Despite chirpy assurances from area weather reporters that “everyone” in our region has repeatedly gotten soaking rains over the past month, a few of us, at least, have not shared in the bounty. Barely 1 inch of rain over the last 4 weeks, combined with an unusually dry June and July and long stretches of brutally hot weather, does not make for joyous gardening. To be honest, I was [this] close to simply skipping Bloom Day this month. Then this little guy changed my mind.
I sowed the sweet pea seeds back in April and the seedlings looked good in May; then the rain disappeared and so did the plants, I thought. Somehow, one survived on less than 4 inches of rain in the last 10 weeks and even produced a bloom, and I figured that it–as well as all of the other plants who have managed to survive this brutal summer–deserved to be acknowledged and appreciated.
Careful photography of the star plants and combinations is the order of the day when the garden as a whole is sad and crispy.
A bit more time spent on maintenance wouldn’t go amiss, but there’s not much incentive to putter around in the garden, other than to collect seeds. The grass paths are looking particularly dismal.
Getting a bit closer and taking two steps to the left makes it possible to hide most of the browned bits, and suddenly the border looks lush and flower-filled. Lesson: Never assume that you know a garden if you’ve only ever seen it in pictures.
It’s common for yellows and golds to be abundant here this time of year. Yes, orange coneflowers (Rudbeckia fulgida
) are common, but they can be dramatically wilted for days and still manage to put on a respectable show–particularly those that have planted themselves in shadier sites, or where they get shade from taller companions.
Orange cornflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida) with ‘Anabelle’ smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)
Orange cornflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida) with ghost bramble (Rubus thibetanus) and Dakota Goldcharm spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Mertyann’)
Orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida) with the seedheads of ‘Dark Towers’ beardtongue (Penstemon)
Orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida) with ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
The bright yellow umbels of golden lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia) are eye-catching from early August well into fall. The basal foliage is wilted and discolored this year, but somehow the plants have managed to keep blooming.
Golden lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia) is happy in The Shrubbery, too: here it’s with Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota var. carota) and ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora). I normally don’t allow Queen Anne’s lace to flower in the borders–it has plenty of room to do its thing in the meadow–but I let it go this year to have something (anything!) for summer color.
The daylily (Hemerocallis) season was short and unspectacular this summer, but here’s good old ‘Autumn Minaret’ doing its best to beautify the side garden even under tough conditions.
I’m very glad that I’d decided back in the spring to keep most of my experiments in the vegetable garden, so I can give them a bit of supplemental water when I’m trying to keep the edibles going. Some are meant for cutting; others I hope to collect seed from.
‘ProCut Orange’ annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
Pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis)
Lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)
‘Kiwi Blue’ honeywort (Cerinthe major var. purpurascens)
‘Old Gold’ field corn (Zea mays)
Pretzel bean (Vigna unguiculata)
Variegated cinnamon vine (Dioscorea batatas ‘Variegata’)
Large-flowered collomia (Collomia grandiflora)
I did leave some room for vegetables in the vegetable garden. Unfortunately, the low fence, which does a reasonable job keeping the rabbits out, is no help with the voles and deer. Between them, those pests have pretty much destroyed the half-dozen bean varieties I was growing out, and they get a lot of the tomatoes before I can pick them. They haven’t (yet) touched the ‘Livingston’s Honor Bright’ (‘Lutescent’) tomatoes yet, though, or the hot peppers.
The foliage of ‘Livingston’s Honor Bright’ (‘Lutescent’) tomato looks chlorotic, but the yellowish appearance is part of its normal state of being.
The flowers of ‘Livingston’s Honor Bright’ (‘Lutescent’) tomato are more on the whitish side.
The fruits of ‘Livingston’s Honor Bright’ (‘Lutescent’) tomato are its most striking feature: They start creamy white, then turn yellow before maturing to orangey red.
I’m not surprised that no critters have nibbled on these ‘Mustard Habanero’ peppers (Capsicum chinense) plants. The fruits of this Pennsylvania heirloom are reportedly very hot.
Fabulously variegated ‘Fish’ pepper (Capsicum annuum) with MiniFamous Vampire calibrachoa (Calibrachoa ‘Kleca09172’)
A few other beauties that are thriving with some supplemental water include…
Red mallow (Pavonia missionum)
White-flowered hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab)
Not surprisingly, the black-leaved cotton (Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigrum’) is thriving in the heat. It demands loads of water, though. If I didn’t want the seeds so badly, I’d have given up on it a month ago.
Aren’t the flowers exquisite?
…even when they’re on the way out?
The plump, healthy seedpods make me even happier than the beautiful blooms.
Well, those are all lovely, but I’ve gotten distracted from my original point of celebrating the plants that are performing well without any help from me, despite the ridiculously inadequate amount of rainfall.
In bloom since June, ‘Governor George Aiken’ mullein (Verbascum) is just about finished, but it’s still producing a few blossoms on its sideshoots.
Red clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra)
‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranth (Amaranthus)
‘Elephant Head’ amaranth (Amaranthus)
Self-sown seedlings of blue pimpernel (Anagallis monellii) with golden hops (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’)
Flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata)
‘Leia’ pineapple lily (Eucomis)
‘Dragon’s Breath’ celosia (Celosia) with Euphorbia palustris ‘Zauberflote’
Cut-leaved chastetree (Vitex negundo ‘Heterophylla’)
Most of my hardy hibiscus plants are wilted and dying, but this ‘Fireball’ is still looking good–maybe because its deeply cut leaves don’t lose as much water as the broad-leaved ones.
Blackberry lily (Iris domestica [Belamcanda chinensis])
Graybeard grass or frost grass (Spodiopogon sibiricus)
Bunny tail grass (Lagurus ovatus)
Naked lady (Lycoris squamigera) with Canna indica ‘Purpurea’
‘Black Beauty’ Orienpet lily (Lilium) with giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) and ‘Color Guard’ Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa)
A pink-flowered Japanese burnet (Sanguisorba tenuifolia) seedling
Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum) with summer phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Many of the meadow perennials–like these New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) and Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum)–are a good 2 feet shorter than normal, but they’re still looking good. In fact, the ironweed is even more handsome than usual, since its leaves are not disfigured by the orange rust that usually infects them this time of year.
The wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) is equally happy in the garden and out here in the meadow.
It took a while, but the shining sumac (Rhus copallinum) is creating a broad, beautiful patch in the lower meadow.
Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) fighting it out with clustered or short-toothed mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) in the meadow.
Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) in the meadow: one of the few plants that has not noticed the drought at all!
Variegated pokeweed (Phytolacca americana ‘Variegata’ [‘Silberstein’]) is looking particularly grand this year.
Golden wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana ‘Aureum’)
Well, that’s quite enough of traipsing around the garden in this heat. They boys are much smarter and spend most of these hot days under their favorite patch of cedars.
We love our cedar trees!
When I’m not obliged to be outdoors, I mostly retreat to my basement. While not as cool as it usually is this time of year, it’s more tolerable than the upper floors. I’ve been busy down there finishing a bunch of the botanical castings I made earlier in the season and making new ones this summer.
Daffodil (Narcissus), Siberian squill (Scilla siberica), and reticulated iris (Iris reticulata)
Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum commutatum) and forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica)
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and lavender (Lavandula)
Summer herbs and edibles
Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), poppy (Papaver somniferum), and ‘Tanna’ burnet (Sanguisorba)
White lace flower (Orlaya grandiflora)
Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)
Poppy (Papaver somniferum) pods
Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
Common nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
While I prefer the simplicity of the uncolored castings, I’ve been trying out some handpainted “tiny tiles” and ornaments, just for something different.
Another series of “tiny tiles.” Three are natural-colored Hydrostone with an antiqued wax finish; the rest are Hydrostone cast onto impressions in terracotta clay, which leaves a patina on the finished tile.
I’m working on getting some of these (and other) castings in my Etsy shop
and preparing for upcoming on-site shows. First up is the Fall Festival at Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville, PA on October 22 (details on the event are available here
For now, I’ll wish all of you a good rest-of-the-summer, with rain if you need it, dry days if you don’t, and tolerable temperatures for us all. For more late-summer gardens, check out the list of other participants in this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens.
One of summer’s delights: drinking straight from the sprinkler!