The summer garden

I suppose that some small sections of lawn are necessary, or at least that’s what my wife says, and who am I to argue? Probably, I wouldn’t stretch the garden to cover the entire acre and a quarter even if she didn’t put a stop to it, but I’d be happy to narrow the lawn and squeeze in a bit more.

A section of lawn connects sections of the rear garden. While toad lilies (Tricyrtis) and bluebeards (Caryopteris) will soon be their peak, the lawn fades and become more weedy until cooler temperatures in September encourage new growth.

In any case, in late July the lawn is typically sad, dry, with bare patches where less tolerant grasses faded in the summer heat. This would, of course, not be so bad if the lawn was irrigated, and it will rebound with cooler autumn temperatures, but long ago the decision was made that lawn areas are to function as expanded paths from one part of the garden to another. As long as the grass is not a horrible embarrassment,  I’m not concerned in the least when it goes dormant and turns off color in summer.

The shaded stream area is at its best in late spring and summer. With little direct sun, hostas and Japanese Forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) thrive through the heat. A serviceberry (Amelanchier) that arches over the stream drops leaves as it adjusts to the seasonal change, so leaves must occasionally be scooped out.

Sweetbox (Sarcococca), Japanese Forest grass, and hostas thrive in the moist, shaded garden beside this constructed stream.

Of course, the garden is a different story, and with only the occasional thunderstorm to keep it green, the trees and shrubs remains lush for the most part, though undoubtedly faded from the spring peak. This is an acceptable standard, to my thinking, with plants in the garden ones that have survived the stress of summer heat without coddling. The trial for any new plant in this garden is its first summer, and if it survives it’s likely to be around for a while.

To conserve soil moisture and to reduce maintenance, many parts of the garden are planted so that one spills onto the other. Here, Robb’s spurge (Euphorbia robbiae) spreads to cover the ground, growing into the edge of the spreading Plum yew (Cephalotaxus prostrata), beneath Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia). None show signs of summer stress, even in this dry shade, and rarely will a weed pop up through this dense planting.

With warm temperatures and increased rainfall, I am pleasantly surprised that native dogwoods are not covered in powdery mildew, as is often the case by mid summer. Mildew does not diminish the health or flowering of the white flowered ‘Cherokee Princess’, but the variegated ‘Cherokee Sunset’ (Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Sunset’, below) has not flowered in recent years. At the end of July, I’m encouraged that even ‘Sunset’ is clean, but this cannot last for long.  

A variety of beasts continue to afflict the garden, though none are much to be concerned about. Tiny white caterpillars are annual visitors to the red twigged ‘Arctic Fire’ dogwood (Cornus stolonifera ‘Farrow’, below), but this unremarkable shrub is hardly a treasure. I am pleased that again this year webworms have bypassed the redbuds. and while other andromedas (Pieris) are infested with lacebugs, the more prominent ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ is only slightly effected.As always, mid summer brings flowering of the toad lilies (Tricyrtis formosana ‘Samurai’, below). A year ago, several clumps were damaged when early spring growth was damaged by a late freeze. Fortunately, these recovered, and in in late July the clumps seem particularly robust. With a small collection of cultivars, flowering will continue until frost.

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4 thoughts on “The summer garden

  1. Thanks to seeing them on your blog I planted toad lilies last year which also survived a late spring frost. They are now blooming and looking quite wonderful. I’m hoping to divide them when they spread a little more.

    • I recent years I’ve transplanted toad lily seedlings, most of which appear to be from ‘Miyazaki’. I’ve had better survival with seedlings than with small plugs of unusual varieties purchased by mail order. I am particularly careless with new plants, so the larger the container, or the larger the transplant or division, the better. Despite references telling that toad lilies prefer shade, I find that the best growing conditions are full sun with a few hours break in the afternoon.

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