Summer doldrums


Not every summer is as easy as this. Rainfall has been ample, and temperatures have been moderate. Certainly, more difficult conditions are ahead, since it seems unlikely that summer will treat the garden so gently.Alstromeria in July

Though several plants are continuing to recover from winter injury, foliage and flowers are lush in mid July. Most likely, this will not last. The best that can be anticipated is that evening thunderstorms will continue, perhaps to minimize the stress of summer’s heat, but half of summer has passed without much trauma.

This garden is irrigated only by rain, though on rare occasions I will drag a hose around to water new plantings that might struggle in the heat. Some parts of the country require irrigation to maintain adequate soil moisture, but in northwestern Virginia most plants can manage without.Tiger swallowtails on Joe Pye weed

Many of the garden’s plants demand little attention through the worst of summer, and possibly these are ill served by regular irrigation. In this garden there is no place for weaklings, and though one plant or another occasionally declines in the heat, failures are few.

The small sections of lawn are another matter. Grass is given little attention, and if it fades a bit through the summer I’m not bothered at all since it usually perks up again in September. My preference would be to eliminate more lawn to plant a few more trees, but my wife demands that no more grass be removed. At a point, it’s best to know when to yield, and I’m certain I crossed that line years ago. So, the lawn will stay, but I’ll do as little as possible to care for it.Golden Full Moon maple

Many trees and shrubs in this garden are long established, and with deep roots they show little ill effect, even in the driest, hottest summers. The deep red of a few Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) will fade a bit in the heat, but ones that are partially shaded hardly show a hint of this.Skeeter's Broom Japanese maple in July

The native River birch (Betula nigra) is notorious for pumping up with lush growth through spring, but then dropping an alarming number of leaves in the heat of August, particularly when planted in dry soils. No harm is done. In this garden birch and shrubs that prefer moist soil are planted in ground alongside a swampy meadow that rarely goes dry, so these show little effect through the summer.Mountain mint in July

Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) is native to the area, and as it reaches peak bloom in July there is no evidence that summer heat is a concern. Today, bees and wasps are occupied gathering nector so that they pay scant attention as I poke my nose too close. Blooms of the native mint will attract pollinators long after summer’s heat has passed.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. I love Mountain Mint. Mine hits peak blooming in August (i’m in New England) and it attracts tons of gorgeous pollinators.

  2. You and I have many of the same plants in our noVA garden. 🙂 I also grow the slender leafed mtn mint as well as the p.muticum and the pollinators go nuts for it as well. It takes more sun, less water, and doesn’t spread much. Have you had many swallowtails on your Joe Pye? We had loads last year but very few this year.

    1. Dave says:

      Joe Pye is just beginning to bloom, but I’ve seen few swallowtails so far. Last year they were abnormally abundant, so I figure they’ll come soon.

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