Gardening in the hot, muggy days of August can seem like a marathon. We gardeners can only dream of sitting in our lounge chairs, sipping lemonade and enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of our summer labor.
Enjoy that cold drink in the afternoon after a day of assessing your garden this month — which plants did well and which plants did not.
My garden beds are currently decked out in a riot of yellow blooms (rudbeckia), orange blooms (Echinacea) and blue flowers (salvia 'black and blue'). These plants did well despite the heat, humidity and lack of rainfall. I will keep these standouts and increase the number of hardy salvia. I have fallen in love with hardy salvia this summer, and I intend to add an orange-red variety (salvia ‘darcyi’) next season.
I have enjoyed these colorful plants all summer long, and so have the butterflies, goldfinches and hummingbirds — I have never seen so many in my gardens.
Some of my plants did not do so well this summer (particularly, my yellow KnockOut Roses) and, as a result, I have “holes” in my garden beds. I will view those failures as an opportunity to consider some different plants to bring color into my gardens for the late summer and fall.
Hardy hibiscus, cardinal flower (lobelia cardinalis) and dwarf crepe myrtle would all be good choices to deliver a pop of color in August and September. You can find varieties with blooms of white, yellow, pink and red. Turtlehead (chelone) is also in bloom now, and comes in hues of white and lavender.
While assessing my garden beds this week, I have also deadheaded (removed the dead or spent flowers to encourage more flowering) and removed diseased plant material. I have added another layer of leaf mold as mulch and pruned my lace-cap hydrangeas. These garden tasks need to be done now to prolong the health and bloom time of your garden.
I also must confess that this hot and dry summer weather has completely destroyed my small lawn, despite all efforts to save it. Growing lawn turf in the Mid-Atlantic is a very labor-intensive exercise, with seemingly little return for the investment of time spent seeding, aerating, fertilizing, mowing and watering. This fall I will be redesigning the grassy area as an English garden with pea gravel paths and a small “walkway” of lawn.
As we head into the end of summer and beginning of fall, let’s hope for cooler weather and more rain to help our gardens bloom … and maybe help reduce our utility bills as well!
Eleni Silverman is a Master Gardener, Vice President of the Belle Haven Garden Club, Chair of the Landscape Committee at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and author of the garden blog "Belle Haven Garden Maven." She is the owner of The Well Tended Garden, providing garden grooming, coaching and design. She admits to a fascination with all things gardening, believes even compost is engaging, and will eagerly discuss the relative merits of leaf mold versus hardwood mulch.