Archive for dry summer

Autumn Joy!

The calendar says it’s autumn, but wow is it ever still hot! We have now had almost double the number of over-90 degree days in a normal summer and almost no rain since June. Drought has taken hold even though we had a massive amount of rainfall for three full months in the spring. The poor heat-stressed grass is having a hard time bouncing back, so I’m really happy to have at least one stalwart perennial to count on looking beautiful. Sedum, or Stonecrop — also known as Autumn Joy!

Despite the ultra hot weather and drought conditions, I can always count on these beauties this time of year! They look beautiful all summer ranging in color from green to white, then in late August to early September they start their transformation into every different shade of pink and onto a lovely shade of coral.

They are beautiful mixed in with other plants, or in waves or borders of all sedum. I love the look here mixed in with the knock out roses.
If they grow too fast in the early season, they can sometimes get very top heavy and split open from the center. I have two remedies for this. First, you can always pinch them back to about a foot tall before July, but if you love the taller look, here’s a solution to that: Place six or so garden stakes in the ground an inch or so in from the outside diameter with another circle of three or four of the stakes about half way in to the center of the plant. From there wind some really strong twine or coated wire carefully from stake to stake on the outside and drawn in to the (hidden) stakes in the center. Lift the branches carefully above the wire as you go. (Think about how a spider web looks.) Sometimes you need to do this in stages an inch or two at a time while raising the branches, as too much at one time can split a heavy branch. Another tip is to use black coated wire. (I use old, recycled wire from a former invisible fence.) It almost disappears even up close, but six feet away you can’t see it at all!
When I moved here 19 years ago I brought only two sedums from my last garden. Every two or three years I split each one into 2 or 3 plants, and now I have masses of them here and there throughout the garden. I’ve turned the original two into probably 60! It is a definite main staple in the garden here, and with so many extras to give to away to friends. Gardening gold! Another big plus is that the pollinators and butterflies love them!

A question about these fantastic perennials from a friend a few days ago inspired me to make them my feature plant for this blog segment. Thank you, Cathi!

If you are looking for a plant that does well in virtually any climate, even the harshest of summer weather, there is no more perfect choice than Autumn Joy!

One last look from the other direction-

Happy Gardening!

A Long Goodbye to Summer Heat

This pretty lemon/lime coleus has done well in the summer heat. Watering at least once a day has been a key!

This pretty lemon/lime coleus has done well in the summer heat — watering it at least once a day has been the key! It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, too!

Here in the mid-Atlantic, this has been a really rough summer, and the climate change has been very pronounced. Officially, it is the second hottest summer on record. With well over 50 days of temps in the mid-90’s and higher, the plants and trees are struggling — so much so that I am rethinking the location of many different plants in my garden. The micro-climate in my yard is hotter than the officially recorded temps by usually around five degrees. I think that is mostly due to the fact that we don’t have many shade trees on the property.

It’s a good time to take inventory of how the plants are faring. I think it’s interesting to compare how the same variety of plants do on various sides of the house, getting sun at different times of the day.

I am concerned about a row of euonymous that I planted along the front walk. Each spring, they start off looking amazing and full but lose their leaves by the end of summer, leaving them looking like bare stalks — not pretty. Those will be removed, and in their place I will add more liriope, and just fill the walkway garden with it, since it has done exceptionally well in that exposure.

The other hits in the front garden are the Hyacinth bean vine that I started from seed from last year’s winner, and also this gorgeous lemon/lime coleus with purple flower stalks. Both of these have been attracting butterflies and hummingbirds!

The purple flowering hyacinth vine has also come into it's prime in this heat.

The purple flowering hyacinth vine started from last year’s seeds has also come into its prime in this heat.

On the other side of the house in the east garden, I have a huge amount of beautiful white iris that are struggling in the intense amount of afternoon sun, as well as lamb’s ears that are always looking bedraggled. They will both be removed as well. The garden on that side is now getting established, and the crepe myrtle trees have grown to a point that they are blocking an unappealing view, so I couldn’t be happier about that! I might not even install anything else in that garden, and leave them some extra space. Deep watering has kept them in good health, so just adding some extra mulch is all that is needed.

The underplanted iris and lamb's ears will be removed, and give the crepe myrtles so more space. They have grown quite a lot this season.

The underplanted iris and lamb’s ears will be removed to give the crepe myrtles more space. They are exceptional trees for hot climate and have grown quite a lot this season.


In the back yard, I have some renovating to do. After 20 plus years, and even a move from our old house to this one, the planters we built from pressure treated wood are on borrowed time. I am rethinking how we might rework a privacy screen for under the deck, and then add to the flowering bounty underneath. The knockout roses and beautiful peonies that I currently have in pots, as well as some of the white iris I am removing from the east garden will be planted there. I’ll increase the garden’s size to accommodate them as needed. They’re my “green children” after all!

I have a couple of beautiful photos to share of the Labor Day weekend’s sunset here, and a last photo of this summer’s front door — next time you see it, it will be decked out for autumn, and hopefully a lot cooler! Until then — Happy gardening!

The setting sun on Labor Day weekend from ythe front garden.

The setting sun on Labor Day weekend from the front garden.

And a minute later-

And a minute later-

Pink glow on the front door from the setting sun- goodbye summer!

Pink glow on the front door from the setting sun — goodbye summer! Hello Fall!









Summer Wrap Up — The Best of the Best

A beautiful start to the Summer of 2015-

It was a beautiful start to the summer of 2015

What a busy summer it was! We had such a great start — with a perfect amount of rain and  moderate temperature days — and then a completely different ending to the season. I’d like to say something nice about what happened the last half of summer, but can’t think of anything! Such a bad drought, terribly hot, very deep mud cracks filled the gardens, and almost all my perennials had to be cut down just to survive. I’ve never had to do that before — ever! Even still, there were high notes for the summer to report on, and some really fabulous new plants that I tried. On a better note, thankfully, this fall has had some beneficial rains, and things are green once again.

Close up on some of the amazing jalapeno harvst-

Just some of the amazing jalapeno harvest

Remember in the spring I talked about adding lawn clippings into the garden to renovate it and lighten up the soil? In the veggie area where I did this, I planted a few basil plants and a jalapeno pepper. I had promised that if the soil was improved with amendments like these, that it would pay off in a big way, and did it ever! I harvested 125 jalapenos from just one plant! Believe it or not, I am still getting new growth, with no sign of slowing down. The cooler fall temperature will eventually end its growing streak, but what a testament to simple soil amendments and how they can make such a difference in your garden.

An amazing number of peppers- 125- were harvested off this one plant.

An amazing number of peppers – 125 – were harvested from this one plant.

This hyacinth vine gets my top prize this Summer for it's beauty and hardiness.

This hyacinth vine gets my top prize this summer for its beauty and hardiness.

Here is a close up of the interesting pods which develop after the flowers.

Here is a close up of the interesting pods which develop after the flowers.

I gauge my garden “hits” on how many people who are passing by ask the name of a plant or comment about them, and this year’s biggest winner was the hyacinth vine I planted in the front yard. (It was purchased early in the spring at the River Farm Horticultural Center’s annual plant sale, and if you are ever in the Washington D.C. area when it’s going on, I highly recommend going to it.)  This vine was gorgeous throughout the summer and was covered in beautiful purple flowers, which then became purple pods. It thrived in the heat and the drought and grew like crazy. By crazy, I mean growing 2-3 feet a week! It reminded me of the story of Jack and the Beanstalk the way it grew so fast. I saved many of the pods, which are filled with seeds, and plan on giving them away to friends and starting a few vines for myself next year. It had an old fashioned appeal, and I think it would be a show stopper in almost any garden!

The caladium plants put on a show all Summer, and didn't mind the heat at all!

The caladium plants put on a show all summer and didn’t mind the heat at all!

I also received a lot of comments on the caladium plants on the front porch. I had never grown them before at the house. I was very pleased with how well they grew and what a beautiful focal point they became. They held their color and did well in the heat all summer and early fall. I have saved the bulbs and will see if I can re-grow them again next summer.  I’m hoping to have plenty of these to share too.



This is the third year I have planted vinca in this location. It does so well on either side of the driveway, and some of the previous years colors have self sown- love the mix.

This is the third year I have planted vinca by the driveway. It does so well here, and some of the previous years’ colors have self sown – love the mix.

Even the oregano was blooming and full in the early half of Summer.

This was a great summer for herbs. Even the oregano was blooming nearly half of the season.

The ivy that was growing in all of my planters had to be restarted from the the plant's crown after such a hard winter. It grew beautifully, and each one came back like new.

All of the ivy plants had to be cut back to the soil after such a hard winter. They thrived this summer and are better than ever!

If you are looking for a medium sized tree with year round beauty consider a curly willow. This has become one of my most treasured of all the plants in my garden.

If you are looking for a medium-sized tree with year-round beauty consider a curly willow. This has become one of my most treasured plants.

As always, I have to give props to the Knock-out roses. They gave constant color, and filled in beauitfully after a hard cut back in the Spring.

To close, I have to give props to the Knock-out roses. They gave constant color this summer and always make me smile!

The other plants that did fantastically well this Summer were the coleus, vinca, ivy, herbs, roses and my “pet” fav — the curly willows!

As we approach the midpoint of fall, this area is having an Indian summer. There was a frost a couple of weeks ago, and now the temperature is back up to almost 80 degrees. I am really looking forward to the beautiful autumn leaves and reporting back on some new varieties of fall flowers that I’m growing. Until then — hope you are enjoying the season!





Mid Summer Garden Rescue

The poor garden this summer! Extreme heat, no rain, blazing sun, then sudden torrential storms with incredible winds. All this and more have left gardens in a sad state. It’s time for a rescue. Here’s my list of fixes and tips to help reclaim their health and beauty.

Trim out all dead and diseased branches on bushes and trees. If left alone this could attract insets and/or further spread the disease.

Start by clipping out dead branches on bushes and trees. Next (depending on how much is affected), trim out the bad parts, or completely cut back perennials as well as annuals. Make sure to collect and recycle your trimmings. In the humidity which comes with late summer, it is easy for fungus and insects to infect large clippings on the ground. Adding them to a compost pile will heat them so this doesn’t happen. In my yard, I am completely cutting back the foliage on all of the daylilly, yarrow, iris, and lamb’s ears, which will resprout fresh new foliage and look terrific until frost.

I will trim out many small branches on the Japanese hollies and junipers, and a significant number of dogwood limbs, too.

I suggest raking through the mulch to make sure that it has not compacted too much, and if you are in a drought area, start watering your foundation bushes with a soaker hose if you haven’t already.

When your lawn goes into a dormant state due to severely high temperatures combined with a drought, it is best to wait until temperatures have receded before resuming watering and/or feeding.

The grass in the yard has gone completely dormant here due to the lack of rain and the heat. Rather than stress it by trying to force it to grow, I will let nature tell me when it’s time to regenerate. I must say that in all the years I’ve been gardening, I don’t remember a year that has stressed the grass so much. I caution against adding any mid-season fertilizer this year. It may help to lightly add a 1/2 inch of compost to the lawn to help protect the roots. Until the temperatures are back below the 90’s I am wary of doing much else. As soon as the temperatures are lower I will start watering unless we receive significant rainfall.

The flowers that I have in pots this year are tried and true. I planted only geraniums, which I know to be more drought tolerant than many other flowers. Tip: plant two pots for every one that you need in an exposed focal area like the front door. Put one pot on the front porch and one in a less exposed area (under the deck in my case). Rotate them back and forth each week. That way they are given a break from the harshness of the weather extremes and are able to stay healthy. Also be sure to turn your pots at least 1/4 rotation each week, so that they don’t grow crookedly towards the sun. This is especially true if you have potted evergreens that you display year round.

This is an example of "sucker" branches. They are ugly and can actually draw the nutrients out of the tree if left alone. It is best to keep them trimmed out.

Many trees will develop “sucker” shoots from the trunks or branches this time of year. They are very unattractive and provide no benefit to the tree, and they can actually harm the tree if left alone. I like to take a sharp pruner and trim them out. You may need to check every month or two for a re-occurrence.

This is also the perfect time to trim back wisteria. (Remember January and July for hard pruning on wisteria.) Mine grows as much as 3 to 4 feet in a week, so I do lots of mini-prunings to keep it in shape. If you are growing chrysanthemum or sedum, this is also the last time for pruning back the height before blooming. I like to take mine down by a third. By doing that you will have many more blooms on a much stronger, more compact plant which will be less prone to splitting open in the rain.

I hope your yards and gardens are surviving this hot, dry summer. If you have any tips you would like to share on this subject, send them along and I’ll be sure to print them. Here’s looking forward to some healthy green color coming back!

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