Every year I wonder if any pollinator friends will visit my gardens. I usually can count on the bees arriving early, but how about butterflies, hummingbirds and hummingbird moths?
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe)
I’ve tried to plant mostly pollinator friendly flowers and over the years I’ve seen a steady improvement in the number of pollinators in my yard. Bee Balm, Phlox, Petunias, Snapdragons, Hosta among others.
Sometimes you just pick the wrong place to plant a plant. That happened to me with a bright red Bee Balm (Monarda variety unknown). As I wrote about before (Time For the Yarrow To Go), this particular Bee Balm had been planted underneath a newly planted River Birch which is now almost 20 years old. As you might expect, in the intervening years it has plunged everything underneath into mostly shade, rather than the dappled light shade when it was newly planted.
For many years I just ignored the Bee Balm since it didn’t really bother me; it was just another scraggly plant that bloomed well enough. It did tend to get powdery mildew which was unsightly and probably unhealthy for it. (But, looking at the pictures, it really should have bothered me long before it did.)
A couple of years ago, around the same time that the Bee Balm was actually starting to bother me, I also felt it was time for the very messy yarrow to go. It was taking up one the best full sun spots in the yard and was not performing well in it.
So out came the yarrow and in went the Bee Balm. Now, two years later the Bee Balm is blooming spectacularly!
It looks so much better in this spot in the yard, and even the small patch of yarrow that snuck back looks good. The butterflies and bees are quite happy, too.
After a wonderful beach vacation and some college tours, we’re finally back home. As expected, the weather has been crazy while we were gone. The temperatures were just about average, but rainfall was almost double the normal amount. Included in this total was a single storm that dumped almost 2 inches of rain in under 2 hours and knocked out our power for almost 15 hours. Nothing like being on vacation and getting the call that the basement is flooded. Thank goodness for friends who went above and beyond to help.
So how did the garden fare? Quite well actually. With the fairly constant rain and average temperatures (and in some cases even a bit below average), I came home to a bit of a jungle. The last few years, by July we’ve been struggling with hot/dry conditions and the plants begin struggling. Not this year! I think I’ve had the sprinklers on once and that was just to test the system. Here’s some after vacation shots…
Many of the flowers are in full bloom and flourishing with the moderate temperatures and plenty of rain. Although, I did miss most of the asiatic lily’s blooms. They are mostly finished for the season.
Notice how beautiful the creeping thyme looks (Problems with Creeping Thyme). Still waiting for the hummingbirds to find my flowers and feeder.
The Purple Rooster Bee Balm is still blooming and attracting bees. But now the accompanying Jackmanii Clematis and Pardon Me daylilies are also blooming.
With all the rain , this garden is doing well despite the change from full shade to full sun.
The sunflowers have become gigantic! Before we left they were probably only about 4 ft tall (see Before Vacation), now they are easily 7 ft-8 ft and attracting lots of bees.
The vegetable gardens are flourishing, but need some attention to prune back some of the wildness.
I have a nice bunch of bush beans to harvest.
The lettuce is still hanging in there. My idea to plant them in the partly shady corner of the garden has paid off.
First time for cabbage and they’re looking great.
Cucumbers were slow to get going, but I’ll have plenty soon enough.
Zucchini and summer squash are plentiful. Hoping to get some small tender ones harvested before they turn into baseball bats (see Giant Zucchini). Somehow I’ve lost the garden markers labelling the squash varieties, so it’s a bit of a mystery what all the different squashes are.
So, overall, I’d say everything fared pretty well this year (definitely better than the basement). Looking forward to the continued blooms and vegetable harvests!
It’s always tough to go leave the garden and go on vacation. It seems like something (or everything) is ready to just burst out in color or ripen just in time to go away. Or the weather can you throw you a curve ball and get crazy hot/cold or dry/wet. Very unpredictable. I assumed this year was no different, so right before we left I had my daughter Emily take some pictures to do a little before and after.
Some of the flowers were already in full bloom and likely will be past peak before we get back…
Some were ready to bloom and I can only hope I don’t miss the show…
The vegetables were flourishing. The cooler weather vegetables were starting to show signs of stress and looking ready to bolt, but still fine to harvest for a little while longer. Peppers, squash and beans were almost ready, so my friend who is helping with dog sitting and plant watering should get some treats. I’d hate for them to go to waste and there’ll be plenty more. Tomatoes are growing like gang-busters, but not expecting any ripe ones quite yet.
Vacations are always a little tricky to be sure everything stays healthy in the garden. Right before we left for almost 2 weeks, I gave everything a watering with Miracle-Gro fertilizer and dead-headed everything that would benefit from it. I set the sprinkler to try and optimize waterings, and had a friend also check on things and keep the pots watered. I also tried to be sure the plants that needed staking were supported so things wouldn’t be too out of hand when I got back.
The last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to get some spots in the garden in order before it got too cold. One is shown here:
It’s a spot that in theory should be a good way to have dealt with the slope of the garden as opposed to the level patio. The problem that developed was that the small foot or so of garden that aligns with the lower grill area, just has become a place for dirt, leaves and other random outdoor junk to collect and wash onto the patio. Plants haven’t seemed to want to grow very well there, so it just became an a dirty eyesore. We had originally planted purple tuurtleheads and bee balm in the area, then added some other plants as things died back.
So finally this year, I decided this area needed a change. I had the stones moved forward to the edge of the brick and some plastic added to keep the dirt from washing in. There’ll be a bit of a slope, but it can’t be worse than the ugliness of what I am dealing with now. Neither of those original plants did great in this locations, so what’s left of them I’m moving them to other spots.
Moving the plants–a clump of turtlehead roots
and some very scraggly bee balm that needs more sunlight.
The spurge that does do well here, I’ll split in the spring. It’s about 5 years old so probably ready to split. I’ve also been been finding such interesting Coral Bells (Heuchera) lately and they seem to like it here. I’ll try to add some more of them and some interesting hosts and astilbe to round it out. I’m hoping this impoves the look and keeps the patio a little cleaner.
Here’s what it looks like now, honestly not much better, but getting too cold to really do much. The rest of the plants to be added and moved will need to be done in the spring. At least I’m ready!
I posted before about the problems I was having with my yarrow and I’ve finally decided it’s time to go. It’s been a garden invader for years and especially this year, just downright ugly.
So I pulled it out.
This left an ugly gaping hole, but by next spring it’ll have something new in it’s place. I’m thinking I’ll move the red Bee Balm (variety unknown) that is currently almost in full shade under a River Birch.
That was one of those mistakes made by a landscaper before I knew to ask questions and look into plant choices myself. Sure, it was only lightly shaded back when the tree was planted almost 15 years ago. But now, it’s dappled full shade and much too shady to grow a sun loving plant like Bee Balm. I get a few meager flowers each year, but mostly it’s leggy, sparse and often gets a powdery mildew. Time for a new home. There’s plenty of great shade loving plants that can take it’s place.
Some close ups of the daylilies in my yard. I’m still working on the identification part, so if I have something wrong, or you know what I can’t find yet, please let me know!
I realized that part of my identification problem was thinking that the daylily was the wrong color. For example, the Catherine Woodbury. I searched for the longest time under peach daylilies, but it wasn’t until I searched for all tall, traditional bloom types that it popped up. They were under lavender, so I went back out and sure enough, there’s the lavender. As the flowers are fading it becomes even more striking. I’m trying to use that trick with the 2 species that I’m still not sure of.
Strawberry Candy and Russion Sage
Royal Palace Prince
Royal Palace Prince
Same unknown as previous picture. Mixed with Bee Balm
Now that I’ve spent some time studying the daylilies in my own yard, I’ve been noticing all the different daylilies around me. In the neighborhood, parking lots, storefront gardens–I’m surprised at all the varieties that I never noticed before.
If you have rose bushes, you probably have Japanese Beetles. Mine arrived after my Knock-Out Roses roses finished their first bloom and are really making a mess of the plants. Most years I just let it go, but these are new, 3rd year plants and are finally looking great so I’d like them to stay healthy for next year’s show.
There are a lot of choices for dealing with Japanese Beetles and I am going to try a product that contains Neem Oil. Traps seem to be only good for attracting even more Japanese Beetles to your yard and many other insecticides can be harmful to good bugs like bees and ladybugs. This is especially important for where I am spraying, since the roses are right next to Bee Balm, which really does attract those big, beneficial bumblebees.
Neem oil affects only insects that chew and eat leaves, which beneficial bugs like bees and ladybugs don’t do. The active ingredients in the oil interferes with the insect’s hormonal balance leading to “confusion” and ultimately death. It should be sprayed every 7 or 14 days depending on the level of infestation. I’m planning on spraying on the every 7 day cycle to begin with, and I’ll follow up in a couple of weeks to see if I can go to every 14 days for the rest of the summer.
Word of warning–One rather unpleasant thing that happened to me was that when I started spraying, a whole bunch of Japanese Beetles came flying off the rose bushes and a few got tangled in my hair. Gross! I had no idea there were so many on the plant. I only saw a few, so I guess where there’s a few, there’s a lot! No wonder there was so much damage to the plants.