Tag Archive for Changing Climate

Summer 2021

This was a summer for the record books — high heat, heavy rain, and drought! It was very harsh on the trees, flowers, bushes, and all the humans and animals as well. Here is my view on what plants did the best this summer, what suffered worst, and a few of my tried and true tips for dealing with it all.

We had a whopping 43 inches of rain since the beginning of the year, and more than 9 inches of that fell in August. It made for an incredibly green and full end of summer, but it drowned many of the flowers. With all that rain, the cicadas and junebugs, and a mini drought in July, I had to give up on many of the annuals in mid-July and pull them out. I then trimmed up most of the perennials and rose bushes. I’ve even had lots of moss starting to grow in the lowest parts of the gardens after the rainiest times this summer. I’m still working on how to stop it. You can see the moss around the edges of the brick patio in the photo above. In the fall I’m planning to dig a few dry wells in strategic spots, and see if that will solve the problem. I’m hoping to relocate several of the plants to higher ground in the garden where they won’t get such wet feet. Definitely the lamb’s ears and the liatris will be moved, and probably many others.

From this angle of the back yard you can see how much everything grew this summer! The lower area gets a huge amount of sun, but the upper area (where I stood when I took this photo) gets some nice shade from the trees in the late afternoon now that they have grown so large. This is opening up all kinds of new possibilities with plant material, so I may be increasing the garden beds this fall to move some of the plants to higher ground. It doesn’t look like it in the picture, but it’s about a five-foot difference in terrain height, and this nearly creates a running river through the grass during a downpour. Adding the drywells and some more curves to the edge of garden beds can help a lot with that, so that will be number one on my list of to-do’s when the weather cools down.

One of the best performers this summer has been the blackberry lily. This one thrived in its new damp location at the corner of the yard. Its color was spectacular, and it really multiplied. This one is from a plant sale at Mount Vernon years ago. This variety was grown on Mount Vernon Estate in George Washington’s time, so it’s perfect here in what once was his Union Farm!

Each year I fall in love with the purple hyacinth bean vines, and this year is no different! They are a show stopper! And the liriope is a perfect compliment to it with its purple spikes. Right now it is like a purple lover’s dream, one of my favorite plant combinations. And they don’t mind the outrageous heat we’ve had this summer!

Here’s a close up, so you can see how pretty the flowers and pods are! At the end of fall I harvest a few of the pods, and the seeds can be planted the next spring.
Also entering the stage for their solo in the garden are all the beautiful ornamental grasses, they are one of the hardiest things you can plant, and you just can’t beat their beautiful display all summer, and especially now when they bloom. They glow in the evening sun! And they get even prettier when there foliage turns shades of coral in the next month.

This pyracantha has come back! Just look at all the berries! I was about to give up hope when the main trunk died of a horrible fungus a year back. I had to cut it to the ground, and painted all the remaining stumps with daconil. There were just a few new sprouts that came up from the ground last year, but this year it is growing fast and looking fantastic again! It will cover the brick wall again soon, and I plan to train it into a cross-hatch espallier style, if I’m lucky. I anchor it to the bricks with black plastic coated wire, so that I can adjust and support it until the branches grow strong enough on their own. I find that it is almost invisible, and very strong, and you can use it over and over.

This photo was from early summer, during the one month we had a drought so the roses were still at peak bloom, but I wanted to show how I trimmed up the wisteria. I was being overrun with growth around the base, and it was overwhelming the arbor’s entrance to the patio, so I decided to trim away the lower foliage to open things up. I’m so glad that I did! Look at how beautiful the twisted vines are — they’re almost sculptural! I love the look. The top growth is still massive, and provides as much nice shade as a small tree, and only needs trimming a few times every summer, but for the first time in 20 years it bloomed! It pays to be patient; they take a long time to be established. Fingers crossed, next spring it will bloom again, too!

This was an eye-opening year for so many reasons, but it’s always a pleasure to me to get to dig in the dirt, and work some magic with plants. It is truly an honor when you get to stay in a home for a number of years and can see the fruits of your labors. A first for me!

Sometimes it takes these years with extreme weather to really bring out some of the best qualities of plants. With climate change, we will all have to adjust what we plant, and learn to garden using different and changing rules. Using tried and true plants, and regional natives, we can still have beautiful yards and gardens. We all have micro-climates within our yard. Even on the different sides of the garden, some plants will do better than others, more so now than ever. Lots of planning, observing and editing from year to year gives gardening its challenge, but to those of us who love the earth, its reward is huge! We nurture it, and it nurtures us. 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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