Sunday, July 31, 2011

How I Beat the Heat

Early morning haze over the cornfield and vegetable garden.
July has been unbelievably hot and humid here this year -- frequently the heat index reached 104F / 40C or higher.  Under these conditions garden chores become a very real challenge, so on the worst days I keep them down to just three tasks: 1) irrigate, 2) pick vegetables, and 3) any necessary deadheading. I leave more strenuous jobs for those rare days when we get a little relief from this awful weather. I have found only one way to beat the heat and that is to get outside really early in the morning. I like to get up just as the sun is rising at 6 a.m. With coffee mug in hand, I take my morning walk around my gardens before starting my work there. The air is fresh at this time and I feel I can actually breathe. It is also incredibly peaceful, with just birds singing and the bullfrog croaking.

I'm glad to see the corn seems to be thriving in the lower field. This is not the case on other farms nearby due to the long, wet spring followed by almost-drought conditions. The local newspaper warns of rising meat prices as farmers will not be harvesting the normal amount of feed corn for their animals. Hopefully, the farmer who leases our fields will have better luck.

Beebalm and feed corn
My first task is to inspect the vegetable garden, and so far all is good. Look at the pumpkin in the bottom-left picture below -- this is a 'volunteer' growing out of the compost bin.

Clockwise: pepper, zucchini, cucumbers, nasturtiums and pumpkin.
I used up all the rainwater from my four water barrels before the middle of the month, so until this week, I had to drag the hose around to water everything. I try to get the nozzle as close to the roots as possible and give everything a good soak without wetting the leaves -- there is no powdery mildew, so far. A good storm a couple of days ago filled up the water barrels again, making watering more sustainable. While the water barrels have water, H.H. fills buckets and watercans each evening and places them around the gardens to save me some time the next morning.

I inspect each plant's leaves as I work, looking for potential problems. This morning I picked squash-beetle eggs off the zucchini plants.

The beets are looking healthy.
With the watering of the kitchen garden completed, I pick those vegetables that are ready to be harvested. The bush beans have been especially prolific, so I hope to freeze some later today.

When I have finished working in the vegetable garden, it is time to water my potted plants. I have a lot of them and should write a separate posting about them soon.

White caladium and impatiens in the stone garden.

White Caladium Caladium x hortulanum

A planter with canna lily (Canna 'tropical salmon') fills a gap in the perennial border.
During that cold, wet spring that seems a million years ago, I planted Johnny-jump-ups and pansies in my five window boxes. They are cool-weather plants, so my plan was to switch them for something hardier when the weather became hot. But the little Johnny-jump-ups refuse to wilt or die. They are surviving the heat much better than I am and require little watering ...

Viola spp.
My favorite planter, a cone-shaped hanging basket, was a Mothers' Day present from my daughter last year. I filled it with geraniums and lantana, choosing peachy colors to compliment the turks' cap lilies nearby.

The Turk's cap lilies float above the picket fence, and when cars go past they nod a greeting to the drivers.

I don't water the perennials by hand. Each flowerbed has a soaker-hose buried under mulch ready to deliver water to the roots of the flowers when needed. I only connect the soaker hose to the water supply when I can see the perennials obviously wilting.

Turk's Cap Lily Lilium Superbum
When I have finished watering, my next task is deadheading. I always remove spent roses....

... and the dead flower-heads of the daylilies.

My favorite daylily Hemerocallis 'Chicago Apache'
There are many perennials that I don't ever deadhead. For example, the purple cone flower provides seeds for the birds. Goldfinches especially love them.

Another early morning job is to take photographs. I was fortunate this morning to capture a picture of the biggest frog that inhabits the pond. The waterlily unfurled its petals -- I was told the waterlily opens at 9:00 am and closes at 3:00 pm every day and the Egyptians told the time by them, but I have been unable to verify this interesting story.

As the sun gets higher, and the day warms up, the dragonflies appear and flit back-and-forth across the pond. This one settled on the Russian sage long enough for me to snap a picture.

I am so glad to see the summer butterflies returning to my garden. My three butterfly bushes are living up to their name and attracting them.

Butterfly bush Buddleia 'Royal Red'
Monarch butterfly
Buckeye butterfly
Each morning I check the milkweed plants to see if the monarchs have laid their eggs there yet. It's a bit early for that, so I need to be patient.
Milkweed Asclepias incarnata 'Rose'
As the morning becomes hotter and more humid, I like to take a walk in the woodland garden, where it is several degrees cooler under the trees. On my way there, I see the red honeysuckle is blooming again. I recently wrote an article about it for Click here if you would like to read it.

Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervivens
In the shade garden my favorite hosta is blooming. I did not plant hostas in the woodland garden because the deer are prevalent there. When I planted hellebores, ferns and mountain laurel, all were decimated by the deer.

Hosta spp.
The top left-hand picture in the collage below is one of my andromedas, a shrub the deer don't even nibble.
Each path through the woodland garden is named for a grandchild and marked with a knight in armor.
I hear something rustling. A deer (one of the aforementioned culprits) watches me through the trees ...

... as he leaves, I see he is a young buck with eight points.

I leave the woodland garden and go to the barn to feed Dude and Billy. They always wait patiently until after I have finished my garden tasks. Of course, I give them a treat when I first go outside each morning and this tides them over.

On the pasture fence a very young barn swallow tries to pluck up courage to fly.

Inside the barn, two of his siblings are sitting on the stall divider. I couldn't capture accurate colors in the dark barn, but if you look closely at the cutie on the left, you will see he still has baby fluff around his head.

My tasks completed, I head indoors. I am sweating already and it is only 9:15 am. Today is Sunday and I need to get ready for church. I have much to give thanks for.

I take a final look around my garden on this last morning of July ...

... maybe the weather in August wont be so bad!

How do you beat the heat?

Your friend in gardening,
Pamela x

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Friday, July 15, 2011

English Cottage Garden Style for July GBBD

An English Cottage Garden Is ...
“... above all things a place of uncontrived beauty, 
easily enjoyed, where labour is well rewarded 
and quiet pleasures satisfied.”

Ethne Clarke and Clay Perry
 English Country Gardens

One of the elements of English cottage-garden style is a profusion of flowers in a variety of colors and textures. The overall effect appears 'uncontrived,' but in reality a great deal of thought goes into the choice and placement of plants. My garden has been six years in the making, and this year (for the first time) I feel I have achieved the effect I have been striving to create. It is quite difficult to define English cottage-garden style without going into its history, but some other elements include planting old-fashioned flowers, adding structures to create 'privacy,' using lots of pots of plants, making informal pathways, and using 'whimsy' to give a sense of enchantment. I went outside with my camera this morning to record what is blooming on this  Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day July 2011 and that's when it struck me that at last I have an English cottage garden. Please take a walk with me to see if those elements are really present ...

1) Plant for profusion

This is my biggest herbaceous border, filled with purple cone flower, liatris, gooseneck loosestrife, shasta dasies, and daylilies - to name a few of the perennials...

2) Plant old-fashioned flowers

Lavender Lavendula angustifolia
The roses are not blooming today, but buds are appearing ready for the second 'flush'.
David Austin Rose Rosa 'Lichfield Angel"
Cleome is an annual that readily reseeds itself - often in unexpected places.
Spider Flower Cleome hasslerana
Shasta Daisy Leucanthemum
Lambs' Ears Stachys byzantina
Phlox Paniculata 'Bright Eyes'
Liatris spicata 'Gayfeather'
Campanula 'Cherry Bells'
Purple Cone Flower Echinacea Purpurea
 2) Add structures such as picket fences and arbors.

The picket fence around the kitchen garden has a wonderful clematis draped over it ...

Clematis Jackmanii 'Tie Dye'
There are arbors at the entrance way to three of my gardens.
Bee Balm Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline'
The arbor you can see on the left in the picture above goes between the pond garden and the shade garden.

The cedar fence at the back of the shade garden provides privacy and adds a vertical element to the space.

3) Pots of plants

One of many pots of annuals, below, used to fill a gap in the perennial border.  I will write a post about my numerous planters soon.

Geranium Pelargonium species

4) Informal pathways

This pathway is between a bed of gooseneck loosestrife and the deck which is covered with a clematis and a grape vine.

Gooseneck Loosestrife Lysimachia clethroides

 5) Whimsy to create enchantment

The recently acquired fairy is now holding a basket of snapdragons.

Snapdragon Antirrhinum
I like to hang mirrors on fences ...

Delphiniums and Purple Cone Flowers

In the collage below, some other flowers blooming in my garden on this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day are (clockwise from top right) milkweed, hydrangea, coreopsis and perennial geranium, as well as the lavender I showed previously.

In this summer season, one of my joys is the abundance of daylilies in bloom. They do require deadheading every morning, but they are worth it. I use creeping thyme as a ground cover under the daylily below ...

Here are some more of my daylilies ...

The pond is looking quite lovely surrounded by my cottage-garden flowers ...

 I hope  you agree my dreams of creating an English cottage garden in Pennsylvania have been realized!

Thank you, Carol, for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on your wonderful blog. On the 15th of each month, I look forward to visiting May Dreams Gardens to see what is blooming around the world.

Happy GBBD, everyone!
Pamela x

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