August Garden Observations

Remember all that hurrying and scurrying we did from late February to June? Well, the dog days of August are here, and because I don’t have to work so hard, I’ve had time to make a few August garden observations.

August Garden Observations. I really like the plant combinations around the red fountain this year. Pineapple sage, 'Dallas Red' lantana, 'Pink Crystals' ruby grass and 'Victoria Blue' salvia (returned from last year.)
I really like the plant combinations around the red fountain this year. Pineapple sage, ‘Dallas Red’ lantana, ‘Pink Crystals’ ruby grass and ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia (returned from last year.)

1. Weeds never leave. Sure, once things heat up, the spring weeds take a hike, but they are soon replaced by the summer weeds. Any spring weeds I missed set seed in the gravel paths to torment me later. If I didn’t know it before, I know this much now. Gravel is a great seed starting medium. I find stray plants in it everywhere especially that of Verbena bonariensis, zinnias, the various gomphrenas, anything that self seeds. So, use grit on top of your pots when you start seeds in spring and fall, and you’ll just be replicating what’s already going on in my pathways.

H. Liz Schreiner with tiny bees. This daylily is a very good pollinator plant, and it reblooms.
H. Liz Schreiner with tiny bees. This daylily is a very good pollinator plant, and it reblooms.

2. This summer has been the finest I’ve seen in ten years. We’ve had regular rain. The plants are responding beautifully to the moderated temperatures, and all is well. Still, with all this bounty, I’m thinking about my friends in California and Tennessee who aren’t getting any rain. This makes me sad. Oklahoma continues to have drought, but we seem to have lessened it somewhat this spring and summer Drought is always a few drops away in Oklahoma and Texas, but have you heard about Lake Mead? It’s drying up, and that’s where people in Los Angeles get their water. I don’t know what they will do. Pray for rain for them and the folks in Tennessee. Blogging connects you with people all over the world, and suddenly, you aren’t just hearing about stuff on the news, you know these people. They are your friends.

This is just part of the back garden shot in early morning. I have many other beds and borders too.
This is just part of the back garden shot in early morning. I have many other beds and borders too.

3. My garden is middle-aged, and has all the aches and pains associated with its twenty-five plus years. I started part of the garden when I was a young gardener, and I now see many things I would do differently. I should’ve planted more trees and shrubs at the beginning. I planted more later, but you can see where the fabric of the garden is frayed when an established rose dies of Rose Rosette Disease or other problems. I lost another rose last week. I plan to replace it with a Hydrangea paniculata, maybe ‘Limelight.’

This is the border by the garage and the potager. I'm going to move the cold frame. I don't like it in that spot. It ruins the view.
This is the border by the garage and the potager. I’m going to move the cold frame. I don’t like it in that spot. It ruins the view.

4. The garden is too big. I started out small, got the gardening bug, and overdid it. I am always thinking of new things to plant, and honestly, if I could afford it, I would hire my friend, John Fluitt from Garden Design Associates to help me create a garden that is easier to care for and more cohesive. I would plant more evergreens for winter interest too. However, in Oklahoma, we have to be very choosy about the evergreens we grow. So many hate it here. Most years, with the summers we have, who could blame them?

Vernonia fasciculata, smooth ironweed grows wild on my property. It eventually made its way into the garden, and I kept it for the butterflies and bees.
Vernonia fasciculata, smooth ironweed grows wild on my property. It eventually made its way into the garden, and I kept it for the butterflies and bees.

5. If I made changes to the garden, I would add even more pollinator plants. I find that I’m more interested in pollinators than ever. I’ve built up my soil for years, and it’s no longer a challenge to get coleus, grasses and flowers to grow. I’m still working on the soil in the newer vegetable patch. Rotation and good soil are the two watchwords there. Ah, but the small bees and butterflies, I love them best. I really do. They’re so busy all day, and in the early morning, so sleepy. I feel like a tender mother to them  which makes me laugh because they don’t know I plant all of this for them.

Eupatorium 'Little Joe' with bumblebee
Eupatorium ‘Little Joe’ with bumblebee

This year, some days are full of sunshine while others are shrouded in cloudy goodness. Nights with sensible low temperatures let plants recover even if we do have a hot day the next. The vegetable garden with its too many tomatoes, peppers and eggplant is overflowing and full of grassy weeds. I just can’t keep up although I mulched and did everything I’m supposed to. The corn was delicious. The tomatoes abundant, and in spite of the potato beetles, even the eggplant has recovered and produced good fruit. I go out and fight the squash bugs twice a day, and I’m thinking about planting bush beans where the corn stalks stand empty. Maybe. Next week is the Garden Writers Association annual meeting in Pittsburgh, and I’m going so there may not be time. Two articles are due beforehand, and work comes first.

Garden beds by the street.
Garden beds by the street in early spring.

About the garden, I know what you’re thinking. You’ll tell me it’s beautiful, and it is, but I also see where things need to be removed for the betterment of other plants. Removing plants even when they are self-seeders is very hard. I just grit my teeth and do it for the garden’s sake. Too many plants are being overshadowed by their neighbors, and I plant in series of “ones” far too often. The garden could use more focal points. I know just enough about design to be dangerous these days.

Purple chair with 'Grandpa Otts' morning glory
Purple chair with ‘Grandpa Otts’ morning glory clambering up the arbor behind. In spring, this arbor also has orange and pink American honeysuckle.

When the children finally get out of college, I’ll hire someone I trust. I hope John is still designing then. The company will bring in backhoes and other equipment to help me get things set up for the years ahead. I hope Bill is ready for that expense. I’ll also get a small pool because it’s hot in Oklahoma in the summer, and I need somewhere to cool off. As long as I’m dreaming, I’ll also build an outdoor shower so I don’t drag garden debris into the pool. Either that, or I will just move to town and leave it all behind. I’ve been watching my friend as she moves from one garden to a clean slate, and I have a longing for a smaller house and a smaller garden so I can manage things better. We’ll see.

These are my August garden thoughts. What would you change about your garden if you could?

I posted this as part of the Tuesday Garden Party hosted by five different home and garden bloggers.

42 Replies to “August Garden Observations”

  1. Dee you echo my sentiments quite well. At my age I wonder why I am working so hard on beds I may never be able to keep up. If all fails there will be a very large 'flower garden yard sale'. Then I will hire someone to do the mow and blow. Wonder if that will really happen. Nothing serves me better than getting my knees and hands soiled by garden soil.

  2. Lovely posting and many of the same thoughts have been going through my head. We did plant trees and evergreens but now, 20 years on, we are losing some of them to storms and other bad weather. And our half acre is almost too much with the kind of gardening my husband and I like to do. Just the pruning is enough to kill ya! So we are looking at how to make some areas much lower maintenance but still look good and still be part of the garden as a whole. I sometimes fantasize about moving but mostly its to start over because I love the design process.

  3. Your garden looks wonderful. There is always editing that you see that we don’t, and you should not call attention. Leave us blissfully envious.

    August sure feels different than April. I have such grand plans early on that fizzle in the heat. I did not make good plans in 1986 and then again in 1994.A bulldozer stands ready when I can’t do this any more.

    1. Thanks Nell Jean. You’re right. I’ll just pretend it’s all perfect. LOL! I’m sorry the heat is getting to your garden plans. It is for me now too. Very hot out there. It’s all I can do to weed.

  4. Well, my thinking is a lot like yours, except that I know I'd never spend the money to have someone else design my garden, as much as I'd like to. I think my garden is beautiful the way it is, and it says "Me", but I it's far from perfect. I plant too many singles, even though I know better. If I could change something, I'd add more hardscape. It's just not an expense I've ever put at the top of the list. At least I finally got my patio, and I've had fun landscaping around it. If I had a much bigger lot, I'd add a small prairie of my very own. But what I'll probably do instead of all this, is down size. I'm getting older, and have become slightly disabled, so I see a much smaller garden in my later years. As long as I have a few pots to call my own, I think I'll manage. Maybe.

    1. Hey Robin, I haven’t expended the money yet either. So, maybe it’s all another fantasy. I can see the handwriting on the wall about how I’ll need to downsize one day. It’s just too much work. I did hire an extra set of hands this year though. That has helped since I’ve been traveling a lot. I agree, as long as I have some way to work in the soil, I’ll be okay. Hugs.

  5. Boy, this looks wonderful for an August garden. So much texture and visual interest. I love that red fountain garden. Beautiful!

  6. My gypsy life has me designing and planting my fifth major garden at the tender age of (7 weeks away from) 57. Always, I rush in like most fools and do not commit a year or two to amending my soil, and then bemoan my haste for years to come. I then find myself in the position of a house builder who forgot to install the plumbing and retro-fitting like mad!

    My current garden (last? probably not, for it is far too ambitious for someone my age) has grown to include two adjacent lots. Having started a job at High Caliper Growing in April, it is also including soft-sided containers for vegetables and herb, so yet another element to incorporate and explore! I was so delighted to see your blog award in the GWA members directory. I hope you are enjoying the conference. Okie power!

    1. Thank you so much Sally! I love your enthusiasm about starting gardens. I tried to do right by the soil here, but I got in a hurry and didn’t plant enough structure first. So, now I’m retrofitting. It’s always something. 🙂 Okie Power indeed!

  7. Dee, you don’t know how much it means to me to hear you echoing some of my own thoughts. It’s been a wonderful year for the garden, but that also means it’s been a wonderful year for weeds–despite mulching and other means, I can’t seem to keep up with them this summer. I also have a hard time pulling volunteers, which means my garden is now a crowded jungle:) Though I’m much older than you, I haven’t been gardening as long, but I’ve still come to the point where I realize all the mistakes I made in the beginning–like not starting with trees and shrubs–and wishing I could afford a landscape designer to show me how to tie everything together. My garden is much smaller, so every year I think of ways to expand it even more…then reality sets in, and I think about how much can I keep up with?? Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

    1. Thank you Rose. I don’t know that you’re much older than me. I weeded a lot yesterday when I finally got out in the garden again, and I’m so sore. I think a cool front came in too, and that didn’t help. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one having these thoughts.

  8. Enjoy GWA…I would have added more shrubs and small trees in the beginning and will be doing shifting as the garden is still a pre-teen. I am adding more natives as they fill in as drits and discourage weeds and are less maintenance for me. Plus the pollinators love them.

    1. Donna, you’re absolutely right. The natives are wonderful because they attract so many creatures. I’ve added a lot of native plants over the years. I think at this precise moment, Joe pye weed is my favorite. I love it dearly.~~Dee

  9. I like your August dreaming… I also appreciate the fact that you are real. That you share your thoughts and lessons and hopes and dreams. I will say your garden is beautiful, Dee. But I understand what you mean when you say you’re noticing things to change. I also find it very difficult to move and remove plants–even the ones that are struggling. Best wishes for enjoyable summer days for the rest of August! We’ve had an incredible summer here, too. Hovering around 80F from May through August.

  10. We are our harshest critic. Your garden is lovely and the source of much delight I am sure. I love your great big brown urn and envy you your rain – we are dry and brown and hot in the Pacific NW.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, I was in Portland this year, and gosh, it was hot! I always know what kind of weather the Pacific NW is getting by our own weather. Since the storms you get roll across here, and because I have a friend in Anacortes, I always watch. If we have good weather, yours is terrible, and the reverse is true. Odd, isn’t it. I’m sorry things there are so brown.

  11. I down sized 2 years ago and I LOVE the smaller house, but I wish I had a larger yard. I have entered the shrub time of gardening ( roses r shrubs). the garden bug still bites.

    1. Hi Sherry, yes, roses are definitely shrubs. Here, they’re sick though. So, when they come out, I’m planting some evergreens in their place. I guess we all want more shrubs as we age.

  12. Oh my, so many thoughts about wanting a smaller garden… I know (think?) I want one but then what would I do? More cohesive, yes, I want that too. I know we both face the onesies because of the trial plants we get. What can we do about that? And I need as many pollinator plants as possible to keep me entertained. Oh my, I’m with you in spirit, Dee!

  13. Very wise garden thoughts! I also feel motherly toward the bees, butterflies and birds in my garden. It makes me happy to provide food and a safe spot for them. Isn't it so hard to remove plants? I keep finding things that aren't working and need to be given away, but it's hard to admit you were wrong and give up a plant. Enjoy your beautiful summer, what's left of it!

    1. Enjoy your remaining summer too VaLynn! I think it’s hard not to feel motherly toward the creatures that visit. I know I originally wanted perfect (fill in the blank here), but now I just want the pollinators, toads, frogs, lizards and even snakes. They give the garden its life.

  14. I’m enjoying our new garden. We moved back into our beach-ish house with a significantly smaller yard. I thought it would be hard but it’s honestly so nice to have a smaller area to garden in. I feel less like I have to fill every available space and can be choosier about what comes in and what gets yanked out. I keep adding more pollinator-friendly plants and perennials to make it even easier on my already-older-than-me knees.

    1. Hi Mia, that gives me hope that if I moved to a smaller house, I could actually do it and love it. One day I’ll need to. I just can’t keep up with it all.~~Dee

  15. Sometimes I think my garden is too big because it's hard to manage but then I want more veggies for the kids and think it's too small. I think after this first year of it being SO much bigger, I might get better at managing it. It pretty much has to fend for itself. I water and weed as much as I can, but every other problem is on it's own. It's still so amazing in there. Even with all the weeds and imperfections, I just LOVE being there. Your garden is amazing, I would love to visit it someday! Not in the august heat though! 😉

    1. I know how that happens for sure. I told my husband that I don’t want the bigger veggie garden next spring. We’ll see how I feel next spring. With the potager and the greenhouse and the ornamental gardens, I think I might just have more than I can manage.

      1. Same here Dee and Kylee. ‘I know enough about design to be dangerous’ made me chuckle in recognition too 😉

  16. Isn’t it always the way with gardening? As soon as you think “it’s perfect–just the way I want it” you realize that, um, there’s this issue and it caused that issue. And so on. Gardening as you do it is art–never completed, never quite what you want it to be. Learning and re-gardening, that’s what gardeners do. Your garden is beautiful.

    1. Thank you Tina for bringing clarity to the situation. I like what you said about art and relearning. It is what gardeners do, and I forget that sometimes.

  17. Hi Dee, what a beautiful garden and thoughtful post. Your thoughts are very reflective. I understand what you say about maybe doing some things differently or moving some plants to better others (which is so hard to do!)

    I love my daylilies (just did a post about their beauty). I agree they are great pollinators. I want to add more variety of daylilies and oriental lilies. The pollinators they attact are great for my veggies and berries!

    I can learn a lot from you and your garden. Thank you!

    1. Oh Lisa, I’m a total hemnut. You might like my posts from June about the daylilies. They are such wonderful plants. Lilies are great too.

Comments are closed.