Saturday, July 31, 2010

Some things I like.

Miscanthus Cosmopolitan with Red Texas Star Hibiscus.

Black and Blue Salvia.

Echinacea Summer Sunrise (?)

Tall tithonia.

Queen Anne's Lace with Echinacea purpurea.

Blackberry Lilies and Rudbeckia triloba.

Agastache, Melampodium, Perilla, and Rudbeckia triloba.

Zucchini (still no fruit) and perilla.

I pulled a lot of stuff from the circle bed in the perennial garden. I transplanted a few things here and there under the anticipation of heavy rain tonight. I watered well, hoping I haven't done a bad thing. Most of the transplants are first year perennials that should survive the remainder of the summer. If not, there will always be more in a few months.


One plug of ornamental grass was moved to the rose garden, where it lived until this spring when I moved it to the meadow. The rest was mowed under. One fig cutting has survived in the ground here. They were sticks pushed into the soil in January. They've leafed out and have reached a height of about 12". I'll let them stay there. Grass seed will be sown this fall. The birds had a great time after it was done. The meadow is history.

Plans this morning include pulling more cosmos and cutting back some overzealous shrubs. I've already cleaned the basement where Laura and I spent some time making little gifts for people last week.

Propagation will begin again as soon as we've received some significant rainfall. Black & Blue salvia, a few roses, and more Joe Pye Weed are on the list for the perennial bed and elsewhere.

It's 73 degrees and cloudy. Rain in the forecast this evening and tomorrow morning.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Early Morning Edits.

The alarm went off at 6am. I made a full strength cup of coffee to gather my thoughts with. By 7, I was in the yard. For an hour and a half, I pulled plants (Dusty Miller, bee balm, cosmos, Rudbeckia hirta, Veronica spicata, cosmos, Mystic Spires salvia, cosmos, asters, cosmos, and shasta daisies). The remnants went into the gully. I can't even see the compost bin due to the pokeweed in the gully.

Simplifying the plantings and redesigning the beds is necessary. Intentions did not survive the summer. The Crape Myrtle Bed will be replanted this fall with butterfly bushes from the shrub island. When they were only 4" tall, I planted them 2' apart. Oops. In the Crape Myrtle Bed, they'll have room to expand.

The "meadow" is just a patch of weeds with a few cosmos and coreopsis blooms. The weedwhacker will flatten this area soon.

The succulent bed can stay. For now.

Between the potager beds, ornamental grasses will transition into Knockout Roses and Coreopsis Full Moon. The roses will need to be moved. Hybrid Teas and I do not get along. They're being donated to a customer who brings me things each week from her yard. Other perennials like Joe Pye Weed and agastache will be repurposed for the perennial bed.

It's not much, but it is a start. Three years in the making, I'm giving myself until April to "clean it up a bit". It's 79 degrees and sunny.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dismantling a cottage garden

First, I'm going to take inventory of the plants. I want to know exactly what I have and where it is. If I don't plan to keep it, it comes out now. Like a band-aid, do it quick. Be ruthless. Ignore the blooms. Remember the bulbs. Don't chop down the stargazers. You like those. Don't move anything yet. It's still too hot. Edit. Delete. Simplify. Be brave....

What I have learned will last me a lifetime.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It ain't easy being green.

Especially when there's no rain and the temperature is in the mid 90s. This morning, we received a break from the dominant weather patterns. It was raining, complete with thunder and lightning, when I woke up this morning. A nice steady rain fell for at least an hour after I sat down with my first cup of coffee. If the forecast holds true, there will be more this afternoon.

I wondered about the yard. I'm amazed by the plants that have survived the summer so far. Some are past their bloom time, but their foliage is lush and green. Others are just getting started. The hostas on the North side of the house are about to pop. White and purple blooms will close out July as August settles in.

The rain will help, no doubt.

The banana tree I rescued from the neighbor's leaf pile is doing well.

More blackberry lilies have appeared. I'm thinking I need a semi-tropical garden space in the yard.

It's 77 degrees and cloudy. The high today should reach the mid 80s. It's muggy and humid.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Red Texas Star

Two blooms finally opened this morning. I've been waiting over a week since I noticed buds on the plants I have near the birdbath. The color is more red than the photo shows. It's an outstanding hibiscus and very easy to grow.

Today's my first day back to work after a week of vacation. It's been a great time. Gotta ease back into things slowly. The yard needs to be mowed. Weeds need to be pulled. Plants need to start finding new homes.

There's a 40% chance of afternoon and evening thunderstorms again. It's 81 degrees. The high should reach the mid 90s, again.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Still on Vacation.

It's been a great week having Laura here at the house and at the lake. I'm still bobbing from being on the boat so much. Laying in bed, it feels like the whole world is rocking slightly, like the boat as a wake from a long past cruiser passes by.

A few pictures.

On to more stimulating locales this afternoon. It's going to be a great weekend in Asheville.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On Badin Lake

The sunset

The sunrise

Things splash in the night. Trampling footsteps through the edges of the lake lead to squawking in alarm. It was a peaceful night, full of good dreams.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

While watering...

I came across new blooms in the perennial bed. This is a Blackberry Lily, wintersown in 2008/9. They remind me of orchids. I'll keep these.

The celosia is blooming behind the upper potager. I wintersowed these in the spring of this year. I'm expecting them to reseed.

The Goldfinches have discovered the echinacea.

A nearly flawless sunflower bloom. Todd took a photo of this one last week, still in the green phase.

It's 90 degrees already. Takeout sushi tonight with Laura and Emily on the lake.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It had to happen eventually. The rain started about 4:30pm. A few pops of lightning were followed by rolling thunder. The raindrops were huge at first. Within a minute, the concrete was a half inch of water. It continued for a couple of hours, light showers alternating with heavy downpours. The weather station claims almost 1" of rain fell. A light drizzle passed by again overnight. More storms expected this evening and much of next week.

On Friday morning, I spent some more time in the garden planting out rooted cuttings of Black Knight butterfly bush. I took the cuttings from the one I gave Robert more than a month ago. The roots were long, white and healthy. The cuttings surely enjoyed the moisture. I planted 12 of these around the backyard and in the Neighbor's corner. One way or another, I will have that chainlink fence blocked from my view within a couple years. Good thing, too. I have plans for the patio thanks to a picture I saw in a book last week at work. It's not going to be too grand, but it will be a nice place to have a martini after work in the evenings once the mosquitoes have gone to bed. A small stainless steel grill will be included, as will some sort of sitting accoutrements. I've already picked out the location. The invasive plants will be removed this fall.

Not much is happening in the garden these days. It just keeps doing what it does. Flowers open, seeds form, plants die, and new ones spring up to take their places. More notes are being made as time progresses. Joe Pye Weed is just starting to bloom. Rooted cuttings were planted out on Friday too. I guess they were done last year when I finally got around to planting them. I thought they had died. They were just resting.

I've eaten a few Black Krim tomatoes this week. I've saved seeds already. I really like the flavor, even if the skins were a little tough. I'm thinking the lack of rain made them that way. The Romas rotted again. I won't be growing those next year.

A single clematis bloom was open this morning on the perennial bed trellis. The spring flush was beautiful. Perhaps the showers last week and the ones yesterday gave it a push.

It's 81 degrees and partly cloudy. Everything looks refreshed. Roses have been pruned and will be sending out new growth for the fall spectacular. My vacation begins tomorrow.

Friday, July 16, 2010


It's been a hard season for the garden. A few weeks ago, deep in the middle of the hottest June on record, I stopped obsessing about the flowers. The tomatoes had not produced much. The squash were wilting at the first sign of direct sunlight. Even the agastache in the backyard was dropping leaves during the hottest part of the day. With a little rain since then, I'm more determined than ever to keep good records of the best performing plants this year. I'll use those plants to remake the perennial bed beside the driveway.

Echinacea has given one of the best performances this year. It blooms tirelessly through drought, excessive rain, and even holds itself tall when the wind threatens to level the surrounding plants. I give this one a 10/10. White Swan is the other variety I've grown all season. I'll be dividing those plants this fall to fill the voids from those that have succumbed to the ravages of a NC summer.

Rudbeckia fulgida is another keeper. Its stoic blooms remain tall and firm. The plants range from compact to sprawling, yet they rarely wilt once established. This one was divided from the first one I purchased more than 2 years ago. I'll be relying heavily on these for mid and late summer blooms. It gets 9/10. It does sometimes wilt and turn crispy if there's no rain. A quick shower brings it back to life.

Agastache. This variety is Golden Jubilee. Although the hot sun did fade the lime green foliage a bit, I still give it an 8/10. It's drought tolerant, easily pinched to create lush, full plants, and it attracts Goldfinches like nothing else. They've picked nearly all my plants of their seed. Self-sown specimens have popped up here and there over the couple of years I've grown it. I hope to add more varieties through wintersowing again this year. Pink Pop is still small and hasn't bloomed. The orange varieties are no longer with us.

Coreopsis. Specifically, the Full Moon variety has performed the best. I bought a plant several years ago when I picked up the Rudbeckia. Full Moon grows to over 30" tall and is covered in lemon buttery blooms. It's a great filler plant between the coneflowers and rudbeckia. I give this one a 10/10 even though it has suffered a bit during the hottest, driest part of the summer. A little rain or water from the hose brings it back to life almost immediately. Divisions are easy and each plant provides quite a few. It's normal for me to take 10 or more plants from each clump in the fall or early spring. I really like this one. I have never seen a self-sown plant.

Rudbeckia triloba. That's the tall one in the back. In front, R. fulgida is flopping where it can, but R. triloba stands tall. The flowers are smaller than most Black Eyed Susans. The centers are more brown than black. It does reseed heavily. I give this one a 6/10. It tends to look weedy if it's not cut back in early spring. It also reseeds heavily, but can be controlled by pulling out the tiny seedlings after a rain.

Black & Blue Salvia. Sold as an annual, it returned this year after one of the harshest winters I can remember. The key to survival is to let it die down naturally. Cutting the dead growth can cause rot to the crown. The bees and hummingbirds love the blue flowers that emerge from the nearly black bracts. I like it too. I give it an 8/10. It can look somewhat scrawny unless it's pinched as the new growth emerges in spring. I'm planning to take a few cuttings of this today. It should root easily.

Melampodium. These are one of my favorite annuals. They self sow freely, are easily moved when young, and bloom non stop until the frost takes them out. I give them a 9/10. I won't bother with collecting seeds this year. They're reliable without any help from me.

Amaranthus. Love this plant. Perilla is overly ambitious when it comes to reseeding. The tall red amaranthus here is not. Spent plants were pulled out last fall and shaken around the beds. Only a few came up in those areas, unlike the perilla. They transplant easily as seedlings. They have hardly wilted at all even on the hottest days. I give them a 10/10. The bold color against the yellow/orange blossoms that are so prevalent in my garden in summer is provided by the foliage. The goldfinches love these too.

With so much yellow, a few red hibisbus, amaranthus, and other annuals like tithonia are interspersed with dramatic effect. Yvonne's salvia hasn't done well this year, but I'll still plant it here and there. Salvia subrotunda reseeds, so I don't need to worry about that one. Cosmos...I think we all know how they are. I'll be doing this again next year.

I thought this was Inula. I was wrong. I'm hoping as the summer goes, a nice show comes.

Sunflowers have been disappointing this year. Partly I blame the lack of rain. The true culprit is the squirrel. My mammoth sunflowers have been taken down just as soon as the seeds begin to form. They are gnawed away about 6" from the soil. This one may survive since it's in a more protected spot, but I doubt it. I'll still plant these again next year.

Finally, for Darla, here's the fragrant bed with the datura that were blooming last night. I'd guess this bed has at least 30-40 plants. Some are tall and spindly, others stout and branched. The effect is pleasing. The fragrance is subtle.

It's cloudy and 77 degrees. Rain is in the forecast for the next three days, storms could be heavy at times. One visitor is gone. The other is packing her bags. It was a good week.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


A royal flush, tonight. I won't apologize for the blur.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Through Todd's Eyes

Todd's been here this week, visiting and taking lots of photos. This is his perspective.

Of course, he found a few shots of the gardener, in progress.