FRIDAY FINDS

My head has been all over the place this week. I still feel like I haven't gotten back in the swing of things after being gone (seriously, what is with that), and I haven't even unpacked my bags yet. So I'm looking forward to a weekend with some time in the garden to put me back on level footing.

I don't do marathon gardening sessions this time of year, in part because it's usually too hot for that. But it's also because, mentally at least, I sort of declare August (and we're close enough to call this August) the month to do all the summer things. I've not gotten out on the paddleboard yet, so that needs to happen. Swimming in the lake, laying in a hammock, having a beer in the middle of the afternoon and then taking a cat nap in the shade. These are all things that need to happen. But first I need to ground myself in the garden.

Oh, and I might just make it to the farmer's market Saturday morning for the first time this year too. It's time to savor summer. In the meantime, here's some of the great stuff I found on the internet this week!

Have a great weekend and let me know what you're up to on this great summer weekend.

I've always wondered what goes on behind the scenes at gardens on tours. Now I know all the secrets!

I always enjoy the Gardenista design awards (if only to take note of how far my garden has to come), but since I'm hoping to redo the veggie area in fall, I'm paying particular attention to the edible garden competition.

If you're growing dahlias you're probably starting to remember why as they leap into a blooming frenzy. Here's how to get more ... from cuttings!

http://lovelygreens.com/2017/07/when-to-harvest-potatoes.html
Tanya Anderson/Lovely Greens photo
I'm not growing potatoes this year (hopefully there will be room for that after the veggie garden redo), but if you are, you need to know when to harvest them. Here's the lowdown.

Nick went to the Terrain store and I want to go too! It would not be good for my bank account though.
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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

THE BEST CLEMATIS YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF

I have a bit of a love affair with clematis going. I can't explain this, other than by saying I find them to be very satisfying plants to grow. And I'm not alone. As I read and learn more about this great family of plants, I discover that there are a lot of people who are under its spell. And I've seen a common theme: The love affair often starts with the bold, blousy, in-your-face types and moves to the smaller flowered varieties, the veritable shy, but smart and good looking kids in the corner of the clematis class.

Clematis (I'm using that in the plural form and here's why) are known as the "Queen of the Climbers" and for good reason: There's a climbing clematis that will put on a great show for almost any spot in any garden. But here's a little secret: Some of the best clematis aren't climbers at all.

I've got clematis growing up trellises, poles, up trees and through shrubs, but look a little lower and you'll find some of my favorites, the non-vining varieties.

Right about now you may be thinking: "What is the point of a clematis that doesn't climb?" And if you're thinking of clematis in the typical sense, this makes sense. So stop thinking about them as clematis. Think of them as you might any other perennial, although one that blooms for an incredibly long period and gets on well with its neighbors.

These non-vining clematis can be staked, or rather corralled, a couple feet and then allowed to spill over the top if you want a little bit of height, but they can also be allowed to just scramble at will, which is how I usually grow them.

'Sapphire Indigo' clematis: the best clematis you've never heard of
'Sapphire Indigo' has blooms that just last and last even while more come.
'Sapphire Indigo' is perhaps my favorite clematis in the garden (after, perhaps, the more typical 'Guernsey Cream'). The color is otherworldly: truly the color of a deep blue sapphire gemstone, although occasionally ranging toward purple. Its flowers, which keep coming in waves for weeks and last for ages before fading, are probably 3 inches across, but seem to cover the plant. I planted it along the short terrace wall off the deck, where I encourage it to flop over and it seems happy to oblige. It mixes nicely with the nearly 'Honey Bun' Oso Easy roses and is great with nearby chartreuse foliage. But it's not in your face. A garden visitor last weekend spotted a climbing rose from the moment she walked into the garden but I had to point 'Sapphire Indigo' out to her before she spotted it.

Sapphire Indigo clematis in the border

To me, that's part of the charm. I'm all for bold plants, but you need special little spots in the garden that maybe aren't appreciated at first glance. It encourages lingering, and if gardens weren't meant for lingering than I don't know any place that is.



This pink clematis won't catch your eye from across the garden and that's part of its charm.


On the other end of the wall, a pink non-viner is equally charming, although its flowers are large open bells. It's killing me that I cannot come up with its name right now, but I have it somewhere.

Recta 'Pamela' clematis is a lovely, charming plant when allowed to wander through the border.
Recta 'Pamela' allowed to ramble through the border.

Both of these have stems that are 3 feet at the longest, and probably shorter, but I've also grown larger clematis as sprawlers, including recta 'Pamela', which has tiny white flowers and 6-foot long stems. ('Purpurea' will do the same thing but has beautiful purple foliage to boot and I'd recommend that one as an alternative.) This is one that I tend to collect into some kind of staked situation for the first couple feet and then allow it to flop wherever it likes. It's almost ethereal. Unfortunately there's no sign of growth on this one this year, a situation I cannot explain. I've not given up on it entirely, however. Clematis have a way of rallying even after a year of pretending to be dead.

'Arabella' clematis allowed to ramble
The first flower on 'Arabella.'
This year I added two more non-vining clematis: 'Arabella' and Clematis integrifolia. 'Arabella' just offered up it's first bloom, a lovely little blue that aimed straight for the nearby 'Paprika' rose as though it knew it was destined for great color combinations. Integrifolia will be a dainty little guy that I put front and center off the patio so it won't be missed.

I've seen a lot of people lament that they can't grow clematis, and I will bet that most of the time it's the large-flowered Group 2 types that they have issues with. They can be a little tempermental, not to mention that they have confusing pruning rules associated with them. All of the non-viners are Group 3 pruners, meaning that you just cut them back nearly to the ground in late winter or very early spring. I feed all my clematis with Espoma Rose-Tone a handful of times a year, usually when I prune, about four weeks later, again after they bloom and maybe once more during the season. Beyond that, the non-viners seem to be very easy to grow. I do plant them with compost and manure and mulch them. People always say that clematis should have their roots in the shade, but that's sort of inaccurate. They just want moist (but not wet) roots that aren't allowed to dry out.

I encourage you to give non-vining clematis a try. Don't be offended if a garden visitor doesn't spot them immediately. Once they do, they'll be in love too.




FRIDAY FINDS

How did it get to be the middle of summer? Ugh ... it's going too fast and needs to slow down!

The good part about this time of the year is that the major work in the garden is starting to wind down. That's actually sort of funny because of course I would prefer that to have been wrapped up weeks ago, but that's how it goes. 

Two tons of gravel were dumped in our driveway yesterday and the good part about that pile being smack dab in the middle of everything is that it forces me to get to it ASAP. That will be going in the paths of the circle garden and filling in a few holes in the path to the garage.

The first bloom on 'The Alnwick Rose' is just starting to open! I can't wait.

There are small surprises in the garden as well. The first Labyrinth dahlia is starting to open and, even better, the first David Austin rose is starting to bloom! I'm so excited to see the flowers and I just cross my fingers that they'll be amazing and fragrant.

So that's the garden update. Several of you have asked for a video garden tour so if the weather is cooperative I may do a quick one on Facebook Live tonight. I'll post a bit of warning on the Facebook page if that happens. 

Anyway ... here's the rest of what I'm digging from the internet this week. Just FYI, some of the links that follow are affiliate links; thanks for helping support this blog!

I love both of Linda's picks for new favorite plants in her garden. Can you even believe the colors in that Alstromeria?

I was thrilled to be a guest on the Root Simple podcast recently. Give it a listen here and check out the Root Simple blog (not to mention their great books). 

You know I love a good roundup, and especially this time of year I'm a rattan fan, so this was right up my alley.

You know how I love my Bahco hand pruners? Well, I've been cheating on them with this red hot number for a few weeks now. I've been waiting for the newness to wear off (I mean, new pruners are always so sharp and shiny that they always seem better) to do a proper review for you, but so far it's looking like the Bahcos are going to permanently end up in the "backup pruners" slot.

Cute garden markers? OK, maybe, but garden markers (which I'm about three years behind in updating in my garden) are more about function to me. I like the galvanized ones with a printed weatherproof tapes.

A NEW WAY OF THINKING ABOUT STRUCTURE IN THE GARDEN

When I hear about structure in the garden, my mind immediately goes to what I consider the backbone of a garden design: trees, large shrubs and structures. These typically create the framework around which the rest of the garden falls into place.

But a relatively new-to-me plant has me rethinking the idea of where structure comes from in a garden. I don't know its name (and if you do, please enlighten me because I've been looking), but it's some kind of perennial allium. I received it as a small plant from a woman whose garden I visited a few years ago (she has a small annual plant sale) and I didn't notice it having particularly noticeable bulbs, although as an allium I'm sure it has some kind of bulb lurking under the soil. 

Here's what it looked like the first time I spotted it in her garden. 


There are a lot of plants in that photo but I don't even need to tell you which one I'm talking about because your eye is immediately drawn to it. 

Mine is obviously much smaller and is just starting to flower (bees seem to love, by the way). 

I'd say it's about 30 inches tall and it's thick, hollow blue stems are unlike anything else in my garden. What caught my attention the other day is that the stems have arranged themselves in a very artistic crossing pattern that is quite pleasing to my eye. 


But the architectural form of this plant makes it more than a focal point; it provides structure. I love loose, natural and even wild perennials that have a tendency to flop (but not too much, please) and go their own way, but without structure, they can look messy and out of control. Add in a structural element, like this strong-formed allium, and it all starts making sense.


In my garden, above, it's near the 'Orangeola' maple, which in itself provides structure, but to me, it's the allium that makes the structural statement. (And the bare spots you see are where the rabbits have done their worst.)

And I think you'll see it does the same elsewhere. You can barely see it in the photo below but I think this garden would be much less successful if it weren't there.


It's not the typical kind of plant one associates with structure, but there's no doubt that's what it provides. Sometimes you never know what a plant can do for your garden until it's there.

A NEW GARDEN BEGINS TO GROW

It's been a while since I updated you on the progress of the circle garden, but it's really coming along.

The brief history of this garden, which sits right by the front door, is that it was a weedy patch of dirt with a few perennials in it when we bought the house. I resurrected it as an oval garden divided into three segments, separated by curvy paths. It was a design that didn't work—I see that now—but for a brief time it wasn't terrible. Until it was. It needed a complete revamp and last fall I ripped it up and started from scratch.

I've gone more formal with the design, although it has a bit of an odd twist to it. There are four outer quadrants and a center circle, each delineated with a chive "hedge", and each outer quandrant is divided into three sections with a boxwood in the center.

Each segment is mass planted with one plant. In the segment closest, there is rhubarb on the right, roses on the left and petunias in the front. On the opposite side, which is shadier, are Bobo hydrangeas, Hakonechloa 'All Gold' and Impatiens.

The center is simply planted with alyssum, Thai basil and new clematis, which are just starting to climb.

'HS Flame' dahlia provides great dark foliage, bright blooms and stays low enough that I shouldn't have to stake it.

I chose the plants with an aim to get lots of color spread throughout the garden, a ton of texture and a foliage element in each area. There is a combination of shrubs, perennials and annuals, so some plants will take a few years to really come into their own.

It's still early days for everything and I hope the annuals will fill in their areas appropriately, although I did have to go back and plant some purple sweet potato vine between the Impatiens as that area was definitely looking too sparse.


Even as new plants, the Bobo hydrangeas are absolutely covered in flowers.

New gravel will be added soon.

Egyptian walking onions are sort of an oddity, but for now they offer great texture in the garden.

The final step in this project is to fill in the paths with a decorative gray gravel. Right now the paths are just a limestone road base that I laid down in fall. I didn't want to put the gravel in until I was finished planting as the longer I can keep soil out of the gravel, the longer I'll be weed free there.

I made a video about the process. Check it out here.

FRIDAY FINDS

The rabbit struggles continue here. I have borrowed a few traps but the little buggers aren't big enough to set them off. They are absolutely decimating any annuals I've planted in the ground and it is getting so frustrating! Deer repellent seems to have no effect on them. If you have some proven ways to manage them, I'm all ears.

I had to take a break from gardening last weekend to give Odin a bath. This is a full half-day activity but the pay off is a clean, fluffy, good smelling dog. It's not often that I get a clean dog and a decent looking garden at the same time! By the way, those white alliums that you see in the foreground ('Mount Everest') are real winners. Going to have to add more of those.



I also got very late in planting in the vegetable garden, just planting many seeds in the last week. But I figure better late than never. I'll just have these crops later in the season.

Matt is clearly more on the ball than I am this year and his sweet pea pictures are to die for. My sweet peas are currently 8 inches tall.


I might do that cake thing, but this? Gimme a break. 

I look forward to each and every post from Deborah Silver this time of year, when her amazing container creations spill forth. Don't miss her latest post

Lastly, in case you missed my latest video, here it is. I was supposed to be in it, but as you'll see at the end, I had a bit of a miscalculation in trying to shoot it myself. Whoops.


Will you be spending time in the garden this weekend or are you into "relax" mode? Either way, I hope you have a great weekend and avoid some of the crazy weather that is popping up all over the country.


HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

It's an amazing time in the garden. Plants seem to be growing with reckless abandon and we are at that stage when things look lush but not overgrown. Every day something new is flowering, but plants still aren't battered by hot sun or too much slug damage, although with the amount of rain we've had it won't be long before they are as big as toads.

The circle garden is all planted and is really starting to come together.

Thanks to many, many hours in the garden last weekend, much of it is looking pretty good, but there are a few areas still waiting for their primary clean out and I hope to get to that later in the weekend.

It's nice though, because this is a lovely little sweet spot in early summer.

How's your garden this week?

I never noticed how blue this part of the garden was untilI took these pictures. I like it.

The Blue Kazoo Spireas are blooming and the blossoms are some of my favorite flowers. They are  delicate,  almost lacelike, and then they get sort of fuzzy looking as they open more.


The climbing hydrangea is just starting to bloom. It's looking great this year, certainly in part because of the mass amounts of rain we've had.

Already the planters are growing in nicely.

Oso Easy Parika rose is in full bloom and is one of those plants that calls you from across the garden.

The skinny patio bed is starting to fill in nicely.


My first herbaceous peonies bloomed this week. I know the whole world had peonies weeks ago, but here they are just starting.

Tuff stuff hydrangea is just blooming its head off. I'm so impressed with this plant.
This isn't at my house, but I had to share this picture of my mom's amazing fringe tree.