ABUNDANCE OF GARDEN CHARM

I've been a bit slow in posting this week, in part because it's that horrible just-back-from-vacation thing where you're running around and feel like nothing is getting done, but also because I took SO many photos this year that it's taking me awhile to get through them. I tell ya, Mackinac Island is heaven for a gardener. There is so much color and inspiration everywhere you turn.

I'm a nut for fences and gates. I can't explain this, but I love them, and yet I have neither in my garden! This will have to change.  But how charming are these?





And plant-lined walkways to beautiful old cottages.


Mr. Much More Patient declared the Mackinac Island Post Office the most charming post office on the planet.

And of course gorgeous views of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron connect.

That's the prettiest lighthouse on the Great Lakes in the background: Round Island Light. It's also one end of the finish line for the sailboat race I do to the island every year.


My favorite climbing hydrangea arbor that I take a picture of every year.


 Amazing plantings in yards.
Both sides of this house had these terraced beds just brimming with color.

And of course the most incredible displays of annuals designed by Jack Barnwell, including this gorgeous container.


This is just the tip of the iceberg folks. I have so many inspiring shots to show you. Stay tuned! If you want to see more though, consider going to the Grand Garden Show in August. You'll get "backstage" tours of the most amazing private yards on the island. 

THE OBVIOUS GARDEN CHANGE I ALMOST DIDN'T SEE

I returned home this past weekend after 10 days away from my garden. Things faired far better this year than previous years, thanks in part to the crazy, ongoing rain we've had. I'm not sure I've ever seen lawns so green in mid-July before.

There's always a lot of weeding and cutting back that happens after more than a few days away from the garden, but I also find it to be one of the best times for analyzing things. There's nothing better than a bit of time away from the garden to help you see it in a different way. And with many plants at their peak, the garden is about as close as it gets to completely filled out.

I've not yet cracked the design code of the area off the patio. I gutted a large portion of it the fall before last and that helped quite a bit, but there are still areas I'm not quite happy with. Sunday, as I was taking a break from a weed-pulling frenzy, I looked up and I saw a change that seems so obvious.

I love the texture that the Amsonia hubrectii I planted two summers ago adds to the garden, and although I found its flowering to be a little disappointing this year, its fall color cannot be beat. I'd be happy to add more of it to the garden. I also have some Siberian irises that have been in that garden since the beginning. They are pretty, but have a pitifully short bloom period and then the rest of the summer all that's left is their strappy leaves. That's not the worst, but it's not the best use of a high-profile spot in the garden.

Moving the iris on the left of the urn and adding more Amsonia whould help unify the space and add some great texture.

What I saw Sunday was the solution: nix the iris and add more Amsonia. Not only will it add some texture, but it will add a bit of continuity as well. This is not rocket science, but for whatever reason I couldn't see that until I had some time away from the garden.

Maybe a break from the familiarity of our own gardens can be a good thing, even if it means there's a lot of weeding that comes with it.


LEAVING THE GARDEN

I'm leaving my garden.

Not permanently; perish the thought as I actually had a nightmare to this effect a few weeks ago. Nope, I'm just going out of town for little bit. But it's difficult to leave at this time of year. The garden is looking good. And between the heat of summer and the plentiful rain we've been getting things will be growing. Things, you'll note, will include both plants and weeds and the odds are good that both will be conspiring to create a jungle while I'm gone.

I have people looking in on the garden while I'm away, but I only ask them to do the bare necessities: watering and (hopefully) deer repellent.

It will be interesting to see what it looks like when I'm back. Here are  few quick shots of what it looked like the night before I left.

The gravel is in the circle garden path and it's looking good!

I ran around and did some last-minute weeding, particularly trying to grab the jewelweed before it flowers. 

I'm thrilled with the window box so far this year.

And below the window box, the skinny annual border is plenty bright.


'Etoile violette' clematis looking as charming as ever.

The first 'Windermere' roses in the driveway containers started blooming. They are smaller than I expected but I'm thinking that's related to the immaturity of the plant. 

Quite happy with how these containers are filling in as well.

I'll post as I'm able, but I never know what the internet/time situation will be. Do follow me on Instagram and on the Facebook page, where I'm more likely to be popping up a picture or two.


5 GARDEN TASKS TO DO NOW

It's more or less the middle of the gardening season here in my zone 5 garden. It's the point at which some areas of the garden are cruising along and others, neglected still, are looking worse than ever. They'll be dealt with when time, temperature and the mosquito population allows. The urge is to sit back, relax and enjoy the garden.

And you should, but don't rest on your gardening laurels for too long as suddenly the good parts of the garden will start to look like the neglected bits.

So in the spirit of doing a little something in the garden—but not too much—here are five things you can do in your garden now.

Prune roses but cutting back to a set of five leaves.


1. DEADHEAD
Stay on top of the deadheading or else the flowers that just faded may be your last. In my garden right now I'm mostly going after spent roses (cut back to a set of five leaves) and just starting to keep a close eye on the dahlias. Here's a quick video I did on deadheading dahlias if you're not sure how.

2. SPOT WEED
If you've gotten all the big weeding out of the way, you'll just have to worry about the little guys that poke up. Oxalis is a common one in my garden. The good news about this kind of weeding is that you can usually do it with just your fingers and you can definitely do it one handed, leaving the other one free to hold a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or a gin and tonic.

3. WATER
It's a drag, I know, but this is high season for watering. The good news is that watering can be kind of cathartic, so consider it a bit of a mental break. Don't forget to fertilize containers regularly. Even if you added time release fertilizer when you planted, most container plants are getting big enough by this point in the year that they need more nourishment.


Prune Spireas right after blooming.
This Spirea is still looking pretty good but about half the blooms are spent  and it's time to prune. Cutting it back deadheads it and allows me to shape it for next year. 

4. PRUNE
For a lot of shrubs, the time to prune is right after the flower. Many shrubs bloom on the previous year's growth, so pruning right after they finish blooming allows time for them to put on new growth and next year's flower buds.  I've pruned most of my Spireas in the past couple weeks to keep them a little in check without sacrificing next year's flowers.

5. MAKE MENTAL NOTES
Odds are your garden is nearing its peak. If something isn't looking just right, make a note about what you could change for the long term to get it there.

Check off that list and then get back to that first thing we talked about: sitting back and enjoying your garden. You deserve it.

5 jobs to be doing in your garden now