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The Morning Tour of the Garden

July 25, 2010

The first stop on my morning tour of the garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)I thrive on routine; when other people think they are in a rut, I feel as though I finally have a comfortable routine in place. I like the way routines provide a basic structure to my day, leaving my mind free for less mundane thoughts or just free to enjoy the moment. One of my favorite summer routines is the morning tour of the garden. Actually this is more than a routine; it’s a ritual, a sacred rite that connects me to my garden.

Because my morning tour of the garden is a ritual, I do it in the same way each day. It has a standard place in my morning routine, coming after I have done my morning exercise, showered and dressed, but before breakfast. I make a pot of tea, pour out my first mug of the day, take the small basket that I use for deadheads, and head out. Deadheading as I go through the garden each day not only helps to keep things neat, but it focuses my attention on each plant in turn.

I always take the same route through the garden. I go out through the sliding glass doors that lead from the kitchen onto the deck. After stopping to deadhead and check on new buds in the containers on the deck, I head down the steps into the back garden. I focus first on the deck border, to the right of the path running from the deck down to the driveway, then on the fence border (which is near the end of the walkway). From the fence border, I turn and walk back up the path toward the deck, focusing this time on the blue and yellow border. From there, a woodchip maintenance path takes me along the end of the deck to the west side of the house, where my nursery bed and holding areas are. Then I pass to the front of the house to check on the iris bed and the bedroom border, continue down the sloping front yard to the circular bed, and then up the driveway to the back slope and the stairway that takes me up to the back porch and into the house.

Hemerocallis 'Yellow Pinwheel' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Hemerocallis 'Orange Bounty'

What I pay most attention to during my morning tour of the garden depends on the season. In May, I may scrutinize iris plants, looking for developing buds. In June, I glory in new blooms of geranium and iris and often find myself counting emerging daylily scapes. And in July the glorious blooms of the daylilies themselves take center stage. This week, my morning tours have made me aware that the garden has already entered the transition from high summer to late summer. I feel a sense of loss as one daylily after another opens its last flower. Even the late-season ‘Yellow Pinwheel’ and ‘Orange Bounty,’ which usually continue blooming through much of August, have already opened more than half their buds.

Hosta 'Francee' in bloom (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)But this is also a time to enjoy the beginnings of late summer blooms and to look for signs of fall flowers. The hosta ‘Francee,’ which is one of the last to bloom, is looking particularly lovely this year. Blue balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is now blooming in several parts of the garden, and it has been joined on the back slope by the delicately colored flowers of ‘Shell Pink.’ In the deck border, the newly planted Liatris aspera has begun to flower; and in the circular bed, the first spike of Liatris spicata ‘Floristan White’ has also begun to bloom. At the back of the fence border, morning glory vines are cascading over the top of the fence, although I haven’t yet seen any flower buds. Even daylilies are showing promise of future blooms; in the past few days, I have noticed new flower scapes on both the reblooming ‘Happy Returns’ and on the September-blooming ‘Sandra Elizabeth.’

Liatris aspera beginning to bloom (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Spike of Liatris spicata beginning to bloom (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

The morning tour of the garden also makes me aware of problems in the garden. For example, I pay special attention to the leaves of Heliopsis helianthoides in both the blue and yellow border and the circular bed, because these plants have had problems with rust. Last week, I noticed some skeletonized leaves on the Geranium endressii plants in the fence border, and closer examination led to the discovery of a plague of Japanese beetles. Now I have a covered quart container of soapy water tucked away out of sight in this flower bed, and each morning I take a few minutes to drown any beetles I can find.

The careful scrutiny that characterizes my morning tour can lead to pleasant surprises. Recently, while deadheading the flowers in a planter that hangs on the back porch rail, I noticed a single Echinacea purpurea bud down below. I thought this plant had long ago succumbed to the predations of the woodchuck and to crowding by other plants, but there was a single stem growing up through the rhododendron, chives, and irises on the back slope.

My morning tour of the garden is a ritual that fills me with pleasure and contentment. It has a sensual, luxuriating feel, and I look forward to it every day. And I know I’m not the only gardener who partakes in this pleasure. One day during an early morning walk, I paused to admire a garden along my route just as a young girl, about ten years old, came out of the house wearing a nightgown and boots and started walking around the garden, stopping to scrutinize each plant in turn. “Ah,” I thought, “a gardener in the making on her morning tour of the garden.”

24 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2010 2:08 pm

    I like routine, too. Your post made me think of one of my master gardener classes. The presenter talked about pest management and he mentioned the best manager is you, the gardener. It is a matter of staying on top of things.
    I love to walk around the garden every morning and with our new puppy it seems to be very early in the morning. 🙂 Beautiful photos, Jean.

  2. gardeningasylum permalink
    July 25, 2010 4:44 pm

    Hi Jean, It’s a pleasure to tour your garden with you! I’m so with you and Amy on routine – that peaceful walk around with a cup of coffee is magical. The gardener’s shadow is indeed the best fertilizer – and bug control!

    • July 27, 2010 3:47 pm

      Amy and Cyndy, It’s clear that I’m not the only gardener who thrives on routine. I hadn’t consciously thought about the morning tour as a form of pest management; for me, it’s more a way of taking pleasure in my garden. But, if it turns out that I’m also keeping on top of things in a way that makes some of that garden maintenance seem like a treat, so much the better!

  3. July 25, 2010 6:28 pm

    Jean, I so enjoyed your tour and walk around the garden. I can feel the peace. I just mentioned to a friend this morning who said he wished he could do more gardening, that it is amazing how much you can get done in a hour or two in the morning. I roll out of bed into clean garden clothes and come in usually full of dirt. I am in the midst of getting compost out and doing some changes in the garden. But all the while the sound of the pond and the birds make the work a joy.

    • July 27, 2010 3:51 pm

      Gloria, I have always found morning a special time to be outdoors. I have to admit that I seldom do serious garden work in the morning. For me, morning is more a time for the pleasure of just being in the garden. I’m more likely to set aside a couple of hours in late afternoon for serious garden chores. But I know what you mean about how the peace and wonderful sounds of the morning world can make garden chores more a pleasure.

  4. July 25, 2010 6:34 pm

    Most mornings I have to leave for work by 6:30, and I am barely awake. I am not a morning person! But those mornings I am out in the garden early are always a delight. More often it is late afternoon, right before sunset, that I tour my garden. It is a special, relaxing time.

    • July 27, 2010 3:57 pm

      Deb, Having to leave for work at 6:30 a.m. when you are not a morning person seems like cruel and unusual punishment! Evening is clearly the right time for you to take pleasure in your garden, and evening calls for a somewhat different type of ritual than morning. Allison at A Tasteful Garden posts about her weekly “wine walks” around her garden in the evening after work.

  5. July 26, 2010 12:08 am

    Routine is also a good friend of mine. I enjoy my morning ritual so much that I don’t deviate from it at the weekend, when I could sleep in. Walking the dog around our neighborhood is a big part of my routine. A few weeks ago, while waiting on a train in downtown Portland, a stranger approached me to ask if I was the woman who walks the corgi every morning, while she takes morning coffee on her front porch. I’d never noticed her before then, but now we often exchange pleasantries and updates on how our tomatoes are doing. Great topic for a post and I loved taking the tour with you!

    • July 27, 2010 4:14 pm

      Linda, I love this story. Our routines are a great way to connect with neighbors whose routines intersect with ours. When I am in Pennsylvania during the school year, I walk the mile from my townhouse there to the college where I teach. And, being the creature of habit that I am, I pretty much walk the same route at the same times each day. So I’ve gotten to know a lot of people along my route; some of them joke that they use my passage to check their watches! Of course, the route I’ve chosen is not necessarily the shortest route, but one with lots of nice gardens, so I get to talk gardens with people along the way, too.

  6. July 26, 2010 12:24 am

    Your morning ritual sounds like such a nice way to start the day! Taking that time to see the changes or surprises in the garden can make the whole day have a good feeling about it. My morning ritual on the days that are nice is to first see if the raccoons have been in the pond, then many times I follow the dog out and take a quick walk through the backyard before the girls are up. I love that quiet time in the morning.

  7. July 26, 2010 11:13 am

    How lovely Jean, thanks so much for the tour. I also follow the exact same routine in the morning, and again in the afternoon. I like your deadhead basket, I don’t keep up with it, but might do a better job with a system like yours. Your Francee is amazing! I should show the pic to mine, perhaps it would become inspired :).

    • July 27, 2010 4:26 pm

      Catherine, my morning tour does sometimes include checking for woodchuck damage, but that’s been less of an issue since the fox family started hanging out in my garden earlier this summer. Your description of getting out in the early morning before the girls are up reminded me of my childhood habit of getting permission to “go out and play before breakfast,” so that I could get up early on summer mornings and go out and wander around alone in the quiet morning world.

      Rebecca, I sometimes do a second tour later in the day, but it’s more spontaneous than a ritual. You might try the deadhead basket and see if it works for you. I find that deadheading during my morning tour turns it from a chore into something associated with pleasure. (Francee is very happy here :-)).

  8. July 26, 2010 4:32 pm


    this was a very nice tour of your garden and observations, one can see alot more in the morning when everything is fresh or more disturbing freshly eaten away! thanks for sharing your observations and morning walk

    help me decide on a photo from my plant fanatic blog, if you don’t mind?

  9. July 26, 2010 5:34 pm

    Jean, I so enjoyed taking the morning tour with you virtually. I have to say, I am also one of those people who loves routine and ritual — and never thinks “rut.” I learned long ago that my wild, exuberant, creative soul actually does best with some serious structure in place, especially first thing in the morning, when I rise and write my morning pages (stream of consciousness journaling), then stretch, then visit the garden. It’s a beautiful thing to have such practices, to set the tone for the rest of the day. 🙂

    Love the shot of the Liatris aspera. That’s a new one for me. 🙂

  10. July 26, 2010 6:31 pm

    I am such a routine girl, eat the same breakfast and (mostly) lucnch every day. If my routine has to change I feel like something is missing. Now my only routine with my garden is when I arrive, nothing can interfere until I have completed my walk around.

    • July 27, 2010 4:35 pm

      Noel, Thanks for pointing me toward your photo “poll;” I’ve been behind on visiting blogs because of family events.

      Meredith, Liatris aspera is new to me, too. I bought it from the New England Wildflower Society at their Nasami Farm nursery when I visited there in June with Carol (from Flower Hill Farm) and Liisa (Green Mountain Gardener). It was only when it’s flower buds developed that I realized it was different from other liatris, with individual flowers larger and more spaced out along the stem.

      Deborah, I had no idea that my borderline OCD tendencies would fit right in to the gardening world. I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch each day, too :-).

  11. July 26, 2010 8:04 pm

    Hello Jean,

    It is so nice to hear from someone who is a creature of habit, like me. I do love my routine which has been disrupted lately by my kids being out of school out for the summer. But today was the first day of school and I have time to spend blogging and in my garden again 🙂

  12. July 26, 2010 9:09 pm

    An excellent post Jean. Gardening isn’t about an end-point, a flower in bloom, or a vegetable or fruit ready for harvest. It’s a process, it’s dynamic, and it changes every day. I admit when I first started to garden it was about end-points. Living here has taught me that the land, and even small gardens, change…constantly. I do now check my garden daily, and enjoy it tremendously. I also try to walk the rest of the property weekly. If I didn’t I would have missed most of the fungi in winter, and many of the wildflowers growing here in spring and summer. When you take the time to look closely, there is always something different to see, if you think you saw it all yesterday. For you, with all your daylilies, I can just imagine how many you’d miss if you didn’t visit them every morning!

  13. July 27, 2010 10:01 am

    Hi Jean, I guess I am also a creature of habit because my morning garden ritual is firmly in place. Sometimes I become overwhelmed when I see all of the little jobs I need to do. Somehow most of them get done. I enjoyed your tour this a.m.


    • July 27, 2010 4:49 pm

      Still more creatures of habit in the garden blogging world! Who knew??

      Noelle, Wow; school starts early in Arizona. Do they get out for the summer in May rather than June, or do they just have a shorter summer vacation. The kids are probably less happy about the return to routine than you are. (LOL Maybe this is why I never had kids — too disruptive of routines!)

      Clare, I really like the idea of a weekly walk through the property; I think I’ll try to institute this next year. Right now my only weekly garden routine is the Sunday garden inventory, where I make note of what is in bloom where.

      Eileen, I know what you mean about being overwhelmed sometimes by all the things waiting to be done in the garden. I try to just pick one and focus on it so that I can cross it off my list.

  14. July 27, 2010 11:47 am

    As I work from a cabin in my garden, I go on tour several times a day. More often than not, I can lose an hour doing some unexpected job.

  15. July 27, 2010 4:25 pm

    I like your morning stroll and I love your day liles and liatris. This is my first visit to your blog and look forward indeed to revisiting.

    • July 27, 2010 4:52 pm

      IG, I have to admit that I almost never interrupt the pleasurable routine of my morning tour to actually work in the garden. The exception was when I discovered the Japanese beetle infestation in the geraniums. I hit the pause button on my tour, went in the house to get a container and fill it with soapy water, came out and drowned a few dozen beetles, and they resumed my tour where I had left off.

      Catharine, Thanks so much for visiting; I’ll look forward to return visits.


  1. Structuring My Day | Stepping Into The Future

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