Friday, August 29

My Summer Discontent

It hasn't even been very warm for these past couple of weeks, and still I find myself in a hot, cranky, August kind of mood. Much of my garden is showing the effects of this month's drought, and while I admit that I kind of like the way it looks in the front yard, which was planted to be drought-tolerant, the back gardens are not so inspiring.

In fact, whenever I go out into the backyard, I find myself wanting to turn right around and go back inside, preferably to lay down on the couch and snooze for a few hours. Even the areas that "don't look too bad" make me roll my eyes. Here, for example, everything looks fine... except that there is no pizazz at all to this plant composition:

This picture prompts me to ask: WHY did I not plant my canna tubers this spring?! I carefully dug them up and stored them over the winter, but never got around to taking them out of storage when they should have been planted... they would have added some nice, thick-leaf contrast to this bed, like they did last year.

I've already posted about how I dislike the flower color of 'Matrona' sedum in my garden, but this year it looks particularly pretty in an overly-sugary kind of way. And it makes it even tougher to deal with my dislike when I see how much the pollinators love it. There are dozens on each plant, and some of these bees are as big as the tip of my thumb:

I have lots of projects to finish in the garden, too. We did get the rest of the crosspieces up on this big grape arbor (here you see just the first few) but it still needs to be painted. And then the 8ft. of 'Concord' grapevine that is rambling across the plants beside the arbor can be carefully laid on top:

This smaller grape arbor, where my 'Himrod White' grape is planted, is completed. But I still need to stain it AND the fence behind it (only the posts are completed right now), finish up the frames and pebbles for the path beneath the blue shelves, and plant a cover crop and mulch where you see bare dirt right now:

(Did you notice the apple tree leaning onto the ground, heavy with apples? I need to go out and thin those a bit. I have a post there waiting to prop up the tree itself, and right now the terracotta pot is helping out with a little bit of support... but I'm a little bit scared to secure it to the post now. I'm pretty sure it will snap off some of the branches if I do that, no?)

I love my little bluestem grass, but it is no longer upright in the back garden. I don't know if it sprawled because of the rain, because of the amaranth next to it, or because the dog tends to charge through the bed whenever she's chasing the squirrel. But it did this last year, too, and so I'll have to plan some sort of support system for it next year. Even if it does look kind of cool all spiralling down like this:

I hate ending such a crabby post on anything but a positive note... so let's go around to the front yard. I'm working on a post about the front yard and why I'm really loving it right now, drought and all. So I'll save those pictures for the next and instead show you my tropical smokebush, euphorbia cotinifolia:

As I mentioned earlier this summer, I got this plant from my aunt and uncle when I went back home for a visit. Becky mentioned that they would whack theirs back every spring before they took it back outside. When it became obvious to me after a month or so that mine was so potbound that I couldn't keep it watered... well, I whacked it back hard, and divided the rootball into sections that I repotted into a larger post with compost and potting soil. And then crossed my fingers.

It seems to be happier--less bare twigs and many more leaves--and even just started showing some of the pretty tricolor variegation that Don told me about this past weekend when I went home for a day:

I think it must have known that I was a little dismayed to have to tell Don that I hadn't gotten to see any of the special coloring on the new leaves, and so it decided to step up its game a little bit. Plants do that, you know--as soon as you decide to remove an underperforming plant, it will start to look lush and bloom to high heaven!

Maybe this complaining, crabby post will do some good after all... maybe it will provide a kick in the butt to a few of my other underperforming plants. (You know who you are, Japanese hollies, toad lilies, and that one 'Hameln' pennisetum that is smaller than the other two!) If only it would cause the underperforming gardener to get off her computer chair and grab a paintbrush, too... *sigh*


Lisa at Greenbow said...

You are funny Kim. You can be crab by every once in a while. Sometimes having a good whine like this will get your engine going. I just love the pictures you posted. You make your garden look mighty fine.

I hope you get rested up this weekend. Maybe you will feel better then.

WiseAcre said...

Don't feel bad. I haven't set foot in my gardens since April. All the wonderful plans I made in the winter came to naught. It's just been one crazy summer :)

Not that I haven't gardened. Just not at home. Big *sigh*

chuck b. said...

Dude! That sedum + amaranth has plenty pizazz.

flydragon said...

You're certainly right about August. I am totally tired with gardens and weeds and brown grass. The only thing I do about gardens in August is to plan what I'll do differently next year. And that's only because I can do that sitting down.

Gail said...


My Little Bluestem "The Blues" is also lying down! It perks back up after days and days of dry hot weather! I plan to move it to a less wet spot! August is a tough month in the garden.

Take care.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

LOL - great minds (or is that warped minds?) think alike. I just posted yesterday about the pathetic state of parts of my shade garden. Have you considered replacing 'Matrona' with a different Sedum? I bought one I can't ID that has dark red, rather than purple foliage, & the flowers are more rose than sugar pink. I would hesitate about tying up the apple tree now, but I understand how it happened that you didn't get it tied up before. Maybe you need a bit of a garden-chore break. The painting can wait until a fine day when you're more in the mood.

Unknown said...

Greenbow Lisa, thanks... I think I did need a good whine. I feel a little rejuvenated today, even--maybe I'll go out and actually stain the arbor! :)

Wiseacre, I've done some garden-related work (between the garden center and the botanical garden) this summer, too... just not in my own garden! So I share that Big *sigh*!

chuck b., yeah, but... Pink Pizazz doesn't count! lol.

flydragon, the brown grass is definitely and "ugh" here, too... but then again, I don't care about it being brown enough to waste water on it. :) Planning... that sounds like a good activity for right now.

Really, Gail? I thought it was just mine! Maybe it was the little bit of rain we got this week, then. It's been a drought for the past few weeks, which could explain it being upright at that point... I'll have to keep an eye on it as things dry back out.

You're so right about August being a tough month in the garden... and on the gardener, too, not just on the plants. *rueful smile*

Mr. McGregor's Daughter, I really like the purple foliage of 'Matrona,' which is why I keep it around... but red foliage would give me a good substitute. I did buy a 'Hab Gray' sedum from Plant Delights this spring, and I really like it. The website says it blooms pink, but mine bloomed a yellowy white--which I much prefer.

Now that you have me looking at the PDN website again, I could try 'Ringmore Ruby' or 'Garnet Brocade' in my garden instead. And the 'Matrona' could be gladly given a new home at either the Overachievers' or Mom's.... hmm...

Annie in Austin said...

The end of August is pretty ratty looking down here, too - rain helped the water bills, but every dormant bug egg hatched out.

Kim - maybe you could turn an old plastic laundry basket upside down under the apple tree as a temporary support? It won't look great, but the tree won't want to be messed with in its current condition.
And everyone will be too busy cooing at the cotton candy 'Matrona' to notice ;-]

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

My Mother's Garden said...

The Amaranth is spectacular in bloom!
Happy day~

Matt Neely said...

The grape arbor looks great! I look forward to seeing it when its done.


Anonymous said...

All I can say is 'ditto'! Energy at a low and the garden...well, thriving with neglect comes to mind. Tomorrow, I will get out there tomorrow!

Kylee Baumle said...

Kim. Seriously. That first picture - no pizazz? You may not think so, but that Amaranth 'bleeding' all over it is lovely! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say.

I understand your crabbiness though. I'm a bit that way myself right now. Tired of no rain. Tired of watering. Tired of tired plants. But this too shall pass!

I bought a mum tonight. The kind I said I was never buying again. But it was so pretty...

Gail said...


Yes it is lying down, here's the post I did on it!

Bluestem is native here, too, but it isn't as happy as I thought it might be!


Anonymous said...

I love that last plant -- but are you sure it's a euphorb? To me it looks like the Breynia (B. disticha?) that I fell in love with years ago and promptly killed. We're trying another one at Blithewold now and I'm trying hard to not murder it too. Our Euphorbia cotinifolia has really really burgundy leaves (and also wants to die under my care.)...

lisa said...

I think your garden has just can't see it because of the "glare from gardens past". You know too much, as in what you planned but wasn't able to accomplish. I think you need: a nap, a drink, and some "spring garden goggles" so all those maturing plants can look exciting again (like they did as tiny emerging stems this last spring). Maybe if you squint real hard in the sunset....;-)

Unknown said...

Annie, that's brilliant! I am going to see about trying that tomorrow when Bri can help me... I think we'll need two sets of hands to carefully drape the apple tree over the laundry basket.

Karrita, thanks! It is quite a show-stopper, but I know that some people don't much care for it since it reseeds. :)

Thanks, Matt! We'll have to have you all over for a fire and drinks sometime soon!

Layanee, "tomorrow" has been my mantra all summer long... lol.

Kylee, the Amaranth I do like. I just can't handle the sugary sweetness of those pink 'Matrona' blooms--and no big leaves to break it all up.

I hear you on the mum... I've been tempted to buy some mums AND asters this week. Just to have something fresh in the garden!

Gail, interesting... I wonder if you have yours in less than full sun like I do? Maybe that's the key...

Kris, no, I'm not 100% sure. All that I know is that when they got it in at their flower shop, it was labeled "tropical smokebush" and that it was in the euphorbia family. In googling the common name, euphorbia cotinifolia came out as the most likely candidate.

Most of the leaves do look like e. cotinifolia, it's just these new ones that look an awful lot like your breynia now that I google it. Hmm...

Lisa, thanks! I think you're right--*grin*--my gardeners' glasses aren't really working the way they usually do. A nap, a drink, and a fresh pair of eyes it is... lol.

Stratoz said...

I am far from satisfied with my back yard and it was SUPPOSED to be better this year. Oh well. glad you went out there into your garden. Here the tomatoes have been extremely tasty. everything needs water but with a flood watch called for the weekend it is hard to water.

Digital Flower Pictures said...

Definitely Breynia disticha, whose common name is Hawaiian Snow Bush.

I wasn't crazy about 'Matrona' either. I tore it out.

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