Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Garden of the Seasons: July Friends, a Colorful Group Coping with a Strong Sun and a lot of Shade


          Anne and I were discussing what is meant by the term "midsummer." In England Midsummer day (or 'night' as Shakespeare reminds us) is a magical time because it's the summer solstice. The day on which the sun reaches its highest point of the year in the northern hemisphere. This usage had no regard for the public school calendar. Kids are just getting out for summer vacation, so mid-summer for them (and their teachers) is late July. 
         For a perennial flower garden in Massachusetts, I would say it's right about now. The sun is high, but beauty is fleeting. Many plants have already flowered and gone back to making strong roots, stems, and leaves for continued success. Maybe they're bearing seeds that haven't scattered yet. 
           Others are hitting their stride. It's daylily month. Hydrangeas are flourishing. Many roses bloom through this month. And many of us indulge in summer annuals that take a month or two to reach their prime. One of these is the orange hibiscus, pictured in the top photo. 
          I buy these hibiscus and pot them for a season to help celebrate summer every year. They're tropical or semitropical flower. The big ones I bring indoors for the winter; some of them make it and are good for a second go-around outdoors, some don't. In either case they know they haven't spent the winter in Florida or southern California.
                Spiderwort (second photo down) move in anywhere you let them. When they all bloom at once, on a dark morning or in blazing sunshine (doesn't seem to matter) they can be stunning. When they start to tire and the weather gets dry, they just flop all over the place. Now the question is whether to try put up with them in hopes of later bloom, or cut them down. I do a little of both.
           Astilbe, blooming red and white in the third photo down, are going good in early July. A plant widely recommended for shady spots. they're surviving here where it's shady more than half the time; but the high sun of late June and early July stays on them for a longer piece of the day. If only these blooms would last all summer -- that's what we say about most perennials.
           This Spirea (fourth down) blooms in a lovely dark pink to reddish color. Somehow they never last -- but you've just heard that story. However, if you conscientiously dead-head all the faded blooms, you may be rewarded with a good second show. That's my job for today.
          These daylilies (fifth down) have a lovely soft color. They tolerate neglect and crowding as you tell from this photo. And partial sun. I've been trying to collect different varieties of this remarkably versatile plant (though I forget to write down the names) so that the differences in blooming dates will keep the color flowing for over a month at least. The native orange daylilies start in late June. Some other varieties have yet to begin to bloom. The pale yellow ones here are finishing up.
          Rose Campion (sixth down) is another champion of midsummer, late June to early July. Their dark red flowers (that name them, I suppose) contrast nicely with the gray stems and leaves. I don't know anything more about them, but that's enough for me. 
          Another plant with a nice color contrast is the coral bell (seventh down), with delicate pink flowers above dark purplish-green leaves. Again, it's highly recommended as flowering perennial that blooms without too much sun. Most of all the plants growing here in our the back garden are labeled semi-shade. That's a cleome blooming in the lower right of this pic.  
          Lamium (sometimes sold as "spotted dead nettle") is shown here (eighth down) growing beside the newly reconstructed stone and gravel path. Everybody does their road work in summer
            Lace-cap Hydrangea (ninth down) shows in this photo exactly where its name came from. The plant grows expansively, but hard to believe, truly wilts in the sun. In our front garden sun is more prevalent, and in sunny, dry periods (like today) they require watering every day (yes, also on today's to-do list).
          A different daylily with a darker yellow color is pictured here in the last photo. I love this tint and should have kept that name tag for this cultivar. Remembering the names of plant varieties is one of those activities they recommend for improving your memory. I think I'm going in the wrong direction.