming them up so I can still get to the far corners of the garden. I love sitting down under their shade as the goldfinches pick through, it’s a very ‘immersive’ experience.
      I hope the rabbits find their balance soon enough. When they put their mind to eating a certain plant, they’re relentless until it’s just a nub. Maybe it’s time for a fox family to move on through the area.

  5. I think the July garden looks the same whether we’re home working in it or not. It is a month of manic growth and often stormy weather. I planted a pair of hardy (Z.5) Agapanthus last year. One got three flowering stems and the other returned but clearly did not get enough sun. Just moved it yesterday. Love the size and leaf color on the Castor bean. I need to grow one of those. I am a sucker for huge plants in a smallish space!

    • bittster says:

      If you are a fan of huge plants in a small place, you’d love the potager this year! The tomatoes and peppers are being shaded out, but it’s a fun mess. I think last year was a little too much under control and I’m happy to see a little chaos returning.
      The agapanthus here is in all day full sun, and I give it some fertilizer regularly. They seem to tolerate abuse, but don’t mind living a little fat 🙂
      I love the red castor beans as opposed to plain green. lmk if you need seeds

  6. Cathy says:

    An agapanthus seedling flowering for you is absolutely amazing! Congratulations on the Crinum too. It is rather sobering to me at how well a garden can grow with neglect, although it doesn’t look as if I will be travelling again this summer anyway. You clearly had a good mix of sunshine and rain so far this season as it all looks very lush and leafy! I want to grow a Castor plant again next year, but this was a good reminder of just how long it takes before they make an impact. Is yours really that tall?! We have been spared the mildew so far this year despite all the rain. So I assume as you didn’t do number two on your list before going away that you have a glut of zucchini? Snap! But we love zucchini soup so loads is going in the freezer too. 😉

    • bittster says:

      I just cut the grass again today. It’s unusual to have it so lush now, in the middle of summer, and I’m not sure if the green carpet is worth all the extra cutting. It does look nice though, and the time I don’t spend watering had to go someplace!
      The castor bean (this is the largest one) grew even bigger in the days since I took this photo. I’ll have to do an update since it’s blooming now and is over my head 🙂
      I did remember to snip all the zucchini babies and blooms, but one week away and of course the counter is full again. I had a delicious plate of stir fried zucchini, onions and green peppers. I think it would have been excellent with a bratwurst but I had to settle for some egg mixed in somewhat like a frittata, but much less egg. I’ve never tried zucchini soup…. hmmm… the recipes sound interesting, but I think I need for it to be hot and not cold.

  7. Love the agapanthus! I keep telling myself to try one but somehow I never do. Weird. And I see that you had some great smoke on your cotinus! Obviously, none on either of mine because I hacked them back so hard this year. But I didn’t touch the third one (Golden Spirit) and no smoke there either. That said, I have read that often that one doesn’t smoke, or at least not very much. It’s pretty enough without it, but I am greedy, lol. Which means next year it will probably smoke and I’ll find that I won’t like the combo of yellow + smoky!

    • bittster says:

      It took a while for me to find the agapanthus. You may have better luck and more options where you are, but I wanted to start with the hardiest since we do get a little colder here.
      The smokebush was exceptional this year, it’s the first year I didn’t cut it down so this was a nice surprise but bigger than I want in that spot. It’s an easy job to cut it down next spring, so maybe I’ll alternate smoke and not-smoke 🙂
      Golden spirit is such a nice color I don’t think I’d care if it smoked or not. Pictures online don’t look all that impressive though, but maybe with some light shining through and the perfect smoke puffs catching said light, maybe it will be exceptional!

  8. You’re tempting me with the Agapanthus, with our warmer climate it may just do ok here. I can relate to not writing as many posts as intended. I once did three per week, now I struggle to do one. Partly it is health issues: I often am fatigued and the neuropathy in my hands makes it feel like I am typing with gloves on. Anyway, the cardoon and lilies are a good combo.

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