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One Last Time

August 22, 2013

transition bouquetA few days ago, I left my August garden one last time for the 600-mile drive south to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for my last year of teaching at Gettysburg College. Leaving the garden in August is always hard. This year, several plants (particularly mid-late season daylilies) that would normally be done blooming still had flowers; and other flowers that I normally count on seeing before I leave (for example, Phlox paniculata ‘David’) had not yet begun.

As I often do, I went through the garden before I drove away and cut some flowers to take with me, putting them in a few inches of water in a plastic container that I then wedged in among the houseplants on the floor of the front passenger seat. This year, my little bouquet  included Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne,” Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower), ‘Floristan White’ liatris, three different colors of balloon flower (including the white ones, which have done exceptionally well this year), and the last buds of two different daylilies – ‘Orange Bounty’ and an unidentified ruffled yellow cultivar that is wonderfully fragrant. These cut flowers, which are now gracing the living room of my Gettysburg townhouse, help me make the transition away from my Maine garden.

The flip side of leaving my Maine garden is returning to my small Gettysburg garden. I always feel a little frisson of excitement/fear as I approach the end of the trip, wondering what I will find. Some years, there are unpleasant surprises – like the year I returned to find that bindweed growing from the neighbor’s garden had completely smothered my front flower bed and was growing up my front door! But there may also be unexpected delights – like last year, when I discovered that my landlord had removed two large plants (arbor vitae and yew) that dominated and darkened the front entrance to the house and replaced them with more suitably sized shrubs (boxwood and nandina).

gburg annualsThis year brought both pleasant surprises and disappointments. I was greeted at the front of the house by colorful annuals blooming in a container, by flowers of two reblooming daylilies (‘Happy Returns’ and ‘Final Touch’ – both of which also grow in my Maine garden) and by flowers on a variegated hosta that has been barely hanging on for ten years, but that has finally gotten established now that it is no longer competing with the overgrown yew. I can also see that the nandina bloomed this summer and will have colorful berries in the fall.

Gburg back bed August

In the back, I was disappointed to find that there are no balloon flowers.  (I think my inexperienced student helper cut these down by mistake instead of the nearby columbines.) I was also disappointed to find that daylily ‘Autumn Minaret’ didn’t bloom for the second year in a row, despite my efforts to give it more light and better growing conditions; since this beautiful cultivar is not thriving here, I will dig it up in the spring and move it to my Maine garden. I was frustrated to see that the forsythia that I pruned back drastically last year have managed to grow back enough to bury several plants underneath them. And I have no idea how corn plants got seeded in my herb bed and patio container! corn plants
Joe Pye & Krossa Regal But there are also compensating pleasures here. Although the flowers are mostly gone by, I can see that Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium) did well this year; and I really like the combination of their tall flowers with the five-foot flower scapes of Hosta ‘Krossa Regal.’ By the patio, the morning glory vines (Ipomoea tricolor) – which did not do well last year – are thriving this year; they have created a thick blanket for the patio fence and have begun to bloom.

gburg patio morning glories

Daylily ‘Sandra Elizabeth,’ which has not yet begun to flower in my Maine garden, is blooming here. Even better, ‘Olallie Star,’ which I have not seen in bloom for a decade because it has usually finished before I get back, is blooming later than usual this year (and looks quite different than I remembered!). This is one of several daylilies that I will either dig up or divide in the spring and take back with me for my Maine garden. It’s a pleasure to get up each morning and look out at the back garden to see what’s happening there.

gburg Sandra Elizabeth & June Olallie Star

Four years ago today, the first post of Jean’s Garden appeared in the blogosphere. I have been so distracted by the transition back to Gettysburg and preparations for my last year of teaching that I would have missed this anniversary except for a note of congratulations from WordPress that appeared this afternoon in my email. It would have been a shame to miss my blog anniversary because blogging has enriched my life in so many ways, including new friends, improved knowledge of gardening, and a deeper experience and appreciation of my garden.

54 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2013 11:53 pm

    Your garden photos are great fun…it is always hard to see anyone’s summer end.

    • August 24, 2013 8:27 pm

      Charlie, One of the consequences of returning to teach in August is that I always feel like summer is almost over by the 4th of July. I’m really looking forward to feeling next year as though summer has just begun on the 4th of July.

  2. August 23, 2013 2:08 am

    Jean, I hope your last year of teaching is a year of wonder, joy, surprise, and good fortune.

    • August 24, 2013 8:28 pm

      Thanks, Chad; I hope not too many surprises :-|.

  3. August 23, 2013 2:51 am

    Hello Jean
    I don’t often comment on your blog but always read it.
    Today I was delighted to see you mention a day lily that I didn’t know existed – Sandra Elizabeth – for those are my Christian names. I don’t suppose it’s available here in Europe but it was lovely to see a photograph of it.

    • August 24, 2013 8:32 pm

      Sandra, I have the same relationship with your blog — although sometimes it takes me a while to get there and I find myself reading 2-3 weeks of posts at a time.

      I didn’t realize that your second name was Elizabeth; it does seem as though this is a daylily you should have! What distinguished Sandra Elizabeth in my climate is that it is an exceptionally late bloomer, just starting to make flower scapes as the mid-season bloomers pass their peak. I did a little scouting on line and at least one UK nursery has carried it in the past (although they currently showed it as “out of stock”). This afternoon, I saw a hummingbird feeding at its open flowers.

  4. August 23, 2013 4:55 am

    This annual ritual must be such a strange time for you and all the more so because of the love for your gardens. Will you no longer have to do it after this coming year? What will happen to the property? Your day lilies are a joy and after the success of my few this year I would really like to have more and am curious concerning what you say about non-flowering years, as I suspect mine will not always do as well. Thanks for sharing

    • August 24, 2013 8:38 pm

      Cathy, Like you, I have been torn for quite a few years now between my need to make a living and my love of a particular place, Maine. Once school ends in May of this year, I will give up my rented townhouse in Gettysburg and live full-time in my Maine house. Since I’m a renter in Gettysburg, the house will simply be let out to a new tenant. I don’t know what will happen to the garden; I’ll thin out the vigorous growers so that they won’t need attention for a couple of years, dig up or divide some favorite plants to bring back for my garden in Maine, and leave my landlord with a diagram identifying what’s where in the Gettysburg garden.

  5. August 23, 2013 7:08 am

    I’m guessing this will be a bittersweet year for you. Hope it is a wonderful closure to one chapter, and an exciting start to the next one.

    • August 24, 2013 8:39 pm

      Judy, I am definitely ready for this step and am mostly excited about it.

  6. August 23, 2013 7:15 am

    Happy anniversary, Jean!

  7. August 23, 2013 7:15 am

    Happy Blogaversary Jean, it has been an amazing 4 years for you, and I hope you keep blogging for a long, long time. I too am about to head back to my garden, wondering what surprises I will find.

    • August 24, 2013 8:42 pm

      Deborah, One of the things I’m looking forward to is more time for blogging (as well as more time for gardening :-)). I remember how many hours I spent on blogging during those first heady months at Blotanical when I was on sabbatical in 2009-10.

      Are you headed to Kilbourne Grove for your fall visit? (I feel as though your time in Barbados should be coming to an end soon.)

      • September 8, 2013 6:54 pm

        I remember when you did research on Blotanists. Happy Fourth Blogaversary! May the ‘Fourth’ be with you as you teach this last year.

  8. August 23, 2013 7:51 am

    Hope the pleasure of seeing friends and beginning the college year sooths the transition. And congrats on the anniversary. Looking forward to many more!

    • August 24, 2013 8:48 pm

      Marian, Just as my Gettysburg garden provides pleasurable compensations for leaving my Maine garden, so too do the pleasures of reconnecting with friends, colleagues and old students and of meeting new ones.

  9. August 23, 2013 11:21 am

    The school year has such a distinct shape with those marked beginnings and endings — much different than the typical 9-to-5 job where one day melts into another on a more even plane. There will be a lot of milestone “lasts” to observe in the months to come. I hope the whole year is one of celebration for you. Congratulations on four years of blogging, Jean!

    • August 24, 2013 8:50 pm

      Thanks, Stacy. I found myself noting some of those milestone “lasts” on my calendar as I recorded the various important dates of this year’s academic year. My notations include things like “last day of classes — ever!!” and “Final (really final!) grades due.” 🙂

  10. August 23, 2013 11:53 am

    All the best for your final year working in Gettysburg! Many of us who follow your blog will be keeping tuned continually to find out ‘what happens next’! Congratulations also on the anniversary. Clearly we have all enjoyed what you are doing, so keep on doing it! I’ve so many questions related to your interesting comments on the Gettysburg garden while you were in Maine, but I think they are for another day, perhaps.

    • August 24, 2013 8:52 pm

      Cathy, My return to Maine in May will not only bring big changes in my life, but also in my Maine house and garden. I hope to do a post soon on those plans.

  11. August 23, 2013 12:38 pm

    Happy blog anniversary! As I read this I kept thinking how hard it must be to leave your garden up north at the best time of year. And you have done it for years. Think of your Maine garden as you enjoy what you have in Gettysburg. This last year will fly!

    • August 24, 2013 8:54 pm

      Laurrie, For quite a few years now, I have organized my life so that I get home to Maine once a month in the fall — which gives me a chance to see what’s happening in my garden there. The Gettysburg garden was designed to be at its best in May and September (something that may puzzle the next tenant), so there is a lot to take pleasure in right now.

  12. August 23, 2013 1:55 pm

    I love your photos, they are ever so beautiful. It makes me want to get my green thumb working better.

  13. August 23, 2013 1:56 pm

    Happy blogiversary Jean and haste ye back 🙂

  14. August 23, 2013 2:55 pm

    That Krossa Regal hosta is unbelievable! Is that its normal height in bloom? I’m not a hosta fan but that one is certainly eye-catching. As for your wonderful blog, I am so impressed that you have been at it for 4 years, especially with your busy schedule.

    • August 26, 2013 1:32 pm

      Sarah, This is the normal height of the Krossa Regal flower scapes in bloom. Krossa Regal is a vase-shaped hosta, one of the offspring of the species H. nigrescens, which also has very tall flower scapes. The difference is that (at least in my experience), the species seldom blooms, whereas Krossa Regal gets many flower scapes every year. Even better, these tall scapes are sturdy and don’t flop.

      And many thanks for your kind words about my blog.

  15. August 23, 2013 11:13 pm

    Congratulations on your 4th year blogging anniversary! I hope you enjoy your last year of teaching at the college. Endings, no matter how long in the planning, are usually bittersweet but I’m sure your next chapter will be splendid!

    • August 26, 2013 1:35 pm

      Thanks for the kind thoughts, Kris. I’m sure like all teaching years, this one will be sometimes wonderful, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes just exhausting. I love teaching, but I am ready to move on to a new chapter in my life.

  16. August 24, 2013 9:03 am

    Happy Blogoversary and happy final year of teaching — although I have a feeling you have so many more lessons to share (specifically with your blog fans).

    • August 26, 2013 1:37 pm

      Thanks, Kevin. I guess I should specify that this is my last year of classroom teaching. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever grow tired of opportunities for learning and for sharing knowledge and ideas — both of which are abundantly provided by blogging.

  17. August 24, 2013 10:30 am

    Happy blogging anniversary. Your blog has been an inspiration to many people which is quite an accomplishment. I have the same feelings about returning home from Maine. Will you take any of your Gettysburg plants with you when you leave? You have reached a very interesting threshold in your life. I look forward to your next adventures.

    • August 28, 2013 10:35 pm

      Carolyn, I started making a list last spring of plants that I want to take with me for my Maine garden. Some of these, like Hemerocallis ‘Olallie Star’ and Hosta ‘Paul’s Glory’ are plants that are not currently growing in my Maine garden. There’s also a Heuchera that I bought from you that is really putting on a show in my Gettysburg garden this fall. Some (like daylilies ‘Bisque’ and ‘Autumn Minaret’) are not thriving in my Gettysburg garden and can be rescued with a more suitable home in my Maine garden. There are also plants (including several daylilies) that I already have in Maine, but that I would love to add another clump of. I think I’ll probably have to turn my car into a rolling nursery in order to accommodate all these plants, plus all the houseplants that need to be moved.

  18. August 24, 2013 12:53 pm

    I love your morning glory on the white divider! All of your plants are beautiful. You are going to have such fun this time next year when you can stay and get your Maine garden ready for winter. I hope this year of teaching flies by for you.

    • August 28, 2013 10:36 pm

      Jean, Growing morning glories in Maine is a very iffy proposition (because of the short growing season), so I am very much enjoying this last season of abundant morning glory blooms on my patio fence here.

  19. August 24, 2013 1:38 pm

    Your bouquet from Main is beautiful, but you must be filled with joy to see your Gettysburg garden again. And Happy Blogoversary! I have enjoyed your blog from almost the beginning. You remind me that my own 4th blogoversary is approaching. Can it really have been so long? I wish you the best for the upcoming teaching year.

    • August 28, 2013 10:38 pm

      Deb, It is fun to see the Gettysburg garden again — and a bit bittersweet because I know I’ll never return to it in its August glory again.

  20. August 24, 2013 4:15 pm

    Congratulations on four years of blogging, Jean! And may your final year of teaching be memorable for all the right reasons.

    • August 28, 2013 10:39 pm

      Thanks, Jack. Only another teacher would qualify the wish for a memorable year of teaching with that last phrase :-).

  21. August 27, 2013 7:53 am

    Jean, one day soon it’d be nice to get together. I’m in Hagerstown, which is within “spitting distance” of Gettysburg. Hope you have a wonderful “one last time” for this season, seeing as it’ll be your last one for your PA. garden. Oh, and thanks for all the info on visiting Maine! We do plan to attend the fair you mentioned – sounds wonderful!

    • August 28, 2013 10:41 pm

      Ginny, This sounds like a great idea; I’ll be in touch by email to work out particulars. My schedule is much more flexible in spring than in fall (when Saturday is my only non-work day) — but I may also be crazy with preparations for moving in spring.

      • September 1, 2013 11:23 am

        Jean, have you ever visited Surreybrooke Farms in Middletown Md? It’s a marvelous place, a fine nursery and incredible gardens by Nancy Walz.

  22. August 27, 2013 11:45 am

    Best wishes for your last year of teaching! For myself, I could never handle the separation anxiety of shuttling between two gardens.

    • August 28, 2013 10:43 pm

      Thanks, Jason. There’s always a little anxiety in returning to a garden that you’ve been away from, but also the excitement and anticipation of reunion.

  23. August 28, 2013 5:44 pm

    Your blog has enriched MY life as well. Happy Anniversary.

    • August 28, 2013 10:43 pm

      Thank you, Allan; what a nice thing to say!

  24. August 29, 2013 4:19 pm

    Congratulations, Jean on your 4th anniversary!

  25. August 30, 2013 10:03 pm

    The corn was probably planted by the squirrels.:o) It would be very hard to leave one garden for another but exciting, too. Balloon flower is pretty tough. They should come back just fine. Happy anniversary! I love your blog, too. :o)

    • August 31, 2013 10:10 am

      Tammy, Thanks for the explanation about the corn. Squirrels are abundant here, so that is a very likely explanation. I suspect you’re right that the balloon flower will reappear in the spring. My disappointment is that this was my last year to enjoy them in this garden. Soon, though, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ will begin to bloom in that flower bed.

  26. September 2, 2013 8:18 pm

    Jean sorry I am catching up so late…but I wish you a belated Happy Anniversary…your blog has indeed enriched so many of us as has your friendship

  27. September 4, 2013 11:50 pm

    Hello again Jean, i can’t come here every post, but i just pop-up! For me every goodbye is a little sad, and your title alone set some sadness. Most of all the garden and all plants that you individually cared for, they will be sad too. But will you not be returning there, even if you already finished teaching? More power Jean, your posts are always so informative and delightful for us.

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