Bee Happy…It’s Summer in the Garden!

Bee Happy…It’s Summer in the Garden!

Have you ever heard the term “High Summer”? That is how we refer to this time of year, when the sun is highest in the sky and the garden is soaking it up and growing by leaps and bounds. All of the creatures we are trying to encourage and attract are here- hummingbirds, butterflies, sphinx moths, bees and pollinators galore. The goldfinches are celebrating in my yard this week with their happy song as my very first giant sunflower blossom opened, which, by the way, the goldfinches planted last year. I have so many self-sown sunflowers everywhere.

My very first butterfly bush flower opened by my deck over the weekend. Butterfly bushes are not a larval plant food for caterpillars but they are the nectar source of choice for butterflies and hummingbirds. That is why I surround my outdoor living space with them, in all sizes and colors. Plus, they smell so sweet- they remind me of dusting powder. To celebrate the beginning of CT butterfly bush season, Diane has decided to put all butterfly bushes on sale for the next two weeks at 20% off.

This is a GREAT year for hydrangeas, isn’t it? For the first time in 3 years, mine are all blooming beautifully. We have quite the selection, from mopheads, dwarfs, tree hydrangeas, and our native oakleaf and H. arborescens types which do so well in shade. Hydrangeas are a classic summer flower. They

Now THAT’S what we’re talking about! Look at all the flowers on my hydrangeas this year, and more to come!

make wonderful fresh flower bouquets and bloom for a really long time. Do you know why? Because what you think is the flower on a hydrangea blossom is actually a colorful bract. The real flower is tiny, in the center of each cluster of colorful bracts. It is only when that tiny flower has opened and fallen off that you can dry the flowers successfully.

On the left is Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Wedding Gown’ in the fall. It’s the bracts that have turned from pure white to bright red. This is one of the most dramatic transformations and that makes this variety one of our favorites to plant in gardens.

My daylilies are also really starting into bloom this week. In my courtyard I plant very pale, creamy colors that will glow in the evening light. Throughout my garden borders, daylilies are accent flowers- rich purple contrasting with lilac Astilbes, dark maroon popping up between yellow Coreopsis, coral-peach combined with blue balloon flowers. Their swollen root systems make them very durable, long lasting perennials. And guess what, Diane has put the daylilies on sale for the next two weeks as well!

Daylilies are on sale for the next two weeks!

What else blooms happily in July? Daisies of all sorts, especially Shasta daisies, a classic perennial that marries with everything else in the sunny border. Coreopsis, Crocosmia, bee balm, yarrow, balloon flowers, Astilbes are all happily bursting into flower right now.

Wild quinine loves the heat of the south side of my house 

I am always on the lookout for new plants for the south side of my house. They have to be able to withstand very hot, direct sun all day and, once established, little to no watering. When we went to visit the High Line in New York city a few years ago, I fell in love with wild quinine, Parthenium integrifolium. The flowers are pure white and it adores all the heat I can give it. I let it go to seed and now have three plants!

Buttonbush is a great native shrub starting to flower now 

Another wonderful July bloomer is our native shrub buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. All of the visitors to my garden over the holiday weekend asked about this unusual plant. The flowers are perfect orbs, as are the buds and the seedpods that follow. Butterflies absolutely love them. I planted mine because I have heavy clay soil that is very wet in the spring and I have seen entire “buttonbush swamps” filled with this plant. BUT, the one we have growing at Natureworks is in our main border, right next to a Baptisia, and doesn’t get any supplemental watering at all and it’s happy as can be. This is a versatile plant that is fun to grow.

Summer Alliums bloom and bloom and the bumblebees are very happy 

I don’t know about your garden, but my entire yard is pretty shaggy right now. Everything has grown to gigantic proportions and plants are entwining together and growing into each other. It’s time to do some serious grooming, pruning, shaping, and cutting windows so that the plants can get along with each other. I tried to sit and relax over the holiday weekend, but I couldn’t stand it, I eventually had to strap on my pruning shears and do some cutting. Then, while I was at it, I planted some bush bean seeds where the spinach came out and added some ‘Baby Bell’ peppers and different types of basil to some newly filled large containers on the south side of my garage. I just keep on planting and it pays off. I have very few spots that I have to weed- if I see an open spot, I add another plant!

Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is a hummingbird magnet. This picture was taken in the Natureworks demonstration gardens where the hummingbirds are having a field day. 

If you do have a lot of weeds and you haven’t decided what to plant, you should add 2″ of mulch. This not only keeps the weeds at bay, it also keeps moisture in the soil and breaks down, adding organic matter for next year. My front foundation planting is newly renovated and the dwarf evergreens are slowly growing. That is the one bed I have mulched so far and I used Sweet Peet, a simply gorgeous mulch that I have fallen in love with. It has NO peat moss in it at all, the name is a bit misleading. Instead, it is composted horse manure and bedding with the compost tea that results from the process added back in. It is very dark colored and also really helps feed the soil.

With our new summer Off-Peak hours, we are our moving Facebook Live time slot to 4 pm on Thursday afternoons. The store is open till 5, so come and join the fun and be in the audience. If you can’t attend, you can always tune in live and type in your questions or watch the 15 minute video afterwards on Facebook. This week I will once again demonstrate, using live plants, the process of how to design a garden for succession of bloom. When you shop at Natureworks right now, you are tempted to buy plants that are in bloom. That is perfectly natural. But, if that is all you plant, your garden will be lacking color in the spring and in the fall. Most perennials and flowering shrubs bloom for 3-4 weeks. You need to PLAN for succession of bloom and many have told me that watching me do it with potted plants on the ground makes it so much easier to understand.

There are a few things that need attending to in the garden this week. Read the article below about caring for the early July garden and hopefully I will answer some of your questions about things that may be concerning you. Also, check out the article about scented herbs and how they can contribute to the ambiance and joy of the summer garden.

Off-Peak Hours mean we are open MondaySaturday 8:30-5 and we are closed on Sundays for the summer. I hope you can find some time to stop by this week for a visit. We are restocking, as usual, with exciting new plants to help you take your high summer garden to new heights. And, you can visit the butterflies- monarchs, Eastern black swallowtails, spicebush swallowtails are all being raised inside the shop. Outside is simply abuzz with life. It’s a glorious feeling to shop immersed in the natural world.

See you soon…