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Fall Flowers: GBBD, September 2021

September 17, 2021

Front garden from above sept.In mid-September, fall is in the air in Maine; my garden is well past the peak of its summer display as plants prepare for winter dormancy. The dozens of daylily (Hemerocallis) varieties blooming in July have dwindled to a few buds on a handful of very late varieties like ‘Sandra Elizabeth’ and ‘Rosy Returns.’

Sandra Elizabeth last bloom Rosy Returns

Other flowers, however, have continued to bloom through summer and into fall. These include the hot pink flowers of Spiraea bumalda x ‘Neon Flash,’ purple poppy mallows (Callirhoe involucrata), the clear pink flowers of Geranium x oxonianum, and the bright orange blooms of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

long-blooming fall flowers

Herbstsonne with balloon flowersOther flowers come into their own at this time of year. This is the season when the tall Rudbeckia x ‘Herbstsonne’ shines at the back of the blue and yellow border, combined here with the blues of balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) and globe thistle (Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’).

backlit herbstsonne echinops flowers

This is also the time of year for sedums. ‘Matrona’ is blooming in the back garden, and ‘Neon’ is flowering in the front garden.

Sedum Matrona 2021 Sedum neon 2021
sedum volunteer I even have a volunteer sedum (probably Hylotelephium telephium) that has grown for many years at the edge of the woods but whose vivid flowers are blooming for the first time this year.

Autumn is also the season for asters. Normally, the showy New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) that are creating splashes of color along the sides of the roads at this time of year would also be blooming in my garden. Alas, these have been a favorite food of this summer’s resident woodchuck, which has left behind lots of broken, largely denuded stems. (This morning, though, I noticed a few aster buds that somehow escaped woodchuck teeth and are beginning to open, so I still have hope for some New England asters in the garden this year.) Happily, other native asters have been of less interest to my problem woodchuck. I have flax-leaved asters (Ionactis linarifolia) blooming in many parts of the garden, and a volunteer heart-leaved aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) is flowering by the back steps.

flax-leafed aster heart-leafed aster

Iron butterfly with coreopsisEven better, late-blooming ironweed Vernonia lettermanii ‘Iron Butterfly,’ which usually struggles to open its flowers before frost, is blooming early this year, perhaps given a jump-start by our exceptionally hot June weather.

Iron butterfly flowers

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted each month by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her website for links to September flowers in many other gardens.

Garden Visits

August 11, 2021

In my part of the world, July and early August are prime time for visiting gardens. In the past three weeks, I have experienced three garden visits.

Kelly daylily visitThe first came in the third week of July when my garden club visited a garden by a lake in rural Maine, a garden known for its collection of daylilies, one of my favorite flowers. It was a rainy late afternoon, which made photographing the garden more challenging, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some daylily varieties I grow in a different setting and being introduced to some new varieties. And the garden was also full of non-daylily beauties. I particularly liked this combination of black-eyed susans, beebalm and phlox growing on a sunny corner (left) and the tranquility of this shady glen (right).

Kelly visit other blooms sun Kelly visit other blooms shade

My second garden visit came at the end of July when I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Rhode Island, and my sister-in-law and I took an outing to the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Providence. The combination of glass conservatories and outdoor “Seasonal Gardens” gave us a chance to learn about tropical plants we could never grow (e.g., seeing for the first time what dates look like when they are still on the date palm!) and also consider new plants for our own gardens. We were both smitten by a Chinese pine tree with beautiful exfoliating bark in the winter garden, and my sister-in-law left the summer garden thinking about where she could add Joe Pye Weed and ‘Lavender Mist’ tall meadow rue to her garden.

My third garden visit happened at the end of the first week in August, this time in the form of people visiting my garden. The visitors were three women from another part of Maine, about an hour away from my home. After a series of e-mail communications and phone calls with one of them about the possibility of my speaking to her garden club, she asked whether she and some friends could come to visit my garden.

Autumn Minaret floating bloomsAlthough I enjoy sharing my garden with others, formal garden visits, especially by strangers, generate a certain level of anxiety. Suppose they are disappointed? Mine is not a manicured garden by any means; will they go away feeling as though I should have made more of an effort to weed and neaten things up before the visit? How much should I warn them ahead of time that this year’s resident woodchuck has been devouring many of the flowers that would normally be in bloom right about now (e.g., phlox, purple coneflower, liatris)? Suppose I get up on the morning of the planned visit to find that the woodchuck or deer have eaten much of what was left? On the day before the planned visit, when one of my late-blooming daylilies, Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret,’ opened fourteen flowers on one day, I added a new worry – that few of the remaining daylily buds would open on the appointed day.

Front slope early august blooms

In the end, my worrying was pointless and unnecessary. About thirty different varieties of daylilies had flowers open on the day of the visit, and there were also plenty of other blooms to accompany them. If my visitors were disappointed, they did not show it. They were appreciative of the garden and the work that has gone into it; they encountered some plants that they weren’t familiar with (e.g., spotted beebalm, Monarda punctata); and they noted the number and variety of pollinators busy at work. They were, in fact, the best kind of garden visitors – committed gardeners themselves and generous in understanding a garden as a complex community of plants interacting with one another and with the environment.

Summer Spice: GBBD, July 2021

July 15, 2021

summer spice from aboveMy early summer garden is dominated by a sweet pastel palette in shades of pink, blue and violet. But as June turns to July, the garden mood gets spicier. Nowhere is that more true than on my sunny southwest-facing front slope, where hot colors take center stage in the summer heat.

front slope hot color daylilies July

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are the big story in my July garden. Above, you can see many of the red, orange, and purple varieties blooming on the front slope. Today, almost fifty varieties of Hemerocallis were blooming in my garden, more than half of those I grow. Five of those varieties opened their first flowers today. But, also today, the first two varieties to bloom this year, ‘Boothbay Harbor Gold’ and ‘Orange Prelude,’ opened their last flowers.

Boothbay Harbor Gold last flower Orange Prelude last flower

From here on out, as later daylily varieties come into bloom, early varieties will finish their bloom period.  We have now reached that bittersweet tipping point halfway through summer when anticipation gives way to an awareness that fall is not far away.

Spicy front slope July 2021

The hot-color daylilies on the front slope are accompanied by the strong yellows of false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) and coreopsis, the vibrant orange of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and the first of the beebalms to bloom, the vivid red Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline.’

spicy lower slope July 2021 monarda Jacob Kline

Not all the flowers in my July garden are hot and spicy. At the top of the front slope, along the patio walkway, hot pinks and purples merge into softer pinks.

Patio daylilies July 2021

Soft-color daylilies currently blooming include the peachy tones of  ‘English Cameo’ in the entrance garden and ‘Beth Barth’ in the fragrant garden, and the big spidery pastel flowers of ‘Lily Munster’ in the new front border.

soft color English Cameo soft color Beth Barth soft color Lily Munster

side slope hosta wandsAt the bottom of the side slope, an old fashioned green hosta (possibly Hosta ventricosa)  is sporting graceful wands of pale lavender flowers. This was a pass-along plant from my mother’s garden more than thirty years ago that has been divided over and over again and now provides a strong edging along the side of the driveway.

Elsewhere in the garden, a pale blue veronica and a stronger blue phlox are just beginning to bloom, other phlox varieties and several types of Liatris are sporting lots of buds, and two additional species of Monarda are about to bloom – promising many more flowers for the August garden.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a celebration of flowers founded by Carol J. Michel at May Dreams Gardens and hosted by her on the 15th of each month. Visit her blog to link to blooms featured by gardeners from a variety of places and climates.

Welcome Rain

July 5, 2021

front slope after rain 7-5-21Vacationers who came to Maine for the long July 4th holiday weekend were probably not happy to be greeted by three days of cool, rainy weather, but Maine farmers and gardeners were thrilled. A dearth of winter snow, followed by little rain in May and June and the warmest June on record in Maine meant that we arrived at the end of June with 100% of the state abnormally dry and 70% in drought conditions.

At the Sunday Farmers’ Market, no one was complaining about the need for jackets and rain gear. I asked several farmers how much rain they had gotten, and the general consensus was about 3” (and intermittent rain continued through the day on Sunday). This was not the kind of torrential rain that sometimes interrupts a drought, running off bone-dry soil and causing erosion; this was the kind of long, steady soaking that is absorbed by the soil and that nourishes plants. And, while 3-4” of rain over three days doesn’t erase our precipitation deficit, it does take the edge off.

lavender walk 7-5-21When I walked out into my sunny garden this morning, many plants were lying prostrate under the weight of their rain-soaked foliage. But by late morning, they were picking themselves up and looking perkier than they have in weeks. Some plants, like the lavender lining the lavender walk, were  happy to bloom in hot, dry weather. Others, however, had been biding their time waiting for some moisture.

Barth large gold 2021 Harriet's Red 2021

Daylilies (Hemerocallis), especially, responded to rain with blooms. While the first daylily flowers opened earlier this year (June 23rd) than ever before, only five varieties had begun to bloom before the rain arrived. Today that number had risen to fifteen varieties. As daylily season gets underway, the soft pinks, blues and violets of the garden in May and June, are giving way to the strong oranges, reds, and yellows of summer.

front slope oranges 7-5-21