Friday, July 4, 2014

A few thoughts on the mid-summer garden....

It is already July and while most gardens are in full swing, some gardens are still underway.  As a perennial lover, I am used to having periods of quiet in my garden.  By quiet, I mean periods where the color is  minimal or right after a sudden burst of color.  Consistent bloom is not always necessary, especially when you have a garden made up of perennials.

While I have an abundance of bloom now, as the season continues, I will have yet another quiet period as the Dahlias come into full bloom and as some of the existing perennials regain their strength after deadheading.   I also have some annual zinnias and cosmos that are hidden amongst my madness that will show their faces as the heat of the summer makes an appearance.   It is always good to have a balance of plant material.  During the winter months, this bed is barren above ground with an exception of the structure of the tree peonies and a few Winter Gem Boxwood's.  The explosion starts with bulbs and will end with late season Dahlia blooms and a second flush of Echinacea blooms.  I find it helpful to think about a few things early in the planting season.

Think about whether or not you can appreciate a quiet time in your garden.  Do you need to add something that flowers at a specific time of the year???  Something to get you through until the summer blooming season takes place??  Pansies can take you from Fall to late Spring.  However after Mother's Day, those cool season annuals tend to start getting leggy and generally cannot take the heat.Consider what plants you might install as a bridge to take you from one season to the next.  Bulbs, Peonies and spring flowering shrubs can start the season.  Camellias, Mums and Pansies can help end the season.

Consider the financial aspects of a full on colorful summer garden.  Utilizing seeds can help defray costs or if you prefer, buying annuals and inserting them in the midst of the perennial garden will ensure spots of  color for most of the summer.  Shop at the local farmers markets to get heirloom or specialty annuals.

Consider your watering requirements and your time.  Are you planting things that need consistent water?? Do you have irrigation or are you willing to commit to being the water bearer for your garden??? I have not watered the garden above in six/seven years....even when the drought of two years ago caused me to worry about perhaps losing some prized plant material.  The following season, I had more prolific bloom than ever before.  I plant closely, use only organic fertilizer (kelp/fish emulsion) at the beginning of the season and have confidence that my garden will do it's thing.  Letting go and letting nature be, is sometimes a good thing....not always, but sometimes allowing a plant to do as it would in its natural habitat can be amazing!

Weed control and familiarizing yourself with your garden can be a workout.  I love to cultivate between the plants in my garden. Getting up close and personal with your plants can help you understand them better.   Early in the season when weeds can blow in, I cultivate so that they do not embed themselves and cause problems later on.  By planting closely (my personal preference), I avoid the weeds having any room to take up residence.  If it is a newly planted area, Corn Gluten is known to retard the growth of weeds and not harm surrounding plant material.  Carefully scattering it throughout the bed and cultivating it in should  ward off blown in weeds from taking root.  I am very organic, so I do not use ANY chemicals in my garden at all.  I am certain that there are some other methods out there.  Cultivating between plants can also help loosen the soil and mulch, so that when it rains, the rain can be more beneficial to the plant material at the roots, where it counts!  While visiting Giverny last year, I noticed that most of the beds were planted closely and I actually noticed no weeds. 

Take great photos of what is blooming now in your garden and particularly where there are gaps or where you feel you need to insert color or movement.  Over the winter months, as the catalogs roll in, you can decide what new additions you need or what you might want to change/reorganize to accommodate a new purchase - whether it is a plant, a shrub or a new garden accessory (water feature or garden art).

Finally, visit local gardens - whether they are public spaces, historic homes or simply walking through your neighborhood.  You would be surprised at how this not only invigorates your mind, but also gives you an idea of what is blooming when, what does well in your area, what you might want to try and what others are trying as well.  Public spaces usually have plants that stand up to less than perfect conditions,provide long lasting color and can be easily found.  I also explore the smaller, local garden centers for something new.

These are just a few things that I consider this time of the year in my garden.  What things are you considering as you enjoy your existing garden this year???


  1. Super informative post Teri. Never heard of corn gluten for weed disposal or cultivating closely to retard weed growth. My beds have an over abundance of weeds from things blowing around that has had me stumped. Where can I buy corn gluten ?

  2. I had been slow with my garden this year and am thinking about adding more perennials. Lovely post.

  3. "Letting go and letting nature be." I love those words and your attitude about gardening. You are keeping it a joy rather than a chore.

    Wishing you gorgeous blooms and butterflies,



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