It is doubtful that the poet, Alexander Pope, was a gardener but his line, 'Hope springs eternal...' from 'An Essay On Man' is certainly a gardener's motto. It has slipped severely from this gardener's mind of late. It has been well over six months since my last post. Last year was a painful gardening year here in RI. I have lived on this ten acres of property for over 40 years and there has been a steady increase in the number of deer visiting and foraging on plantings here. Who can blame them since I have laid out a beautiful smorgasbord of lush hosta, divine perennials and room to roam. The newest Garden Supervisor, L. J. Gibbs, a now 2 year old chocolate lab is sweet of soul and has little interest in chasing any four legged pests. He is being stripped of his job title and will be reassigned as the Garden Greeter since all he seems to do is wag his tail. He is much better suited to that job. Adding to this gardener's misery was another year of gypsy moth caterpillar devastation. I am hoping the cycle, GMC problems are cyclical, will be broken this year. Five stately oaks surrounding the garden and many more in the woods will stand bare this coming season. They will, at least, provide a home for birds. Hope has diminished in the heart of this gardener this past season.....until Friday. On Friday blooms appeared. The snowdrops unfurled their white petals showing green chevrons in the hearts. The aconites bloomed bright yellow in their beds of leaf litter. Hellebore flowers, tattered though they may be, also flashed a bright white smile in the garden. The surprise of bright purple crocus against the warm foundation broke the monotony of brown littered leaves. My one very pitiful witch hazel put forth threads of gold. A flutter of hope woke this gardener up from winter's lethargy and yes, hope, once again, springs eternal.
It is a bit murky here on this August Bloom Day. The Dog Days of summer are upon us and the gardens are in late summer bloom. This year, the bee balm, Monarda 'Raspberry Wine' has been a vigorous showstopper. The hummingbirds are loving it just as much as this gardener. It is six feet tall in some areas of the garden. We have had a moisture filled summer up to this point. The late astilbe is blooming in the left handed mitten garden along with phlox, persicaria and butterfly bush. The lawn is green even if the trees are not due to yet another year of gypsy moth caterpillar problems.
Fennel reseeded everywhere in the garden closest to the house. It is a prolific re-seeder so beware. It does have a beautiful flower. The pool border is lush with flowers. The bee balm is a bit out of control here. The other side of the fence, the long, sunny border requires attention every week if one has planted Dutchman's pipe. Beware of Dutchman's Pipe. It can travel twenty feet in any direction and is as rampant in New England as Kudzu is in the south. Still, it does create a privacy screen. As you can see, a haircut is in order as it is scrambling over the tall perennials at the back of the border.
Annuals fill in the gaps in the August New England garden and containers add bright bits of color here and there. As always, thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens, for hosting yet another Bloom Day and thank you to those who have visited this garden.
July has arrived and the long borders are glorious after a cool and rainy spring. Summer is here and while the tended gardens are beautiful, I have a confession. It is not the the glorious flowers of astilbe, bee balm, phlox or even the majestic delphiniums which have caught my attention this summer. No, it is a lowly native plant patch which beacons me and Gibbs, each day, down into the lower back field. Sometimes it is in the morning with a cup of coffee. Other times it is in the glare of the mid day sun. Often it is late in the day. Halfway down between the barn and the lower field, the scent pulls me forward. It is heavy and sweet and as identifiable, once experienced, as that of lily of the valley or lilac. The milkweed patch, Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed, has taken root in the well composted horse manure pile of the back field. As unromantic a start as can be had. In the morning, the flower heads of the milkweed are thick with dew, in mid-afternoon the patch hums with life and in evening the scent seems the sweetest. To stand at the edge, or even in the midst of a patch of milkweed is a revelation. There are moths, bumblebees, honeybees and milkweed beetles meeting for some afternoon delight. A visceral experience of sight, sound and scent. At the recent Fourth of July party, a good part of the afternoon involved several trips down to the milkweed patch. All who traveled there seemed amazed. I have to believe they were being more than polite and the surprise and appreciation at the life in and scent of the milkweed patch was genuine. There are many interesting facts about our native milkweed. It was named for the Greek God of medicine, Asclepius and as expected it has many medicinal uses. The latex like substance exuded from the plant when it is cut or damaged has been used to treat warts. The milkweed plant contains cardioactive glycosides which gives protection from predators to those insects who ingest it. Good news for the monarch caterpillar and butterfly which feed exclusively on Asclepias species. The silky parachute of the milkweed seed is six times more buoyant than cork and five times warmer than wool. The floret of the milkweed has the ability to trap the leg of an insect seeking nectar. A structure called the corpusculum does the trick. This helps ensure pollination as pollen is dispersed as the insect struggles for freedom. The coarse fibers of the stalk have been used by Native Americans to make twine. You can read much more about this plant from the experts but there is no substitute for standing near the milkweed patch where you can hear, smell and see all the life which it supports. I would not recommend this species plant for the manicured border but there are other garden worthy species available such as A. tuberosa, Butterflyweed. Common milkweed is coarse and can be invasive as it spreads from both seed and runners but if you have a sunny field area it would make a great addition to your landscape. I look forward to visiting the flowering patch which will last another week or two but I know, in mid-October, the milkweed will again please the senses as the seeds ripen, the plush parachutes open to catch the breeze and they lift and float to fields unknown.