For those of you who are gardeners, I just thought I’d check in with a mid-season garden update. I suppose that early July is not technically the middle of summer, but I always feel like we’re about halfway through our short gardening season on the 4th of July.
I have to warn you up front, this post got long. I tend to want to share all of the details about every plant, and that’s probably a mistake. So here’s your chance to just click out of this post and get on with your day if you’re not interested in gardening. Run now, while you still can!
Although we have lost five trees in the last two years, we still have quite a lot of shade in our yard. I much prefer gardening in the shade, so I am glad we still have some big maples that block the heat of the sun.
I’ve learned to rely on foliage more than flowers to provide interest in my shade garden although currently there are some Asiatic lilies blooming, and the Evening Primrose is just at the tail end of its bloom time. A week or two ago there was a solid swath of yellow flowers right through the middle of this garden.
The hostas are still looking fabulous, which is kind of amazing for July.
We haven’t had any hail (knock on wood!) so far this summer, and it has also been quite dry so the slugs haven’t taken over. I’ve had to do quite a bit of watering, and our lawn has lots of brown patches, but the trade off seems to be no slugs so I’ll take it. It’s also been a bit warmer than usual for us (although nothing like the heat that has been hitting other parts of the country) so everything is growing like gangbusters.
FYI – I’m fairly sure that the hosta above is montana ‘Aureomarginata’ and it’s perfect for adding a bright pop in a shady area. Isn’t it gorgeous?
I’m working on a curb appeal refresh in the front and I’m going to share that with you when the Limelight hydrangea is blooming. But for now, I’ll share the window box. I try to change up the plants I use in it each year so that I don’t get stuck in a rut.
I absolutely love this combination of plants. I am relying almost entirely on foliage to provide the color this time around.
I’ve included several varieties of coleus including Ruby Slippers (the deep red one with the lime green edge), Blackie potato vine, a chartreuse potato vine, a red caladium, and some Lemon Coral sedum anchoring both ends. I also threw in some white New Guinea impatiens, but they are totally getting crowded out by the other plants. I’m thinking I will pull them out of there and put them somewhere else at this point.
Back at the end of May we had a really late frost and the coleus really took a hit. I cut it back and hoped for the best, and now it looks great. In fact, I think cutting it back so early made it bush out really nicely. I’ll have to remember that next year.
By the way, since starting to watch Garden Answer on YouTube, I have been using the Espoma Bio-Tone Starter Plus and I did add that to the soil in this window box before I planted everything. I think it’s safe to say that it’s working quite well.
And while we’re on the subjects of gardening and YouTube, I thought I’d share my latest YouTube favorite, The Impatient Gardener. There is a long list of the things I like about Erin. First of all, she gardens in a similar climate to mine (she’s in Wisconsin). She’s also been in the same house for 20+ years, plus she drinks wine with ice cubes in it (I don’t think you can get any less pretentious). But I really like the fact that she does all of her gardening herself (with occasional help from Mr. Much More Patient, but no paid staff), and she has a day job, and she has a blog, so the gardening she does is a realistic example of what someone like me can do too. Check her out if you’re looking for more garden inspiration.
Anyway, back to my garden.
The garden beneath the window box is looking good right now too.
It contains a variegated upright sedum, some Purple Palace heuchera, red and white varieties of astilbe, several hosta varieties and some Lemon Frost lamium.
I never used to grow lamium because I thought it was kind of ugly. But that was back in the day when all I knew was the variety that was medium green with silver veining. I still think that variety looks more like a weed than a purposely grown plant. But this Lemon Frost variety is so much better, and again, excellent for providing a bright pop of color in a shady area. Lamium is super hardy and can be semi-evergreen even in our Minnesota climate. When the snow melts away in the spring, it often reveals lamium that is still green. Use caution with this one though, it is a ground cover that will take over if you let it. Be prepared to beat it back if you have to.
I tried something new to me this year with the upright sedum.
In years past this sedum has always gotten really tall and then flopped over. There are a couple of reasons this can happen; the plant needs to be divided, or it doesn’t get enough sun. And in this case, these upright sedums just have a tendency towards flopping. So last year I divided it and replanted so that I have multiple clumps together instead of one big plant. The loss of those trees I mentioned means it gets a bit more sun now (although this is a north facing garden, so it still doesn’t get anything like full sun). But this year I also gave it the Chelsea Chop which encourages the plant to bush out more and not get quite so tall. Check out Erin’s YouTube video on the Chelsea Chop if you want to learn more about it.
One of the bonuses to the Chelsea Chop with sedums is that you can take all of the tops you cut off and root them giving you more plants (Erin explains this in her video too). So I rooted up five cuttings and they are looking great. I just potted them on to individual pots.
I am super excited to finally have flower buds on my fairy candles this year. Some of you may remember the tour of Jackie’s garden that I shared back in August 2018 where she had these amazing tall, spiky, white flowers blooming …
These are one of those plants with many names, they are Actaea racemosa, or Fairy Candles, or Black Cohosh, or Bugbane. I prefer to call them Fairy Candles myself, because really, who wouldn’t? Anyway, Jackie kindly shared some with me and I planted them next to Cossetta, my garden statue (a garage sale find).
I’ve been waiting for them to bloom ever since, and finally this will be the year! They aren’t quite open yet, but I’m watching and waiting.
In the far background of that photo above you can just see the Annabelle hydrangea that is in the garden under the kitchen window.
The Annabelles are in full bloom now. I have two of them (there is another one in the cutting garden behind the carriage house) and they both come from one original plant that I purchased at least 25 years ago. Personally I would not purchase/plant an Annabelle these days. There are so many better varieties, like my favorite Limelights for example. The problem with Annabelles is that they have weak stems and the once the heavy flowers appear they tend to flop, especially after a rain. Although you can prune these down to the ground in late winter or very early spring and still have flowers (they bloom on new wood), I have read that it’s better to leave at least 18″ of old wood to help support the plant. Now I just prune out any dead stems, remove the dried flower heads and otherwise pretty much leave it alone. It has made a little bit of a difference and they don’t flop quite as much as they used to. But I also have an old brass bed headboard mounted just in front of it to hold it up off the path.
I don’t currently plan to pull this plant out of the garden, but like I said, I wouldn’t plant it again. It does make a great backdrop for the occasional furniture photo shoot though.
And it looks pretty good when provided with some support or placed somewhere that you don’t mind it getting a bit floppy.
Remember the galvanized chicken feeder that I picked up at a garage sale earlier this summer?
I mentioned at the time that I wanted to turn it into a flower planter, and here is the result.
I removed the old label and added a stencil. Then Ken helped me drill some holes in the back so that I can hang it from a couple of nails. Easy peasy.
I have one last thing to share before I end today’s post. Remember the fairy garden from this spring?
That’s how it looked back at the end of May, and here it is now …
Everything has totally filled out except for the little green and pink plant next to the angel statue. That one appears to have barely grown at all, go figure.
Well, I’d better end this post now. I need to get out in my workshop and finish painting some furniture. I hope you enjoyed this mid-season update on my garden. How is your garden growing this year?