Hang in there Summer!

Cooler temperatures and earlier sunsets.  There’s no denying that summer is losing its grip, and with the kids starting school this week I guess it’s time to face reality.  Summer will not go on forever.  But delusion is a beautiful thing, and that’s what I’m sticking to, and for now at least I’ll focus on late August flowers….. not September.

The front border is hanging in there in spite of the dry weather, and my half hearted watering seems enough to keep it this side of parched crispy.  Agastache “Tutti Fruitti” (I think), Russian sage, and the seedheads of “Karl Foerster” feather reed grass carry the show.

agastache tutti fruitti drought tolerant plants

Further into the bed it gets a little messy, and I bet deadheading the butterfly bush would help, but in the meantime it’s all almost one big wave of buzzing, fluttering color.  Lower left is “Karley Rose” pennisetum, basically carefree but not as sturdy as “Karl Foerster”.  The Russian sage and butterfly bushes just keep going….'karley rose', 'pink delight' butterfly bush

From the street it looks a bit messy, but maybe it distracts people from the dead grass…. here’s ‘Royal Red’ Butterfly bush (Buddleia).  It’s a little thin this year for some reason, but I’m sure it will be back to normal next year.

buddleia 'royal red'

Also from the street, “Limelight” hydrangea paniculata.  Probably my favorite hydrangea, and it can get as big as it wants here.  The flowers start with a tinge of limey green, go white , and then blush with a bit of pink and red, and believe it or not the blooms are small this year (probably due to the dry summer).  Still there’s plenty of white flower overkill going on here!hydrangea "limelight"The extra water I give the hydrangea seems to be welcomed by its neighbors.  I love that this little milk thistle (Silybum marianumhas) sprouted up under the hydrangea.  milk thistleI don’t think it will amount to much this year, but maybe I’ll get lucky and have it overwinter and bloom.  Up till now I’ve only been successful with it as an annual.

If you’re bored, look up the history of milk thistle.  It’s been used medicinally for over 2,000 years and is still recommended today for the same liver disorders as it was in the middle ages.   Liver cancer, hepatitis, liver damage due to toxins…. mushroom poisioning….all this and it’s spiny with great foliage.  I love spiny!

The far end of the street border is still filling in.  I can always count on the no-name, purple leaved cannas to give a nice background, and the ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia looks good in front of them.  I tried a couple marigolds in here too this year, they’re still small, but are taking the dry heat without a single complaint.  One of the great things about annuals is the chance to do it all differently next year.  I’m not sure if the brown-orange color is one I’ll chose to repeat.purple canna with 'wendy's wish' salvia

Front border update

Looking back on the weather, I believe I picked the hottest days of the year to do my digging, transplanting and bed expanding.  It’s cooled a bit recently but the strong sun and spotty rain combined with my thin skin of topsoil have left things a little tired looking.  Crispy tan grass dominates the yard, but here and there is some fresh color to keep me motivated.

Here’s how the new transplants are doing.  The ‘Tropicanna’ cannas love the heat and don’t look bad next to the airy fennel that’s trying to take over the mailbox.  It’s been cut back a bunch due to the huge numbers of pollinating wasps drawn in to the flowers… no one needs a mailbox that buzzes.flower border along street

The street side of the border isn’t nearly as well kempt as the freshly weeded, freshly planted house side, but it looks interesting with a lively mix of Russian sage (perovskia), sedum, and lamb’s ears (stachys ‘Helen von Stein’) with all kinds of self-sown volunteers such as phlox.drought tolerant street planting

I’ve been busy re-taming this border after returning from our recent Florida vacation.  Ten days of living the suburban dream of Disney and a tropical beach in late July, it doesn’t get any more relaxing than that.  Pulling crabgrass in the blazing August sun (without a million other people) was a refreshing return.

The annual coleus and zinnia seedlings liked the heat and it also brought out blooms on the butterfly bushes and ‘Limelight’ hydrangea.

annuals mixed in perennial border

I love the hydrangea, it’s getting to be on the big side but I’m all for big plants in the garden.  ‘Limelight’ is a type of hydrangea paniculata, a group that blooms in late summer (usually white or pinkish), tolerates dryer soils, welcomes full sun and flowers reliably each year.  It blooms on new growth, so you could take a chainsaw to the thing in spring and still get a mass of blooms later in the year.  ‘Limelight’ has a nice greenish tint to the new blooms and has stems strong enough to keep the heavy flower heads from flopping.021Another all-summer bloomer is rose of Sharon (althea syriacus), they laugh at heat and drought and are nearly impossible to kill.  They have some well known faults, and two of the biggest are it’s late leafing out and it’s enthusiastic reseeding habits, but I grow it anyway.  ‘althea blue birdDiana’ is a sterile white cultivar and an awesome plant, but with all the white vinyl around here I can only fit in so many bright white flowers, so the one I grow is ‘Blue Bird’. ‘Blue Bird’ earned its spot because of the trouble free blue color of its blooms.  I don’t think it’s as showy as some of the others but the color is worth a little seeding around.  Every now and then I think it has a little look of weediness to it, and even though in my garden this isn’t a noticeable fault, in some more refined plantings this might stick out.  I guess  that’s a cross better gardeners are meant to bear.

Drought tolerance is something that everything in this street border has to deal with.  Perovskia, self-sown gloriosa daisies (rudbeckia), and ornamental grasses all take it in stride.  It’s a little messy, but right now I think the color holds up well to the bright sun and higher temperatures…. no room for pastels here…. The purple ‘Laura’ phlox gets extra water now and then, it handles a little dry weather and heat, but complains the whole time.rudbeckia and russian sage

‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass doesn’t complain about anything.  A haircut in the spring is all the maintenance it needs and if you like the grassy look this is what it gives you all summer, fall, and winter.  Doesn’t reseed, doesn’t need fertilizer, looks good all year…….I’m a fan.karl foerster feather eed grass

‘Karley Rose’ fountain grass is another good one.  It can get floppy after a rain, and doesn’t hold the good looks through the winter like Karl does, but makes a nice accent. karley rose fountain grass

Hopefully the annuals planted last month will fill in and make an accent before frost.  The newest plantings look more like a late May picture than an intro to August, but such is procrastination.  At least I’ll have a few empty spots to shoehorn spring bulbs into once that planting season starts. 🙂cannas in a mixed border

Best wishes for your August garden!