Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gardening This Summer

(a tree rose in my garden - taken this week)

My garden has been doing fairly well this summer, considering the benign neglect it has experienced as a result of my busy schedule. The roses are still blooming, and I managed to deadhead them on Saturday so we can expect another round of blooms in early fall before the frosts descend. I've also pruned back the snapdragons that overwinter so well up here in the mountains, sometimes lasting for three to four years before needing replacement; they'll also bloom a second time in late summer/early fall and don't mind the frosts a bit. I love their flexibility and the English-garden look they give my flower beds. They even seed themselves a little, surprising me by popping up in nearby planters this spring.

The orange California poppies are still blooming here and there, and the dianthus, commonly known by the endearing name of Sweet Williams, needs frequent picking of dead blooms. I've spent hours bent over these low-lying plants with their cheery white, pale pink, and fuchsia flowers, and they also survive the snowy winters here very well, but they are a bit of a pain (in a physical as well as a time-involvement sense). My lavender plants usually overwinter adequately, although they require cutting them to ground level early each spring and take a long time to grow back, usually reaching bloom stage just in time for the first frost.

On the other hand, the Mexican primroses, onithera, spread their delicate pale pink flowers everywhere -- I was warned when I purchased the six-pack at Summers Past Farms that they "take over everything," a fact I knew from growing them in San Diego. However, I wasn't sure how they would do in a colder climate, if they would completely die off over the winter or would survive the 20-degree winter nights and thrive. Well, they thrived -- throve -- whatever. Everywhere. They are so beautiful, and in the fall, their foliage turns a gorgeous red -- a favorite of mine in every way.

My herb garden is doing fairly well, except for the parsley and basil plants that the squirrels have also taken a liking to. I purchased a sage plant last spring, unsure of how it would do, and it has done very well, with its tiny cornflower-blue blooms and lavender-like foliage. The rosemary is doing very well - it overwinters perfectly here, and the peppermint and spearmint plants died off over the winter and then came back in little spurts all over a three-foot area.

The heat prevents me from caring for my garden the way I would like this summer, as does my health. On Saturday I spent just thirty minutes deadheading flowers and had three days' of lower back and upper leg pain to show for it. As much as I would adore spending hours in my garden, I am prevented by the heat, my health, and finances from making my garden all that I would like it to be. I will be getting some help next Tuesday when the Lake Murray youth group comes up to give us a hand with weeding and digging a new flowerbed. They offer their services for food and drink only as a service to church members; I'll help them out with some gas money as our home is 35 miles from the church. I am looking forward to the improved look of my garden, even if we can't afford the $500 gardener and the $500 water bill the previous owners paid to keep this half-acre in tip-top condition. I do my little best but am hoping that the help next week will be an encouragement as I continue to wage war for beauty in a yard being taken over by meadow grasses and 100-degree temperatures....

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