Thursday, August 4, 2011

Late Summer Early






Suddenly late summer. Before the end of July, the late summer flowers have begun blooming. Now that it is August I wonder how long they will last.
Blue balloon flowers grow in close circumstances with black-eyed susans on the far side of what we call the flower island. It’s a dry spot, because I can’t reach it easily with a hose. Around this time of year I usually give in to my worries about drought turning the ends of leaves brown and the soil below gray, and turn on the sprinkler. So far this year I have resisted.
Both the balloon flowers and the black-eyed susans were late summer flower when we started growing them a half dozen years ago, most of them waiting for August before they blossomed. Now they begin blooming early in July. The balloon flowers have spread themselves through the garden, and I let them, expecting them to add a spot of color here and there in August, but most of their blossoms are gone or fast fading now.
Other typically late season bloomers have made strong showings in July. The tall phlox, most them with dark pink blossoms that are almost violet, have been with us for a couple of weeks too. A big stand of them grow up in front of the bi-colored leaves of the dogwood tree.
The cone flowers, light violet petals around dark centers, grown in a couple of places including the tree circle, have been up for weeks as well.
Queen Anne’s Lace, the exuberant white-topped wildflower (or country lane weed), made a big comeback this year. They cover the front walk with fountain flows of long, white weeping flowers, an extravagant and unconventional face to present to the world. They too are beginning to fade – the blossoms close at night, knitting themselves up into small fists, and fewer return each day – just as they do on the borders of the marshes on the Quincy shorefront or along the country roads in the Berkshires. A new succession of wildflowers will take their place in the woods and beside the marshes, but our resources are fewer here in the haunts of civilization.
Grasses, both weedy grasses, the kind of plants that grow all season, and the varieties we plant, are working steadily to fill in the gaps. On the other hand, the daylily foliage dies away with conspicuous speed, leaving us to look at a patch of seemingly dead plants or requiring some sort of emergency redecoration. I’ve been trying the latter course in recent years. I planted the pink guara this time last year to distract the eye. Red lobelia is blossoming in front of one patch, and plumbago – another newcomer last summer – is making quiet little blue flowers that may eventually make an impression but probably not this year.
Through one thing and another, we still have a good show of color and variety in the August garden. In addition to the plants I’ve mentioned we have a very dark orange daylily in a shady spot, big floppy white rose of sharon and a more decorous pink one (both already in bloom), the big pink hibiscus blooms of an annual plant growing in a pot on the patio, and a stand of delicate light pink anemones, my September flower. (What are they doing out so early?).
But this is the point in the annual growing season when I grow restless to try something new, especially something that will flower now – and now, and now, and now.
I don’t expect to resist that urge very long.