Summer Solstice -- Midsummer -- Hot and Humid Here in Southeast Texas
No matter the weather, it's a magical time, full of dreams and hopes.
One daydream I've enjoyed over the years is about having a hedgerow. I've always wanted one, likening them to a "woodland edge", where all manner of creatures and plants can be found. I tried to grow one on our few acres back when, but it wouldn't have been anything like the old, enormous hedgerows of the UK.
And now I have this tiny dot of a garden. I can't have a hedgerow. But I do have a hedge and I make the most of it. And, wonderfully, birds, insects, and small creatures do make themselves at home there.
I've fronted the hedges with fruit trees, flowering shrubs, and a few annuals now and then. Not everything is flowering yet. Some plants have shot up rather quickly from winter slumber, surely because temps have jumped to triple digits earlier than usual. They are giant plants and I have every confidence that they will burst into color soon.
For now, the althea and rose mallow are strutting their stuff!
I aim to make this a regular, weekly blogpost. I think it will be fun to share my mini-hedgerow with you.
Regrettably, I didn't spend much time in the garden this week. On the upside, I will have to make up for it this weekend -- (almost) always a pleasure!
Some areas aren't getting enough water from the renewed sprinkler system, but most plants are thriving. Blackberries are finally ripening. They're so small -- not the Kiowa we are used to -- but lovely and tasty all the same. Tomatoes are coming along, even the cherry have begun to fruit. There should be no stopping them now! Our little section of beans is also looking good.
Daylilies have been making spectacular bursts. Coneflowers are coming up everywhere and I'm so excited. It's taken a few years for all the plants to settle in, but the results of are far more wonderful than I'd imagined.
Sometimes, we just have to allow nature to take its course.
This weekend, I'll have to do at least a little weeding (never enough) and finish planting the herbs I purchased last week. We will also have to see what we can do about a particularly dry patch in one of the raised beds.
And I will be experimenting with more herbs from the garden.
Herbal tea, anyone?
Monarda, also known as bee balm, horsemint, and wild bergamot, (among other names, depending on the variety and region) is a wonderful, useful, versatile herb. I have two varieties in my garden -- Monarda didyma (the red) and Monarda fistulosa (pink).
It's not a very demanding plant. While it does best with an average amount of water and sunlight, it will get by with less of both. In my garden, the Monarda fistulosa does get powdery mildew sometimes. In the wild, this variety is commonly found growing in dry, rocky conditions and the area we live in is steamy in summer. But it blooms all the same, usually from spring through fall. In fact, Monarda is very hardy, being a member of the mint (lamiaceae) family. Unlike mints, it's not invasive. But if it's happy, it can grow into a nice, big clump that you might want to divide every few years.
It's a pretty plant and I'm not the only one who likes it. Bee balm holds enormous attraction for pollinators, hence its nickname. For this alone, it's worth its space in the garden. Native to North America, it's loved not only by bees, but also butterflies and hummingbirds.
I also enjoy it in tea. It helps settle the stomach and soothe the nerves. To me, its distinct flavor is between grassy and citrusy. Is "herbally" a word? Anyway, I make a personal blend of spearmint, lemon balm, and bee balm that is refreshing hot or cold.
Whether you enjoy it in a cup of tea, appreciate a carefree plant in your garden, or enjoy watching hummers hover and bees at work or all of the above, Monarda is a wonderful addition to any garden.
Oh, this felt like a dream! Monet's garden at Givery is a beautiful, peaceful, happy place -- even with lots of visitors! It's just such a loved garden and everyone seemed so thrilled to be there. What I found surprising was the number of places to sit and relax, even picnic. We enjoyed a lovely lunch, too, and the town of Giverny is very pretty, indeed.
April has zoomed by! The days have slipped through my fingers like sand.
It's early yet, but we are really enjoying our garden.
Due to our home's damage wrought by harsh weather in 2021, we did not host our family’s Easter celebration last year. This year we were back and we wanted everything to be ready.
The biggest improvement to our back garden was the rebuilding and enlarging of our raised beds. Joseph worked nights and weekends to finish them in time. And then we had seven yards of excellent soil delivered.
When we lived on acreage, we had a trailer and could haul soil wherever we wanted. Here, on our tiny dot of property, even a wheelbarrow can be too big. I have a sturdy gardening wagon and my clever husband fashioned a cart that could hold several plastic containers. We considered hiring help to transport the soil from driveway to back garden, but one fine weekend – the weather was gloriously cool and sunny – we opted to do it ourselves.
I have to say, it felt great.
Comically, I decided sort of last minute -- way too late to be ready for Easter -- to try growing vegetables and some flowers by seed. I don’t even know how much I’ve spent on annuals through the years, but it’s certainly in the thousands. I've always felt a bit silly and guilty about it. This year, to increase my angst, I could not find the bedding plants I was looking for in time for the holiday. It was slim pickings indeed. Something in me snapped.
“You’re a gardener! Grow your own plants!”
Obviously, sections of colorful annuals don't grow from seed overnight or even in a couple of weeks. But I was determined to not buy flats of flowerless plants. We would just have to get by.
That’s not to say that I didn’t go to nurseries near and far. I did, and insofar as trees and shrubs go, I did just fine. We now have two elderberry bushes/trees. I’m so excited! We’re going to have to keep them as shrub-like as possible. I'm really hoping that's possible. They are looking quite exuberant! We also have a new grapevine, one persimmon, one pomegranate, and a baby jujube.
Flowers, in the meantime, are enjoying the relatively mild weather as much as we are. Some of them will be "giant plants" by late July while the roses will be in survival mode. But for now, everything looks happy and fresh.
I will try to update soon! I have so much to tell you about my vegetable experiments!
I needed a quiet, restful day. Last week, my father-in-law, the only father I’ve had for forty years, passed away. May his sweet, gardener’s soul rest in peace. My husband and his siblings left for his funeral in Lebanon, a sad, rushed, necessary trip. The rest of us stayed home.
The weather was glorious, the sort of winter day that harkens of early spring. Encouraged, I perused a seed catalog with my morning coffee, considered our plan to enlarge the raised beds, already underway, and ordered a few packets. Of course. My favorite source: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
I went for a bike ride under a bright, blue sky. When I returned home, I changed into my overalls and got ready to work in the garden. Mich, my sister-in-heart, stopped by for a while. We chatted, and she made me very happy by accepting some homegrown beets. I planted a few varieties this year and they all came up – Candy Cane, Golden, and Detroit Dark.
I then set to work/play. I cleared some perimeter weeds, worked in the welcoming garden, and found a home for some summer snowflakes we had to move when we extended the raised beds along the fence. I think I’ve decided that I really don’t want the lawn guys to come anymore. They’ve been careless lately -- things have been broken -- and they haven’t been keeping up with the few tasks they have in winter. We don’t have much lawn to mow, and they tend to neglect both the shrubs and the edging.
Anyway, I watered a few things and filled the bird bath. At first, I simply enjoyed the sounds of the outdoors. I can't say I hear only nature at that time of day. I heard children playing outside and golfers talking and laughing as well as birds twittering in the trees and shrubs. But after a little while, I began listening to podcasts. A favorite when gardening or, really, at any time, is The Daily Gardener with Jennifer Ebeling. Another is Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden. I had plenty of time to enjoy both.
I think my favorite part of this afternoon was transplanting the summer snowflakes, Leucojum Aestevum, "Gravetye Giant". It felt like a small victory. They are among my favorite flowers and were almost lost, crushed under the new beds because I almost forgot to move them. I retrieved them in the eleventh hour.
By the time I’d cleaned up my scattered messes and put my garden tools away, I felt restored.
Be it large or small or smaller still, may your garden be a sanctuary for you.
I'm so pleased! This past weekend, we were finally able to work in our garden. The old, worn out beds are gone and Joseph's sturdily built, lined beds have replaced them. We added a couple of new ones, too, and now have approximately 90 square feet of new and renewed space. More than half of this area is shady, especially in winter, but I still hope to fill the boxes mostly with herbs.
We would like to rebuild and enlarge another raised bed before we have the soil delivered.
There will be a lot of hopeful planning and fantasizing over seed catalogs this month and probably a few trips to some area nurseries.
I think it's quite appropriate, especially for me, that during this month of candy hearts and roses, I might be spending a lot of time in my garden. We love what we love!
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things. -- Philippians 4:8
I cherish these words of Saint Paul. For me, they are words to live by. But somehow, I never expected to apply them to my garden.
Frankly, I have rarely seen our garden look worse! A few nights ago, we had a light freeze that did more damage than we would have ever imagined. The tips of almost everything are burned. We’ve decided to leave them for now, painful as it is, to protect the healthy growth beneath. So there’s that…
Aside from the freeze, the vegetable garden is a mixed bag this year. Some seeds sprouted right away. Some are slowly getting there. Some never sprouted at all. Where are my carrots? Leeks? Parsley and cilantro? I sowed arugula seeds in raised beds several times to no avail. I decided to sow again in two pots, side by side. Only one pot has seedlings, but I’ll take it! Hopefully, the arugula, eruca sativa, will behave more like its usual self and proliferate. It’s my daughter-in-heart’s favorite.
A lot of plants, lulled by moderate weather, were blooming away until the little freeze. Our weather has been crazy, the temps dropping or rising 40 degrees in a day. Also, this gardener left town, then returned to a holiday rush. I’m ashamed to admit that due to a bit of neglect, our camellias and azaleas look somewhat anemic. They’re trying to bloom, anyway. It's not even time for the azaleas! I finally got around to feeding all of them yesterday. Even if I’ve compromised the blooms this year, at least they should start looking happier, poor things.
We have beds to build/replace. I have a short list of fruit trees to plant. One of my resolutions is to spend at least five minutes a day gardening. I’m grinning as I write this. That is certainly nowhere near enough for any gardener, arguably least of all me! I’m not saying I won’t have days or half days out there every week. But there have been plenty of days that I did not spend a moment in our garden, more's the pity. Every little bit helps both garden and gardener.
We have lettuces, though, and most of our greens survived the freeze. The holly is beautiful, as is the juniper.
I am thankful for what we have and for the hope of tomorrow, garden and otherwise.
...whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious...if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things.
Wishing you fun, lovely gardens in 2022!
For years, my husband and I worked at creating a series of gardens on our four-acre lot in a rural, Texas subdivision west of Houston. I have to say, it was a fantastic experience. Now, I have a pocket garden on a golf course.
From me to you with a smile.
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