Delightful September days

In retrospect, I suppose that I was foolish to plant a handful of perennials and shrubs a few weeks back. Several cool days encouraged me, but they were followed by more of the same mid-nineties temperatures that have become too common in this long summer. Without a hint of rain for three weeks I’ve had to pay more attention to watering than I would prefer, but there’s hope, cooler temperatures have arrived, and will continue through the next week. A bit of rain Sunday morning will keep the dust down, but with a soaking rain I’ll be a happy gardener.

I’ve made an ambitious project list for the coming weeks, probably more than I can handle. Each year I find that I am more enthused by the late summer blooming, perennial sunflowers (Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’, above), so I’ve figured a sunny spot where I can shoehorn a few more in. The perennial sunflowers are not bothered at all by heat and drought, and instead seem to flourish in poor, dry soil.

In the front of the property I’ve planned to remove the withered grass under the big beech, and with an area of two hundred square feet (or more) I’ll have a rare opportunity in this long established garden to add a few of this and that without having to consider if the space is adequate, or if one will overwhelm its neighbors.

In planning the new garden I was reminded that it is easy to neglect, and how infrequently I appreciate the charms of old standbys like ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum (above), an undemanding stalwart that shows color for many weeks in late summer. The areas where I have planted Autumn Joy have slowly become quite shady, and the plants have faded a bit, so I’ll transplant several to the sunnier edge of this new bed.

I have planned to include a few reblooming blue hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Penny Mac’, above) in the new area that is mostly shade, but with a few hours of midday sun. The hydrangeas in the rear garden have begun to reset buds with the cooler weather, and the first September flowers have arrived. Blooms will continue until a hard frost kills the buds and foliage.

I have discovered that Japanese Forest grass (Hakonechloa ‘Aureola’, above) is an essential plant for shady spaces, with gracefully cascading golden foliage. Along the shady stream in the back garden it arches over boulders, with delicate seed heads in September that contrast against the dark water.

Forest Grass is slow to become established, but after a few years it will tolerate heat and dry conditions without a bother. I have split the established clumps several times to spread to other parts of the garden, and the fist sized clumps of root are quicker to grow than pots from the garden center, so that new plants are quite economical.

I will be dividing the roots of several of the toad lilies (Tricyrtis, above) to plant in the new garden area, and I’ve found that it is quite easy to break off a section of the roots without disturbing the established clump, which can remain undisturbed for a number of years. Only one variety bloomed in August this year, and the others have been quite tardy in setting bud. In the past week all have buds that are prominent, and the blooms are only a few days off. With a late start the toad lilies will bloom well into October, or until frost.

Sunday’s modest rain will allow me a break of a day or two before I must water the new plants again, and with some luck there will be some more substantial rainfall in the near future. With the delightfully cool temperatures there are many perennials coming into bloom, and in the next week I’ll follow up on the sunflowers, goldenrod, asters, and toad lilies that are beginning to flower in this late summer.

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