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The Mid-Summer Garden: GBBD, July 2018

July 16, 2018

entrance garden JulyThere are only three months of summer in Maine: June, July and August. (And some would probably dispute the first half of June, arguing that it is still spring.) So July really is the middle of summer, when the garden reaches its high summer peak. This year, we had a record-breaking heat wave (exceptional for its length, the high temperatures achieved, and dew points that are almost unheard of here) as June turned into July, and blooms accelerated, with some plants blooming weeks ahead of their normal schedule. Suddenly, the garden has that lush, slightly blowsy look characteristic of high summer.

I’m thrilled with the way my new entrance garden, begun just three years ago, has filled in. Two varieties of spirea blooming by the walkway make a big statement at this time of year, and they are accompanied by hardy geraniums, heuchera, tradescantia, astilbe, and daylilies.

spirea with geranium and daylilies

Daylilies form the heart of the mid-summer display in my garden. In mid-July, the daylily bloom is just about to peak. Slightly more than half the varieties I grow are now blooming, and some of the early varieties will be finished soon.  The common orange daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, whose roadside flowers are a sign of summer in New England, will soon finish blooming. Another species daylily, Hemerocallis citrina, which forms large clumps of wonderfully fragrant pale yellow flowers, will last a bit longer.

H. fulva flowers H. citrina side slope
Happily, many of my early-blooming daylilies are re-bloomers and will continue to make flowers for many weeks (or even months). These include the lovely ‘Lily Munster’. I’m not usually a fan of daylilies with droopy petals; but this one, which can be covered with masses of flowers from July to September, stole my heart. Lily Munster flowers

Alna Pride flowerMany of my favorite daylilies are from the Maine daylily breeding program of Joseph (father) and Nick (son) Barth. One of the first Barth daylilies I acquired, and still a favorite, is ‘Alna Pride’. In addition to being strikingly handsome, this daylily, like many of the Barth offerings, is fragrant. ‘Alna Pride’ is named for the town of Alna, Maine. Other Maine places are honored in the names of ‘Sheepscot Valley Sunset’ and ‘Southport Delight.’ But most of the Barth daylilies seem to be named for Barth family members and friends, and I sometimes feel as though I have the whole extended Barth clan in my garden.

Barth daylilies

lavender hidcote blooming Daylilies aren’t the only flowers in my garden. Along the Lavender Walk, the lavender is in glorious bloom, accompanied by flowers of the groundcover sedum ‘John Creech’ and the first flowers of Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus.’
john creech blooming echinacea magnus blooming

But the daylilies really are the stars of the July garden – so I leave you with more of my daylily blooms.

July daylilies-001

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a wonderful community celebration of  flowers, created by Carol at May Dreams Gardens and hosted by her on the 15th of each month. Visit her blog to see the bounty of July blooms from gardens far and wide.


Blues and Pinks in the Early Summer Garden: GBBD, June 2018

June 17, 2018

blues & pinksI’m a couple of days late with this bloom day post; with so much happening in the garden, I’m finding it hard to find the time to write about what’s happening in the garden. In the month since I  documented new growth and blooming spring wildflowers, the garden has exploded in a profusion of early summer blooms. Most of these are in shades of blue and pink.

The Blue and Yellow Border is in its blue period, with colors ranging from the intense blues of Tradescantia virginiana ‘Zwanenburg Blue’ to the barest hint of blue in the flowers of Amsonia tabernaemontana. B&Y blue period
zwanenburg blue 2018 barely blue amsonia

siberian iris bluesThe showiest blue flowers in my garden at this time of year are the Siberian irises (Iris sibirica). I originally planted two unidentified varieties that were pass-along plants from a friend and then added several named cultivars obtained from nurseries. Over the years, these irises have been divided and re-divided, and they have also self-sown with abandon. The irises showing off their beauty on the Back Slope at this time of year are mostly self-sown, and their colors display a range of genetic diversity from deep blues to paler lavenders.

At first glance, the Side Slope also seems to be a study in blues, but a closer look reveals a number of accompanying pink plants, like ninebark ‘Donna May’, rose ‘Therese Bugnet’,  and Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’ side slope blues & pinks
ninebark blooms
therese bugnet pink biokovo pinks

porch and patio pinksPink is the dominant color in perennial borders that flank the walkway to the patio. Peony ‘Mons. Jules Elie’ has just begun to bloom above a frothy border of ‘Biokovo’ flowers. Across the walkway, the clear pink flowers of Geranium x oxonianum alternate with the deeper pink hues of Tradescantia virginiana ‘Pink Chablis’ and the flowering spikes of heuchera ‘Raspberry Regal.’

pink tradescantia pink oxonianum
pink peonies
At this time of year, the Fragrant Garden at the front of the house is a study in pink and white, with blooms of dianthus, peonies, mock orange, roses, and geranium ‘Biokovo. I am particularly enchanted by this soft pink flower on the rose ‘Quietness.’ quietness flower

The pleasure found in my morning walk through the garden increases every day at this time of year. It’s a wonderful season to be a gardener.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted this month and every month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see beautiful blooms from gardens near and far.

Groundcover With Fringe Benefits

May 31, 2018

strawberry groundcoverWhen I was designing and planting the side slope that runs from my house’s front entrance down to the driveway, I had just read Rainer and West’s Planting in a Post-Wild World (see Favorite Garden Books: Planting in a Post-Wild World), and I decided to implement their idea of planting a groundcover layer under the “design layers” of perennials and shrubs. Buying enough plants or landscape plugs to establish a groundcover can be expensive, so I looked around my property for likely candidates that could be transplanted. When I did, the wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) that grow everywhere in my poor sandy soil, called “Look at me; look at me!”

The strawberries had a lot to recommend them in addition to being free. They have shallow roots that won’t compete with the deeper roots of most garden perennials, and they send out runners that root themselves in uninhabited patches of soil between other plants. In addition, they have charming white flowers in May and delicious (albeit tiny) red berries in June. I popped strawberry plants out of the ground from places they would not be missed (like the gravel outside the entrance to my basement), tucked them into spaces between plants on the side slope, and waited to see what would happen.

strawberry leavesSome plants that flourish in poor soil will do poorly if transplanted into rich garden soil, but that is not the case with these strawberries. In their second year growing on the side slope, the little transplants have grown into big clumps with much larger leaves than they had growing in the wild, and they have sent out many daughter plants. They are doing admirably the job for which they were recruited – covering ground and suppressing weeds. As an added bonus, this year they are also sporting masses of strawberry blossoms. I’m curious to see whether the berries, like the leaves, will be larger on plants growing in richer soil. Whatever their size, I’m looking forward to a bumper crop of delicious strawberries in the coming weeks.

side slope strawberry flowers

Spring in Maine: GBBD, May 2018

May 16, 2018

new spring growth2018Less than three weeks after the last of the snow melted from my garden, things are happening fast. This is the nature of spring in Maine: long weeks of impatient anticipation followed by an explosion of new growth. Deciduous trees have bloomed and made new leaves, and the hillside by the driveway that was covered with crocus flowers two weeks ago now features new foliage of shrubs and herbaceous perennials.

Not many perennials are in bloom yet. Exceptions are the hellebores and the bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’) in the Serenity Garden.

hellebores 2018 goldheart flowers

Most of my blooms at this time of year come from wild volunteers, like this young pin cherry tree (Prunus pensylvanica) flowering outside my study window.

flowering pin cherry 2018 pin cherry flowers 2018
viola blanda I am happy to have sweet white violets (Viola blanda) seed themselves around in the entry garden, where I can enjoy their lovely flowers each spring. Here and there, some common blue violets (Viola sororia) have also appeared.
viola blanda flower viola sororia


Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) form carpets of flowers in spring. Another carpeting groundcover, moss phlox (Phlox subulata) has just begun to open its first flowers. bluets 2018
strawberry flower & buds Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), which I am encouraging as groundcover in many parts of the garden, have also just begun to flower, and their numerous buds provide a promise of delicious berries in the weeks to come.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams’ Gardens. Visit her blog to see what’s blooming in other gardens this May.

Snowmelt and Crocuses: GBBD, April 2018

April 15, 2018

crocus blooming in snowSlowly but inexorably, spring is arriving in my Maine garden. It has been a hesitant, halting, two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back sort of spring. On Friday, the sun shone and the temperature rose to 60F, a great day for spring clean-up in the garden. Today brought snow and freezing rain – a great day for staying inside.

But the cold, snowy days are less cold and less snowy than they were a month ago, and in the strong spring sun, more snow disappears each day. Most parts of my garden have now emerged from under the snow.

April snowmelt

By the last week in March crocus ‘Pickwick’ had begun to bloom by the foundation. foundation pickwick
snowmelt and crocuses In the weeks since, as the snowpack has thinned on the slope by the driveway, bunches of crocus have pushed up through the snow and ice
… and bloomed. snowmelt and crocus blooms

Crocus Blooms_1

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the fifteenth of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see blooms from gardens near and far, including those in which spring is considerably more advanced than it is in Maine.

crocus pickwick

MELTING … Melting … melting

April 5, 2018

snow melting 2018As March has turned into April, the snow is steadily melting and garden beds are reappearing. This is the first sign of spring’s arrival in my part of the world. We have now reached the tipping point when there is more bare ground than snow cover, and the snow pack that remains is mostly thin and easily melted. Even when temperatures are below freezing, the spring sun is strong enough to melt snow. Sometimes I wake up in the morning to find that areas that were snow covered at bedtime are now bare.

I can get out and begin spring clean-up in parts of the garden that are now snow-free – flower beds like the Serenity Garden, Serenity Garden clear 2018
B&Y clear 2018 … the Blue and Yellow Border,
… and the Lavender Walk. Lavender Walk clear 2018

Other areas, like the Fragrant Garden and the Fence Border, are very close to being free of snow and will soon be ready for my attention.

Fragrant Garden melting Fence Border melting2018
Deck Border snow 2018 The northeast-facing Fence Border, which is in the shadow of the house for most of the day and is also the depository for snow shoveled from the deck and the roof, is usually the last area of the garden to emerge.
But as the snow melts, new green growth appears.  The Blues Border, which is in a protected spot between the foundation and the steps to the front door, is showing not only new green shoots of Siberian iris, but even the first nubs of new hosta growth. new growth hosta
foundation crocuses Along the foundation, crocus Pickwick’ has bloomed, and is providing forage for the first bees of spring.

Pickwick with bee

Waiting for Spring: GBBD, March 2018

March 17, 2018

snowy house MarchI am a couple of days late with my bloom day post because I was waiting for amaryllis ‘Charisma’ to open its first flower.

Warm weather at the end of February and the beginning of March almost made me believe that spring had arrived. The snow pack was melting rapidly, and I walked around the garden each day seeing signs of new growth (and also, sometimes, of deer browsing on that new growth). But two and a half feet of new snow during the second week of March brought me back to the reality that March is still winter in Maine.

So I must wait a few more weeks for spring. And while I do, I continue to rely on houseplants for bloom. The potted cyclamen have been blooming since I brought them home from a local farm market in December.

pink streaked cyclamen March pink cyclamen March

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) ‘Charisma’ has just begun to bloom and still has another flower stalk developing.  A second red amaryllis variety (possibly ‘Red Lion’) will open in the next few days. Together, these flowering bulbs may carry me through until I have outdoor blooms.


Charisma 2018 red amaryllus bud March

crocus coming upIf you know what to look for, there are promises that spring is coming. The ground has already thawed, and the March sun is strong enough to melt snow even when temperatures are below freezing. And there, pushing up behind the snow against the house foundation, is a crocus trying to bloom.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see blooms in gardens where spring has already arrived.