Friday, December 22, 2017

Last summer's garden

The Christmas presents are ordered and the cookies are baked, so I am taking some time to look back at last summer's garden.

'Raspberry Wine' bee balm in the big perennial bed.

I have spread starts of 'Raspberry Wine' all around the garden. It is not appealing to deer or voles, which is a great thing. Most of the pests in my garden started being a problem once I had a lot of something, so it's nice that nothing likes to eat it. It likes a bit of food and requires water in hot dry weather or it looks miserable.

The foliage smells wonderful, especially 'Claire Grace'. Stepping on the rosettes will perfume the immediate area. The plant is called wild bermagot because the fragrance of the leaves is similar to bermagot orange, which is used to flavor Earl and Lady Gray tea and Turkish delight.

Just opening up and looking very much like a member of the mint family

'Raspberry Wine' is in the front yard,

the back yard

and east of the house.

<-- To the left and right of the daylillies and phlox -->

It's a great favorite of hummingbirds and bees.

Another great plant for fragrance is sweet pepperbush. The fragrance of the flowers is very nice, a little bit like vanilla, and carries, so you don't have to stick your nose in the flowers to get the scent. All of the pepperbush I have grows wild here. There's a big bank of it west of the old house site and all along the big ditch that runs behind the big perennial bed and east of the old house site.

It also grows along waterways elsewhere on the farm.
Sweet pepperbush blooms in July and insects flock to it.


Dirt dauber

Sand wasp .

Ailanthus webworm moth.

Summer phlox is fragrant too, although I don't find it be very fragrant in the same way that summersweet is; in any case that's fine with me because I'm not sure I love the fragrance anyway. I've noticed that carpenter bees love this plant. I always see a lot of them feeding or just hanging out when I go in and out of the house.

Meadow beauty is another native that blooms during the heat of the summer. It blooms all summer and into fall, as a matter of fact. It's low-growing, less than 6 inches in height, but a mass of these flowers has a lot of impact. This is a group of Virginia meadow beauty that's growing behind the shavings pile. I didn't plant it there, it just appeared. Meadow beauty grows wild here everywhere, from the edge of the woods up above the house to the fields near the creek. I have transplanted a little bit of Maryland meadow beauty (thinner leaves, paler pink flowers than Va. meadow beauty) in the front of the big perennial bed but really should transplant more of both species into the garden.

This is the perfect Hibiscus moscheutos. I grew it from seed, so I wasn't sure what I was going to get, but it's amazing: it's big, rounded, and covered in big pink flowers in the middle of summer. It's a shame that Japanese beetles love them so much. I managed to get a picture before the buggers chewed raggedy holes into the leaves and flowers.

Purple and blue is so cooling in the heat of summer. I grew Stoke's aster from seed sent from the NC Botanical Garden and while the first batch produced flowers of a rather anemic blue, the second batch I grew has beautiful vivid flowers. I have to grow them in pots to protect them from voles.

I wanted powdery thalia after seeing it in a pond in the White Garden at the JC Raulston Arboretum. The flowers are so unique and beautiful, a rich purple with a powdery silver white finish. It's happy in the ditch that runs besides the old house site. Here it is with pickerelweed.

As long as they aren't fooled into blooming too early, we usually get a good crop of wild
blueberries. We had one highbush blueberry (on the left); the rest are Southern black blueberries.

Veering from the subject of native plants, crape myrtles are a summer staple in the Southeast. They are not dependably winter hardy north of Virginia, but are they ever drought and heat tolerant. I grew a seedling of 'Pink Lace' from a cutting

'Pink Lace' seedling

and then the rest of my crape myrtles were grown from seeds from that tree.

They are all over the map in terms of habit. One is quite tall and shaped like a columnar shrub. The seedling pictured above is an oval shrub. The seed parent (the 'Pink Lace' seedling) is an actual tree with about a dozen stems, as contradictory as that sounds. My favorite seedling is the one below, as it also has a true tree form. It's more upright in habit than its parent.

I like how it looks framed by the garden below it.

Alas, only one of my crape myrtles has any fall color, the shrubby little pink one pictured below on the left. It turned bright orange but even that was fleeting.

Now I know why NC State never introduced that 'Pink Lace' seedling. (In my defense, I didn't realize when I started the cutting that neither 'Pink Lace' nor its seedling has any fall color. I didn't realize there were any crape myrtle cultivars with no fall color.) Now I turn a little bit green whenever I see other people's brilliant orange and red crape myrtles in the fall. I don't want to get rid of the crape myrtles I have, as they're beautiful when they're in bloom

and they bloom several times over the summer.

Insects, amphibians, ans reptiles thrive in the heat as much as crape myrtles do. While I am wilting and burning up the butterflies are fluttering around like they're at a party.

Variegated fritillary on tall verbena

Butterflies love to puddle on the minerals they find in the paddock.

Black swallowtail with tiger swallowtails

and a cloudless sulfur in the foreground.

There are always a few sulfurs in late summer, culminating in dozens in the fall. They gather in pools of bright yellow in the paddock that shatter when the butterflies are startled. They rise and flutter, and then fall to form pools again.

Green treefrogs everywhere! They like to hunt for bugs on our living rooms at night.

Redbelly water snake

I'm always amazed by where I see birds' nests in the winter. Many times I've walked right by nests in the summer and wasn't aware of their location until the leaves have fallen. (The parents alarm calling was a sure sign there was a nest nearby somewhere, but I didn't know where.) OTOH, I hear the chipping sparrow babies in one of the pines at the back of the big bed every year. They're so loud it's easy to pinpoint the nest site. Every year the cardinals and mockingbirds nest in the front or side garden. Last year a blue grosbeak nested in one of the rugosas in the front garden.

Blue grosbeak fledgling

A double rainbow over the neighbor's pasture after a late afternoon storm.

I know this post isn't very Christmas-y, and that many of us are more interested in getting wrapped up in a blanket than gardening this time of year

but I thought all of the colors might provide a cup of cheer. Here's a Christmas-colored zinnia to end this post.

Merry Christmas!


  1. Merry Christmas sweet lady ~ I so enjoyed this post and seeing all of your lovely blooms! I didn't know you could grow crepe myrtles from seed. I should try some of the seeds from my "Queen Crepe". I love all of your purple blooms and work on adding more to my own gardens.

    Love your cuddled up kitty.

    Have a wonderful Christmas weekend and a great 2018 ~ FlowerLady

  2. Oh! Merry Christmas! I very much enjoyed this un-Christmasy post of your garden in summer. I have that same Monarda, which I'm planning to move patches of into my front bed some time this winter or early spring. Loved all the shots of the bees and the butterflies and even the snake. What an adorable orange kitty too. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Christmasy or not, this is a lovely post. Each and every one of the flowers you presented is beautiful. I'm still looking for a Monarda that will tolerate my climate - 'Peter's Purple' is supposed to be suitable to zone 10 but I've yet to get my hands on it. I'd love to put in a crape myrtle too but haven't pinpointed a spot for one that doesn't risk interfering with someone's view. And of course I adore your cat!

    Merry Christmas sweetbay!

  4. Merry Christmas! I enjoyed your summery post--it reminds me of warmer, more floriferous times! The fledglings are so cute, aren't they?! That Beebalm is so beautiful! I sprinkled Wild Bergamot and Sweet Phlox in my garden this fall--hopefully they will grow. :) Holiday blessings to you and yours!

  5. How wonderful to have a garden perfumed with Earl Grey!
    We have carpenter bees in common.

    (Sadly my crepe myrtle cutting - chosen for the beautiful cinnamon and bronze bark - hasn't survived my neglect, and lack of watering)

  6. Hello, what a lovely look back at your garden and beautiful flowers. The Bee Balm is a favorite of mine. Beautiful butterfly captures and I love the sweet baby Grosbeak. Your kitty is adorable. Gorgeous collection of photos. Happy New Year to you and your family!

  7. It's fun to remember the summer garden when winter sets in and yours is quite a beauty. Love that Zinnia which is new to me!

    Happy New Year!

  8. It is summer here so it seems quite normal to see your summer garden in December. Wonderful to see so many critters. Happy new year SB.

  9. That is so beautiful garden !! I love all your flowers !!
    Happy New Year !!

  10. What a lovely look back at your summer garden! I love Monarda too and grow several, though they always end up with powdery mildew. I'm so impressed at the size of your Crepe Myrtles that you grew from seed! I had to look up the Blue Grosbeak, as I've never heard of it before. What a wonderful bird to have in the garden! I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018!

  11. Lovely to see such summery photos in the dept of winter - although winter here in London is still green and full of plants in flower, just different flowers. If I had a garden the size of yours I would have loved to have lots of 'Raspberry Wine' as Earl Grey is my favourite tea and I drink it every morning - the scent is so beautiful. Your post is full of scented plants and flowers - I could just about smell them from seeing the pictures and read your description, thanks for sharing.
    All the best for a great gardening year 2018!

  12. Happy New year, Sweetbay! I enjoy looking back at your summer garden! I just started growing bee balm this year and hope to grow more. You included so many lovely photos. Your crape myrtles are beautiful! Also loved the snake photo and the rainbow!

  13. That Sweet Pepperbush looks fantastic. So many great butterflies in your garden, also. Best wishes for the new year!


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