Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Scrappy End of Summer

Faded rudbeckia, survivors of last season's seed grown plants.

Swallowtail on the white buddleia; this was a frail plant from a local nursery's bargain table, bought in spring of '22; oddly enough, it survived the winter cold while my well-established magenta one was a casualty.

Several varieties of seed-grown Michaelmas daisies have self-sowed in a nearly invasive manner.


This geranium and a twin located farther along the porch railing have been in constant bloom. The planters were  gifted to me, products of the local produce and plant auction. When they arrived, the geraniums were surrounded by trailing verbena and greenery. I soon discovered that the 'filler plants' had been merely tipped out of nursery pots and crammed along-side, the root balls not down in the soil. I disinterred them and resettled the geraniums which have rewarded me with exuberant bloom.

Seed-grown zinnias, a variety called 'mini zins'. These were slow to start and reach a size for planting out. The leaves are tatty, but the small blooms lend color at the front door.

More zinnias, calendula, and pentas, new to me--displayed at the nursery as one to attract butterflies, which they have done. The pentas stand heat well and revive quickly after dead-heading; I will include them in next summer's planters.

Zoomed shot of a goldfinch happily feeding on coneflower seed heads.
 Coneflowers left last autumn for the delectation of birds seeded around the Knock-Out Roses nearly submerging them.

The heat wave finally broke on Sunday after Friday evening wind swept through leaving us with a sultry unsettled Saturday.
The wind took down many of the sunflowers already heavy-headed and leaning. 

From a distance some of the smaller sunflowers appear pretty, but closer inspection finds them tattered and past their former beauty. 

Tuesday was cool and overcast. I strolled around the dooryard [trailed by faithful old Willis-the-cat] noting the shabbiness of the various plantings, the veg garden already given a rough mowing, leaving only the rows of sweet potatoes and the sprawling vines of butternut squash.

Like the summer-weary gardens we of a certain age may retain some of our better features when viewed from a little distance, while closeups reveal the ravages of our years in wrinkles, blotches and straggly hair!

This Thursday morning was cool, 58 F. when I glanced at the outdoor temp indicator a bit before 8 a.m.
Our high for the day was 73--a 30 degree drop from last week's afternoon readings.

Our hummingbird visitors have diminished in the last several days. For weeks I've refilled two syrup feeders at least once a day; we've been sure of 8 hummers, possibly one or two more. 
The level of syrup in the feeders is decreasing slowly now; I've seen three birds at a time, no males. 
It seems very early for a fall migration to begin.

I began tidying the greenhouse today, discarding a few overgrown seedlings that didn't make it to the garden; I gathered up plastic containers too flimsy to keep, yanked up coarse grass growing beneath the benches.  Half a dozen each of lavender and thyme plants were languishing in starter pots. I'm not sure where they should go as the spots designated for these haven't proved hospitable for over-wintering. 
The dozen plants have been tucked into larger pots with fresh soil mix and ranged along the back of a bench. It will be interesting to see if Willis decides to take up napping on the newly cleared and swept bench, shoving the pots about to his pleasure.

A gift to myself yesterday was a dozen pansy plants from my favorite nursery in the South Fork community. Those have been divided into two large shallow pots and set alongside the front steps. I hope these will behave as others have and survive frost and cold to rebloom during the winter months. 

We'll have warm days in the next few weeks, the A/C will be again turned on; still, for me the turning of the calendar page to September is the beginning of autumn although the equinox is several weeks away.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Summer Heat

The east meadow yielded 4 bales of hay on this third cutting of the season.
Mark Beachy roared in with tractor and mower on the 17th; he and his father, Titus 'rolled' the hay and loaded it home just before dusk on Saturday evening.
This is a fine arrangement: the Beachys  have the hay for their cattle; our field is cut. 

The back garden for which I had lofty visions, is a mess! Blackberry lilies have seeded and sprawled, as have coneflowers, monarda and a welter of lemon balm. Weeds abound seemingly encouraged by the layers of mulch I lavished after a mid-spring weeding. 

The zinnias were volunteers that sprang up from last years' planting alongside a row of beans in the veg garden. I found them, a few at a time in the grassy edge of the garden or emerging where J. intended planting potatoes. In spite of my vigilance in rehoming them, several have bloomed in the now tangled veg garden.

Flowers in planters near the front steps have struggled in the heat. I was rewarded last week with one delicate bloom of dahlia.

Jim's melon patch exploded with some of the tastiest and biggest melons we've grown here. They ripened in such abundance that many were conveyed to the Beachy's produce farm for them to sell.  They  raised an earlier variety which finished bearing about the time ours went into high gear.

Each spring in early May I sow nasturtium seeds in large pots, keeping them in the greenhouse until all risk of frost has passed. I allow some of the summer blooms to go to seed and give the ripened seeds a prod down into the soil, often having a fresh crop of flowers in late August and through September. This year the seeds sulked, germination was scanty and growth was slow. Two of the four pots planted have rather half-heartedly come into bloom. 

Michaelmas daisies better known as New England asters, are traditionally harbingers of autumn, beginning to bloom along with Joe Pye weed and goldenrod. My seed-grown varieties tend toward earlier bloom. Strangely, the lower leaves yellowed and shriveled early on giving the plants a tatty appearance. 

For over a week the heat has been punishing--temps in low to mid 90's F. by afternoon. In this our 14th summer in south-central Kentucky I should have remembered not to be lulled by a few cooler days. 
Last week on several days when the sun had moved to the west side of the house, I tackled the over-grown sage, marjoram and thyme in the raised bed near the front steps. I ruthlessly hacked down leaning stalks of coneflower, tugged out the unresisting dry stems of poppies. 

Along the south-east retaining wall coneflowers have taken over. the Knock-Out roses there have had a poor season, as have all my roses. Japanese beetles moved in early and have stayed late. The untidy coneflowers need cutting back, but the goldfinches have found them and are enjoying the heads already gone to seed. I'm torn between attempts at tidiness and enjoying the flash of the beautiful yellow birds swaying on the stalks.

We are stuck in the heat wave until at least Monday when temps are supposed to drop to low 80's F. 
Meanwhile we limit outdoor work to the most necessary; I scurry out with cat litter and kitchen scraps, peg sheets on the back porch lines, return to the cool house with clean cotton shirt clinging damply to my back. 
J. goes out at dusk to mow grass which by noon the next day lies in brown shreds. I brew iced tea, add slices of lemon. Elmo the not-so-bright cat rushes to the kitchen at the sound of the ice maker spewing cubes, stretches to snatch one from the dispenser. 
The cats venture out first thing in the morning, picking their way through dew-soaked grass. As the sun pierces through the morning mist they are ready to return to the house, slightly disgruntled, suggesting that we open the door that leads onto the screened porch. 

The porches are unwelcoming in the heavy heat; I go out to refill the hummingbird feeders, water the rosemary plants that summer in a row along the railing's edge, then shut the connecting doors to contain the benefit of the A/C.
Meals are very simple; the hot weather doesn't inspire appetites.
I read, spend hours at my desk: genealogy, history look-ups, typing a few letters, retreating to a corner, book in hand.
Summer will end as it always does. September will bring warm afternoons, tempered by cool misty mornings and evenings that begin to draw in. 
I say, bring it on!