Sunday, June 12, 2016

Early June Gardening

The lavender that spills over at the foot of the porch steps is past its prime bloom.
I had my camera nearby as I pruned sage plants which had gone straggly and took several shots of this butterfly which I hadn't seen before.
Most of the shots were even more blurred than this one.
There is always a companionable cat or two when I work in the gardens.  I was concerned that the hovering butterfly was about to become prey.
Two hummingbird feeders are attracting visits from a pair of ruby-throated hummers who are once again nesting in one of tall spruce trees below the side porch.
Although I have tried through many seasons, I've never taken a clear photo of these busy 
darting birds.

Bees love the lavender. Working in this small plot I need to be wary that I don't upset a bumble bee or a smaller honeybee.
The garden sage in the background produced showy spires of blue in May, then the plant began to look shabby. I've snipped off the faded stems of bloom in hopes that the sage will produce some woody stalks and healthy leaves.
Purple sage has looked unkempt with a litter of clinging dead leaves.  I recall it had this untidy habit in my previous herb garden. 

This solitary 'toadstool' sprang up in the rough path that edges the perennials set in place last autumn.
It caught and held a sparkle of drops from an early morning rain.
By the following day it had melted and collapsed.

Hawkeye Belle--a favorite of the roses planted in my Gradyville garden [the one ignominiously buried under a new parking lot!]
I moved this 'offspring' to the bedford stone house in 2014, then here last summer.
The bush is still small, but the first blooms are encouraging.

I saved seeds from last summer's cosmos.
This one and the white one pictured below are volunteer plants.
It appears I will have a perpetual supply of cosmos.

Some seeds found a toehold at the base of the retaining timbers. Strangely, the plants have bloomed while still small and stunted. The same happened with the poppies. I suspect I should have thinned out the huddle of plants rather than letting most of them grow on.

Nasturtiums are a favorite. I raised them every summer during our Vermont years, letting them billow from a half barrel planter.
I bought these as starts from the nursery. I've no doubt I will find some morning that they have been consumed overnight by squishy green caterpillars--the usual fate of my Kentucky nasturtiums.

Garden helpers--Bobby Mac and Willis parading along the retaining timbers.

A spray of daisies flattened in the rock-lined drainage ditch.

White foxglove, seed-grown and cosseted on the porch last summer, planted in the last warm days of mid-November.

The untidy rugosas have had their spring flush and need to be trimmed back as they lean too far into the side porch walkway.

Sutton's Apricot foxglove at its peak before the last rain.
Seed pods are forming now and I've tied the stalk to the fence so that the seeds will ripen and can be saved.  I nurtured seedlings from three foxglove varieties last year: the white, shades of rose and the apricot. Less than a half dozen of the apricot germinated. Only two have bloomed, the second one a less hardy plant with blossoms in a pale peach-pink.

Lavender a week ago in peak bloom.
The unpruned sage is very visible in the background.
The weather turned hot today--about 90 F--after a week of nearly perfect June days.
Mornings were cool, the sun's heat at mid-day tolerable.
I labored outside, hoeing the row of beans, the Swiss chard, the hills of cucumbers and melons, loosening the rain-compacted soil around the tomatoes. 
I ripped and hacked at weeds in the perennial strips, tweaked weeds and an excess of self-sown cockscomb from the area between the concrete steps and the edge of the porch.
It doesn't read like a great accomplishment!
Considering what yet needs to be done, I'm feeling a bit daunted by aching knees and shoulders. 
This business of 'aging' shouldn't be allowed to interfere with my passion for gardening!
I daresay I must learn 'moderation'--some fussy way of working for an hour and
 knowing enough to quit.
I don't like to quit a task once I've gotten started.  In the case of gardening, once the knees of my jeans are grubby and my fingernails are dark with embedded earth, it seems a shame to hoist myself to my feet and abandon the rest of the patch!
With the weather tipping into the heat and humidity of summer I know that garden chores will need to be accomplished very early in the morning. 
The first exuberant blooms will fade rapidly in the simmering heat, plants will soon need to be cut back, mulch needs to be renewed. 
I am torn between the longing for 'more garden' and the reality of diminished stamina.
Creating a fertile area, civilizing a patch of ground that has known only rocks and weeds is a demanding chore, not accomplished in one season.
Perhaps it is time to explore the possibilities of 'container gardening.'


  1. I was just going to say container gardening when I read your final words! Having seen that beautiful town yard in Tenby recently, I was immediately struck by the possibilities of container gardening, and LOTS of climbing roses and clematis rampaging up the stone walls, and best of all for Keith, NO GRASS TO CUT! (He hates that job).

    My garden has gone mad whilst I was away - all the jobs I had got on top of in May might just as well NOT have been done. Paths are weed-strewn again, as are weeded beds, and the soft fruit patch is a JUNGLE! June is generally NOT a gardening month for me because of pollen levels and my asthma, but as it is raining today I may risk it.

    I loved your exotic looking butterfly and the thought of humming birds in my garden would have me out there all the time, trying to spot them. Like you with your sage to cut back, I have masses of Weeping Widow geranium with just one flower left on so I think that may be a rainy-day job for today . . .

    1. Jennie; You have described the perennial plight of the gardener so well! About the time we heave ourselves up from our aching knees the weeds have come up again behind us. It wouldn't be possible to grow enough of any one crop in containers to 'put up'. I'm still hoping to have some raised beds. Photos in garden books and mags make container gardening look do-able, but then--no weeds--ever--in the glossy photos!

      Are there hummingbirds in England/Wales?

  2. I often ponder if I will be able to or want to have such a huge garden as I age, but every spring finds me in the garden center studying the plants! Been watching a BBC series called Escape to the Country and they present many beautiful container gardens, so I know it can be done, just haven't gotten to that point yet. Your gardens are beautiful!


    1. Jane; Gardening for us has always had the element of frugality, as well as the aim of having as much fresh food as possible. I know we could improve the soil here, it just takes several seasons to do it and our time has gone to house renovations.
      Escape to the Country sounds like a series I would enjoy!

  3. Beautiful plants, your lavender is so pretty. I have no luck with lavender at all, it just dies. Nasturtiums are a favorite of mine too.
    It has been near 80 when we get up, no cool mornings anymore.

    1. Janet; I think the gritty soil here is favorable to the lavender. We have just enough heat and humidity that some favorites, like delphiniums, have been impossible to grow.
      I'm afraid we are into the long hot summer--cool mornings will be a rare blessing.

  4. Lavender doesn't do especially well in my garden but sage seems to like it. I can garden for pretty long periods of time still unless it gets really hot which in the UK usually means humid as well. Gardening for me at the moment seems to involve an endless round of deadheading - mostly aquilegias and the early hardy geraniums. How's Dandelion? :)

    1. Rowan; I've somehow thought that lavender would grow most anywhere in England. The first herb gardens I read about decades ago were English, when finding herb plants in the US was nearly impossible.
      Garden work in hot weather makes me dizzy. Dead-heading is a chore, but the flowers look so shabby without it.
      Stay tuned for the latest on Dandelion and his ladies!

  5. Love your foxglove, and empathize about the sage. It is quite beautiful for a few weeks, but then comes the straggly sage. I have cut it back, and am rewarded with a nice bushy plant, but no more bloom.

  6. Hildred; So many of my favorite plants have a limited bloom time, and then comes the cutting back and several weeks of the garden looking shabby. This is the first time I've had a sage plant put such energy into blossoms.
    There is nearly always something pretty in the garden, but late May/early June flowering is the best, then a lull during the heat and humidity of high summer and some revival in our long pleasant autumn.

  7. The heat is bad enough, but it's the humidity that really bowls me over. We work 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. It is cooler then, but more humid than later in the day. I wish I had gritty soil like yours. Clay here, and I can never seem to get enough grit and gravel into it to drain well. So, no lavender growing here. I'll just enjoy looking at yours.

  8. Barbee; I agree--its the high humidity which is so exhausting. That was a problem for me even when my 'knees' were younger and more flexible. I'm still hopeful that before I'm too old to care my wish for 'raised beds' will be granted. The main strip of perennials is working mainly because of the retaining wall. I can stand below the bed and weed or poke from that side.


  9. what a beautiful list of flowers in your garden, love the photos of cats and goats as well. Our weather has been cold and overcast in the East, and I need to buy more plants, always expensive.