We are well settled into August and enjoying these magical few weeks filled with luxuriant growth, vivid color, charming winged visitors and finally, the fruition of our hopes and plans for the year. New growth is fast and intense. New leaves and fat, nectar filled flowers appear as if by magic in that moment when you’ve lost focus and looked away.
In August, the uninitiated might believe that gardening is effortless. It seems that nature conspires towards rich abundance with little need for the human hand to encourage and guide its expression. I push through my garden’s paths with flowers held at shoulder height, stems reaching out for my legs and bees singing their summer songs all around. I hear the thrumming hum of a visitor sticking its long beak deep into a flower’s throat for the sweetness and nourishment it gives.
All this under the unrelenting summer sun, surrounded by near liquid air, and working in the intervals between showers. The beat that guides our movement has quickened, and the booming base of distant thunder calls the figures of our efforts.
Summer storms churn across the landscape coming from both land and sea. Storms roll in from the west, from the south, down from the north , and sometimes even blow in from the sea to the east. They electrify the air. They pound in with inches of rain. They blow over trees and break limbs and flatten those flower heavy herbaceous stems filling the garden.
A summer squall drops inches of rain today, and that fuels inches of growth in the days ahead. The ground squishes, sponge like under my work boots even as I’m picking up fallen branches and cutting back weeds. We’re dancing, now, to the beat of a capricious tune that compels us to plant and prune and harvest and mow and admire all at once.
And yes, I’m still planting. Does a smitten gardener ever really stop planting? I’m still moving Caladiums out of nursery pots and into places they where they can stretch and grow out the rest of the season. I’m planting vines for next year’s flowers. I’m moving things from here to there and finding spots for rooted cuttings. If there is an empty or unused container somewhere, I’m filling it up with potting soil and planting something into it. It is time to sow seeds for autumn’s garden, too. We still have at least a dozen weeks of good growing weather left this year.
And we also have another three and a half months of hurricane season left this year. Knowing that more storms are on the way like waves on a restless sea lends some urgency to all we do. I’m rising now before the sun to steal a few hours of cool in the garden before the heat of the day settles in; waiting for afternoon showers to water in the morning’s work.
There is more to do than any one day allows. But the reward is rich and beautiful. And as I gather my tools and trimmings to leave, the butterflies awaken and stretch their wings. Birds surveil my efforts from branch to hidden branch as bees drone on in their endless gatherings of the stuff of life. It is August, and the infinite dance of beauty and growth goes on.
Woodland Gnome 2020
Please visit Illuminations, for a daily quotation and a photo of something beautiful.
Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator
Hurricane season is such a foreign concept. We get no rain between the end of winter and the beginning of the next winter.
Tony, I was on the Coast of OR a few years ago when a Hurricane blew over us in mid-October. I didn’t expect to deal with late season hurricanes on the West Coast. I know you get far less ran where you are than we do in Virginia, but I’d miss the rain so much during such a dry summer. The rain is a real relief here. It also saves me a lot of time otherwise spent dancing with my hose to keep everything hydrated. Our heat is so intense that pots and baskets- even parts of the garden near large trees- just dry out very, very fast if we go for more than a few days without rain. We have a hard time with the plant palette you use, because it is too wet here for a lot of plants that don’t like wet soil.
The storms that come into the Pacific Northwest are different from hurricanes, although some have their origins as such. (They are called cyclones or typhoons or something else, depending on where they come from.) The worst are just composite gales. The season for gales is different from the season for the hurricane types storms.
The climates of California are very diverse, but most are dry through summer. My garden here gets about three times the annual rainfall that my garden in town only fifteen miles away got. In town, I got about a foot of rain annually, and it all arrived in winter. Trona, near Death Valley, gets about four inches of rain annually, and their ‘rainy’ season is actually longer! The houses have roofs more for shade than to keep the rain off.
Beautiful prose and photos, E!
Thanks so much, Eliza. We’re grateful to have things looking OK here so soon after the storm blew threw. I hope that all is well with you, too. ❤ ❤ ❤
Yes, thanks… bracing for the next round of heat after a brief respite.
Yes, the respite has been very nice- reminds us how nice life can be when the heat index doesn’t creep up over 100 every afternoon. Thank goodness the season will shift within a few weeks to more moderate temperatures- if we can hold on that long! Be well, Eliza-
Yikes, why is your garden still so beautiful? The heat and rain have transformed mine into the weed capital of the world. Btw, do you have any tips for getting rid of daylilies? I inherited some when I moved here 11 years ago, and can’t get rid of them. You’re amazing. Thx. Monica
The deer go straight for any lingering daylilies around here as soon as they get in. Getting rid of them is never a problem…. I haven’t seen one bloom here in years. With most plants, an easy way to get rid of them is to simply cut them back consistently as they begin to grow. It weakens them after a while. You could mow them or use a weed-eater. Weeds are really “in the eye of the beholder.” I have learned that what I once considered weeds sometimes are attractive plants. I’ve broadened my definition of what is OK to let grow…. and a weed really is just a plant that the gardener no longer wants. We all have to edit and it is just an ongoing task. But I try to weed while I’m admiring something nearby that I really enjoy, which changes my attitude towards weeding. Why is it that most weeds grow much faster and more vigorously than our preferred plants? That is the mystery I’m still trying to crack. Take care, and remember that September will be here before you know it. ❤ ❤ ❤
Too bad the evil virus doesn’t like weeds (or daylilies). Am trying to work-up the nerve to pull all the rampant ground cover out of a “slope” in my backyard (I pulled out the ivy years ago…only to have it rapidly fill-in by Virginia creeper), but whatever I yank out, the daylilies (or their leaves) pop-back. I was thinking of installing prostrate yews (can’t think of the technical name right now), which will probably bankrupt me…and I have no doubt the weeds and daylilies will have no prob making their way through the yews. I’m 70, so there’s a limit to how high I feel safe climbing the slope to weed. I think my only solution is to move (forget all the TV commercials featuring smiling old ladies in hats, clipping bouquets in their gardens…who are they kidding? Gardening is all about weeding and watering.)
Thx again for your kindness in taking the time to respond.
Monica, I totally understand where you are coming from on that. Only drug companies want to show smiling old ladies clipping bouquets so we’ll buy whatever it is they’re selling! Prostrate juniper could work, if you have good sun on your slope. I’d recommend Yaupon holly. I’ve used Schillings dwarf on a slope and it is looking very good. They are deer resistant, a native with disease resistance, and they look neat, if you don’t mind the ‘meatball’ look. You can grow them in partial shade. For a wilder look, you might consider some ornamental grasses. The most effective thing I’ve planted on our steep slopes are Autumn ‘Brilliance’ ferns. They are an evergreen fern and can take partial sun once they are established. They will probably need some watering the first year or two. There are several good evergreen ferns, like holly fern and Christmas fern you could use if there is more shade. People around here also use Hellebores as a good ground cover on slopes in full to partial shade. If you do this, have whoever helps you plant lay paper grocery bags or newspaper between the newly installed plants and then cover that with mulch. I like pea gravel, but if your slope is too steep then go with wood mulch. That will help keep the weeds down as your new plants take hold. To be perfectly honest with you, Monica, Virginia Creeper is considered a desirable ornamental in Europe. It is easy to grow and has beautiful fall color. You could leave it as a ground cover around whatever else you end up planting. I hope you find a solution that works for you.
Best wishes ❤ ❤ ❤
Thx so much! I have a grass growing on a portion of my backyard slope (NZ carex “toffee-twist”), flowing downhill into a flat area I call the “pool” (it’s not a pool of course…I had other things planted in it, but they didn’t do so well and after a few years, the carex just took over, and I like it). Depending on how harsh the winter is, I always need to replace some in the spring, but overall it’s performed well and I love it. Have you ever tried it?
The rest of the slope is wild and crazy ground cover, so I’ve been trying to think of something to replace it. Since we had to take-down a huge ash tree last year (infested with the ash-borers), I now have more sun (but far from full sun), so I don’t think juniper wd be happy. I’ve done a massive “creeping jenny” planting around the stump of the tree both last year and this year…looks gorgeous for a few weeks, and then something gets to it (birds, I think) and I end up with bare spots. I stuck some “cascading” heuchera in a few of the bare spots…but as much as I love heuchera, my affection is unrequited; it has never performed well for me, either here in DC or in Brooklyn, where I used to live…not dead (yet), but not vigorous.
Anyhow, the slope above the stump/creeping jenny is where I’d like to plant something less invasive than the existing virginia creeper. Whatever it is, filling in between the plants with paper and mulch is a brilliant idea!!!! Thx so much! How do you “hold the paper down” on a slope? Like stick something in to anchor it and then cover with the mulch? Best to do in fall or spring?
Speaking of brilliant, I have planted Autumn Brilliance ferns in several locations…I love them! And they’re very happy…getting a little too happy, as the years go by. I’ve dug a few up, moved them to random locations, and ignore them…and boom! They come back strong. I’ve also gone a bit helebores-crazy…there aren’t many deer-resistant, shade-tolerant plants to choose from, so I tend to over-do the things that work.
If you cd see my garden, you’d fall down laughing. It looks good in June, and then crazy things happen. I sometimes feel like one of the doomed “bright young things” in a Somerset Maugham story, tinkling cocktail glasses on the terrace as the jungle encroaches. Except I’m more likely to be covered in dirt than tinkling cocktail glasses.
I think I’m at the stage of life where I’ve got to start editing and pulling things together. I know that no garden is ever “done,” which is actually why I like gardening…I’m not a “designer,” so I’m fascinated by watching plants “do their thing.” But I think I’m at the point where I must impose some sort of organization.
You are SO kind to listen to my blather…and I am very grateful for your expert suggestions.