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Hot Colors for a Hot Season: GBBD, July 2020

July 16, 2020

hot colors from topIn my Maine garden, the soft pastels of June have given way to a riot of hot colors in July. This is especially true on the sunny front slope, where reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and hot pinks have been given pride of place.

front slope hot colors

In mid-July, the daylilies (Hemerocallis)  are coming on strong, although they are not yet at their peak. About three dozen varieties have begun to bloom thus far, with more yet to come. fragrant garden daylilies

July 2020 daylilies

As you can see, not all the daylily colors are hot. In the entrance garden, the hot pink of Spiraea x bumalda ‘Neon Flash’ is tempered by the soft peaches of daylilies ‘English Cameo’ and ‘Ethel Shepherd.’ On the side slope, the soft yellows of ‘Sarah Scally’ and Hemerocallis citrina combine with tall lavender wands of Hosta ventricosa.

peachy-pink combo side slope soft colors

The lavender walk, which is in full bloom in July, also softens the color palette. lavender walk july 2020

geranium with hosta In the back garden, a pink flower of Geranium x oxonianum blooming against the leaves of Hosta ‘Love Pat’ creates a quiet vignette.
And since July is peak time for blooms in my garden, it is also a busy time for pollinators. Echinacea with fritillary

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month (or the 16th for those of us who always seem to have trouble getting there in time) by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see July blooms from many other gardens.

Oh, Deer — And Other Garden Miscreants

July 8, 2020

deer breakfast deterrentLike many gardeners, I am always negotiating the boundary between making my garden wildlife-friendly and making it too wildlife-friendly. Thanks to the work of Doug Tallamy (see especially Favorite Garden Books: Bringing Nature Home), I have learned to ignore most of the insects feeding on my plants, and even to welcome many of them. I do pick off and drown Japanese beetles feeding on roses and other plants, and I occasionally hose off aphids when large numbers of them seem to be overwhelming a plant. The long stretch of unusually hot and dry weather we had in May and June seemed to have provided perfect conditions for a large incursion of grasshoppers eating plants. Fortunately, just when they were beginning to feel like a biblical plague, several inches of rain dampened their numbers.

I find it more difficult to deal with some of the non-human mammals who visit my garden than with the insects. In early spring, deer come through and feed on newly emerging plants. I have one low-growing Euonymus that is exactly the same size as it was when I planted it almost twenty years ago because deer browse it down to the ground each spring. I don’t mind the annual pruning of that plant, but deer damage to the newly emerging perennials in my serenity garden at the edge of the woods made me feel less than serene until I learned to cover the entire flower bed with bird netting in April when plants start to put up new growth and take it down in May when the danger is past.

This year, however, I had a pair of yearling deer who continued to frequent my garden in May, long after there was plenty for them to eat in the woods. The big front slope and side slope plantings in my new front garden were their favorite place for a pre-dawn breakfast. I tried to ignore the effects of their daily browsing until I found all the leaves and buds stripped from one of my peonies one morning. That was a call to action – but what kind of action? After some thought and a little online research, I decided on a three-pronged approach: First, I set up metal frames around the perimeter of these two flower beds and unrolled about 120’ linear feet of bird netting across those frames. The netting is only 7’ wide and I think the deer could have jumped over it if they were highly motivated, but I hoped it would provide enough discouragement to convince them to go elsewhere for breakfast. Next, I put some pieces of strong-smelling soap into nylon sacks and hung these from some of the frames. As a third deterrent, I attached white plastic shopping bags to some of the frames; these fill with air and blow in the breeze, spooking the deer. I left the netting up for three weeks, until the deer seemed to have broken their breakfast habit and then took it down, but left the frames, soap and bags. When I noticed that the deer had shifted their attention to the blue and yellow border in the back garden, where they were eating all the hostas, I put out three more white plastic bags attached to poles there, which quickly solved the problem.

No sooner had I solved the deer-browsing problem, however, when I noticed a pile of sand dug out of a hole beside a plant on the front slope. “Oh, no,” I thought, “woodchucks.” The woodchucks (AKA groundhogs), large herbivorous rodents, are my garden nemesis. They live in underground dens and come out to feed three times a day. A woodchuck will eat a plant right down to the ground, so that you look at the open space in your garden and try to remember what was growing there just yesterday! Two years ago, an ambitious woodchuck built a large den under my front porch, with exits out to several different parts of the front garden. (I call it the “woodchuck palace.”) In desperation, I hired someone to trap and remove the woodchuck; but no sooner had he done so, when another moved in, and then another after that one was trapped. (I imagined the word going out on the woodchuck grapevine: “Hey, did you hear? That big place at the end of the dirt road is vacant.”) The following spring, we trapped the woodchuck that had spent the winter hibernating under the porch, and then another that moved in after that one was removed. But this year, I hadn’t seen any sign of woodchucks in my garden – until now.

Fortunately, however, when I filled in the hole and watched what happened, I realized that I was not dealing with a woodchuck. This was the work of chipmunks, digging many smaller holes that seemed to indicate work on a chipmunk annex to the woodchuck palace. Chipmunk populations seem to have exploded this year, so there are a lot of them around, but I don’t find them as problematic as other rodents. They can be a nuisance as they chase one another around and dig holes, but they don’t try to move into the house and they don’t do significant damage to the garden. Indeed, chipmunks do some beneficial garden work. In late spring, they vacuum up the red maple seeds, keeping them from germinating into a gazillion seedlings in my flower beds. More recently, they have been busy gathering acorns and caching them for the winter – acorns that as a result are not sprouting into unwanted oak seedlings. I even think the chipmunks get credit for having planted this nice weed-suppressing groundcover of wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) at the corner of the patio, transporting seeds in their digestive systems after they ate some of the wild strawberries I planted on the side slope.

wild strawberry groundcover

An Explosion of Blooms: GBBD, June 2020

June 15, 2020

Patio walkway June 2020From mid-May to mid-June, my garden has gone from the slow unfolding of spring to the explosion of blooms that characterizes early summer. My morning walks through the garden take longer each day with more and more flowers to enjoy.

Along the walkway to the patio, Heuchera x ‘Raspberry Regal,’ Tradescantia virginiana ‘Pink Chablis’ and two different varieties of hardy geranium are all in bloom, with peonies just beginning to open, and with Baptisia australis and Amsonia tabernaemontana visible in the background.fragrant garden june 2020

In the Fragrant Garden, peonies are already in full bloom, accompanied by roses, dianthus and the first flowers of mock orange (Philadelphus) ‘Snowbelle.’

circular bed pastels 2020

The Circular Bed at the turn into my driveway will be dismantled this year and incorporated into the new front border. globemaster 2020For one last time, though, I am enjoying its pastel June mood, as several varieties of hardy geranium bloom with Siberian irises, spiderwort ‘Danielle,’ Lady’s mantle, and the beautiful allium ‘Globemaster.’

lavender irisGeraniums, Siberian irises, and spiderworts are blooming in many parts of the garden. I’ve counted at least nine varieties of hardy geranium currently blooming. It’s impossible to count the varieties of spiderwort and Siberian iris because these self-sow readily in my garden and have produced a wide array of colors as their genetic diversity increases. Last year, this lovely lavender colored iris appeared. The named cultivars of Siberian iris currently blooming include ‘Super Ego’ and ‘Hubbard.’

iris superego 2020 iris hubbard

lupinus perennis 2020Among the plants that have grown from seed in my garden, I’m particularly proud to have several plants of our native sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis). This plant no longer grows in the wild in Maine; but I am hoping that it may spread from my garden along the dirt road to my house.

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

A Slow Unfolding: GBBD, May 2020

May 15, 2020

Maine’s usual flash-in-the-pan spring has been replaced this year by a slow unfolding. This past week, I have been particularly aware of the unfolding of new leaves on deciduous trees. The leaves of red maples (Acer rubrum), which flower in early spring, appeared first. These were followed by new leaves on paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), and then by ashes (Fraxinus) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia). Finally, yesterday, I saw the first tiny leaves of red oak (Quercus rubra).

tiny leaves

lonely daffodilThe garden is in between the flowering bulbs  of early spring and the late spring profusion of blooms on flowering shrubs. In the back garden, one last lonely daffodil bulb is fading. But the promise of things to come is everywhere, in the buds of lilacs, rhododendron, cherry and viburnum.

spring buds 2020

Actual blooms are being provided by spring wildflowers that have been drafted into or have volunteered for service in the garden.

moss phlox flowers These include moss phlox (Phlox subulata),
sweet white violets (Viola blanda), sweet white violets 2020
wild strawberry flowers wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana),
and carpets of bluets (Houstonia caerulea). bluets blooming

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, whose garden is particularly beautiful in May. Visit her blog to see hers and others’ May blooms.