I see my perennials acting like it's late August. The red summer spiders that I attribute to late summer days that hang massive webs between trees and bushes for us unsuspecting humans to walk into and do the freak spider dance are already out.
The 17 year cicada's have come, done their crazy mating, sliced every crape myrtle, my beloved Vitex bush, and every oak and maple tree around the woods up here on my ridge and died. Well, Rose had gotten her fill of them before she passed away. She gained a few pounds eating them for four weeks. But she was loved, and my cat's almost seem to be wearing little black armbands even four weeks later.
After getting heat stroke at work three days in a row, despite the early hours, I got two days off in a row to heal and the heat drove me inside. Today I finally ventured outside to take some pictures of what was struggling in the heat blasts, and discovered my Harlequin Glory Bower is not only budding, but is BLOOMING!!! WOW.
So armed with camera, I started at the NSSG. For some reason which I attribute to the fairies whispering in my ears, I heeded their quiet beckonings of distress and walked to the opposite side of my gardens, forced my way past the Zebra grass, ducked under the Orange sherbet trumpet vine, wrestled with the vinca major that is intent on claiming what little pathways there are between the raised beds, and came to the Western bed that sits beside the very pruned Lilac. (I had a fit of grief after Rose died and took the loppers to the lilac and thinned out the third oldest branches and now have to climb into the pasture weeds to retrieve the dead branches and put them on my pile of debris down in my lower woods, I had a momentary lapse of reason.......)
As I stood there, looking at the bed, it occurred to me what was wrong. The lush foliage of my Japanese anemone's which were already setting fat buds on top of the three foot stalks was bones. ACKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. I knew, I KNEW what this was, and I was sick at heart that I had neglected to face the heat and check on the gardens. In my distractions, heat sicknesses and grief and just life around me I forgot about the blister beetles.
Last year was the first year I actually had blossoms because I had diligently sprayed them with a pyrethrum spray and had cut down their numbers. It was wonderful. But this year, somehow I had slipped up and forgotten to check for them.
When I first discovered these things, I didn't even know how to identify them. How could I? If you don't know what you're looking for......but my mentor and gardening friend, Mary Emma had given me an old water color insect book and there they were. Blister beetles. And once I knew them, I looked them up in my Rodale's Organic Encyclopedia and discovered they were BENEFICIAL. NOT FAIR!!! Apparently their young eat the grasshopper larvae. And their shells are so irritating, as to raise blisters that they are what was used long ago for something called "Spanish fly". Hmmmmmm. Well, I didn't care. Beneficial or not, I wanted my anemone's to bloom. When these things hatch, they are so massive in numbers and so voracious, they eat the leaves down to veins.
thus my description of "bones". And you can't crush them like Japanese beetles. They'll raise blisters on your fingers. So my only alternative that was sorta safe was to use a pyrethrum on them. I located some this year specifically for this purpose at Dollar General store for $2 a bottle and bought the only three bottles I could find. And what did I do? I spaced their arrival!!
So I stood there in a kind of heat induced shock and snapped out of it and went and grabbed a bottle and set it on stream and started spraying the boney plants in the Western bed, watching as the insects started writhing and falling off what was left of the plants. The buds will die because the leaves that feed the flowers are gone. I will have to cut the plants back to the ground and they'll regenerate but not bloom this year.
I then snapped back and remembered there was another patch of anemones on the east side in the NSSG working itself towards the boardwalk bed that actually IS the NSSG and I know they also munch hosta if they don't have Anemones, so I headed to the eastern side and discovered whole leaves, but just emerging beetles and soaked the leaves on every plant under the Jackmanii clematis on the old twisted grapevine I've rigged for the clematis to climb on.
My brain was working a bit better and I remembered another young patch of anemone tucked in the chaos of the southern "constipated flower beds" at the front of the house. I had to search for them. They were grown thru the branches of the Spice bush, thru the Korean spirea that is taking over the whole eastern bed, woven thru the spent thick stems of the trumpet lilies that perfumed the air the morning Rose died, and even popping out behind the purple clump of desperate monarda that has nowhere to go they're so crowded. I sprayed the anemone there too. Better safe than sorry.
While I was doing that, I discovered my tetraploid daylily, Bruce (it's the real name, I bought him 11 years ago when I moved over here at a little place called Daydream daylilies on 11-E in Jefferson City on the way towards Morristown) was still cranking out a few flowers amongst the foliage of the swamp sunflowers that have started choking the bed (I'll love them when they rise to six and seven feet and are covered with over sized coreopsis looking flowers, but they flop, and I need to remember to drive in grid rings next year).
I see unwelcome knobby kneed 4'o clocks mashing everything in it's way as it falls over from too much rain and heat too soon. I adore the magenta and yellow flowers but they grow four foot tall and kill good perennials when they flop over under their own weight. They pull up easy, but I don't get the black tuber, I break the stems off at soil line and I know they're still in there.
Satisfied that I have sprayed well enough for now, I open my eyes (I was apparently on automatic pilot) and see the phlox has thrown a daughter outside the beds into the middle of the Frakartii asters that will bloom at the end of September. And my Herbsonne rudbeckia is blooming incredible screaming yellow with green cones flowers, but they needed staking or grid ringing too, and so I tie a girdle of sorts halfway up the stems and hope they don't break.
I also see every pot of perennials along the front and tucked into spaces are in need of watering in the heat. The orange zinnia angustifolia are crispy. I've waited too long. In the ground they toughen up, and crank out flowers. But in a pot,they're delicate and need pampering.
All the returned mums in niches everywhere are blooming. Soft orange ones in a bricko block with a sedum, spilling down into the tangle of vinca I thought I got rid of. Fat chance. Dark, but soft red with yellow eyed mums in a black nursery pot all alone in front of the Lady Jane and Autumn Jazz viburnum that will need watering tomorrow morning as the rains missed us and went into North Carolina and north-east behind me.
The cement urn I got at my mom's before we sold her house 3 years ago I planted thread leaf coreopsis into can take the heat, but it wilts in the blistering sun, and I had tucked burgundy hens and chicks and they love the pot just fine, so I have to water the pot just the same and I hear sputtering sounds from the semps.
Prickly Cat's whiskers or Cleome spinosa aren't as thick this year as last, but welcome never the less. And despite that the Japanese beetles are out in full cluster of love-in's, they're munching my purple Loosestrife, so munch away. Soon will be the June bugs that come in July. I love them and know the young dog, Sugar will have fun with them when she discovers them.
The Helianthus hasn't set buds, but the two colors of almost five foot asters Mary Emma had me dig up three years ago have started cranking out blossoms that block your path between them and the fig tree. And the fig tree.......I pruned it last fall, and it will be the last time I do. Its loaded down with lots of little green figs. I hope they have time to ripen for me to munch. Now is the time to let it just be a tree. I never should have pruned it one year so low.
I grid ringed the crocosmia that my best friend, Dian sent me from Oregon. It's a creeper but I adore it and this year I finally got grid rings positioned over the emerging shoots and the airy stems of beautiful orange bird-like flowers are more visible and not flopping all over everything. And the Crispa spirea isn't being smothered by the leaves. I tend to plant things all over. Bushes with bulbs, perennials with grasses, it's wild and a tangled "cottage" garden, it's the madgardener's garden.
The fairies approve. You can almost hear them clapping their little hands with delight.
I have Cumberland River hibiscus I dug from the banks of my beloved Cumberland River in Nashville 13 years ago and brought with me, and I hope Sir Lord Baltimore, my red hibiscus has returned for me. I'm hoping to get a piece of a most unusual hibiscus that I located from a little 80 year old lady over behind me. A shocking pink/purple/burgundy that I was unaware of until I went to visit her and there it was. I had to have a piece of it somehow. Tomorrow I take my new Fiskar's shovel and go see if I can dig a hunk of it safely in the cooler hours of the day, at least she's a farmer's wife....... In trade I'll bring her an offering of a Vitex that we have at the nursery..........
As I start to feel the heat and the satisfaction that maybe I've stopped the destruction of the blister beetles, I see that Joe Pye is setting buds and has grown past the gutters, protecting the tree peony but not the red rhoddy. So out the rhody comes. The Chocolate Eupatoria is still thriving and stands out from the foliage of the phlox I finally cut back and positioned another grid over. It's taken me nine years to remember and buy these to use to hold up the stems when they get taller. I need more........
All the sedums are making little broccoli buds, each one different. I have Matrona, a white edged one whose name I've lost. The Autumn Joy needs moving. It can't give it's all under the fig. So it lies prostrate, gasping for sunlight like some deprived sun worshiping teenager on Summer break. Raspberry ice is in it's pot, very happy in the heat. The cuttings of the yellow edged green sedum I snagged from Karol's trailer down the road one day are taking, on the deck,in a nursery pot with some Garter grasses. and the last of Joyce's unusual variegated sedum need my attentions or I'll lose her and it would be sad to lose it after it lived here for so long.
The mortar tub that I have dubbed the Chicken Peace Rock garden because it consists of hens and chicks from Micki (about 19 different kinds), a few orostachys, and a Lewisia with portulaca tucked in amongst the pea gravel and the Peace rock that Gloria and her sweet hubby brought me as a gift (it was a neat fake rock) is going great guns.
All the cacti are now adapted to the rains and thriving in the heat. Hawortia's are throwing stems and delicate white and soft gray striped bells. Caladiva's that almost died put out a few more leaves and are blooming. All the Euphorbia's in all their prickly wonder are growing extensions and appendages that arouse suspicion, but I adore them.
Michael LaForest will be pleased to know I found some worthy residents for the Indian and Mexican bandito planters . And all his gifts of sanseveria's are doing quite well on the deck in their old antique clay pots he gave me. I killed the bog garden though. I'm thinking of planting Japanese variegated sedges and tucking the Wally world plastic pot that has some unidentified iris in it. I suspect it's a Louisiana iris that has survived but refuses to bloom. The bog garden will be more to it's liking. The death of the carnivorous plants was inaudible amongst the tangle of foliages that reside on my deck. You can barely walk between everything.
Stripy tomato's, eggplants in windowboxes on the wide railings that underneath their toes are sleeping bulbs for next spring. Potted up perennials from nurseries, not yet tucked in. The Honeyfarm stokesia from Carroll Gardens, and Anne Greenaway lamium in the same pot, with a variegated Kalameris (Japanese aster or Orphanage plant). Pots of Amber Waves Heuchera, Cimicifugia Ramosa Brunette, A Heuchera called winter Red, and I think Heucherella Sunspot but not sure......I'll know eventually.
Pots of Virginia Davis' daylilies I dug up three weeks ago and potted them instead of just plugging them in in random places. An experiment of trying one more time to get a dug clump of Butterfly weed to live.
And all those pots of cacti and succulents, euphorbia's and the other windowbox that has pompom dahlia's that the wren has woven a nest into the foliage when I wasn't looking. Above the Chicken Peace rock garden is the third window box garden with creamy variegated geranium, with red and white pom pom zinnia's and a fiber pot of spicy oregano for my son to cook with when he visits. (the eggplant was grown for him too).
Down below, the double althea that I planted a soft pink with burgundy throat and a purple double with dark purple throat together are loaded with blossoms despite the shredding of the ends of all their branches by the Red-eyed devil ladies in their egg laying frenzy.
Over in the shady black walnut garden, the bronze ajuga has grabbed hold, there are five more pips of lilies of the Valley now along the timbers, the perennial begonia is fist fighting with the baby money plants, and below them, on the downward slope of the box I built against the steep slope, the three single Althea's are blooming. I planted a Pepto Bismol pink with deep maroon eye, white with maroon eye and pure white all together and they are now cranking out some blossoms. I hope one day they will form one large bush and wow me and unsuspecting people when it starts showing off it's ruffled skirts.
By now I am seriously over heated, and I take one quick glance at the former tomato boxes that are now jam packed with perennials, and see the daylilies are doing fine and the pot of purple coneheads are happy. No sign of my beloved gaillardia, but the Park's improved Stella d'oro has a blossom, and the Mystic Merlin malvacea is resprouting from my whacking a few weeks ago when Rose was following me around on my rounds. (yes, I miss my baby girl)
I almost missed the only candy lily, or Belamcandia, I wish I had a whole box of them as they untwist and show me their assorted star like flowers of orange and colors in between with the freckles. Lucifer crocosmia are almost finished and I was able to stake a few up before I missed their bird like red flights. And the wild black eyed Susan's are popping their petals open to cheer up the eyes.
Lambs ears are totally ticked off with the rains and humidity, and flop like petulant teenagers over the edges of the raised bed, and the extension I dug and lined with pine trunks is floundering. The plants don't know whether to live or die. I'll put someone else there if they dissolve.
when I wasn't looking, the smashed Black Knight butterfly bush has resprouted and given me some wonderfully honeyed blossoms. Great monarchs and monarch wannabee's and other huge winged fairies fly above me sipping on their many little tubes with the orange eyes.
And the lavender with orange eyed butterfly bush I cut completely back at the base of the Jack Pine the little tree man felled for me has girthed up and is cranking out way more flowers than Black Knight.
The Bengal Tigers and old Indian shot canna's of my dad's are lush in the gray water from my washer and kitchen sink, but no red flowers on my dad's Indian shot canna's yet. The Bengal's however have screaming orange flowers atop the lime yellow striped leaves that are almost six foot tall now.
I remember the dark purple red leafed Futurity canna I tucked into the sea of yellow archangel lamium out front and that's my last stop. The red of the flowers are brilliant against the dark purplish leaves. I am fearful it won't survive winter, so this will be a first for me, I'll lift it this fall and next year will plant it deeper in the same spot.
Thank you for letting me ramble about my fairy gardens and to talk about Rose. She walks my gardens with me still despite that she is no longer here. I had to let the vet bury her as despite all the heavy rains here, and during the time she passed, I couldn't get a shovel into the clay soil to put here where she grew up and lived her whole life. But her spirit lives all around here and my cats all walk around with little black armbands still in mourning because somehow they still sense her loss. Especially her little mini cat, Pesters. He seems at a loss for his big ol' dawg. so now he picks on Piquito, Sugar's tailless long haired teenager cat. Sugar and Piquito are the same age, but Piquito is growing into quite the hunter, despite his neutered conditions.
As I walk around the front dog run of the house towards the BBQ fountain, I startle the twelve frogs that have taken up residence in the little pools that my sweet Squire made from the bricks and bricko blocks and lined with pond liner. I have a fairy fountain statue that trickles water down a dish, over river pebbles and into the first pool where a horsetail lives in a pot from my house in Nashville, spills under a blue slate bridge from a piece we got from a friend who lives in North Carolina into the holding trough made from those bricko blocks and in the end of the two foot deep holding trough, I scrounged a thrown away water garden from work with a few sprigs of parrots feather grass, and a Cardinal flower. I sunk them at the west end near the pump that operates the statues. I have one huge frog who reside and watches from the upper portion of the BBQ pit/water garden. We filled dirt on either side, lay fabric and lined it with large stones and I planted Mexican primroses that will creep over time and at the corner of the spill dish, is a nice clump of Japanese painted fern. The large frog hides in the foliage of the primrose. On the opposite side trailing nicely are Pewter palace heuchera.
The little frogs now have little fishes. I had more skeeters than I wanted, so I purchased the ugliest goldfish I could find at Wally World and tossed them in the deep trough. I thought I had three. I have five of them. When you walk to within sight of the fountain, you hear splatting and plopping and see flying frog rear ends. Some of them have spunk and sit there defiantly, not moving, waiting to see if you pose a threat to them. There is one teeny little one no bigger than my little finger joint that sits at the base of the goddess holding the wine jar that needs cleaning out so she'll flow again. He sits at her feet. It's rather cool. And I catch myself smiling back at them.
Again, thanks for letting me ramble. I needed this. Stay cool and don't over garden in this heat.
madgardener up on the ridge, back in Fairy Holler overlooking English Mountain where the cicada's and frogs are singing loud choruses with the crickets, in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36