Mid-summer in the garden

We’ve had some terrific gardening days and some suffocating hot and humid gardening days. But I am not complaining. Things here are looking pretty good. I’m up before the sun rises above the treetops. It’s bright but oh-so-quiet out. It’s just me out there and the elderly neighbor across the street walking his 3 dogs.

exeter morning clouds 2019Early mornings are cool-ish. I take a coffee with me as I survey the areas of garden that might need a little refreshing in the heat that will surely come in a couple of hours to our small gardens. Any reachable weeds are pulled and flowers are pinched and tidied. Plants are checked for rabbit damage 😬 and those that have been nibbled are either covered or sprinkled with more stinky stuff.  Last week I opened the door to step out into the morning garden and was startled by a fox leaping straight up out of the border. I know what he was after. 🐰🐰🐰garden 2019I finally realize I’m not much of a flower gardener. The longer I garden the more I gravitate toward textures, shapes and shades of greens. Blooming woody plants are the backbone of the garden with enough flower blooms to attract pollinators.

One pollinator that I was happy to see dancing around the asclepias tuberosa was a monarch. Fingers crossed that it was a she and left eggs. Meanwhile the painted ladies have had two generations of caterpillars on the beach wormwood, an artemisia. The plant is a biennial so I stagger plantings each year just for these beauties.beach wormwood, painted lady 2019Our newest project took place in the front of the house. Figuring out a way to clean up an unsightly gravel area along the foundation that led to utilities has bothered me since I moved here. It was low and filled with moss, mold and summer mosquitoes. An eyesore to anyone who approached the front door, I thought.

This week we tackled it when some loam arrived for a neighbor… more than they needed. mister gardener brought me wheelbarrows of loam and we had access to community bricks for the taking. I built the area up over gravel with paving sand, laid the brick in a narrow basket weave pattern, brought the loam up to the edge, added a little liriope and voila! It’s been sanded in and looks good… at least we think so. It’s a tricky area where sheets of ice fall from the roof and shear shrubs in half during bitter winters. I know that liriope will take an ice lickin’ and keep on tickin’.New Brick Foundation area 2019That’s about it for July around here. Happy mid-summer to all.

 

We beat the heat with a great day trip

Can you guess where we were from the lobsters below?

LLBean 2019

Lobsters were everywhere but there were lots of whales, too.

LLBean 2019

Not every animal was man-made. We saw live fish as well.

L.L. Bean 2019

By now, you’ve probably guessed. We drove in air conditioned comfort to an air conditioned adventure destination… L.L. Bean in Freeport ME.

L.L. Bean 2019

With a heat advisory warning targeting New England this weekend, we decided the adventure of L.L. Bean would be the perfect getaway for us. It was cooler in Maine but we felt the heat from a firepit as we approached.

We were handed marshmallows on sticks to roast over firewood flames, then sandwiched the yummy gooeyness on Hershey chocolate between monogrammed grahams.  This was L.L.Bean’s big S’more out of Summer event that also took place in NYC and will pop up other places.

Our picture was taken with gigantic marshmallows and we were encouraged to add it to Instagram to win a tent, sleeping bags and more. We laughed at our pic but would NEVER add two old folks to their Instagram photos full of youngsters. Too weird.

 

It must have been a  Shop With Your Dog Day, too. They were everywhere, even in the small restaurant. Big dogs, little dogs, black and white dogs, dogs going up, dogs going down. Go Dog Go!

L.L.Bean 2019

The wing of the store that was once luggage, etc. now caters to exclusively to children. One parent seemed to be clothes and bookbag shopping and the other was engaged in interactive entertainment with children. Progress!

L.L.Bean 2019

L.L. Bean 2019

Lunch and shopping behind us, we headed for the parking lot, Ben & Jerry’s cones in hand, melting, dripping, sticky, delicious. On the way home we overwhelmed by the number of people for many, many miles on I-95 heading to Vacationland Maine… and, oh so very thankful we headed up early and beat those crowds.

I-95 North July 2019

As we drove south, we checked out folks along the way trying to keep their cool under the blazing sun. There were always lines at ice cream stores, the waterfront was full of people and boats in Wells Beach ME, and water parks were packed to the limit as you can see on the duel stairways here.

Splash Water Park 2019

But the most unusual sight we saw was on I-95 as we were going 70 MPH. Out of my passenger window a Harley whizzed past on our right and actually left us in the dust. The passenger, arms out, was obviously enjoying the high speed breeze they were creating. Yikes and more yikes!

Harley I-95 2019

Home safe and sound at days end with shadows of the setting sun hitting the house and cooling us a bit. Today we have another heat advisory warning but there are breezes and perhaps a thunder storm or two rolling in to water my gardens and cool us even more.

Man vs Beetle

On the Bug vs. People nuisance chart, things are looking pretty good here. Black flies departed on Father’s Day as usual, mosquitoes arrived shortly thereafter, and annoying mayflies followed mosquitoes.  Whew!

All those flying biting insect numbers are dwindling and being replaced by garden pests, but not many yet….except for a few of the most gargantuan slugs I’ve EVER seen! They look more like small snakes after our wet spring!

It’s the scarab beetles that I am keeping an eye on in the garden. I’ve only seen only one Japanese beetle that are emerging from the soil right about now, but I’ve seen a dozen or more of their cousins in the garden, the oriental beetles (Exomala orientalis) feeding mainly on the daisies and lady’s mantle. They are not voracious feeders but they do enough damage elsewhere.

Oriental Beetle 2019

It’s the lawn that takes a hit from these beetles. Just like the Japanese beetle, the larval stage feeds on the root zone of the turf grasses.  I’ve yet to know whether I have a real problem, but since I am committed to Integrated pest management (IPM)  instead of chemical management in combating pests, I’ve looked for alternatives that don’t affect good insects…. butterflies, bees, etc.

img_4198.jpg

Treatment is tricky because it varies depending on the species of grub. According to the Conn.gov website, bacterial spores can kill this variety of grub but our NE soil can be too cold to sustain the bacteria. Nematodes, microscopic worms that live in the soil, can infect and kill grubs but it’s tricky to keep them alive and tricky to apply the worms under the right conditions. Milky Spore targets only the Japanese beetle species of grub, according to UConn… in the state where the first siting of the beetle occurred in 1920.

The best option for treatment just may be sex pheromone traps that capture only the Oriental beetle male, unlike the Japanese beetle traps that unfortunately attract both male and female Japanese beetles. I found one lone online company selling the pheromone cards I would need…. traps sold separately.  I may not have a real problem but at least I have a place to order if it actually comes down to man vs. beetle.

Lazy Days of Summer

It’s mid-July. We are in the midst of dog days. After a wet spring, rainfall has been reduced to an occasional shower or two here and there. Days can be muggy and they can be hot. But not hot enough for A/C in New England….. yet!  Fans really do the trick. It made me smile when I opened a congratulation letter from the electric company for electricity efficiency. Yippee!

Pinks and purples and blues of spring have faded in the area set aside for cut flowers.  Now it is moving toward hotter oranges with coreopsis, asclepia, echinacea, and gaillardia. Tall ‘Hyperion’ daylilies will soon open to a lovely buttercup yellow and float over these sizzling reds and oranges.

cutting garden

We still have pinks and blues elsewhere. Our johnny-jump-ups will stay with us for the summer with a nice splash of color in the herb garden.

johnny jump-ups 2019

Flowers and shrubs take care of themselves now. There are chores among the ornamentals, maybe a few small weeds to pull daily but not enough to label as real work. Now we can sit back, relax on the deck, enjoy the garden, and watch our birds,

hummer 2019

Can you find her?

or take some New England road trips like this recent one to Vermont,

Vermont July 2019

and of course, we’re regulars at our incredible farmers’ market….

Farmers' Market 2019

… as we buy from farmers while we wait for the healthy fruit to ripen on our two tomato plants. Our Celebrity tomatoes are looking great and we can see a faint glow of pink in the right light. Wishful thinking?

tomatoes anyone 2019

Late July and early August is when the Little Lime hydrangea will burst on the scene. We have an early tease of what is to come at the tip of every branch. When in full bloom, those 5 shrubs will be the focus of our small landscape and well worth the wait.

Little Lime hydrangea 2019

We are savoring each of these Lazy Days of Summer. The season is way too short and before we know it, we’ll be looking out at the white landscape of winter. Give me hot and humid over snow and ice any day!

Happy summer to you!

Allium ‘Milleninum’

I’ve grown Allium ‘Milleninum’ for several years without any issues and have regularly sung its many praises.  It produces dozens of long-blooming rosy-purplish blooms in mid to late summer. And when it does go to seed, it does not produce unwanted seedlings as other ornamental onions do. The flowers attract more pollinators than almost anything else in the garden. It’s never been bothered by disease, is able to tolerate drought, and the aromatic foliage has been absolutely ignored by our growing population of rabbits.

It’s been a regular jewel in the crown for a garden….

Allium 'Millenium' 2018

All of those statements have been 100% true until this year. This year, there a war going on in the summer garden that has caused me to back down on one of the positives of this impressive allium.

Rabbits!

They have discovered they love the tasty onion blades of leaves surrounding the blooms. It’s been a semi-disaster for the plants. Instead of thick tuffs of  attractive greenery surrounding the forming buds, my allium plants look more like this:

 

allium 'Millenium'

I have cages of chicken wire surrounding the plants. I use sprinkles of chili powder, and both granules and squirt bottles of Liquid Fence for rabbits around all of the ornamental garden now.

I am armed with these weapons as I slip out in the early morning garden to see what damage has been done. I fear it’s a losing battle and I’m looking more and more like Bill Murray and the tenacious gopher in Caddyshack. Very frustrating for me but I’m sure I’m providing much entertainment for the neighbors!

caddyshack

One thing I have learned from the 4 or 5 rabbits I see daily, there is no plant that is absolutely off limits to rabbits. They will sample everything in the garden until they find favorites. That’s why the Allium ‘Millenium’ is always touted as rabbit resistant and never as rabbit proof.  Sigh…