Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Life in the Late Summer Garden

It's easy to be excited about gardening in the spring. All those fresh, brightly colored flowers are just bursting with life, and there's so much potential in what we see, but by August (and even earlier in warmer parts of the country) everything's looking a bit tired and worn out. Some plants are ready for the compost pile, but others can keep on blooming into the fall if they are pinched, pruned, or deadheaded at the right time.

I've learned to be pretty ruthless with the pruners, and it usually pays me back with more flowers and fruit. Of course, there was that year that I chopped back my lavender a bit too drastically at just the wrong time - those bare stems and dead plants haunted me all winter long. Oh, well, live and learn ...

Basil is one of those herbs that grow prolifically in my summer garden. I have to keep pinching the plants back every week to prevent them from going completely to flower. If I keep after them, I'm rewarded with fresh, aromatic basil (and lots of yummy pesto) up until the first frost. So, it pays to pinch!

Praying mantises abound in my flowerbeds. More than once this summer, I've been surprised by one when reaching for a stem of lavender or when pruning the bushes. This lavender grows right outside my workroom doors and was cut back in July after its first blooming. It's now yielding a second crop of flowers. I'm going to cut them soon to dry. I want to make a little lavender sachet to remind me of balmy summer days, when the snow flies.

These balloon flowers (Platycodon Grandiflorus) are one of my favorite perennials. A bed of them grows next to a flagstone path leading off of our stone patio at the back of the house. The poufy little balloons are so cute, and that periwinkle blue color when they open is just delectable! They usually bloom in July, then, before they go to seed, I cut them down to within a few inches of the ground. They send out a new surge of growth and a few weeks later begin to blossom again. This is a great perennial for the home garden. They're very hardy, beautiful to look at, and the deer don't eat them!

The "Fairy" rose is a reliable performer in my garden.

After a flush of bloom in June, I usually cut back the bush to control the size and encourage further blooming. I timed it just right this summer, because it was blossoming nicely for my daughter Sara's wedding last weekend.

I love growing strawberries in my home garden. That first bite of a juicy, sweet strawberry in June is one of the high points of my year! But the June-bearing strawberries are over in a flash, so I've planted a couple of rows of everbearing strawberries to keep those luscious little gems coming all summer and into the fall.

I picked these this morning before breakfast. I love being in the garden early on a warm, summer morning. The fog is hanging in the valleys, the dew is still on the spider webs, the birds are singing their morning songs, and all seems right with the world. It's a good way to start the day, connecting with the earth. I treasure these late summer days, knowing they will pass all too quickly.

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