Friday, July 31, 2020

This Month in the Garden: July 2020

This was a difficult and sad month for me. On the first day of July we lost my miniature horse Charm. It was very sudden following a severe bout of colic. I am devastated. We had 'rescued' Charm from a farm where he had been abandoned by his owner (he was boarded there and never picked up.) The vet estimated his age to be about three years at that time. He was with us for less than two years, but of course I had grown to love him. My grandson was very comforting, reminding me of all that we had done for Charm: taking care of his teeth and hooves, giving him the medical attention he had never had, and building him a beautiful shelter in the paddock. He said we gave him great companions in the goats: Doodles, the young Nigerian pigmy, and Billy, the ancient one. My daughter reminded me that Charm is immortalized in the article featuring my gardens in the Summer 2020 edition of Country Gardens Magazine. She said, 'That's a big deal.' I feel that our farm animals are very much a part of my gardening story. When I'm in the garden they wait patiently by the fence for a tasty weed or two. The desk where I write my gardening blog and my articles is in a window overlooking the paddock. The animals are always near to me. I miss Charm enormously; I dedicate this posting to him.

Miniature horse, Charm, and goats, Doodles and Billy. I love the picture of Charm in the center at the bottom -- he was wearing his winter coat and looked like Rod Stewart.
Duane taking Charm from the pasture to the stable at the end of the day.
Charm and me strolling through the Woodland Walk.

Of course, when I'm sad my garden is my solace. Consequently, although the July weather was hotter and steamier than ever, I spent as much time as possible outside -- at least in the early mornings.  We had three heatwaves this month. Every day was above average temperatures, sometimes reaching heat indexes in the triple digits. It's been very dry, so we are constantly watering plants. Three of our five rain barrels are empty. The cottage garden peaked in the middle of the month and was stunning. Today it's beauty is starting to wane. Here are a few pictures taken yesterday:

The zinnias in the tub on the patio give a welcome pop of color.

More zinnias in tubs
Even more zinnias in the Kitchen Garden

There were lots of water lily blooms this year.
The arrowhead plant, Sagittaria latifolia, displayed its white flowers all summer.

I don't often show pictures of The Stone Garden. It is a cool escape in hot weather. I grow shade plants in tubs there.

I use mirrors in all my gardens. This round one in the Stone Garden is one of Duane's many finds.

One of grandson Jon's miniature gardens; he created it in a broken fountain.
Looking lovely with miniature hostas in bloom.

The hot weather has not deterred the butterflies. As well as an enormous number of large American swallowtails, smaller monarchs, and many fritillaries, there have been numerous tiny species.

Two tiny butterflies and a hummingbird moth.

I am linking with Sarah's 'Through the Garden Gate' meme where you can check out her July gardens in Dorset, England. Thank you, Sarah.

Wishing you a lovely August in your garden!
Pamela x

The first sunflower bloom.

(Some pictures of Charm and the goats were taken by Samantha Thorpe of Meredith Corporation during the photo shoot for the Country Gardens Magazine feature.)

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Midsummer in the Cottage Garden

Midsummer flowers in the cottage garden are at their peak today. They are more colorful than ever with hanging baskets of petunias and calibrachoa, pots of zinnias and marigolds, and nasturtiums in the herb trug. For some time, I've been leaning toward a more muted hue, but this year I reverted to the 'riot of color' that is one of the elements of cottage garden style that I wrote about in this blog nine years ago. I'm happy with the result; the bright oranges and yellows make me feel cheerful at a time when it is easy to become depressed as the virus crisis continues. Just a couple of hours of watering, deadheading, and weeding in the early morning, before the heatwave starts, enable me to face whatever bad news the day will bring.

After more than 12 years blogging, forgive me for posting similar pictures each year. I will try to show the changes today.

There is quite a lot of orange in my garden this year, including nasturtiums in the herb trug.
No changes here: traditional cottage garden flowers are blooming, most of which I planted many years ago, and show you every year.

Beyond the herbaceous border is a weeping redbud with its lovely heart shaped leaves and a pergola covered with a grape vine (at the top of the steps)

Miniature trees and various shrubs that I've added over the years are maturing. The smoke bush is a favorite in the cottage garden; this plant can grow to an enormous height if unchecked. I cut mine back, almost to the ground, in early spring. This creates a nice mounding shape that is not overpowering.

A fairy, gifted to me by dear friends, relaxes in the shade of the smokebush

Coneflowers are traditional staples of the cottage garden. I have several varieties that you can spot in my pictures today. The white ones were an addition last year.

Echinacea Conefections™ 'Milkshake' Coneflower
I post pictures of my pollinator garden frequently, but I can't resist showing you how a corner of it looks today.
 New this year: drumstick allium, Allium sphaerocephalon, planted next to beebalm. The bulbs were gifted to me by my good friend, Katharine.

Buddleia, Lo and Behold 'Blue Chip Jr,' is filling out nicely and has non-stop blooms.

My favorite hydrangea, 'Pinky Winky', is in its white phase -- it will turn pink, then reddish, as the summer moves into autumn. This shrub is quite large; I cut it back by one third each year. Note how it is growing right through the picket fence. This illustrates perfectly what happens if you don't take a mature plant's size into account when you plant it. Fortunately, I love the way it looks. A solid fence would not have worked though.

Hydrangea 'Pinky Winky'
The arbor over the Kitchen Garden gate looks lovely going in and coming out.
Zucchini, bushbeans, and cucumbers are my most prolific vegetables right now.
You can never have too many zinnias.

In the Serenity Garden, hostas are blooming. As one variety finishes, another flowers. The circular bed was planted my mother-in-law, Connie, many years before I married her son in 1988. I don't know the variety but they are most reliable. Spraying them constantly with deer deterrent is the only way to prevent nibbles.

Connie's hosta bed

Connie also planted Turks' cap lilies. I separated them into two beds including one along the picket fence where they nodded to passers-by for the past 12 years. Unfortunately, after a three-year battle, I lost them to the scarlet lily beetle. I feel so sad, and rather guilty, that I was not able to save one of the few flowers that Connie planted. As an organic gardener, I use the mechanical method of picking the beetles off the plant and dropping them into soapy water.  This works fine with a small number of plants, but I had two large stands of the lilies. I just couldn't keep up with the little pests. I'm not sure what the lilies' replacement will be. Temporarily, I put some foxgloves in the picket-fence bed. I don't believe they will be permanent as I have been unsuccessful in overwintering foxgloves. But they are pretty. I bought them in an end-of-season sale; they were half price with no labels for identification.

Also new this year, I planted several varieties of astilbe in the Serenity Garden.

The last of the new astilbes to bloom, Astilbe 'Maggie Daley'

The green roofs on the bird houses are flourishing. There is a wren family in the house shown in the top picture.

Finally, I have to include some daylilies. I haven't planted new ones for years, so you have seen the three that are blooming today numerous times. I love my daylilies.

My garden restores and comforts me. There is a certain reassurance in greeting the same flowers each year; they become old friends. There is an excitement in planting something new and waiting to see if it thrives. I try to view those that don't thrive, like the Turks' cap lilies, as an opportunity. Sharing my gardens' progress with a wonderful community of garden bloggers around the world makes me so very happy. We need all the comfort, reassurance, excitement, and happiness we can find in these troubled times. Thank you dear garden; bless you my friends.

Pamela x

Eastern black swallowtail on calibrachoa

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