Archive for Summer plants

Beating the Heat!

The roses love the sun — but me, not so much. Especially when the “feels like” temperatures are approaching 115 degrees outside! Doing anything we can to stay cool is important. Here are a few things that you might not have thought of, but they really do help:

Most importantly conserve, conserve, conserve! Water is precious, and so is electricity on days like this. Try to stay indoors as much as possible during the sunny hours. Draw your shades and curtains on the sunny side of your home, it adds insulation, and protects flooring and fabrics from fading as an extra bonus. We have found that the rooms are 10 degrees cooler by doing just that. If you have ceiling fans keep them running, stale air and humidity can lead to mold and mildew. Try to eat fresh and healthy salads, or no-cook meals. Just turning on the stove or oven can heat up your entire kitchen. Run your dishwasher overnight when the water usage is less. After washing, air dry your clothing, or minimize using your dryer. I find that removing clothes from the dryer and then simply hanging them to dry after 5 minutes releases wrinkles and works great. And who likes to iron anyway, right? Those are some of my best indoors tips, now on to the outdoor tips–

Watering flowers after the sun has moved off of them keeps them from getting scorched, also gives the butterflies a safe place to drink some water. Don’t forget to leave a bowl of fresh water out for pets at all times. And for extra help, a soaker hose under a blanket of mulch 2″ deep is great for retaining the soil’s moisture, and it keeps their roots cooler, too.
Trim the back of foundation plants all around your home to leave at least six to twelve inches of airspace between the plant and the exterior wall so your house can breathe. This keeps down the pests and insects as well as molds and mildew. Consider upgrading your outdoor lighting to a power-saving low voltage lighting system. Our’s here provides nice lighting to walkways at just 4 watts per fixture. Much better than a 60-100 watt bulb from old style lighting!
Another way to minimize heat in the garage is with insulated doors, and if you have garage door windows, cover them during the summer months to keep the sun out. I created my own shades by cutting simple pieces of fabric and attaching them with velcro all around the edges of the windows. The coach lighting here is energy saving diode lantern style fixtures which use the equivalent of a 15 watt bulb in energy, but provide terrific lighting for safety.
All around the back of the house, we have these great new solar powered lights. They are motion sensitive, so they are just on when needed. It’s always great to have these in case of of power outages, you will always still have light.
My most important tip is to always have some water with you if you are going to be outside. You can’t drink too much water on these brutally hot days. Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing, and try your best to stay in the shade. Please be careful everyone!

A New Start to 2019

Hello my gardening friends! I have some big news. I am now being hosted by a new company after having way too many technical difficulties with my previous host. I will open comments and questions again and improve this blog with many new ideas. I hope it will be more helpful and encouraging to my readers. So please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you. (The first time you leave a comment it will go into moderation to make sure you’re not spam, but after that it’s an open forum.) I’d love it if you want to share my posts as well — the more people in discussion, the more tips and ideas! As always, I’ll be here at LisaEarthGirl.com and for those on Facebook at LisaEarthGirl.

As some of you already know, since my mishap last November, falling from a ladder while working on a tree, breaking my ankle and a rib, I had a bit of a slow start to this year. I was very lucky that I didn’t get hurt worse. (Coincidentally it happened on the same day and hour as our esteemed Justice R.B.G. had a mishap and broke her ribs.) I am back physically, thank goodness, and learned to be extra careful on ladders on windy days! I also would like to warn against leaning a ladder on branches that can sway in the wind! Safety first. Best tip I can give!

Learning a lesson the hard way to be more careful on ladders

The cycle of renewal has happened in a big way here. With all the rain that we had over the last year and a half, the garden is lush with new growth. Everything has sprouted with beautiful, fresh new leaves and lots of flowers everywhere. Many trees and bushes bloomed way out of their normal sequence — some early and some late — but it has been a gorgeous month and a half here in the mid-Atlantic. Vibrant colors everywhere!

Here’s a tip for one of America’s favorite plants, the flowering Azalea: When pruning and feeding, wait until after blooming, but finish before the 4th of July. This gives the plant time to set new buds and new growth before the frosts and freezes of the next winter.

The vivid new growth this spring is everywhere!

Last week I took a field trip with a friend to one of our local State Parks — Green Spring Gardens. We discovered many gardening ideas, and plants that were in full bloom a full month earlier than their usual bloom time! It was a refreshing way to spend the day, and fun to see school children so interested by what they were seeing. Fun for all ages, really! Why not pack a picnic and enjoy a hike at your local park someday soon?

A beautiful day at Green Spring Garden State Park. What a wonderful place to visit, perfect for all ages!

My biggest gardening concern so far this year is for some of my favorite mature bushes and trees to overcome the amount of rain from last year: the pink honeysuckle bush, the stellar cherry blossom tree, cardinal hollies, and the aristocrat pear. Last year’s losses were two prized cyprus bushes that drowned along the fence border garden. The change in climate and a neighbor’s poor drainage have proven deadly. The challenge continues with attempts to combat the excess water. I’ll keep you posted with some remedies to help keep the excess water away.


I always like to echo the colors I already have in the garden in my flower pots by the entrance. This year’s choices are blue salvia, lavander geraniums, and purple lobelia surrounded by variegated ivy. These all do very well in this area.

I’m back in my own garden now, preparing for the season ahead. I’ve almost finished with the mulching, weeding, and trimming back perennials. The grass has turned green again, and that alone makes a great backdrop for everything else. To celebrate the beautiful weather, I planted my annual flowers last week in flower pots and areas that are protected close to the house. In past years we have still had the odd late frost, but this year the long range forecast is showing we are much warmer. I used some of my favorites that do well in my micro climate on the banks of the Potomac — vinca, impatiens, salvia, lobelia and geraniums.

I’d like to start up a new segment on each blog from now on on plant I.D.- I’ll start with one that stumped me for years. I’ll encourage others to join in with plants from your garden.

Just for fun — here’s a plant I.D.- I used to call this the “Mystery Bush”, it looks very similar to many other plants, (wigelia and choke cherry had been previous guesses) but I’ve finally identified it as a pink honeysuckle bush. It started life as a volunteer in a friend’s yard, and she gave me a cutting. It has gorgeous flowers, which then turn to bright red berries, and in the fall gorgeous colored leaves — a true plant for all seasons! It has grown into a beautiful, mature 7 foot tall bush, with an 8 foot diameter. With too much water and rainfall last year, I’m fighting to not lose it this season.

It’s good to finally be back, and I hope that everyone is out and enjoying their corner of the world. 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!

 

 

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The Best Summer Plants of 2016

Number 1 on the list are the daylilies- this variety is a double flowering beauty.

Number 1 on the list are the daylilies- this variety is a double flowering beauty. I can always count on them for at least a month’s worth of show.

The outside chores are done, and now it’s time for a nice cold iced tea. I’m going through photos from this summer’s garden and want to share some of the plants and flowers that are thriving in my garden in this heat wave. These are my picks for this season’s best here — please let me know what your favorites have been in your corner of the world!

I took this photo while I was up on a ladder brooming down spiderwebs (which are way too plentiful this summer!). I love looking at the garden from a bird's eye view.

I took this front porch photo while I was up on a ladder brooming down spiderwebs (which are way too plentiful this summer!). I love looking at the garden from a bird’s eye view. The ivy in the flower pots has gotten huge and looks great year round. I just change the center flowers each season.

These are the caladium plants that I rescued from the rains. They have come back nicely, and are very happy in the window box under the deck.

These are the caladium plants that I rescued from the rains. They have come back nicely, and are very happy in the protected window box under the deck.

I think these "King Kong" coleus in the window box above the door are my favorites of the summer-

These “King Kong” coleus in the window box above the door are my favorites of the summer — very tropical!

The knock out roses are in their third bloom already, and always are a classic fav!

The knock out roses are in their third bloom already and always are a classic fav!

The liriope have become great border plants along the front walk. Every three years I can divide them into 4 to 6 new plants.

The liriope have become great border plants along the front walk. Every three years I can divide each one into 4 to 6 new plants. In the late summer, they will have purple blooms.

My little friend loves these boxwood- I think he's happy anywhere in the shade!

My little friend loves these boxwood — He’s happy anywhere in the shade! Boxwood have always been a wonderful walkway plant here in Mount Vernon dating back to the days of George Washington.

Up on the deck I am loving all the color from these vinca in pots. I also have these by the driveway.

Up on the deck, I am loving all the color from these vinca in pots. I also have these planted by the driveway. They love the sun and heat much more than I do!

And last but not least, I always have to include the curly willow trees. I always am happy watching their branches dance in the breeze.

And last but not least, the curly willow trees that are planted in three corners of the property. I always feel cooler watching their branches dance in the breeze.

 

 

Mid-Summer Check-In

So very hot! Almost 100 outside-

So very hot! Almost 100° outside! Stay hydrated…

It’s summer, all right! With temperatures approaching 100° here, there is no more comfortable place to be than in my basement at the computer, blogging without feeling guilty that I should be out working the garden. We have just passed the 4th of July, and now we move on to the “3H” time of summer: Hazy, Hot and Humid. No matter how long you live in the D.C. area, you never really get used to it. Water of all kinds is your friend — whether it’s the beach, pool, sprinkler or hose! And, please make sure to drink your eight glasses a day; it’s not fun to get dehydrated.

 

When it gets this hot it helps to keep the moisture in by stirring  up and adding some additional mulch in thin spots. Also boost the curb appeal!

When it gets this hot, it helps to keep the weeds down and moisture in by stirring up and adding some additional mulch in thin spots. Your flowers and veggies will love it, and also boosts the curb appeal!

 

 

 

 

With the exception of a couple of weeks in early June, this has been a very rainy season for us, and that has caused not only extreme growth on established bushes and trees, but also annuals and vegetables to rot because of heat and moisture. I had to replace all of mine, but they are looking fantastic now.

I have coleus in the planters this year. I love the bright splash of color-

I have coleus in the planters this year. I love the bright splash of color, and they are very hardy in the heat-

 

 

 

 

 

After losing the first set of annuals at the front door due to too much rain, I put in coleus. Sometimes I see plants in the nursery that seem to be doing so much better than others, so that’s what I bought. I love the huge colorful leaves! I have more of it growing on the back deck and in the window box — love it there, too.

 

Please remember to set out some water in the shade for 4 footed friends- it's greatly appreciated!

Stomper would like me to request that everyone set out some water in the shade for four-pawed friends — it’s greatly appreciated!

 

I  want to put out a reminder in this heat to please keep your bird baths filled with fresh water and a dish or two of water ideally in a shady spot for the wildlife. It’s sometimes hard to find clean water this time of the year for them, and it’s much appreciated!

I find myself just trying to keep up with the weeds when it gets hot like this even though I use a weed preventer in the garden beds. I’ve been adding some extra mulch here and there where it’s become thin and stirred it with a rake in other spots for good airflow to soil. This is a good practice to get into this time of year, and it boosts the curb appeal, too!

Look what I found while weeding and edging!

Look what I found while weeding and edging!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And while I was edging the other day, I found this wonderful heart shaped rock, nature’s gift!

I have a new lawn mystery to solve. Brown spots! I think these have been caused by lawn grubs.

I have a new lawn mystery to solve. Brown spots! I think these have been caused by lawn grubs. More on this soon.

 

 

 

 

I’m noticing about 100 brown spots in the grassy areas. They can be caused by so many things: fungus from too much rain, or a dull mower blade, pet spots or grubs like fire flies. I’m not sure what is causing mine, but I’m leaning towards the grubs idea. I’ll report more on this soon, and have a remedy for you, too, when I do.

 

 

 

Until then, try to stay cool — Happy Summer!

The Beautiful State of Maine

Out on Casco Bay in a 1928 Sailboat, the "Bagheera"

On Casco Bay in a 1928 schooner, the “Bagheera”

It has been so hot here in the D.C. area that we decided to escape the heat and go up to Maine to explore the Scarborough area, where eleven generations ago my husband’s ancestors first settled in the early 1600’s. The heat followed us, but it was a fabulous trip anyway.

 

We stayed on Black Point in the Prout’s Neck area, which was the home to the famous American painter Winslow Homer, and the inspiration for so many of his gorgeous nautical works.

Hiking the cliff walk.

Hiking the cliff walk. Winslow Homer’s studio in the distance.

 

 

Fabulous garden along the walk.

Fabulous garden along the walk.

There is a cliff walk all the way around the point to take in the amazing views. The rocky coastline is just gorgeous.

 

Stacks of stones in remembrance of others.

Stacks of stones in remembrance of others along the beaches.

There are lots of small islands and lighthouses — all picturesque, but what struck me most were the beautiful gardens. I never would never have guessed that the summer gardens would be so nice in Maine, having such harsh winters.

 

Many of the same things grow here as in my region of the mid-Atlantic, but the star of the show has to be the rugosa roses that are everywhere. They were all at the stage where the spent roses turn to rosehips, and it was gorgeous. Here’s an interesting fact: did you know that rosehip tea has more vitamin C than orange juice?

Another photo on the cliff walk.

Another view along the cliff walk.

The terrain is so steep that you see exposed roots like this wherever there is a large plant.

The terrain is so steep that you see exposed roots like this wherever there is a large plant.

Wild aster and goldenrod were all along the coastline

Wild aster and goldenrod were all along the coastline

Great place to sit and take it all in!

Great place to sit and take it all in!

The other side of the point- great beach club!

The other side of Prout’s Neck. Great beach club and dogs are allowed – yay!

I set about looking for heart shaped rocks and found several in no time. There are some really nice beach areas with benches made of driftwood, where people have placed stacks of stones in remembrance of others.

I will miss the slow pace up there, and sitting in the Adirondack chairs in front of the Black Point Inn watching the tide roll out in the setting sun after a long hike. I hope I get back to see it again!

Here are a few more photos of some of the highlights…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rugosa rose or rosehips plant is seen everywhere in Maine. So beautiful!

The rugosa rose or rosehips plant is seen everywhere in Maine. So beautiful and must be moose resistant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun sets on this trip, but I hope to be back again soon-

The sun sets on this trip, but I hope to be back again soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could look at these views forever-

I could look at these views forever…

A Walk Through the Garden on a Beautiful Summer Day

It’s a beautiful summer day here in the Washington Metro area. The humidity is low, and the temperature is mild — time for a stroll through the garden! Enjoy the tour….

The caladiums are just spectacular. Maybe my favorite new flower!

The caladiums are just spectacular; they may be my favorite new flower!

A favorite spot in the shade on the east side.

A favorite spot in the shade on the east side. The crepe myrtles have been flowering for a month and a half already!

The back yard is filling out nicely, and the "green fence" is almost solid now.

The back yard is filling out nicely, and the “green fence” is almost solid now.

This is the path up to the deck. Everything here is very full this year from all the rain we've had this month. I think we are on track to set a new record-

This is the path up to the deck. Everything is very full from all the rain we’ve had this month. I think we are on track to set a new rainfall record…

Up on the deck this year all the planters are spilling out with coleus, vinca and sweet potato vine.

All of the planters up on the deck are spilling out with sun-loving coleus, vinca and sweet potato vine.

Here's a close up of one of the planters. I am amazed at how many varieties of coleus there are. I don't know which one I like best-

I am amazed at how many varieties of coleus there are. I don’t know which one I like best…

This sweet potato vine might take over the deck if I let it!

This sweet potato vine might take over the deck if I let it!

I think my friend Stomper has the right idea- time for a nap!

I think my friend Stomper has the right idea — time for a nap!

 

 

It’s a Jungle Out There!

Coriopsis at it's most beautiful-

Coreopsis at its most beautiful, and lamb’s ears in bloom right next to it.

We are having the most beautiful light rain and mild temperature this week. It makes me feel like I’m in the British Isles. It seems the plants are just as happy about it as I am. They are literally growing like a jungle, and I almost can’t keep up. I love this time of the year, with so many plants at their most beautiful with fresh growth. As Thomas Jefferson once said: “The garden is like a ballet, with each flower having their moment to shine.”

The side garden is filling in nicely, and you almost  can't notice the meters and A/C units.

The side garden is filling in nicely, and you almost can’t notice the meters and A/C units.

Long view of the "Utility garden".  Looking like the tropics!

Long view of the “Utility garden”. Looking like the tropics!

This year I am so happy to report that the work I did on the garden which surrounds, or should I say “disguises” the meters and A/C units, is really filling in. It’s always my intent to make these ugly necessities as invisible as I can without blocking access to them for repairs and maintenance. The nandinas are soft and easy to pass by. I try to always leave a couple of feet clearance for good air flow, too!

This years choice for the window box above the front door- coladium, vinca vine and new guinea impatiens.

This year’s choice for the window box above the front door: caladium, vinca vine and new guinea impatiens.

Matching planters for each side of the front door. This is the north side.

Matching planters for each side of the front door. This is the north side.

Planters on the deck are in full sun all day, so this year I chose coleus and vinca flower.

Planters on the deck are in full sun all day, so this year I chose coleus and vinca flower.

This year, I am trying something new on the shady, north side of the house. In my planters I am using caladium, vinca vine and new guinea impatiens, staying true to the old adage: “thriller, spiller and filler” — and so far, I love it. Everything is growing well, and the caladium seems to be receiving enough shade. I have tried to replicate the same feeling of these shade plants with flowers and foliage that do well in the sun for the planters on the deck, which faces due south. I used coleus, and flowering vinca, and will add in some potato vine when that comes in at the nursery. They are all doing amazingly well. The chipmunks have been leaving them alone so far, too!

I  feel so inspired with this lovely, gentle rain and mist — I guess it’s time to get back out there! Enjoy your day!

The pyracantha was filled with flowers, and is growing so quickly I need to add more brick anchors in the wall.

The pyracantha was filled with flowers, and is growing so quickly I need to add more brick anchors in the wall. Ditto for some extra support on the wisterias in the yard!

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