A quick August walkabout

Although the air practically drips humidity and the the nights are muggy it’s still nothing compared to summers South of the Mason Dixon line.  Plus it’s only been a few days, and it’s actually rained regularly for three weeks now and I do love a nice summer thunderstorm so I’m fine with all of it.  What a relief from the relentless dry which haunted me all of June and July (and still haunts much of the East Coast) and what a change the gardens have gone through as they try to get all the growing in which didn’t happen during the first half of summer.

front street border

I think I show this view every summer as the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea comes into bloom along the street.  It’s an awesome plant.

Here’s a quick tour of the good and bad which summer has brought to the rest of the garden… and by ‘rest’ I mean the part which I practically gave up on when the rains stopped.

limelight hydrangea

Ok so I did give this bush some water when it began to wilt and yellow. How could I risk missing these blooms!

Along the street the plants are on their own and most handle drought with style.

front street border

‘Karley Rose’ fountain grass, ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass and perovskia. The purple coneflowers didn’t make it this year and their blooms just dried up and wilted without extra watering.

The grasses really are reliable, but without a doubt ‘Karl Foerster’ is my favorite.  I think I’ve gone on about it enough in the past but please excuse just one more picture.

sunflowers and feather reed grass

Sunflowers have a knack for putting themselves in just the right spot. If I could do a mass planting of this combo with sunflowers, perovskia and Karl I would do it without a second thought.

A few of the annuals planted in June have responded to the rain and are now looking like they want to live after all.

purple zinnia

Not sure if my color choices are really on point with the annuals this year, but a zinnia looks great anywhere.

A three year old ‘Dixieland’ miscanthus has finally put its roots down and taken off.  Me and variegation are always friends so obviously there was a good chance the two of us would hit it off… and we have 🙂

sedum brilliant and dixieland miscanthus

‘Dixieland’ is a dwarf miscanthus which generally goes against my love of giant plants, but for this one I’ll be glad to avoid the floppiness of its variegated big brother, and for the mailman’s sake this size is far less intimidating.

Things start to go downhill as you look to the house.

sumac tiger eyes

Someday I’ll grow up and realize ‘Tiger Eyes’ staghorn sumac is too aggressive a spreader for smaller planting areas and too informal a look for foundation plantings, but that realization may still be decades off.

Once you walk past the tropical bed and head out back it becomes project after project.

lasagna garden bed

Weeds are once again exploding in the bed-which-I-can’t-decide-what-to-do-with. Iris bed fell through, veggie bed fell through, dahlia bed fell through… and still it sits.

At least when it was dry the crabgrass wasn’t a problem.

crabgrass weed

Most of the iris and daffodils have been dug but just enough remain that I can’t really move on with this bed either.  Plus without a lawn worth mowing I don’t have any mulch to smother the crabgrass with and its spontaneous regeneration will make for a horrible mess in another week.  But on the bright side I do see the rabbits here all the time nibbling.

The return of rain has brought a sort of second spring to some parts of the garden.

magnolia rebloom ann

Magnolia ‘Ann’ was yellowing, wilted and dropping leaves and must have been headed towards dormancy, but the rains brought on a flush of excitement in the form of summer blooms.

Even though all the fancier phlox in full sun fried, the phlox ‘weeds’ which I allowed to selfseed in this bed were saved by the shadow of the house.  There’s nothing which I like about this bed although my wife “loves!” the grassy clump of Panicum ‘cloud nine’ in the center.  I’ve tried mowing everything down and creating a dull bed o’mulch but the minute I turn my head it’s all back.

self seeded phlox

Blech. Golden yellow with washed out pink in front of the orangey brick of the house. Someone has plans to add a master bedroom to this end of the house and although someone else firmly disagrees, that opinion is usually crushed over time just like anything else which could be planted in the meantime.

To give a final dose of reality to this mess of a post here’s a photo of the roughly graded fill which has been dumped next door and which has also been added to my project list.  It sounded like a good idea when my neighbor offered to just keep going with his own fill project, but now I’m faced with digging and raking and seeding.  The plan is for a new meadow garden but it sure is an inviting bit of real estate there behind the MIL’s house.  Sunflowers would do well there I’m sure, but for now I feel like I’m in a prison chain gang as I break up the fill with a pick so I can shovel it over into the low spots.

graded fill

My yard used to go across all at nearly the same level, but now the grade has been raised several feet. I wonder how much I could raise my own yard… hmmm.

So I guess if there’s any point to this post it’s that my garden looks much nicer in a cropped closeup rather than the big picture, and that your own garden is probably much nicer than you give it credit for.  Don’t feel bad for me though, I’m quite happy in my interesting mess and I (sometimes) do enjoy the journey more than the finished product.  Plus we’re off for a few days next week camping so that’s always fun 🙂

Have a great week!


Thursday’s Feature: Standing Cypress

It’s Thursday and that means joining up with Kimberley of Cosmos and Cleome to take a closer look at something which caught your eye in the garden this week.  Hopefully you’re ready for color because his week the bright red of standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) is our subject.

Ipomopsis Rubra

Ipomopsis rubra close up.  Love the speckles and the intense scarlet color.  Bright red is what you need this time of year to stand up to the strong summer sun.

Standing cypress is a showy wildflower native to southeastern North America and just one of many garden-worthy Ipomopsis which can be found across the Americas (at least they look garden worthy, this is the only one I’ve ever grown).  These members of the phlox family are tough, drought resistant, and easy to grow and I’m surprised they’re not seen more often.  This is one plant which didn’t even blink when the rain stopped and its neighbors curled up into a drought induced fetal position.

Ipomopsis Rubra

Ipomopsis Rubra has a habit which I would call “lax”.  At anywhere from two to five feet tall they don’t typically flop, but they lean and stretch and carry so many blooms and seed pods that understandably it can get heavy for a little plant.

It took me years to finally find seed but admittedly I wasn’t out there every week trying to run down new sources.  I received my seed via the Mid Atlantic Hardy Plant Society seed exchange but now I’ve been seeing them more frequently sold in wildflower mixes or for hummingbird plantings.  The mix I planted was supposed to show a blend of red to oranges to yellows, but the speckled scarlet color is the only one I’ve seen come up.

Ipomopsis Rubra

The tubular flower shape and bright red color of these blooms has ‘hummingbird flower’ written all over it, and sure enough I often see hummers flying by for a meal.

It’s my suspicion that the natural variation across this species makes for different growing habits based on where one gets their seed from.  My plants which have been selfseeding around for several years now seem to be strictly annuals but from what I found they also grow as biennials and short lived perennials in areas across the United States as far up as zone 4.  Since mine have never overwintered I’m thinking it’s an annual form I’m growing.

Other confusing comments on this plant include it having a taproot (mine don’t) and it needing sandy or gravelly, well drained soil (mine tolerate heavier soil) in order to do well.  I suspect some of this is from people who’s knowledge is based less on experience and more on internet searches, but since I’m not a botanist either I’ll let you decide.

Ipomopsis Rubra

The ferny basal rosettes of standing cypress will pop up in any barren, neglected area which grows weeds well.  They do not compete against more perennial plantings, but in disturbed soil they can make a quick show before other opportunists jump in.

The hummingbirds and I will enjoy the blooms of this wildflower for several weeks now and when things slow down I’ll just trim off the upper end of the stalk and the smaller side shoots should carry on for a few more weeks.

Standing cypress.  Consider it.  If your garden can handle a shot of red I think you’ll enjoy it, and I also think you’ll enjoy giving Cosmos and Cleome a visit to see what Kimberley and others bloggers are featuring this week.  Enjoy!