Looking Ahead

I love summer but not my perennial garden in summer.

A garden club friend told me several weeks ago she and another were wondering when they could drop by to see my garden. I must have gasped audibly. Laughing but serious, I answered  “next May!”

My garden peaks in spring when the irises bloom. In anticipation I enjoy booting winter on its way and seeing the awakening of plants as the weather warms. Spring is the time when, with the foliage fresh and each first blossom so pure, my hopes and optimism as a gardener are soaring.

But summer!

Though I love summer for the long daylight and easy pace, this particularly dry, hot  and humid summer has challenged my interest, if not my very identity, as a gardener.  Soon after the irises started blooming, the rains stopped coming. Temperatures spiked into what I once thought was the range only of the hottest days of August.

I planted a few zinnias and other seeds, but postponed my planned trips to the garden center to select colorful annuals for planters and for filling in some bare patches in the garden. I pulled out the pansies that had added so much color to the meditation circle all winter and spring, thinking soon I would install some other cheery flowers. I watered a few times but soon it became clear that with the extreme heat a few times would not be adequate to tide the garden over until the next rain. For weeks dense, dark blue-black clouds that formed overhead kept bringing empty promises, either dissipating completely or just drifting away. As the garden dried up I abandoned it for other activities.

Although there are no interesting scenic views to share,  I want to note a few individual plants that have tolerated the drought and heat this summer.

Lantana died back hard during the cold winter. It took a while for it to start blooming this summer but has been happy producing its multicolored florets for several weeks.

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

This little skipper posed briefly for me, but, just seconds before, it had settled upon my hand and sat patiently while I marveled. This was the first time ever I have held a butterfly.

Skipper on fence post just after leaving my hand

Skipper on fence post just after leaving my hand

Last summer I planted the very center of the labyrinth with thyme.

Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)

 

I learned too late this is not the kind usually used in cooking, but is is slightly fragrant. It is Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme).

Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)

 

I am pleased the thyme has spread so well and the bees are attracted to the pink-violet flowers.

Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)

Waving above the thyme are a few cleomes sporting seed pods. On one a grasshopper (or maybe a katydid?) found resting spot.

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower) and Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower) and Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)

Grasshopper Atop Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)

Grasshopper or Katydid Atop Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)

The zinnias I planted from seed earlier in spring get by without much water. I like that the seed packet contained a good mix, including yellows and oranges, and not just mostly pink.

Zinnia

Zinnia

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ began blooming several weeks ago. Here a Hairstreak butterfly (not sure which one) and a bee travel around the cone.

Hairstreak and Bee On Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes'

Hairstreak and Bee On Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Hairstreak and Bee On Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes'

Hairstreak and Bee On Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Finally the bee moves on and the hairstreak emerges into the sunlight.

Hairstreak On Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes'

Hairstreak On Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Three or four gardenia flowers appeared last week on the Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’.

Gardenia jasminoides 'Chuck Hayes'

Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) is also blooming this week.

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Last year I planted a row of Alyssum ‘Easter Bonnet Violet’ along the path of the labyrinth. It did poorly but a couple overwintered and now are flowering.

Alyssum 'Easter Bonnet Violet'

Alyssum ‘Easter Bonnet Violet’

Last Tuesday around 5:00 pm we finally had a big thunderous storm. While I just thought my garden seemed nicely refreshed afterwards, I did not realize how much rain had fallen. In fact several neighbors told me later we had five inches. Some of the storms drains a few streets away were overwhelmed. One neighbor shared his video of water a foot deep streaming down the road and into his yard, a small amount of which entered the crawl space of his house.

My garden had some sprawling plants, tangled and twisted after being knocked down by the wind, but largely the garden benefited from the storm. The temperatures moderated appreciably for the rest of the week.

This morning brought another shower, a soft gentle rain this time, and I find myself liking the garden again, imagining it can be redeemed. Who knows? It might be ready by “next May!”

After The Rain. Garden View With Meditation Circle

After The Rain. Garden View With Meditation Circle

 

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24 thoughts on “Looking Ahead

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks Michael. The gardenias are still struggling after the cold winter so didn’t get many blooms this year. Love the idea of your plant exchange, but I’ll have to pass on it for now.

      Reply
  1. johnvic8

    these are times of stress for many plants, but mine seem to be tolerating the summer so far. My lone remaining Knockout rose has suffered from the J beetles and some other leaf eating critters. I cut it back rather severely in hopes that new growth will be forthcoming with flowers to follow. Lantana, in pots, continues to do extremely well, but I must confess to hand watering the pots regularly. “They” say it is therapeutic. At least, I feel better having done so. Hang in there.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks John, I awoke to a heavy rainfall so maybe my garden will get a good boost this week. I had planned to add annual yellow Lantana in pots this year. Hope yours are attracting lots of butterflies. Your watering regimen sounds productive for your plants and for you. I need to carve out more time to dedicate to the garden again. Susie

      Reply
  2. bittster

    I feel exactly as you do when the garden starts to dry up. I hate it. Just today I went out and bought a new sprinkler so the lawn wouldn’t brown out completely. Our weather forecast shows a few chances for rain, and hopefully with the sprinkling I can keep things growing until the real water comes.
    Of course the backyard is a different story. It’s left to fend for itself except for the pots and vegetable garden.
    Glad that you finally got some rain. I hope a few more steady storms come your way and give some more relief!

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks Frank, I’m listening to a nice rainstorm right now so maybe my garden and attitude will bounce back. Hope you also get a generous rain soon too so you don’t have to wear out that sprinkler.

      Reply
  3. Christina

    I understand exactly how you feel, Susie. You have shown some lovely blooms but you feel the garden isn’t thriving so to you it is dissatisfying. I feel just the same each summer although this year it is different, the rain has made so much difference, I hope you have some soon..

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Yes, you’ve said it precisely. I know I haven’t put in enough hours to make the garden attractive this summer but without rain, it seemed rather futile. We’re getting rain again this morning so hope the dry spell is over. I have observed the richness in your summer garden this year–it’s looking beautiful.

      Reply
  4. Pauline

    I’m so glad you and your garden got some refreshing rain, I’m sure all your plants feel better for it. Our gardens do get stressed when nature doesn’t provide the weather we are used to, but plants are very adaptable and the majority will cope with a little help from us. I’m sure your friends will see a beautiful garden next year!

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Pauline, getting a little rain has made me feel hopeful again. Now I need to make myself invest some work hours in the garden to help it along.

      Reply
  5. rusty duck

    I love gardenia and so wish I could grow it. That alone would keep me going until May! So glad you got some rain, it seems to be all or nothing these days.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      A shame you can’t grow gardenia where you are. Mine are usually wonderful but this year only three or four flowers bloomed after a long, cold winter, so it was a treat to discover another handful.

      Reply
  6. Cathy

    I know how you feel when the heat and drought sets in Susie. I find my whole spirit is linked to my garden and when it suffers I am so frustrated! I try not to water the garden, just pots, but find I have to make exceptions now and then to save some plants. We finally got more rain tonight, so the garden has been fairly lucky this year so far, despite great heat the last week or so. I think you still have some lovely flowers in summer to focus on, and butterflies and insects still love it even when it may not fulfil our hopes or expectations. Hope you get some more gentle rain soon!

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Cathy, thanks for your encouragement. I have whined too much perhaps but you seem to understand how I feel. Glad you’ve been getting more rain too. We had another good rain this morning so I am feeling relieved already!

      Reply
  7. Chloris

    How lovely to get some rain, the garden does start to get tired without it in summer. You have lovely things in bloom. I love Zinnias and Lantana and your gorgeous Gardenia. What great butterfly shots.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Yes, the rain has been most welcome after such extravagantly high temperatures this summer. The zinnias and lantana seem to appreciate the heat.

      Reply
  8. P&B

    As much as the heat and drought of summer ravage all of us to a greater or lesser degree, you still have a lot to show for a tough summer. Lovely thyme and alyssum…I love them at any time. Actually, your blog has provided me with an idea for what to put in along our just finished walkway…thyme…bees love it and rabbits wont eat it and it smells nice. Thank you for a good idea.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      That’s exciting Pris. Hope the Thyme works out well along the walkway. I’ve used several kinds of thyme and with mixed results in the meditation circle but this one seems to do well. I’m thinking of putting some in our “hell strip” near the from where we’re required to have grass or some other preapproved green plant. I tried sedum this summer and it’s not taking off very well. Let me know if your thyme works out. Susie

      Reply
  9. sweetbay

    I can never grow thyme here, it always dies. Yours looks lovely.

    We’ve gotten more rain than you have (in fact often when I have gone to Chapel Hill the past few years it’s been drier than here), but I know all too well the frustration of heat and drought in summer. Glad to hear you got rain, even if it was a lot all at once!

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Glad you had some more regular rain this summer. The rain keeps coming now, but I’m not complaining except for the mosquitoes that are worse than ever. The thyme did great this year while it was dry this year and is still blooming its heart out. Maybe you can try different kinds. Lemon thyme tends to die out quickly here, but English thyme is happy.

      Reply

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