Summer Arrives

It finally feels like summer here with warm sunny days, an end to school bus traffic, and summer parties running full force.  These are those lazy, endless days which you remember from when you were a kid but think you grew out of.  Work is a pain, there are all those responsibilities, but I say forget it and take the summer back.  Spend a day in the hammock doing nothing and then read half a book somewhere the breeze is blowing.  Maybe a good thunderstorm will be enough to wash the car, and hopefully someone gets the hint and orders some pizza.  A sick day is not out of the question, and the lawn mowing can wait another couple days 🙂

sumac tiger eyes

The fresh new growth of summer always looks great, even if there’s about twice as much growing in this foundation bed than there needs to be.  I’m starting to wonder just how big a dwarf blue spruce can get.    

I talk a good talk but there is still A LOT I’d like to get done before we click on the automatic watering systems and head to a beach or the mountains.  Tulips were dug last weekend, new tomatoes planted, lawns mowed and edged… many other things planted, weeded, mulched, tidied up… it needs it after I was away for a week for work and then completely unmotivated for another week as I nearly overdosed on painkillers while a toothache worked its way out.  I’ve recovered from both but surprisingly while the gardener was down for the count, the two teens here didn’t jump in and trim and edge and weed and water like I’d been hoping they would.

penstemon digitalis red

I was always luke-warm to the ‘Husker Red’ version of penstemon digitalis, but I really like the pink flowered forms.  I believe this is ‘Dark Towers’.

Honestly I’d rather not share my garden.  I’m tickled when they show an interest, but other than plant a few beans or pick a few onions I’d rather not give over a whole bed to their experiments.  I’m sure I would if asked, but the bad parent in me wants it all to myself.

penstemon digitalis red

I think this was Penstemon digitalis ‘Pocahontas’ but I’ve let it seed throughout the bed and may not care 100% about keeping the patch pure anymore!  

The kids find enough to keep occupied even without having a vegetable garden to weed.  Someday I suspect this general disinterest will change and someone might have a plant question, so to prepare for that day I’ll keep expanding things here so that when the time comes I might have an extra snowdrop or clematis to share 😉

clematis hf young

The pergola is one step closer to a cloak of vines.  The climbing roses were upset by the cold winter, but the clematis seems just fine.  I suspect this is ‘HF Young’ although I didn’t buy it as such.

I have been dabbling in a few things.  the kids may not want to experiment but I’m fine with it.  One of the best things is that my little Lilium pumilum is alive and flowering.  When I looked up the spelling on this thing it was a little insulting to see it referred to as ‘one of the easiest lilies to grow’.  Easy I guess if you don’t keep pulling it as a weed or mulching over it or building a raised bed over it and forgetting where it was.  That would probably help, but since it keeps coming back and flowered in just two or three years after seeds were sown, I guess you could call it easy.

lilium pumilum coral lily

The coral lily (Lilium pumilum) with its glossy scarlet turks-cap flowers.  Seeds would be a nice thing so maybe if I can avoid yanking the plant out after bloom I could raise a whole patch. 

Lilies and clematis and penstemon are nice but it’s the little pots of rhodohypoxis which are thrilling me right now.  Unlike the monkey poxis of central Africa, the Rhodohypoxis of southern Africa are a small corm which sends up pink or white flowers which look as if they were made of paper by a ten year old.  They’ll flower into summer and maybe again here and there late summer, depending on the mood.


I think the hairy leaves are almost as interesting as the exceptionally modest flower.  No curvy pistils and turgid stamens on display here.

They’re not hardy enough for the open garden so mine are all potted, but my less than expert ‘throw them all in the cool but not freezing garage and then put them out again in late March’ method of care seemed to work out all right.  A few rotted though, and I’m not sure if they were too cool and wet in March or if they dried out too much over the winter.  I suspect maybe I put them out too early, but in my defense I thought they were sick of the dry winter and would like the cool rain bringing them out of dormancy… maybe…


Rhodohypoxis baurii ‘Pintado’.  I believe this is my favorite.

As you may suspect there are a few other things which came out of the garage these last few weeks.  The winter garden plants are slowly finding homes, the pots of caladiums and pineapple lilies and whatever else overwintered in a pot are hopefully resprouting, and the bags of cannas and dahlias have been thrown open and watered as they await planting.  My driveway is the definition of a ‘pot ghetto’ and I cringe every time I see Monty pull out a perfectly stored dahlia clump and pot it up in his greenhouse and then contrast that with my trashbags on the concrete.  Hmmm.

the pot ghetto

The driveway probably shouldn’t look like this but give me one more week and maybe there will be noticeable progress.  

I could really use some more unsuspecting garden pals who would believe me when I say they need a crate full of dahlias and cannas.  I thought better safe than sorry when I dug them, but now I’m wondering how safe I thought I needed to be.  Surely there’s plenty of room for them, right?

magnolia society seedlings

I don’t need more plants but of course I was exceptionally excited to see a few sprouts in the magnolia seed pots.  They’re so small I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to find room for these, and even better that only four seedlings are up.  Two would be more than I need.  

Only a fool would complain about a lack of planting space and then join a plant society devoted to trees, even if those trees are magnolias and magnolias are super awesome and wait, there’s a seed exchange and I can order bunches of seed?  Sadly even I can’t justify more than a year or two of magnolia seed starting…

magnolia macrophylla

It was just a little seed…. but five years later Magnolia macrophylla is doing great in a completely inappropriate spot.  Largest simple leaf and flower of any native North American plant.  Who could resist?

Seriously though, if we could justify building a ridiculous addition onto our already reasonable home, why can’t I also have a few more magnolias than I need?  Maybe shade gardening isn’t all that bad.

the tropical garden

The tropical garden is looking more Crayola than Caribbean but at least it’s not the disaster it was last week.  Besides weeding I finally trimmed out all the dead winter-kill from the ‘Black Forest’ rose and the ‘Golden Sunshine’ willow in back.  Both are awesome.

We will see of course.  This garden has a 50/50 chance of going completely off the rails at any moment, and I still can’t believe there’s no garden police pulling me over for too many new bulbs or unplanted seedlings.  Hmm.  I hadn’t even thought of those.  Oh well.  At least it’s not a garage full of assault rifles, I guess I could have have exercised my American freedoms in that direction just as easily, so too many plants crammed in too few spots is still not the worst thing.

Have a great week!  I’m off tomorrow to volunteer at the American Rock Garden Society’s annual general meeting in Ithaca NY.  Someone thought it would be a good idea to have me help out at the plant sale and I’m sure they’re right, but personally I think it’s a terrible idea.  They might as well of put me in charge of ice cream scooping or m&m counting, or had me test to see if the Nutella is fresh.  Whatever.  I’ll do my best and make sure my wallet is stuffed full and the back of the car is empty.  Any receipts will hopefully blow out the window on the way home and if someone asks they were all leftovers.  Wish me luck 😉

29 comments on “Summer Arrives

  1. That pergola is pretty! I don’t remember noticing it before, but there’s just so much to look at in your gardens! And those Rhodohypoxis are pretty as can be! If you really want to get rid of a few cannas, I could probably find a space . . . (Key words, “a few”, NOT a crate full!) Hope you have a good time in Ithaca. American Rock Garden Society, eh? Sounds intriguing. Can’t wait to see what you come home with!

    • bittster says:

      You’ve seen the pergola before, it’s just part of that big thing at the back of the veggie garden. It just looks more impressive with a lush clematis up the side! -and I shall pot a few of the dwarf pink cannas up for you, and spare you from the other big monsters I grow!

  2. Roseann Nardone says:

    Love your blog – I get a chuckle every time – it seems gardeners are alike in so many ways.

    • bittster says:

      haha, thanks. We are alike in many ways, and it’s nice to get that reminder especially after being around non-gardeners. No one should have to justify one more geranium to someone who thinks you already have enough. We need more people who say ‘oh, that’s also a nice one’!

  3. Paddy Tobin says:

    Best wishes with the plant sales – I’d love to be there. Re Rhodohypoxis: it brings back a happy memory of one of our children running to tell Mary that his favourite “Rows of High Foxes” was in flower!

  4. Kerry says:

    If I were closer, I’d come take a few of those cannas off your hands! Your gardens are looking so pretty. My Minnesota garden is finally starting to take off after a cold spring. I thought I’d lost a few hostas and some butterfly weed, but they’re just starting to poke through the mulch. Not sure my lavender is alive though…maybe it’s just really slow to wake up? Anyway, love your blog. It always make me smile! Wishing you much “luck” at the plant sale!

    • bittster says:

      Darn, I was just in Iowa a couple weeks ago and could have swung up to Minnesota to drop off some cannas! I’m sure everyone would have understood the need for a quick couple hour drive just to drop off some dried roots lol
      Crazy how your plants are just poking up and you’re already into baking temperatures. They should really grow fast now with the warmth, but you’re probably going to miss those cool days before long.
      My lavender would never ‘wake up’, it always just dies… I love the look and fragrance, but it never loved it here enough to stick around for more than a few years.
      I had excellent luck at the plant sale, thanks 😉

      • Kerry says:

        I have to admit I was a bit relieved to hear that you didn’t have good luck with lavender either (maybe it is just location and not the gardener). I dug up the dead plants this morning and so of course had to run to the garden center to find something to fill the holes. Lucky for me they had just marked down the perennials to half price! Unfortunately, I may have come home with 3 more lavender plants (face palm). But at 4 bucks apiece I figure I can treat them as annuals, right?

      • bittster says:

        I like how you think 😉

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    You sure have your work cut out for you, Frank. I’d be overwhelmed by the tasks you have before you, but then I have a few years on you. 😉 Isn’t it disappointing when our teens have no interest in gardening? They might come round eventually. One of mine did at 15, but wanted to grow nothing but food, while I’ve always favored ornamentals. We only butted heads when he wanted to rip out my own gardens! 😉
    Good luck on manning the sale table. Just remember, what you bring home will need to be planted!

    • bittster says:

      Oh my gosh you are right on. I was so excited about the plant sale I picked up a tree I don’t need and more perennials that likely won’t survive here. Then I went out to a nursery closer to me and bought an achillea just because and then a few more annuals. I consider it to be supporting local businesses and it’s still cheaper than drugs and clothes, but still it all needs planting.
      I am making progress though. Hopefully the driveway will be clear of pots by this weekend!
      On a positive note, all the construction zones don’t need weeding or watering. Bulldozers are good for that at least.

  6. TimC says:

    Love the lily and magnolia! Experimenting is a lot of fun, although my experiment with rhodohypoxis did not end well. I was convinced that with the drainage in a trough they could overwinter here. Not so.

    • bittster says:

      Hmmm. I wonder if rhodohypoxis would survive if covered? I had a few agave survive just fine in the coldframe last winter so maybe just keeping the snow and ice off would be enough.
      lmk if you want some more corms to run further experiments with.

  7. Deborah Banks says:

    It was great to see you today in Ithaca! And I did scurry back to my station across the street after a happy half hour of shopping. Can’t wait to hear what you chose. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Haha, it’s nice they released you for a little break!
      I added two epimedium, some odd annuals, an awesomely spiny porcupine tomato, three witch hazels and a variegated kousa dogwood. Plus a passionflower vine. Zero rockgarden plants but people are putting together an intervention and hopefully in another year or two I’ll have a suitable spot to keep them happy!

      • Deborah Banks says:

        Wow, wow. That sounds awesome! I would love to have a kousa dogwood here – so far I’ve only killed it once — but I’m waiting for a little more global warming before I try again. I haven’t taken the rock garden plunge yet either, but I’ve started reading the books so I guess it could happen. I’m enjoying a G. Charlesworth book that I snatched up at the ACNARGS member plant sale last month. They were selling some of the books from the ACNARGS library.

  8. Cathy says:

    Haha, you at a plant sale is probably bad enough, but helping out on the stalls sounds like it could end up being an expensive day out! LOL! I can imagine you talking buyers out of buying plants just so you can mark them down and purchase them at the end of the day! 😂 Anyway, have a great time and it’s nice to see an update of your garden before it turns tropical. 😃

    • bittster says:

      Oh you have me figured out. I told myself unless things started flying off the tables at an insane rate I would wait an hour and a half before buying anything. That alone saved me a bunch of money and there were still plenty of goodies left. I only tried to talk someone out of a variegated hydrangea that I wanted, but they got it anyway so I’m not sure how well I did 😉
      I did bring three new witch hazels home. They’re small one year grafts but I have grand plans for them even if I don’t have an actual spot for them.

      • Deborah Banks says:

        Hmm, I remember you actually pointed out that variegated hydrangea to me. I didn’t buy it though.

  9. The Am. Rock Garden Society visited my garden at their regional meeting a few years ago. They were all so knowledgeable and interesting. It should be a great, if expensive, day. Knowing how nursery folk are retiring and plants come in and out of availability, I am much more willing to get something when I see it regardless of the price. Your garden is looking pretty fabulous. Love the big contrasting clumps of plants/shrubs. Looks tour ready. Got up to get out in the garden by 6 am this morning as it is already 78°F. Ugh.

    • bittster says:

      My only regret for the day was not talking to more people. They were all so focused on the plant tables I felt I should leave them to concentrate and make their decisions… but now I’m worried I missed out on way too many plant stories and garden invites! I did talk to a few of the vendors though. I love talking to people who get really excited about what they’re growing.
      Overall it was a cheaper day than I expected. $75 for three new witch hazels and about the same for various perennials and odd annuals. I’ve paid more for dinner and have come home with less so it was fun not even worrying about prices. Actually the prices were quite reasonable!

  10. Lisa Bowman says:

    Record highs here. I am happy to hear that you are on the mend. I about laughed at your even thinking that Teenagers would just step in and do garden work. They need incentive, your near death experience doesn’t qualify. Something more like you can’t get on the phone, play games or leave the property until it is duly taken care of might and I mean maybe/might give them some incentive to comply. Can’t wait to see pictures and read about your days in NY. Your garden looks well even if it is being ignored right now. Take care…

    • bittster says:

      I just traded lunch at the Chinese buffet in exchange for a mown lawn. Not a bad deal in my opinion and I’m thinking the hedge trimmers can get a workout in exchange for some icecream tomorrow. These kids are slowly getting more useful even if they listen to me less and less 😉
      Stay cool!

      • Lisa Bowman says:

        Your children are listening they are just taking much more time digesting what you are telling them. They don’t want you to think they are taking you seriously or that they have a mind of their own. I will not forget the time when my children moved out for good. I soon realized that they did a lot more around the place than I thought. Ha… a lesson for me. Cheers.

  11. pbmgarden says:

    Frank, you make gardening look easy. Everything is doing great. Hope the plant sale was fun.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks! Sometimes letting the weeds get really big before pulling them works out in my favor 😉
      -and I did have fun at the plant sale. A two hour drive to not get paid to work at a plant sale is not for everyone, but I for one enjoyed it!

  12. hb says:

    It’s sounds like you are having lots and lots of fun, the crammed borders look wonderful, and making sure the Nutella is fresh is very important.

    Just please please move the M.macrophylla to a roomy spot. They deserve it.

    • bittster says:

      Now I feel guilty. You could likely handle it, but for me it might be too big to move since it’s probably just over ten feet this year. Plus I don’t even know where it would go! I do have a smaller one elsewhere in the yard, but out in the open I think it’s drier than it wants and the growth has been much slower. Maybe by the time I *really* need to do something about this one, the smaller one will be more impressive and take the edge off the pain.

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