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.

A visit to Hillwood

Marjorie Merriweather Post's Hillwood in Washington, D.C.

Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate, in Washington, D.C. opened its doors for the Garden Bloggers’ flingers on our first morning of tours. Hillwood reminded me of numerous other estate gardens I’ve visited over the years. It’s kept in about the same condition and style as it was when Post still lived there from the mid-1950s to 1973.

Post wanted her last home to be a museum, and, after some wrangling, it eventually happened. Post was an heiress, socialite, and philanthropist who inherited the Postum cereal fortune from her father. She began running the company at the age of twenty-seven after her father’s death. Post collected Russian and French art, jewelry, and furniture. You can view some of her jewelry, including a pair of Marie Antoinette’s earrings, at the Smithsonian. She is also known for overseeing construction of Mar-a-Lago, now owned by President Donald Trump. Her Imperial Russian collection, established while her third husband, Joseph E. Davies, was ambassador to Russia, is located at Hillwood.

Post purchased Hillwood, originally named Arbremont, after her divorce from Davies. That’s quite a story in itself. You can read it at the link about Post’s museum hopes, above.

Being a garden writer, I was most interested in, you guessed it, the gardens. Although the gardens comprise twenty-five acres, they don’t seem that large because they are broken up into rooms. Post was a fan of 18th Century France, and her French parterre is a tribute to her interests.

There is also a small Japanese garden which despite its size, is very well appointed. It’s quite beautiful and has wonderful views. You can see it in the first photo gallery show above. Click on the photos to make them larger.

My favorite part of the landscape was the cutting garden. Situated near the greenhouse, this garden supplies all of the flowers used inside the house/museum. It’s probably the best cutting garden I’ve ever seen.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a lot of gardens, but I’m a bit weary of grand estate gardens. They all seem to have similar attributes, especially if they were created between the 1920s and 1950s. You can almost always bet upon a formal rose garden, a Japanese garden, either an Italian formal landscape piece or a French one–you get the idea.

Post did also have a really interesting pet cemetery and a dacha in her garden too.

Graves in pet cemetery at Hillwood.
Graves for Post’s favorite pets still reside in the pet cemetery at Hillwood.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s all very pretty, but I’m more interested in a working garden, and the cutting garden was just that. I loved how the gardeners placed netting in the rows for the flowers to grow through–a brilliant idea to keep stems straight and strong. Also, this cutting garden had great filler plants like bells of Ireland, dill weed, and Queen Anne’s lace to nestle between larger blooms.

After we had our photo made on the Lunar lawn and had lunch, the bloggers split up and were off to our next destinations. I really enjoyed Hillwood and hope you enjoy my thoughts about it too.