Sunday, August 29, 2021

August Blooms: Saying Goodbye to Summer

Well, here I am again, with a very long post filled with pictures.  I know, I know, I was going to do the early/mid/late garden thing so that there weren't so many photos in one post, but it's just impossible.  I am just too busy gardening to post about it!  😀 So here I am, at the end of August with a ton of photos to show you once again.  But, I really don't think you will mind because I think this is the best my garden has looked in years.  As many of my regular readers may already know, I kinda let the gardens go when I returned to work full time.  Since I've been "retired" (I use that term loosely, because as hard as I work at home I'd hardly consider myself "retired") I've been super busy renovating the gardens and trying to bring them back to their original glory yet reconfiguring things so they are a little more low-maintenance than they have been.

Well let's begin the tour, shall we.  

We will start at the front of the house.  A driveway is the left of the photo and another garden bed so there are gardens on both sides of the driveway.  The garden bed on the right is a mix of annuals and perennials, but I try to keep it mostly for annuals so it's always full of bright blooms for our guests.  And if you're wondering what the weedy patch of gravel is where lawn should be, hubby had a load of gravel dumped this year and that is where they dumped it.  

Here is a view of that same garden as if I were holding the camera above my head.  Normally, I plan a garden out picking out a color scheme and specific plants, this year I just shoved the garden full of whatever caught my eye at the garden center.  There are also lots of re-seeders from last year:  many of the marigolds re-seeded themselves along with the cleome.  

This same front garden also contains a pond which can be seen and heard from the kitchen and upstairs bathroom windows.  It is surrounded by creeping sedum in the front and tall phlox and purple coneflower in the background.

The lower, south facing portion of this garden changes with the seasons.  This bed is filled with tulips, iris, and peonies in the spring and lilies in the summer. Now the annual zinnias are stealing the show along with the tall phlox and purple coneflower in the background.

This is the front porch (facing west)  to my house.  A side porch is on the far left (facing north) and the screened porch (facing south) is on the far right.  I have flowers wrapped around the house from east to west.  They are mix of perennials and annuals.

Since this is the eastern part of the house I have mostly host and impatiens planted here.  I also planted some coleus in this bed, and I could not believe how huge they got!  They were just the regular coleus you would buy in a six pack for around $1.50, not the specialized, more expensive kind, so it was an absolute shocker that they grew so big.

This is our side, east porch where we would enter/exit every day, deliveries are made, etc. I have very inexpensive $5.99 impatient baskets hanging, plus large pots filled with more impatiens and coleus.

There is a raised bed that runs along the east side of the house.  It is filled with hosta, impatiens, coleus.  and a small pine shrub.

Lamin cascades over the brick edges.

 Here you can see how HUGE my coleus grew this year.

The west porch is where most guests would enter, though many enter on the east porch as well.  I have a cedar bench on this porch, although we never sit here, so it's basically a decoration.  😂. In front of this porch are hosts, begonias, black-eye Susans, and coleus.  The sunflowers were planted by the birds. I know they don't fit but I'm one of those gardeners that ALWAYS lets a sunflower be.

Continuing around the front of the porch is more coleus, lamin, and two stone pots on either side of the steps containing geraniums and begonias.

The western garden bed is mostly annuals, although there are a few Black-eyed Susans in the the back.

I normally plant this gigantic red salvia in this bed, but this year I couldn't find it in my usual garden center, so I planted this specialized Begonia this year.  The tag said "Give this begonia plenty of room to grow", and boy were they right!  The white begonias planted in front are regular begonias that you would buy in a six pack, you can really tell the difference in size.  I only paid $3.99 a piece for the gigantic red begonias and because they grow so big, I only needed three to fill the garden bed, so that's not too bad of a price!  I just love all the contrast between the bright yellow of the Black-eyed Susans and the red and white begonias.  Slugs, which are a huge problem in this area, leave these plants alone too, whereas they always attacked my Salvia's in previous years.  I think, if I can find this plant again next year, I will plant it again.  Or, I could also dig them up and over-winter them in the sunroom.  I've done it before, and they fade back in the winter, but in the summer once outside, they spring back to life.

In the corner is a red/orange Thunbergia.  I really love how this vine turned out too!  I actually found it more vigorous than the original yellow Thunbergia, which surprised me.  Usually variations don't perform as well as the original plant.  I will look for this one again next year too!  That is my secret to gardening:  plant what works well, don't plant again what doesn't!  😂

Another annual vine new to me this year is Hyancinth Bean.  What a pleasant surprise this vine was!  I had no idea what it was when I saw it at a garden center, I just liked the purple/green foliage and I had a tiny little trellis to fill, so I decided to try it.  This vine grows so fast it's crazy!  It quickly took over my little trellis and is climbing up the house.  I had to add some fishing wire to try and keep it under control.  I will definitely plant this one again next year.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this vine flowers!  I had no idea when I bought it that it would flower.  I just bought it for the foliage.  But it has the sweetest little, almost sweet pea-like flower on it.  There are even more flowers on it now than when this photo was taken.

As you continue to walk down this path, you then come to my screened porch where Jackson is usually waiting to greet you. 

This year we installed two rain barrels and they worked out so well we are going to add even more next year.  I find dipping a watering can into a rain barrel a lot less labor extensive than dragging around and winding up a hose.  Hubby just attached PVC pipe to the house gutters. When it rains, water pours into the gutters, through the pipes, and into the barrels.  The barrels can fill up within minutes if there is a decent rain.  Screens are put over the barrel to keep debris out of the water.

A peek inside my vegetable garden from outside.

Back up at the front of the house is another garden on the opposite side of the driveway.  Here a lavender Bee Balm is in full bloom.  It was so gorgeous this year until a severe rainstorm knocked it over.  It looked more like a round, lavender bush than a perennial plant.

A close up of some of its' blooms.

The septic mound garden (called that because it literally is my septic mound) was renovated last year and boy did it show this year!  It blew my mind how gorgeous it was.  However, it also helped that my neighbors very large tree got taken out in a storm, providing the septic mound garden with a lot of sun it hasn't seen in years.

Last year I removed all the Golden Rod from this garden and a lot of the phlox.  I did leave a lot of the phlox in, but divided it up.  The phlox really seemed to appreciate that, as it showed!  It was gorgeous.  

There are lots of variations of coneflowers in garden centers now.  Here is a white version.  I also purchased a red version which I showed in last month's post but you can also see it in the second picture of this post.  It is doing very well, and almost doubled in size in the first season.

Here you can see one of the tanks in the septic mound garden.  I tried planted tall grass around it, but I kept getting quack grass mixed in and it was so hard to tell the difference between the quack grass and the ornamental grass, so I dug it all up and tossed it.  Next year, I think I will plant Bee Balm around the tank. It grows very tall.

I had some extra squash plants that wouldn't fit in my veggie garden so I just threw them in here.  They are growing very well, but I wish I wouldn't have done that as they are taking over my beautiful garden. 😐

I still have some late blooming day lilies.  Most day lilies bloom mid summer, but they do sell late blooming ones too that will help extend the blooming season.  This one is called "September Gold".

A lot of you may have this flower in your garden;  it's a great plant to have if you have kids.  It's called "Magic Lily" because in the spring it shoots out this pretty green leaf, then the leaves die back and disappear, and in the fall these magical, pink lilies appear.  This is a great plant to have because they bloom when not much else is in bloom, not to mention, they are kinda fun!

Now lets take a tour of some of the lower gardens.  Here I am standing in front of our garden shed looking back up at the house.  The caged in area in front of the house is the vegetable garden.

The gardens in front of the shed are mostly black eyed Susans, which provide a great contrast to the red shed. There is also purple and white tall phlox.

There are a lot of beautiful, bright red day lilies in this garden, along with a blue spruce tree and purple cone flowers.

Purple Liatris with Black-Eyed Susans, red day lilies, and Hosta blooms in the background.

I have many different hydrangeas in my yard;  too many to count.  They grow well in my partial shade/full shade yard.  This is the fall blooming variety.

A pale yellow day lily

My favorite thing about purple coneflowers and black eyed Susans is that they will grow in full sun or full shade.  Not a lot of flowers do that.  They are also heavy self seeders, and many gardeners don't like that.  If that's you, then my advice would be to just cut them off the second they are done blooming so that they will not go to seed.  I let mine go to seed because the birds LOVE them.  Finches fill my yard in the fall, eating this seed.  All the coneflowers and black eyed Susans you see in the picture below are growing in a full shade garden and are all self seeders.  I love it!  It's like nature did the gardening for me planting these beauties!

A beautiful ruffled petal peachy/pink day lily.

Every now and then I can just be walking through my garden and something just takes my breath away.  The afternoon I was walking my garden, it was the way the sun light hit the Hollyhock plants.  I just thought it was so beautiful.

Black eyed Susans and tall phlox in front of the garden shed.  If you can have only one perennial in your garden, I would plant Black Eyed Susans.  They bloom longer than any other perennial and are virtually indestructible.  They start blooming around the end of July for me and continue blooming through September. BEST PLANT EVER!

And finally, a flower bed right in front of my vegetable garden.  Potato vines on the far left, followed by red bee balm and black eyed Susans in front.  Vibernum bush is in the background.

Well, I hope you enjoyed walking through my late summer garden with me.  If I think the garden looks decent enough in September, I will be back with one last garden post.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Summer Highlights - Celebrating the 4th, Going to the Beach, and Playing on the Porch

For the next three weeks, I am going to just share a few summer highlights of some fun things we did this summer.  We took a travel vacation in the spring to the Smokey Mountains, and we plan on taking another vacation this fall, but for the summer we just enjoyed our own backyard.

Ashley, her husband Jason, and the grandkids came up to visit us for a week.  They arrived on the 4th of July, so after grilling out, we all headed out for the local parks to see the fireworks.  It was Atticus' first time at the fireworks and we were all a little nervous about his reaction, but he LOVED it!  He thought they were the greatest and he was not afraid of them at all. 

Ashley and I both purchased these glow sticks for the kids to play with while we were waiting for the fireworks to start.  What a godsend these are!  I wish they had them when my kids were little.  They are so much safer than sparklers (I burned my fingers badly as a child with sparklers) and they really help occupy time.  The kids were not bored at all playing with these glow sticks.

Ashley made a fun ball with some of the glow sticks.  It did not stay this way long. 😁

I know this picture is blurry, but it is so precious anyway.  Ah, that expression says it all! He loved the fireworks so much1

This was Alethea's third time to the fireworks, so she was a pro!

Another activity we did while the grandkids were here was go to the beach.  Alethea and Atticus have a lot of splash pads where they live, and they've also gone to public pools, but they don't get to beaches too often.  This is a very unique beach, because it is actually located on the Mississippi River.  

It isn't often one can go swimming and see a huge barge behind them.

The kids were a little leery of getting in the water because I'm sure it looked pretty big and scary to them, but after a half hour of playing in the sand, they were ready!  And once they got their feet wet, it was hard to get them out of the water.  

I have no idea why, but the water is super warm, like bath water!  I'm sure that's one reason the kids liked it so much.  It's also very shallow and sandy on the bottom for quite a ways out.  Once they got in the water, and felt the warmth and saw that it wasn't deep, they felt very safe.

Grandpa Todd made sandcastles, but Ashley warned us that if Atticus saw them, he would knock them over.

Yep, sure enough.  The little guy saw the sand castles, and came right over.  Just look at the mischievous little grin.

The kids enjoyed the beach so much we took them twice.  It's only about a 15 minute drive from our house, so it was very convenient.  The second time we went, it was cooler, so when Atticus came out of the water, he snuggled with mom to get warm.

The grandkids also had fun making rivers and puddles in the sand.

When the grandkids first arrived in town, we were having a heat wave.  Then after a couple of days of horribly hot weather, a cold wave moved in.  We literally went from one extreme to another!  

During the heat wave, no one wanted to go anywhere as it was much more enjoyable staying home in the air conditioning.  But we did get out on the screened porch and enjoyed that!  I filled two galvanized tubs with water for the grand babies to play in.

One of their birthday presents were these amazing bubble guns.  They are battery operated and instead of squirting water they shoot out a ton of bubbles!  They are so much fun!  Again, why couldn't they have had these when I was a kid?  

We used our screened porch so much the week the grandkids were here.  It was like a giant playpen...ha ha!  Our yard isn't the safest for toddlers, so this is a nice place to be outdoors with them safely.

The grandkids got so much bubble soap on the deck it was getting very slippery.

All they wanted to do was shoot bubbles at us adults!  I think I was soaked in Bubble Juice by the time the evening was over.  Oh well, if I had to choose between being shot at with a squirt gun or being shot at with bubbles,  I'll take bubbles anytime!

I hope you enjoyed this little snapshot of my family.  Next week I'll be back with a visit to Pepin, Wisconsin to see the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

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