Late July in the Garden

The gardens look tired in late July; tattered from the relentless Japanese beetle attacks and this season, from the lack of rain.  The June blooms are spent and have been removed.  Some of the perennials, such as the catmint, Lady’s Mantle, dianthus and hardy geraniums will bloom again in August – although much less showy than in June.  Many of my repeat blooming roses are taking a little hiatus right now as well, but will also bloom again in mid to late August.  Some of the late summer/fall perennials are beginning to open, but the real fall display won’t commence until the red and orange dahlias are in full swing.

But despite the rather worn look of the gardens overall at the moment, there are pockets of the borders that still have some zing.  Below are some photos taken this morning.

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This is one of the new borders in the rose garden (above and immediately below).  In bloom , Shasta daises, spirea, dahlias, salvia and astilbe

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Above and immediately below — varieties of sweet peas

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Lavender – a big hit with the bee population
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Containers on the back porch still going strong

Views of the “Hot Border”

Nora is a huge fan of shockingly vibrant colors, while I prefer much of my garden to be a tad more muted — predominantly green with mixes of soft purples, pinks, yellows, and whites with the occasional splash of red or bright yellow.  I want to feel relaxed in my garden, not shouted at…

When I first started planting the circle garden it was more vibrant than not.  The circle garden is the first thing you see as you walk into out backyard from almost any direction.  With its mix of reds, strong yellows and magentas, it focused the eyes like a magnet.  There was no escaping it.  I didn’t care for it at all.  So, like any good gardener, I relocated it and hence was born the “hot border.”  My hot border is probably 80′ long and about 6-7′ deep; it too announces its presence.  But unlike the circle garden, the new hot border is safely placed in a side yard.  It is visible from the road, from the front porch and from the windows in the northeast side of the house.

It is largely a mix of red and yellow daylilies and liliums, orange and red dahlias, rudbeckia, yellow marigolds and orange cosmos and red roses.  Much of the hot border blooms in late summer and early fall.  Only the lilies and day lilies are blooming at the moment, but the colors are indeed vibrant, even in mid July.

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Much Needed Rain

Finally, we’re getting some much needed rain today.  It began in the early morning hours and has continued, often heavily, throughout the day.  We should get 1-2″ out of this series of storms.  We had a brief interlude between showers, so I ran outside and snapped some photos of the flower gardens.  Just in time it turns out; I hear thunder off to the west and see a line of dark clouds heading our way.

Despite the best attempts of the lily beetles, many of the lilies have bloomed beautifully.

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Couldn’t resist the rain drop shot
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The hollyhocks are doing well too, and have bloomed earlier this year than is their norm. The Japanese beetles inevitably get to them and make them look ratty, but I still love hollyhocks; to me they are one of the quintessential cottage garden flowers.

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Purple poppy bent over from the weight of the rain

Edges

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One of our entrances to the woods – the arbor has been taken over by grapevine and Virginia Creeper.  The woodland edge is a mix of sumac, dogwood, grapevines, goldenrod, oxeye daisies, joe-pye weed, wild parsnip and I’m sure a host of plants I haven’t identified yet.

 

The use of the “edge effect” is one of the core principles of permaculture.  From an ecological perspective, the area where two distinct ecosystems overlap — the edge — tends to house greater diversity and energy than either of those ecosystems do individually. 

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A butterfly (I have no idea what kind) hanging out on some wild parsnip

 

For instance, the edge between the woodland and my “backyard” not only creates an ecosystem for each of those species that make their home in either the forest or the grass, but also creates a unique ecosystem for species specially designed to inhabit the “edge” between these two distinct worlds.

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I don’t know who this little guy is but I caught him buzzing around the oxeye daisies

 

Edges are not often looked upon favorably by the typical American living in suburbia.  Edges are often overgrown, unruly and extremely persistent in their attempts to infiltrate a perfectly groomed yard and tamed flower borders.  Even in rural areas, where we tend to be more forgiving of nature’s wildness, edges require at least annual maintenance to keep them at bay.  A woodland edge left unattended will soon take over and transform the meadow.

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Heading into the forest — the temperature is always significantly cooler under the dense canopy, the chorus of birds in the trees overhead almost deafening, and unfortunately the biting insects to much to tolerate at times…

Our property has very little controlled acreage; the majority of our 135 acres is forest and wetlands.  At the turn of the century, this property housed a sizeable dairy farm and much of the front 50 or so acres was pasture.  From the time the dairy farm ceased to exist to 2008 when we purchased this place, that pasture was transformed – first taken over by brambles, grasses and tree seedlings; then the tree seedlings soon grew large enough to shade out the lower shrubs and grasses and ferns, mosses and other woodland plants arose.  Low spots soon filled with water and, under the shade of the growing trees, remained wet throughout the year creating habitats that became home to numerous amphibians, plants, insects and the birds and other wildlife that fed on these things.  Within 20 to 30 years, what was once pasture was transformed into a young forest and wetlands and the only remnant of grazing pasture remaining is the rusted barbed wire fencing that can still be found along the boundary lines.

As a result, pasture that once may have been home to a few types of birds and some insects now houses a huge number of diverse species in a multitude of mini ecosystems — forest, wetland, meadow, gardens and the edges between each of these.

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Even the “weeds” such as this beautiful bind weed deserve a home in the edge

Sunday Shots

“Gardening requires lots of water, most of it in the form of perspiration.” -Lou Erickson

We’re almost half way through the gardening season in North Country (already).  July is the month when I begin to feel a bit tired, and often a bit frustrated.  The freshness of June has passed, the days grow hot, the rain more sparse, and the pests more numerous.  This season has had mixed temperatures and very little rain, which translates into a lot more hand-holding for many of the plants.  So it is especially important for me in July to take time to walk around the gardens and just enjoy the beauty.  Below are some photos from yesterday’s walk.

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Taken from the top of our driveway, this is a photo of the circle garden with the patio behind and the vegetable garden and sheep barn in the distance.
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One of my earlier clematis additions, and unfortunately I no longer recall its name
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Clematis ‘Niobe’
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Echinacea ‘Pink Double Delight’
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Honeysuckle – a favorite of the hummingbirds
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‘Windermere’ – a David Austin, English rose with a double, full bloom
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‘Graham Thomas’ – I love yellow roses and it’s very difficult to find one that can survive our long, cold winters.  So far this one has made it through 2 winters.  This is an English shrub rose bred by David Austin.
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Shasta daisy with visitor
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Poppies waving in the breeze; poppies are so ethereal and fragile looking to me and yet one of the most hardy and prolific self-seeders around
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‘Alnwick’ – another rose from the David Austin English Rose Collection; I love the delicate pink shades of this remarkably full blossom