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.

Fall container rehab

Can you see P. virgatum 'Hot Rod' behind the plants in these pots? I placed it to give some upright growth for the fall season. Then, I'll replant it somewhere.

Last week, I did a live video on Facebook about my fall container rehab. Click below to see me in action.

It’s time to pull out the old and bring in the new. I threw the old plants on the compost pile. They had a good run, but summer is thankfully over, and it’s time to begin anew.

Empty container just begging for new plants.
Empty container just begging for new plants.

Fall is a great season for these containers because they actually get enough sun. In summer the container on the right side of the door gets afternoon sun, and the left one is mostly in the shade. It’s hard to pull off anything that looks symmetrical, but I still try. In Autumn, all is forgiven because the oak trees in the front yard begin to lose their leaves.

Fall container rehab. Plants from four stores and a new doormat for fall. The mat says "You are my sunshine." I used to sing that song to my kids when they were little.
Plants from four stores and a new doormat for fall. The mat says “You are my sunshine.” I used to sing that song to my kids when they were little.

As I said in the video, in Oklahoma and the rest of the South, we use both cold-weather plants and tropicals in our fall containers. We usually have a long fall season full of coolish nights and warm days, the perfect conditions really, which makes up for our hellish summers. The ornamental grass is Panicum virgatum Hot Rod, a Burpee introduction. It’s a perennial switchgrass, so I’ll remove it in winter and plant it elsewhere on the property. Switchgrasses are among my favorite grasses for the garden, and they come back each year.

This is a closeup of the pot on the right hand side of the door. It has crotons, an ornamental pepper, ornamental kale, golden creeping Jenny to trail down the sides, and celosia.
This is a closeup of the pot on the right-hand side of the door. It has crotons, an ornamental pepper, ornamental kale, pansies, golden creeping Jenny to trail down the sides, and celosia.

Crotons are the big-leaved plants in the container above. A purple-leaved ornamental pepper adds drama and contrasts nicely against the croton and the color of the pot. In the center is a peach and pink celosia, chosen for its fall colors. I then added a few pansies and Lysimachia nummularia, golden creeping Jenny, to hang down the pot’s edge. To keep everything fresh, I’ll be watching for cold nights under 42F so I can cover the whole thing with a clear plastic trash bag, something Helen Weis taught me years ago. Just don’t forget to take off the bag before temperatures rise during the day. Otherwise, the sun will cook your plants.

I went to four stores to find these plants so don’t be surprised if you need to go to more than one nursery or store. No one has everything. I’m off this weekend to find a few mums for the front bed too. I know not everyone is into mums, but I enjoy these bright spots of color in for my fall front border.

Here’s a photo from 2014 where I used crotons instead. Either will work for what I want which is beautiful fall color. Of course, the mums are hardier. Buy mums when the buds barely show color. That way, you’ll get the most bloom for your buck. Don’t buy mums in full bloom. They will fade before you can say, “Boo.”

I often use pumpkins, but I can’t decide if I want to mess with them this year. After looking at these photos from previous years, I may not be able to stop myself from adding a few here or there.