pink peony

pink peony
old-fashioned peony

Monday, July 22, 2013

A summer morning in the garden ...

Deep in July -- it's dry, almost a full-blown drought here on the farm -- typical and not at all surprising weather. This time of year we become weatherman groupies, hanging on his every pronouncement of the possibilities, cheering for our hero when he says something positive or groaning when he makes an unfavorable, inevitable prediction of "more hot and dry." And in the meantime I am Mother Nature's substitute, watering every morning. All the pot plants get a daily soaking, and every four days I give the vegetable garden and the beds with blooming flowers a good drink. When outlying shrubs begin to really look pathetic, I'll pull a long hose to a wilting lilac or forsythia, turning the water down to a trickle and letting it soak in gently for a long time. This summertime routine takes a lot of time and commitment, but it's the only way to keep the color (and a bit of produce) coming. The rewards are worth it.

Zinnias are my favorite cutting flower. The more you cut, the more they bloom. The colors are vivid and varied and so easy to arrange -- just cut, stick in a water-filled jar or pitcher, and you have an instant bouquet.
I plant them along the north side that faces the road, hoping they block the view of the messy, browning leaves of the squash plants that are looking sad by now.
It has been a good season for cucumbers. As long as they receive plenty (lots!) of water, they bear and bear. I've been making refrigerator pickles from the bounty.
Just behind the garden is the red barn, where old washtubs overflow with red and yellow lantana. These plants take the heat well, as long as they get plenty to drink.
Grandma's milk strainer is still used along with a milk can, but now it holds odds and ends of leftover bedding plants -- orange and yellow marigolds and blue and red salvia.
An old "shovel" was once hooked behind a mule to drag rocks out of a field. Now it holds perwinkle.
This shy little late-bloomer surprised me! All her sisters bloomed and withered long ago, while she was playing hide-and-seek under the Bee Balm.
Another milk strainer is home to two colors of Million Bells (callibrachia), one of my favorites.
I plant small starts of this favorite into hanging baskets, too -- they soon spill over the edges with an abundance of tiny petunia-like blossoms.
Every year I like to experiement with one new flower, just to see if it works for me. This time I tried a pink salvia, planted in the middle of a barrelful of impatiens. The hummingbirds and butterflies love it -- no surprise there! It probably would have more and bigger blooms if it had more sun, but I've heard no complaints as it sits in deep shade.
There ARE complaints, however, when the birdbath gets this low on water -- time to top it off!

We'll end our little garden ramble on the screened porch, with a glass of lemonade and a visit with Fern. Some of you will remember my friend, Fern? She's been with us many years now and is truly a fixture in our home. Fern spends the winter in my sewing room, leaning longingly toward the window, grasping for rays of sunshine. By the time I bring her outside in the late spring, she's really looking rough. But as the days warm up, she gets happier and happier, until by September she will be a beauty once again. Right now, Fern is at that in-between state: pretty on top but still a little ragged around the edges. She and I both need a haircut about now.
I wrote a poem about Fern in early May, when I brought her outside. It goes like this (ahem):
Fern and Me
I love Fern, and Fern loves me
But on one thing we disagree.
I love winter; Fern does not.
I like it cold; Fern likes it hot.
Humidity is what Fern loves --
While I like hats and coats and gloves.
So 'long about now Fern looks very sad,
From spending the winter inside my pad.
But once she moves out she'll perk right up --
Fronds will appear, frisky as a pup.
So bring on the spring, so Fern will shine;
Next winter when it snows,  I'll get mine.
(No applause necessary, really...)


  1. Your flowers are gorgeous! They look so healthy. Mine are suffering from the heat even tho I water then daily. My Million Bells don't look nearly as good as yours. I don't know what I'm doing wrong with them. Had trouble with them last year, too. Any tips for healthy MB's?
    Cute poem!!

  2. Looks like you have your work cut out for you, Janet, and all of it so beautiful! I love the creative places you've put your flowers. Who would think of a shovel? Hope you got some of the rain that came our way this week. As for Fern and Me, it's getting a standing ovation here.