The rains have finally returned, however briefly to the Faire Garden and we are supremely thankful. Over two inches and counting! The now tropical storm Fay is helping to quench the thirst of the trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals as it travels up the eastern half of the US. For a couple of days before the sky opened its giant watering can, the air was thick and the clouds hung low. There was no sun shining and a cooling breeze began to blow. The camera and I went outside to see what we could capture. It was thrilling to see a, as in one, monarch butterfly. We are not on the flight path of these migratory insects and rarely see huge numbers of them, unlike Benjamin in this post,
but we grow several varieties of milkweed in hopes of luring them here.
When an orange blur fluttered by, we had to make sure it was not another of the Gulf Fritallarys that feast on the passionvine that grows with abandon. The larger size and white polka dots seemed to identify our visitor as the beloved monarch. Click click click. He was filling his belly from the giant flower heads of the Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum ‘Gateway’ and staying relatively still for portrait taking. He refused to spread his wings for me, but that is okay.
Such a work of art he is.
I followed on to the orange cosmos before running inside to load the photos onto the computer to see if any came out reasonably clear. My vision is so poor that the little box on the back of the camera is just a blur. I need to see a full screen blow up on the laptop to make an analysis of keep or delete. Luck was with us this time. Hooray!
Now we will go back outside to check out the status of the garden since we have some good monarch shots in the can. Temps below eighty degrees F are a welcome change. And a clue.
Turning right from the back door of the main house we follow the gravel path along the wall and turn right to the fenced corner of the back yard. Look what is happening over by the hot tub, which is not working of course. The row of river birch trees that line the wooden fence are dropping their leaves, some are even turning yellow instead of just browning from the drought. Another clue. I have already filled two trash cans full of these chopped up by the blower/vacumn. They will be spread where needed on the flower beds. This is a fall chore, the fun with leaves, and it is easy to lap up these smallish treasures before the large multi trunk maple drops its abundance of leaves later. That is a more physically taxing job that takes several days to complete.
The orchids and bromeliads are being readied to come inside to spend the winter months in the greenhouse/sunroom. More clues. First any dead foliage is removed, including stray birch leaves and a close inspection is done for problems of any kind. This tray of earth stars, cryptanthus, looks healthy. Everything will get a two stage dose of insecticide before coming in. This is where the no chemical rules gets overruled.
As we climb the steps that lead to the knot garden at the top of the hill, we stop to admire the ironweed, Vernonia altissima opening its buds to show that dark purple hue. Yet another clue. The cutting of the tall stem earlier in the summer has given us many more branches and more flowers. Make a note to self to do that each year. If we could only get the seeds to germinate that have been saved, this whole portion of the hill could be covered in ironweed. But look at the far left edge of this photo, uh oh.
The row of Osmanthus fragrans that was planted late last winter is not looking good. Even though they are drought tolerant, there is a limit to the drought that can be tolerated. We let the hose drip for several hours at the top of this line of shrubs and now we are getting good soaking rain. There does appear to be some live new growth at the bottom. Let us think positive growing thoughts and send them into the soil to help these guys along. Everybody ready? THINK!
After the steep climb up the steps we immediately come to the center quatrefoil of the knot garden. There are four Calluna vulgaris ‘Sunset’ planted in each semicircle underplanted with Doone Valley lemon thyme. The mini elfin thyme was planted here this spring as a test. It has survived the drought without extra water and seems to be spreading. Should we move the larger lemon thyme out and try to have the little one fill in? Hmmm, something to think about. The four quadrant beds that surround the center are being planted with a tapestry of creeping thymes, those are the only plants that have survived up here. The Doone Valley could fill in the bare spots nicely. This sounds like a good fall project, the moving of the thymes. A flagrant clue.
At the corner of each of the quadrants is Calluna vulgaris ‘Firefly’
. (Note: where the heathers have died, gray santolina has been planted). These have yellow foliage in the summer and turn bright red in the winter. The colors have begun to change already. Could be a clue. The thyme shown trying to eat the heather is more of the Doone Valley.
On each side of the wooden bench that is opposite the steps are two metal obelisks with Rosa ‘Magic Dragon’
planted on each. The miniature climbing roses seemed like the perfect plant for this spot, but have been very poor looking with no extra water these last two years. A solitary bloom is a spot of hope amid the bronze fennel flower heads that are going to seed. Clue alert! Behind the bench is a planting of the fennel along with echinaceas, including the virused ones which have been removed, bagged and trashed for pickup by the utility.
Going left is the shed, which appears to be in dire need of a paint job. Garlic chives line each side of the doorway and will have to be deadheaded before they set seed or we will have nothing but garlic chives growing in this area. I know because that mistake has already been made. The babies are still being pulled from many spots. The flowers are pretty and white blends well with the purples and yellows of late summer. No clue here, or yes?
A tripod of rebar on each side of the shed gives support for roses and clematis. This is C. Elsa Spath
, a large purple blue. Notice how the foliage is completely dead looking but there is new green growth at the tips and a bonus flower bud. A definite clue. This is where the Semi school of gardening pays off, do nothing, for things can and will regrow. If that brown ugliness had been trimmed, we would not be about to enjoy this bit of loveliness.
Hard to discern, this is the spot where the baby Dierama ‘Galpinii’
seedlings have spent their first year. The iris looking foliage is belamcanda, the more narrow grassy looking things are the Dierama. There are six living plants here, since I accidentally pulled three before realizing that they were not weeds. Sigh.
This end of the veggie bed is ready for fall planting. Black Kow composted manure from a bag has been spread on top and can be worked into the soil now that we have had some rain. Garlic is ordered and will be planted September 15. Arugula, lettuce, spinach seeds are on hand to go in as well. Knock you on top of the head clue.
Following the path to the right we enter the back yard of the house next door that was torn down to build the garage. The slope is not as steep on this part of the property. This Calluna vulgaris ‘Dark Star’
is blooming for the first time. More subtle clue. I had wondered why it was called by that name, but if you look closely there is another Calluna blooming behind it with lighter pink flowers. The Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’
lines the edge of this heath and heather bed. The blooms are nice and dark, like Dark Star.
Onward to the east, we come upon this group of late blooming Star Gazer lilies. Why are they so much later than the others that were planted at the same time, May, of this year? Deeper, shadier? Who can tell, but it is fun to see and smell them now. The fragrance is strong, and best enjoyed with a little distance between yourself and the flower, but pleasing just the same. A trick non clue.
The black garden is opposite where the lilies were blooming that were shown above. We are collecting crocosmias at the moment and decided to plant them all in this bed. This newest one, C. ‘Solfaterre’
, was purchased in Nashville at a nursery there while visiting with Gail.
In addition to the C. ‘Lucifer’
which has performed so well that it was divided into several more plants, clue! are some from Christopher C.
that were blooming red with a yellow center, and three ordered from Plant Delights Nursery, C. ‘Eastern Star’, ‘Bright Eyes’
and ‘Little Redhead’
. Also promised from offspring Brokenbeat is C. ‘Emily McKenzie’
. We will find room for all crocosmias.
Going down the hill now where the path is strewn with pine straw since the pine trees constantly drop their needles here anyway is a planting of rosemary and lavender. This is part of what was the gravel parking area of the house that was torn down and is a difficult site to say the least. Compost and mulch has been spread here by the truckloads but the underlayer of soil is still gravel and hard packed clay. These two plants don’t seem to mind that at all and have put on fresh new growth recently. Bragging clue. The lavenders were completely covered by the rosemary this spring, they were thought to be dead in fact, but they were noticed in time to prune away the larger branches of the green to allow the silver to grow on. It requires constant pruning, something I don’t normally do unless it is for the butterfly bush and pee gee hydrangea standards, but this can be an exception to the low maintenance rule also. Lavenders can grow here but more die than live. I want these to survive since they are the source of the cuttings for the ones in the knot garden, L. ‘Hidcote’.
Now we are in the street in front of the house and garage. Good old Rosa ‘Grootendorst Supreme’,
also known as Thorny is blooming happily. Could be considered a clue.
Here you can see Thorny in front of three Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Well’s Special’
. Arrrgh, I see another redbud seedling at the base of the rose. That will have to be pulled. The redbuds are trying to take over the world around here and do not pull out easily but must be cut below ground several times to stop their plan of dominance. What that means is that when I am walking around without pruners in hand, nothing can be done when these seedlings are spotted. As soon as I walk to another part of the garden the pest is forgotten. Eventually they will be cut.
Returning to the back we are standing at the path of the garage side. Growing in the gravel is the best patch of Verbena Bonariensis
anywhere on the property. Some ox eye daisies were allowed to live here too, most get pulled. Coral Wave petunias on the left of this entrance are visible from the window over the sink in the kitchen for a dishwasher’s enjoyment. Notice the color of the grass. It has been mown less than five times this summer, a great savings of electricity and effort. The rains may jump start the growth of the Kentucky Blue Grass that is mixed in with the tall fescue planted there. Clue possibility. There will be more mowing in our future.
The purple perilla would completely block all the gravel paths if not pulled. What has been left is getting ready to flower, that means seed formation. What do you think, clue? We will leave a couple of plants but pull the rest. A few plants will ensure some of the purple accents that are appreciated for the dark foliage contrast to the green leaves of summer.
Ways of showing the Phlox paniculata ‘Orange Perfection’
are getting tougher to come up with. This plant along with the white P. ‘David’
and the mauve passalong are the stalwarts in the garden right now along with the sedums. Yes, a clue. This color is brighter and will add some pizzazz to the mauve on the daylily hill visible from the computer room when it has grown enough to be divided and spread there.
Speaking of color providing, the goldfinches are feasting on the echinacea seeds like mad. Big clue. The photos are a little blurry for they are shy creatures and will not allow ladies with cameras any closer, unlike the butterflies.
It is hoped that some of the seeds will be dropped and allowed to germinate for new plants by the voracious eaters. The vision is for a sea of coneflowers to carry on after the daylilies are finished.
These are the clues of a changing season here. Falling leaves, evergreen color changing, veggie beds empty and waiting for the next crop planting, renewed blooming after the siesta brought about by high tempertures, and most importantly, plans being formulated for upcoming tasks that can only be accomplished with the wetness of winter. The thoughts of what the garden can become next year only occur to us as this summer draws to a close. Looking forward while gleaning lessons learned from the past is what makes gardening a process that can never be completed. We wouldn’t want it any other way.