Many people enjoy and claim they welcome the coming of autumn. I want to make it clear that I do not, and although the last few days have been a little too hot and dry for my taste, I would much prefer the relief of a summertime cloudburst rather than any farewell to summer eulogy. So I guess what I want is just a few more days of denial before I’m forced to admit the season is breaking down.
After a promising start to the summer August went dry and for the past forty days we’ve barely cracked the 1/4 inch mark for rainfall. With high temperatures, thin soil, drying winds, and full sun the life was sucked out of a garden which had been almost carefree at the start of the summer. With a nice rain today we’ll see how fast things bounce back. My guess is it will be a much faster turnaround than the last two summers when things REALLY dried out to a crisp.
In spite of the heat a few things still look nice. The tropical garden got a few minutes with the hose, and that seems to have been enough to keep it from death. I love the colors right now with the purple verbena bonariensis, dark red dahlias, and peach colored salvia splendens filling the bed.
With the grass dried up to a crispy beige the stronger reds, oranges, and purples really stand out. I don’t think a bed full of lavenders, whites, and pale pinks would be as eye catching…. which I’m going to say is a good thing, since in this world of gray and tan I can use as much eye catching and hold-on-to-life color as I can get!
Even up front a little bold color is a nice thing. The border along the house foundation has a few spots of color from the ‘Masquerade’ peppers I planted out this spring. The true type has purple peppers changing to yellow, orange, and red while a few oddball plants started right off with pale yellow and are now going through the same sunset effect.
Along the street is another story. Even with a few emergency waterings things look end of summer tired.
I did give the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea a little soaking, but a few water lovers such as the ‘Golden sunshine’ willow will need a good bit of water before they look anything close to happy again.
There are still a few bright spots. Even in the harsh midday sun kniphofia ‘Ember Glow’ looks nice. It could be a little taller but the size actually works well with the peppers and coleus (please ignore the dead rudbeckias and dying zinnias).
Until the garden bounces back the best thing to do is spend more time in the shade, seated with cold beverage in hand. I can ignore the weeds and dead lawn quite successfully on the back deck.
Even with a good soaking the lawnmower will still likely be on vacation for another week or two. I’m ok with that. I hope the soil takes in the rain, the plants come back, and I can finally use something other than a pickaxe to dig a hole. Maybe then I’ll start thinking about things like fall while I’m taking care of a little late summer transplanting and bulb planting 🙂
From seven in the morning to about four in the afternoon all we hear is the thump thump thump of bulldozers…. six days a week. Oh, and the dust too.
Of course things could be worse, but the steady beat of the steel bulldozer treads has been relentless all summer and I hope it’s finished soon. Also I hope it’s not replaced by something more annoying!
The above picture is of the dried up vegetable beds with construction in the back, and as you might be able to see I’ve given up on the garden and it’s slowly dying without water. Earlier in the week when it was cooler I was inspired and planted out a small bed of lettuce transplants, dutifully watering them in, but today as the temperatures climbed to 87F (30C) with bone dry soil, I’ve given up in disgust.
The fall rains will come some day and I’ll complain about the damp I’m sure, but right now I could go for a nice soaking. I want the rain so I can get transplanting, there’s just no joy in it when the soil is so dry you need a pickaxe. Fortunately I at least got the compost pile turned, and although it’s also a dry fungal mess there was some good stuff at the bottom. In another week or two my new bulbs will appreciate that!
The last couple days have been cooler, less humid and just plain pleasant to be outside in. I’m not saying it’s fall weather, but it’s pretty close, and based on the dry, sad state of many plants in my garden I might say they’re ready for this summer to be over. The front border has been on an IV drip of water and this life support intervention has kept it looking decent. Having done a mid summer bed expansion here, and having added many annuals and tropicals, it kind of needs it in order to not become a dusty wasteland…. what a lovely contrast to the lawn which has not benefitted from any watering.
The pink in front is a sedum which has been doing very well the last few years. I always hated this color growing up, but this might be an improved version of regular sedum spectabile. It was given to me without a name, but after surviving a transplant and division during 90 degree heat I guess I owe it a place. Next year I’m hoping for an even fuller plant.
From the other direction more of the elephant ear, coleus, and cannas are visible. The ‘hot biscuits’ amaranthus is blooming now and I like the brown seedheads…. it kind of gives a grainy farmland look here in suburbia.
My birdseed sunflowers are all doing well in spite of the lack of water and lack of attention. The only drawback is their lack of pollen, and you can see the centers of the flowers are black, not pollen-yellow. Pollen free is great for cut flowers but the bees are not thrilled. A few come by for nectar, which I guess is enough to get them pollinated, but they’re not the busy centers of activity that the rest of the flowers are.
In the backyard, the dahlias are still getting water and even with me cutting nearly every bloom, they’re still giving a nice spot of color in front of the dead lawn.
While it was still hot and humid I got around to mowing down the meadow. I traded in my electric chopper for the day and borrowed my brother in law’s heftier gas powered lawnmower. It made quick work of the crispy dried grass and wildflowers. Typically I try to cut back the meadow earlier in the year, but with the hot, dry weather I really didn’t feel like doing anything at all, so it was only now that I found the motivation. Because of my lack of enthusiasm everything got cut, there was no mowing around butterfly weed or native grasses, it all got the same treatment. It was a good thing I finally got it done, because for some reason the colchicums have heard the call of autumn and begun to sprout. How they come up through the dry, hard-packed, rock-like soil is anyone’s guess, and what triggers them to wake up is beyond me, but there they are. Fresh blooms in a sea of dry crispiness.
I wish there was some similar promise in this end of the yard. The Annabelle hydrangeas were fantastic in the spring but now are just dying sticks. They’ll recover if rain comes soon, but for now everything just skips over our little spot, or never even reaches the ground.
It could easily be worse, there are still a few green weeds in there, but Pennsylvania usually doesn’t go this long without rain. On top of that it doesn’t help that most everywhere else on the east coast is at above average rainfall… but I have faith. Right now Thursday is showing 100% chance of rain, and maybe this cooler weather is signaling a change in the weather.