Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, August

Stachytarpheta 'Nectarwand Red', red false vervain, Pipevine Swallowtail. Thanks to Leslie Kuss and the Moth and Butterfly I.D. group on Facebook for their help. Bloom Day.

Hello friends! I’m actually making it to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day this month on the actual day! I think it’s the first time this year. Go me!

Tiered borders with Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm,' 'Becky' shasta daisies and 'Bright Eyes' phlox is blooming with abandon from all the rain.
Tiered borders with Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ black-eyed Susans, Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ shasta daisies and ‘Bright Eyes’ Phlox paniculata are blooming like crazy from all the rain. Thank goodness for black-eyed Susans! They knit my entire summer garden together.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is sponsored on the 15th of each month by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens. Hop over there to see what’s blooming in other people’s gardens all over the world.

Rain again fell on Little Cedar today. We had several pop-up showers that didn’t last long, but when I went out to take photos, it was so humid my camera lens kept fogging up. Then, I came inside and realized all my pictures were black.

Arrrgh! No, I did not forget to remove my lens cap. I have no idea what happened, but it’s all fixed now. I ran back outside and took more photos as thunder boomed all around me. I was quicker than a frog sliding into a lily pond except I hopped back inside.

You know I have to include a photo of my favorite rose, 'Carefree Beauty,' a/k/a 'Katy Road Pink.' If this one ever gets Rose Rosette, you'll find me in the closet having a good cry.
You know I have to include a photo of my favorite rose, ‘Carefree Beauty,’ a/k/a ‘Katy Road Pink.’ If this one ever gets Rose Rosette, you’ll find me in the closet having a good cry.

We didn’t get any rain in June and July, but August has been a different story. I think over three inches fell on my little garden, and that makes my heart glad.

Trying to achieve the ever-elusive symmetry.
Trying to achieve the ever-elusive garden symmetry. Nothing in life is perfect. It’s not supposed to be.

I returned from GWA’s annual meeting in Buffalo, NY, last week, and I’ve been playing catch-up in and out of the garden ever since. I filed two columns with two different editors today and last week. I also harvested a ton of vegetables in my potager and cutting garden. I did a little live video on Facebook of the harvest.

As for blooms, because of the rain, we’ve got some. I wandered my overgrown ornamental garden this morning, and I feel rather bad about my neglect of it. After the garden tour, I lost all interest in these beds and borders.

Perennial garden doing its thing. Tightwad Red crapemyrtle in front. Purple crapemyrtles behind.
Perennial garden doing its thing. Tightwad Red crapemyrtle in front. Purple crapemyrtles behind.

I can hear you clucking. I’m sorry. I just worked so hard in it that I lost myself a little. I tried so hard to make it perfect that I forgot why I even garden.

Do you ever do that?

After the tour, I ran off to Garden Bloggers’ Fling and wandered other people’s gardens on tour, grateful that they weren’t mine. When I returned home, I was still tired. I overworked myself, and there’s a lesson, or as my friend, Mary Ann, of Gardens of the Wild, Wild West, would say, a pony in there somewhere. Maybe stop working so hard and trying to be so perfect? Maybe?

(Click on the photos to make them larger.)

I’m happy to say my vegetable and cutting gardens saved the day and me in July. They just seemed to ask for nothing, which isn’t true of course. I worked steadily in them too before the tour. However, they were ready for harvest, and harvest I did. I still have tons of tomatoes on the vine. I’m going to write another post on the cutting and vegetable gardens as soon as I catch my breath. Anyway, they made me remember why I garden.

Why you ask?

Because I simply must. I’m a writer and a gardener, and I must garden and write if I am to breathe. And, in these trying times, we must all remember to breathe.

Luckily, the ornamental beds and borders, while as wild as western mustangs, are somewhat contained by their formal edges and straight lines. I’m lucky ornamental gardens are forgiving. I just wish the Monarchs I’ve been seeing would get with it and lay some eggs. I’ll bring their caterpillars inside and raise them for a new generation if they do. I have tropical milkweed and perennial Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed, planted in many places–wherever it’s sunny. Oh, and if you live in Oklahoma don’t feel guilty for using tropical milkweed. It’s not going to kill your caterpillars. It dies all the way to the ground each fall so no worries. I’m saving seed this year to grow my own. I like A. curassavica ‘Silky Gold’ better than the orange one. Not being from Oklahoma State University, the University of Tennessee or the University of Texas, my favorite color is not orange.

I do, however, like a soft orange bloom, and some flowers are exquisitely beautiful in various shades of orange. Take agastache for example. Agastache Kudos™ Ambrosia is growing in a container on the deck. I never could grow agastache in my garden. The plants always rotted about Midsummer no matter how I prepared the soil. In a weird moment of buying plants online in a snowstorm last winter, I ordered two agastache plants. When they came, I was horrified and told my friend, Faire from Fairegarden. She calmly suggested I grow them in pots since it worked for her in Tennessee. Faire is a gardening guru in my book so I tried it. When it worked so well, I bought two more. I plan to bring these inside my greenhouse this winter and keep them for next year. I just used good potting soil, but if you’re worried, you could work in some sand too. The hummingbirds and I are very happy.

Agastache Kudos Ambrosia.
One bloom spike of Agastache Kudos™Ambrosia.

Another plant that’s really pleasing the butterflies and me this year is Stachytarpheta ‘Nectarwand Red’, red false vervain, a Bustani Plant Farm Introduction. Isn’t it beautiful? How about this Pipevine Swallowtail? Be still my heart!

Special thanks to Leslie Kuss of Growing a Garden in Davis, and the Moth and Butterfly Identification Forum on Facebook for their help in identifying this butterfly.

This is why I garden. Happy Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

No garden variety apologies needed

Plant rack at Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

While shopping at box stores and garden nurseries, I often see old friends and meet new ones, usually over plants. In fact, it’s one of my favorite ways to meet people.

At parties, when new friends learn I’m a garden writer, they seem to feel the need to apologize for their garden or lack of plant-growing expertise.

Deck with plants, chairs and rug. It's a cozy outdoor space where we relax in the evenings.
Deck with plants, chairs and rug. It’s a cozy outdoor space where we relax in the evenings.

No garden variety apologies are needed. I don’t expect everyone to garden like I do. Really, I don’t.

What I do is labor-intensive, obsessive and hard. Also, the garden--and my plant knowledge--grew… Click To Tweet

What I do is labor-intensive, obsessive and hard. Also, the garden–and my plant knowledge–grew over the years. I know I’m nuts.

I do hope you’ll garden though. You don’t have to plow up the back forty or plant an acre of tomatoes, peppers, and squash either. Even tending one pot on your deck or porch is gardening.

Hemerocallis 'Ever Redeemewd' (Carpenter 2003) daylily
Hemerocallis ‘Ever Redeemed’ (Carpenter 2003) daylily. Check out that saturated color.

Really. I started with houseplants in the 1970s and macrame. My first real “garden” was a small plot outdoors with three roses, some begonias and another tropical/annual I no longer remember.

Potager and boxwood hedges. I didn't start gardening like this. It evolved over time.
Potager and boxwood hedges. I didn’t start gardening like this. It evolved over time.

Men seem to feel the need to apologize for their lawns or lack of one. If only they knew how little I care about grass maintenance. Women tell me their true confessions about all the flowers/vegetables they’ve killed.

Do you think I don't kill plants? Oh yes, I surely do. I just don't take pictures of their dead… Click To Tweet

Do you think I don’t kill plants? Oh yes, I surely do. I just don’t take pictures of their dead bodies. Ha!

H. 'Mystical Intuition' daylily (Petit 2011)
H. ‘Mystical Intuition’ daylily (Petit 2011)

 

If you don’t kill something once in a while, you’re not growing as a gardener.

You’re not branching out and trying new things. Plus, the climate in Oklahoma lends itself to plant death and destruction. It’s ok. With every plant we kill, we learn new things about our climate, soil and water conditions. We discover those plants that can deal with clay and those that turn up their leaves and die.

Do you think people find me intimidating? Gosh, I hope not. I don’t want to intimidate anyone. Instead, I want to help. It’s why I wrote The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff.

My last post on lilies made me realize, again, that people find gardening hard. It’s not hard. It’s simply a skill that must be learned, one tomato plant, one lettuce, one zinnia at a time. I’m still learning.

Gardens take planning, but in our hurry-up world, gardening is the balm of Gilead.
H. 'Dragonfly Dawn' daylily (Trimmer-J., 2010)
H. ‘Dragonfly Dawn’ daylily (Trimmer-J., 2010)

Gardening is unhurried and calm. If you don’t use power tools, it is also supremely quiet other than the sounds of insects buzzing about doing their thing. By the way, gardens should be full of insects, toads, and frogs, rabbits, and birds. If you’re able to create a small ecosystem for them, they will come, and your garden will be better for it.

Ecosystem sounds so grand, doesn’t it? It’s not really.

Just don’t use pesticides, organic or chemical–as much as possible. Cut down on herbicides too. Plant flowers full of nectar and those that feed baby butterflies and moths, and have some type of water in the garden. Really and truly, that’s all there is to it.

H. 'Free Wheelin'' daylily (Stamile, 2004). This big and bold daylily is truly one of my favorites. It blooms pretty early, but the flowers are huge and open in multiples.
H. ‘Free Wheelin” daylily (Stamile, 2004). This big and bold daylily is truly one of my favorites. It blooms pretty early, but the flowers are huge and open in multiples.

But, back to intimidation, no worries. When I visit your home, or see you at the box store or nursery, I’m not judging your space. The only garden I ever judge is my own, and I’m constantly learning, one mistake at a time.

Do you think seeing my garden online stresses people out?

I hope not. I don’t expect anyone to garden this much space this intensively. Cottage gardens are a lot of maintenance. I’d like to think that if I started over at a new property tomorrow, I would go for an easier landscape style, but I doubt it. I need flowers like some people need their morning latte.

I need crowded, jumbled and tumbled spaces. I need scented plants. I need butterflies, moths, bees and flower flies. I crave the garden the same way some people crave chocolate cake. If you told me I couldn’t garden, I think I would simply wither up and die.

My garden represents a lifetime of learning, and please note, I’m still learning. My garden is my life’s work, and since I began gardening when I was nineteen, that translates to thirty-six years.

Gosh, that makes me sound old. I think I’ll just go off and totter into the sunset.

Just kidding. I do mean this though. If you have a question, please ask me. I may not know the answer, but if not I’ll find it. Gardening is like breathing. It’s what I do, and I want to help you garden in whatever capacity you can. We need to get off our computers and see and touch the real world. It brings down stress, and it makes us slow down and appreciate our lives.

So, ask me gardening questions, but no garden variety apologies please.