July in the garden

A couple of weeks ago I dug out an overgrown border next to the patio, and put in a few new perennials: Lady's Mantle, Shasta daisies, Veronica spicata, and pale blue Delphiniums. The new plants are getting established; the cool weather seems to be doing them good.

I also started some cosmos seeds, taking a chance that an old seed packet would still have a few viable seeds. The gamble paid off, and the starts are looking great. As soon as they're big enough, I'll transplant them into a pair of big pots to go on either side of the porch steps, and we'll enjoy the blooms well into October. Then I'll harvest the seeds for next year. It's all part of my plan to cultivate plants to fill up a new border along the south side of the farmhouse, without having to spend big $$$ at the nursery next spring.

The garden phlox were new additions to the orchard garden last year, and I was surprised at how huge they grew this summer. I put in four plants up against my pole fence, and they each bloomed, and this year the foliage grew more than four feet tall before setting flower heads.

There are two varieties in this border, and both have big, beautiful lilac-blue flowers. One variety has beautiful bronze-green foliage in the spring, which turn to bright green in the summer.

In the border on the other side of the lawn is a volunteer phlox that is busy putting out new plant shoots. It hasn't bloomed, and may not this year. I suspect it's from a white phlox I put in a couple of years ago on the other side of the orchard; hopefully it will do better in the new location. And hopefully it will bloom this year, at least so I know what color it is!

Coneflowers are one of my favorite perennials, and they've graced our garden ever since we bought the farm in 1984. I have three varieties: a white called 'Big Sky Sunrise,' the familiar pinkish lavender, and this deeper red variety, called 'Ruby Star.' It's the first of the three varieties to bloom each year; I'm still waiting for the others to bloom.

Over the years I've learned that these plants do much better in containers on the patio, rather than directly in the ground. But when the new border goes in next spring, I'll try transplanting new seedlings there, and see how they do.

I love the gardens in mid-summer. Blue and purple flowers are my absolute favorites, and this is the perfect time of year for them: the phlox, hydrangea (both mop head and lace cap), Veronica spicata, Campanula, and Scabiosa are in full bloom. The lupine and perennial bachelor buttons are setting up for a second bloom, and the powder blue Delphinium should also bloom again.

My patio hydrangea, the mop-head type, has been in a huge pot since I brought it home from the nursery back in 1998. The small bush looked pretty lost in its large container the first year, but soon grew into its new home. If I prune it gently every couple of years, it thrives on the patio. The first few years, the blooms were pale pink. This year, they're are a perfect periwinkle blue.

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