Tuesday, August 28

That August Itch

I have been reading about it in several different garden blogs, and that August Itch has finally bit me, too. Hard. I don't know if there is a "real" name for it, but you know what I mean. It's that time of the year when those areas of the garden we called "lush" earlier in the summer now just look like a jungle--in a bad way. It's the downtime between the bountiful blooms of summer and the start of autumnal tones and elegant decay.

It is now that I look out over my eclectic garden and wish that I instead tended a regimented, formal parterre. Or a soothingly austere prairie-style planting. Maybe a zen garden.


I finally succumbed yesterday and started to scratch my itch. Much of the self-seeded red amaranth was ripped out and composted. 'Othello' ligularia was moved (yeah, while it was blooming) to a spot where its rounded, large leaves are needed to break up the finer foliage of goatsbeard and grasses. Hakonechloa 'All Gold,' picked up on clearance, was placed in a corner where it can glow--and cascade over nearby retaining wall blocks.

Japanese bloodgrass--happier here in the rich, trucked-in soil of the back garden bed than it ever has been in the barren dirt of the front bed where herbs and other tough guys like yarrow thrive--was divided into more clumps. The blue hosta in the foreground moved between two of them and the hakone grass.

Several different relocation options for the Russian sage are under consideration. Clusters of 'Chocolate Chip' ajuga were broken up and spaced apart in the hopes that they will grow back together to carpet the garden floor. The gaping hole in the bed, where the 'Diablo' ninebark used to be, is now the home of the dwarf tart cherry tree that I should have planted there in the first place.

Finally, this area of the garden is starting to look like something. But even as I remind myself of my vow to try to Leave Well Enough Alone in the coming year, and give things time to settle in and grow... still, I feel that itch.

29 comments:

Pam/Digging said...

Your changes sound good. It's hard not to scratch that itch. I'm still trying to resist for now, but I have plans---just as soon as fall arrives and plants won't be as stressed when I move them.

Laurie & Chris said...

You have been very busy! We worked in our yard all day sunday. It feels good when you look back but sometimes it causes the snowball affect.

Leslie said...

I'm making plans, too...but it will be a while before I can safely move things.Right now it's 104 degrees...not a good time to move anything! But your changes look good:)

Stuart said...

You're a brave person Kim. It takes a confident gardener to move flowering plants and not wake up the next day with a transplanting hangover.

Your garden still looks great even with the rampant summer growth.

Ellis Hollow said...

I can read your reluctance between the lines by your passive voice.

Annie in Austin said...

Craig, do you mean that things happened in the garden but Kim removed herself as subject of the sentences, as if she didn't do it??

Kim, I'll cut things back in August, but will try not to dig and move things until late September. When I lived in IL, the shovel came out when the kids went back to school. I think you're right to treat the Japanese blood grass well... it can give you the desired high contrast in color and can add sharp vertical lines without bulk.

I used to get some kind of January itch - nothing to do with plants at all. Post-holiday letdown sometimes made me decide to cut, perm, and/or color my hair, with extremely mixed results. At least you don't have to wear the Hakonechloa on your head.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Digital Flower Pictures said...

Hi Kim,

I have been catching up reading some of your posts. I love the dragonfly picture!!! *two thumbs up* I knew you had it in ya' ;-)

About the garden. I kind of take this time of the year as a prep for fall. A few things may have to sacrificed and moved. I always try (key word) to think a few seasons ahead.

Kylee said...

I started scratching the itch last week. I spent three hours cleaning up things on Monday and I'll be back out there tomorrow to finish what I started. I hate this messiness we have this time of year and it's been compounded this year by all that rain last week. Transition from one season to another can be tough, especially this one.

lisa said...

Heh...I say scratch away! Mine will be addressed over the long weekend...;-)

Anthony said...

I was pretty itchy this weekend and I pulled out about 50 feet of pumpkin vines out of my vegetable garden. A woodchuck decided to take a bite out of each and every one of my pumpkins so I decided to scrap it all. The garden looks a lot neater now.

Ellis Hollow said...

Exactly right Annie.

I'm no gramatician. (Obviously, if you've ever read my writing. And I'm not even sure that gramatician is a word.)

The way I remember passive voice is from my high school English teacher who point out that Richard Nixon said 'Mistakes were made' (passive) as opposed to 'I made mistakes.'

I see it a lot in 'objective' academic writing: 'Data was collected' when a more informative sentence might read 'My graduate students collected the data on a muggy, 90-degree Friday afternoon.'

It's the first thing I do when rewriting and editing: Scout out the passive, stick in subjects and try to find some active verbs.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Pam, I've been making plans for a while... but frankly, I think you're smart to wait. Austin summers and even early fall there would definitely put a damper in any August planting for me. :)

laurie & chris, you described my week in the garden perfectly. Moving one thing led to planting another led to cutting back more stuff, and so forth!

Thanks, leslie! At 104 degrees, I wouldn't want to move anything... even myself. Yikes.

Stuart, I love that: "transplanting hangover!" It sounds like what my cherry tree has been suffering from for the last two days now. *grin*

Craig, you're right... I'm not afraid to move things, but there was a little gardening devil on my shoulder the whole time saying, "See? This is why your garden always looks unfinished. You just can't leave well enough alone, can you?" (Somehow, said devil's voice sounded a lot like my grandma's.)

Annie, oh the pictures I could show you of the many and varied hairdos that resulted from my bouts with other kinds of "itchiness!" (If my Mom is reading this right now, she's thinking of the black hair dye 4 years ago that never came out and resulted in a pixie cut.) *GRIN*

If you got out the shovel about the time that the kids went back to school in IL, then we're on about the same schedule. I believe that I saw some small humans with backpacks walking in groups toward the gradeschool this morning.

dfp, I'm blushing... thank you! I must have picked up some tips from a few of the wonderful photographers whose blogs I visit. :)

Kylee, you're so right about this being especially tough. We keep getting cool, soaking rains followed by a heat wave that tricks things into growing again! Argh. (Make sure to save room for the mini golden hosta. I swear I'm bringing it to you before planting season is done.)

Lisa, I can't wait to see the pictures!

Anthony, now that's brave. I keep looking at my Roma tomatoes, planted wayyyyy late in the season, and wondering if I'm better off pulling them now rather than trying to get anything out of them yet. I keep distracting myself by looking elsewhere. So far.

Craig, this comment is fascinating... and made me go back and re-read my whole post. I can't decide whether I wish I had taken more writing classes so I could be deliberate with using these tools, or whether I'm glad I didn't so I don't overuse them.

By the way, it's amusing to me that you used the Nixon quote as your example. I was definitely saying, "Mistakes were made," in my post! lol.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Oh, and I just came back inside from finishing more planting and moving. The hosta, hellebore, ligularia and iris were moved yet again... I seem to have bouts of clarity with what I'm doing in the garden soon after I finish whatever task could have most used that inspiration. But I want to take pictures before I explain what I mean, so more on that later.

Ellis Hollow said...

Your writing is great Kim. We'd all praise the genius of a 'real writer' for opting for the passive voice in this post. You just did it naturally. Good writing was done.

And that devil on your shoulder? Really an angel telling you that the garden is never done and that's what makes it so exciting.

chuck b. said...

I just scratched this itch too. Feels so good.

A wildlife gardener said...

I know exactly what you mean. 'Jungle' is the best word for Barleycorn at this time of year, and I'll be using my machete and secateurs shortly to tame it :) Would you like to come and see the lovely butterflies which came to visit my garden yesterday? I took a little video of them.

CountryGirl said...

I totally identify about that itch! I have a plan to move a bunch of stuff over the long weekend. I should probabaly wait a few weeks but I can get away with it now. Just think the jump your garden will have next spring! They are always a work in progress!

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

Hi Kim,

Good grief. I have this syndrome too! And after traveling three of the past four weeks, you can only imagine the tricks that Mother Nature has played in my absence. I have little hope of taming things into their former state, but then that's what late summer is for, don't you think? A bit of wildness before the dormancy? Some noble, green effort at maintaining the last vestiges of life before the winter sets in?

--Robin (Bumblebee)

Kylee said...

Oh, Kim, absolutely I have a spot for the hosta! And I'm thinking about what you might get to take back with you... ;-)

I'm very much looking forward to your visit!

Rosemarie said...

I hear ya! I know it's Sept 1, but I am getting the pruners and making some major cuts. The purple coneflowers I left up just look ragged.

Pam said...

I'm just glad that August is over, and that my garden will become bearable again. The amount of biomass generated in my humid southern garden still amazes even me, after years of living in it! I tend to not move things often, and am probably the other extreme (much of my garden needs dividing - I've promised myself that this year will be the year).

It sounds like you got alot done! Yes, there is a garden itch for sure.

Ki said...

With the cooler weather approaching soon? this is a great time to scratch that itch. I've had fairly good luck moving good sized trees in the fall and move smaller shrubs and plants all through the year with some success. I think the "itch" happens because we buy tiny plants (at least I do) that grow to be big ones. Or the color changes or the leaves which were small become large i.e. that hosta in the 4" pot that's now a monster with dinner plate sized leaves. ;) And mostly because we all want that perfect garden look whatever that may be. Good luck with the transplanting.

Ann said...

It has been way too hot here for months to do any significant gardening. I didn't know about "the itch," but tackled my veggie garden this morning, uprooting anything that isn't producing. I had bad luck with Brussels sprouts this year -- out! Tomato branches that were done producing -- out! Green beans bolted to seed -- out! But I have great plans, now that temperatures are moderating. I am REMOVING one big bed completely, digging up all the beatuful specimens and relocating them elsewhere. I am narrowing down two different border beds by 2 feet! I am so excited. But work cannot commence until I get some water into that dirt -- it is hard as concrete now -- so it will be another week, probably, before serious "re-arranging of furniture" begins!

A wildlife gardener said...

I left you a comment on my web, but I think maybe you meant a different butterfly. The very first still photo is of a Red Admiral. If you click to enlarge each photo it comes up with the name and the date I took it. Thanks for popping over on a visit :)

kate said...

Ah, yes, the itch. I got it a few weeks' ago, and pulled and moved and planted. It is so hard to leave well enough alone, despite one's best efforts. Your garden looks wonderful. Where did you move the Ninebark?

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Grin. It seems that a lot of fellow gardeners are happily scratching away! ;-) So far I've been able to control my itch, hopefully until October.

Great changes Kim! I'm looking forward to see how everything will look after it has had some time to grow a bit. BTW Leave Well Enough Alone is overrated IMO. :-D

Carol said...

I'm itching all over, but I don't want to do too much scratching/planting until we get some rain 'round these parts. In the meantime, I'm removing dead plants, cleaning up overgrown areas and getting ready for some serious scratching.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens
(and I added a link to your blog from mine!)

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Craig, that's a good point... I don't know what I would do with myself if the garden ever was "done," now that you mention it. :)

chuck b., doesn't it? I'm still itchy, though...

wildlife gardener, the butterflies were beautiful! And I'm turning green over your machete. I would LOVE to have a machete! (And thanks for the correction on the butterfly. I did get them confused.)

countrygirl, I like that. I'm never ahead on anything, so to think that I have a jump on next spring is lovely. :)

Robin, I absolutely love that--some wildness before the dormancy. Makes me want to leave my jungle alone for a while...

kylee, I might get to take something back with me, too? Fun! :)

rosemarie, those coneflowers are always such a tug-of-war for me. On the one hand, they do look iffy if you leave them up. On the other hand, the finches go nuts over them so I hate cutting them back!

Pam, you just stopped me in my tracks with that comment. If my garden is this jungle-y in rather barren, sandy soil and a cool climate, I can't even imagine what it would be like down south! I might even loose my puppy for a few months out of the year in the underbrush. lol.

ki, you're exactly right, with one addendum: Or the combination that you thought would look just perfect when you placed the two plants side by side turns out to just not work as well as you thought it would. (That's been my problem all year.)

ann, I can be brave with the ornamentals, but veggies and such are my weakness. I have about 6 Roma tomato plants that I have no reason not to uproot and toss out because I know I planted them too late and they don't even have good-sized babies on them yet. But do you think I can bring myself to do that? Nooo... :)

Kate, I moved the ninebark to the back. It will combine with 'Sum and Substance' hosta, hardy plumbago, 'Frosted Curles' carex, and some oregano between my grape arbor and the Japanese rock garden. I can't wait to see how it all looks when it's done--I'll post pictures.

yolanda elizabet, you're such an enabler with that last comment! lol. I'm so busy with work in October that I can't really spend a lot of time doing that stuff then. But I will probably keep doing some moving and planting (bulbs, anyway) until the snow flies. :)

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Carol, thanks! And I hope that one day I can be as organized as you, with doing scratching prep first. :)

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