Staying away from social media for almost two months proved very productive. I don’t mean to offend anyone who has been reading my blog or bloggers I’ve been following but I needed time to reflect, get things done and read books. I did get a lot of things done, have read more books and even started baking again. Now I’m back, refreshed.
Summer is really here with extremely high temperatures and humidity. Aside from sunflowers and echinacea, another flower that represents summer really well is hibiscus. I have two hardy hibiscus in the garden, ‘Plum crazy’ (plum color as it’s name suggests) and ‘Midnight Marvel’ (deep red flower with maroon leaves). Their flowers are almost the size of a dinner plate. I put them in the ground in a sunny spot and left them there. I cut the dead old stems back to two inches above ground in spring, feed them and let them be. They have come back up every year when the heat hits the area.
The tropical ones need a little bit more pampering as they have to stay in pots and go back in the basement in winter. They need to be watered and fed regularly. They also need plenty of sunlight. With food, water and plenty of light they will flower continuously throughout summer. I prune them once a year in spring so they won’t grow too big. Flowers that develop before I take them to the basement still bloom but they rarely produce new flowers until they come back outside again. Spider mites and whiteflies are the main pest when they are inside the house. I spray them with insecticide soap to keep the critters under control inside.
I purchased the ‘Voodoo Queen’ last year because I wanted to see if the color really changes as the nursery claimed, though I hardly have space left for more plants in the basement. She didn’t disappoint me. Here are two shots of the same flower on the same day.
With a few hibiscus on the pool deck and in the garden and 90 degree heat and high humidity, I feel like I’m in the tropics. A little cool breeze would make it seem even closer to that reality.
Summer is finally here and the temperature is making the point so far. We had a very cool spring which was very good for the roses and many other cool loving plants. Tomato, chili pepper and basil think otherwise. My basil are only a couple of inches tall and the chili peppers are taking their sweet time to grow. But I’m not complaining. I deal with whatever nature throws my way. It just seemed like ‘early’ spring weather lasted too long this year.
It doesn’t matter what the official summer date is, my summer is here when the Black-eyed Susan and Echinacea bloom. They brighten up the garden like little sunflowers. We have more flowers this year as a result of putting up the deer net around our property. We are really happy that the net works so well. Rabbits still nibble plants here and there but they stay in the lawn most of the time.
The Black-eyed susan are all self-sown. I don’t remember when I bought them last time, probably ages ago. I just let them grow and move them when they get too crowded. It results in many shades and markings on the flowers.
I let the Echinacea set seed as well. Birds love them and they are a good food source in winter. Seeds that the birds dropped sprouted. I don’t mind at all since they are slightly fragrant and the bees love them.
I bought many other Echinacea in various colors and shapes but they have to be propagated by division. Here are some of them.
This time of year is the only time we, the birds and us, compete for fruits in our garden. We have wild cherry, ornamental cherry, white mulberry, wild raspberry, Golden raspberry, strawberry and blueberry on the property. We gave up on the wild cherry since it’s too tall for us to harvest; the birds always get the fruit first. Our neighbor used to put a bed sheet under one of the trees but what she got was the left over from the birds. We can only get the sweet, white mulberry from the lower branches but that’s enough. This year there are so many fruits that the birds and squirrels have taken longer to clean them up. So we are still picking mulberry.
Wild raspberry has not yet ripened. There will not be much fruit this year. I removed many of them early in spring because they were getting too invasive. Since there is no distraction now from the wild raspberry, I am more concerned with the Golden raspberry and am considering putting a net over them. I will have to cover the blueberries before the fruit ripens as well. The Gray Catbirds are pretty good at keeping their eye on the fruit.
We have been sharing strawberries this year since I have no time to cover them. What ever the birds missed is our feast.
Competing for ripe fruits in the garden doesn’t make us enemies. The birds still work the other part of the garden; picking off insects and grubs which are much more destructive to our garden. Losing some fruit to them is a small price to pay for their service.
Today is the official first day of summer but the weather doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. Morning started much cooler than summer should start with, then the rain arrived, pouring down and accompanied by strong winds. Over all, it’s pretty wet and cool with sunshine peeking out here and there.
Tomatoes looked very unhappy being blown left and right and soaking wet. Other plants and flowers perked up every time the sun came out. They look so pretty with the water droplets hanging from their leaves and petals.
Heading toward the end of summer when not many things are blooming whether because of high temperature, humidity, pouring rain or drought, there are still some diehard flowers that never disappoint me. Garden Phlox, Black-eyed Susan, Echinacea and Alyssum just to name a few. There are also some low growing shrubs and lovely weeds, yes weeds – that is what they are categorized. I do let some weeds like Queen Anne’s lace and Goldenrod grow. Not just because they are pretty but because my honey bees love them.
When I first grew Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) years ago, I started with a couple of pink colored plants which are the most common. Then added white ‘David’ and an orange whose name I no longer remember. I let insects work their magic and now there is quite a large range of colors. I also realized that growing one or two Garden Phlox won’t do much in terms of fragrance. I couldn’t smell anything if I didn’t put my nose next to it. Now it’s another story. The whole garden is perfumed with a very subtle, soothing scent, which is more pronounced in the cool morning and evening air. Next spring will be time to weed it down a bit since the plot is getting too crowded. I tie a ribbon to the ones I plan to keep with a map of colors as a guide. The duplicates will have to go. I don’t know if there are any more colors out there but I still keep an eye out for them.
See more of the Garden Phlox that I added this year – Jenny- and the ones that our insect friends have created at AMAZINGSEASONS
Another flower that started to bloom in June and still blooms now is the Clematis ‘Betty Corning’. In order to induce the vine to produce new flowers I cut the spent flowers off. It has been a very meditative thing to do since there are so many of them but the result is worth it.
I also have Alyssum growing all over the place in both white ‘Carpet of Snow’ and purple ‘Royal Carpet’. Their fragrance smells like honey and they draw in beneficial insects as well.
These Alyssum will last until frost. I let them set seed so they will come back year after year. I’ve blogged enough about Black-eyed Susan and Echinacea so I won’t mention them again here but my appreciation for their hardiness and their ‘never fail’ ability to provide colors in the garden is always there.
Some butterflies have shown up at last. Not as many as I would like to see though. There were dozens of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in past years, but only two or three of them this year. I’ve seen some Swallowtail caterpillars but they disappeared a couple of days after. I think the birds have been doing their job too well. A team of Gray Catbirds, House Wrens, Song Sparrows, Robins, Eastern Bluebirds, Titmouse, and Chickadees work non-stop on eliminating insects in the garden. I’ve seen one Monarch briefly this summer before it’s also disappeared.
I had some luck a couple of days ago, two Spicebush Swallowtails (Papilio troilus) took their time in courtship, slipping from flower to flower. Wherever the female flew to, the male followed close behind. It’s reminded me of the courtship ritual in many period films….very graceful.
The heat and humidity are here. In mid-summer heat I do my garden chores from shade to shade, trying to stay away from the sun. The lovely times in the garden in mid summer are the morning and early evening. The cool of the morning makes the mixed flower scents very pronounced, especially the Garden phlox and jasmine. It’s very soothing. I water the vegetable garden and the potted tropical plants every morning when it’s still cool. Water evaporates less and will dry up in the sunlight soon enough as not to encourage any disease. The sweet scent of Bitter melon fills the vegetable garden air now. The second flush of roses also adds fragrance to the air though not as strong as in early summer when the majority of bushes were filled with flowers. Even when I don’t have to water them, I still go out in the garden every morning just to breathe the scent that no perfumery can duplicate. I do the same in the evening when I get home from work.
I hardly water the flowers in the garden now but they are still doing well in the heat. Most of them are self-sown and I let them grow freely. Once in a while I either move or thin some of them to prevent diseases due to over-crowding. The plants posted below are care free, self-reliant, great for pollinators and dependable in bringing colors to the garden in the heat of summer.
Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is actually an herb. I grow this for the bees but it’s also good for making tea and potpourri as well. I have a few patches of them, two by the vegetable garden entrance that a send out licorice scent every time I brush against them.
This double Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is a product of open pollination. I’ve never bought any double flower version but I let the seedlings grow and this is the result. Some of them look even more like chrysanthemums with smaller petals.
Many people regard Queen Anne’s lace (Anthriscus sylvestris) as a weed but I love them. When they grow in a row or large clump, they look so beautiful and delicate. They are also great for insects and bees.