The Signs are Everywhere

The Signs are Everywhere

I went shopping on Monday and was surprised to see mums at the grocery store and Halloween candy on the grocery store shelves. It’s that time of year again: back to school time, the last few weeks of August. As a gardener, I am seeing rose of Sharon trees, gorgeous stands of Phlox paniculata, head-turning dahlias, and harvest baskets filled with tomatoes and zucchinis. My garden is so lush and beautiful that I hate to leave. BUT, when I arrive at work, I am blown away by the beauty of this place. Our gardens are just insane- a true butterfly and pollinator paradise!

Did you know that we now carry seedless rose of Sharon varieties? Call me old

‘Azure Blue Satin’ rose of Sharon is seedless!

fashioned, but I adore this Hibiscus relative and so do my hummingbirds. But, it comes with the baggage of self-sown seedlings popping up everywhere. This week we are featuring Hibiscus ‘Azure Blue Satin’, a lovely single blue variety that reaches only 12′ tall, perfect for any yard and it does NOT reseed! 


Another really special late summer tree that is blooming now is Franklinia altamaha. Native to Virginia, it was named for Benjamin Franklin and is related to the Camelia and Stewartia. It can reach 20′ tall and has pure white flowers with a yellow center that


bloom for weeks and weeks at this time of year. I have often admired this tree in other people’s gardens and am thrilled that we have a couple of flowering trees in stock. The bees love them too…

What else is blooming in our August gardens? Chelone lyonii is really putting on a show in our shade gardens. The beautiful pink flower spikes are growing right at the base of a tree. This pink species is actually called “upland turtlehead” as it does not need to be in a wet spot. We pinched it in June in order to get double the flower power. It will now blossom for 6-8 weeks.  
Our pink turtlehead (Chelone lyonii) is starting to bloom in the shade garden. This is a GREAT August perennial that will continue well into September.

Late August means we start to get in the first of our perennial mums. These come back bigger and bigger every year and are NOT the same as common grocery store mums! This week we have peachy ‘Sheffield’ and orange ‘Bolero’ on the benches. August means goldenrods are starting to bloom. This species is such an important pollinator plant. It is bee pollinated, not wind pollinated, so it DOES NOT cause hayfever (ragweed does). We sell many different species, some dwarf, some with cascading sprays of flowers, some lemon yellow instead of bright gold, many that do well in the shade. 

Solidago (goldenrod) is the number one pollinator perennial for this time of year thru late fall. 

Don’t overlook the importance of colorful foliage in August. The longer I garden, the more I am convinced that plants with ornamental leaves are the glue that hold the

Aralia ‘Sun King’ is a beacon of light in our shade garden

design of a landscape together. Especially with the extreme weather we now have, it’s good to be able to count on fabulous foliage. In our shade garden, we now have a one year old clump of Aralia ‘Sun King’. The glowing yellow foliage really brightens up that spot and draws your eye like a magnet. 


Another great foliage plant that will grow in either full sun or quite a bit of shade is Caryopteris divaricatus ‘Snow Fairy’. This is an herbaceous Caryopteris, meaning it is cut to the ground in the fall or early spring. The flowers are

Easy to grow Caryopteris ‘Snow Fairy’ is great for sun or shade

blue and not too showy but the leaves are brightly variegated green and white. It is clean as a whistle, not bothered by insects, diseases, or deer. 

Late August means many things are beginning to change. The sun sets so much earlier, it’s hard to get used to! The nights are finally a bit cooler, and I find myself wearing a second layer when I get up early in the morning and take my first stroll in the garden. So many plants are going to seed and the goldfinches and chickadees are having a field day in my yard. The hummingbirds are abundant and tanking up on sweet nectar for their migration which will happen next month. Because of all the rain, my plants have grown so big that, for the first time ever, I have run out of stakes! Time to restock and we’ve got plenty at Natureworks. I am constantly planting fall veggies. The two varieties of lettuce seeds I planted on Friday were sprouted on Monday! We have some organic veggie seedlings arriving this week, just in time for Eliza’s workshop on Saturday: Grow a Bowl of Healthy Organic Veggies. Click Here to register. Don’t forget to cover your kale, broccoli, beets, and spinach with floating row covers. It is the most efficient way to keep out 4 kinds of caterpillars that munch on plants in the kale family and leaf miners that tunnel into spinach and beet leaves. We have the row covers in two sizes and we have the wire hoops. Much later in the season they will also help protect your plants from mild frosts.

Late August also means it’s time to start planting cover crop seeds. If you have a spot in your garden where you are not going to replant, or if you are trying to prepare a bed for next year, cover crops are the answer. Read my article below to learn how they work. They are inexpensive, easy, and such a great way to suppress weeds and grow healthy, organic soil.

August means the asters are starting to flower. Shown above is blue Aster macrophyllus ‘Twilight’, a real workhorse for sun or partial shade. Next to it is Aster umbellatus, a vigorous, tall, wonderful white native aster. Imagine both of these with ornamental grasses or perhaps weaving up through dahlias.

August is also when my crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) bursts into bloom on the south side of my house. You may think of crape myrtle as a southern plant, but there are many hardy varieties that DO grow here in CT. It blooms on current year’s wood, so I give it a good shaping every April. I’ve had mine in my Middletown garden for years.

This is a scene from our kitchen workroom. Every day, often twice a day, we clean the cages, harvest fresh milkweed, go egg hunting, and make sure all of our babies are happy and healthy

It wouldn’t be late August at Natureworks without our Monarch Exhibit in full swing. As of this writing we have 194 caterpillars, 103 chrysalises (!), 38 eggs, and have released 270 monarch butterflies. They are everywhere, flying around our gardens, dive bombing our customers. When I meet a new customer, I ask them “have you seen the monarchs?” and they always say, “why yes, they are flying around everywhere.” Then I bring them inside and show them the chrysalises and caterpillars

Don’t forget to register for our Tagging Workshop on Saturday, September 1st. Class size is limited as it is a hands on workshop.

and they can’t believe their eyes. It doesn’t matter what age you are, everyone is totally fascinated. In the process, we get to teach everyone about the importance of organic gardening and the interconnections of life in the garden. We are having atagging workshop on Saturday, September 1st. It is strictly limited to 25 people as we want every participant to be able to tag. In September, the monarchs that are born do not mate. Instead, they tank up on nectar and fly to Mexico. We don’t start tagging them until September; right now, the butterflies we are raising are still laying eggs. IF you are a teacher or know a teacher who would be interested in raising monarch butterflies with their fall class, we are very willing to donate eggs or caterpillars. They should call the retail shop and leave a message for Diane.

Tune into Facebook Live this Thursday at 5 pm to watch us replant a few tired container gardens. We call it “hitting the refresh button”. With all of the new plants that have just arrived, there is just no excuse to not LOVE your containers heading into the Labor Day weekend. I promise you will be inspired.
Finally, we have a new feature on the Natureworks website- a page where you can SHOP! Click Here to check it out. We now sell our Got Milkweed? t-shirts online. So many folks want to send them to friends far away who are raising monarchs or to relatives who have moved. We also sell two books and gift certificates. 
So enjoy this week, with the promise of clear days with plenty of sunshine and low humidity ahead. Don’t rush the fall. It’s still summer. Why not enjoy all that summer has to offer- abundant harvests, tons of flowers, and butterflies galore. You can experience all of that at Natureworks. Bring your friends and family in for a visit this week…
See you soon…
Colchicum bulbs have arrived. Plant these NOW for a September/October display. Have you discovered fall blooming bulbs? Colchicum is a true perennial, with clumps getting larger every year. They are vole proof and deer proof.