A Look At My Summer Garden

Hi friends!

I took a hiatus from blogging due to a crazy school year (senior year is complete!) but now that summer is officially here, I wanted to resume posting periodically.

I will confess that the garden has become a little more wild and wooly over the past few months, my rigorous academic year requiring most of my attention. The never-ending battle with Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) and Purple Nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus) continues, and the dry, sandy Louisiana soil is not helping the situation. While I was busy traveling and preparing for school last summer a drought devastated most of my more delicate plants, opening gaping holes in the cottage garden and encouraging the reentry of Bermudagrass. The eradication process is progressing smoothly and the cottage garden (the vegetable garden is a different story) is almost completely free of those pernicious weeds.

The gaps left by the drought (R.I.P. Rudbeckia lacinata, Helianthus angustifolius, numerous Salvias, 'Ryan's Pink' Chrysanthemum, and 'Homestead Purple' Verbena to name a few) are already in the process of being filled. I just purchased two Echinops bannaticus 'Taplow Blue' that will replace the Rudbeckia in the back of the border, and plan to add more structure to the garden in the form of shrubs with multi-seasonal interest. A Master Gardener friend also gifted me two healthy Carolina Lupines (Thermopsis caroliniana) that will replace a large clump I lost to the neighborhood pocket gopher. A couple of more recent purchases include 'Silver Lyre' Afghan Fig (Ficus afghanistanica 'Silver Lyre') and the wonderfully fragrant Mock Orange (Philadelphus mexicanus 'Plena') - both of which will be welcome additions to a garden that, until recently, was comprised of mainly herbaceous perennials.

'Scheherazade' Lily

The "orienpet" (a hybrid of oriental and trumpet) lily 'Scheherazade' looks better every year. I have heard tales of this variety sporting up to 50 flowers per stem, but so far mine have only mustered up a few blooms. They were planted about three years ago, so I can only expect them to improve over time, right? 😉

Cherokee Rose last spring feat. pollen from the overhanging pine.
Cherokee Rose last spring feat. pollen from the overhanging pine.

Note to self - move the Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata) planted only ONE FOOT away from the path. I stuck a tiny stem from a bouquet picked on the side of the road in south Louisiana in the ground, expecting it to fizzle out last summer. Of course, it rooted and has since begun to crowd out its more delicate neighbors. The constant pruning to keep the viciously spiny branches out of the path is an ongoing battle. I'm considering moving it to the edge of the field, where it can clamber up into the low-hanging branches of Loblolly Pines (Pinus taeda) and look like the snowfall we never have when it blooms in May. I'm still deciding.

Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum  vulgare 'Purpureum') is a wonderful filler in the cottage garden. Also - can you spot the swallowtail chrysalises?
Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum') is a wonderful filler in the cottage garden. Also - can you spot the swallowtail chrysalises?
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillars devour the bronze fennel in my Cottage Garden.
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillars devour the bronze fennel in my Cottage Garden.

Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum') has never done much for me, until this year. I guess it enjoyed the copious amounts of rain this spring and the above-average winter temperatures. As of right now it is about five and a half feet tall and sporting its beautifully see-through umbels of yellow flowers - pollinator heaven. I am expecting the misty purple-grey foliage to disappear any day now as Black Swallowtail butterflies seek out suitable foodplants for their larva - so far only a couple have been spotted.

Now that summer has "officially" arrived, the weather is becoming more miserable by the day - the high heat and humidity has already forced many of my gardener-friends indoors until more hospitable weather arrives in the fall. My attempts at early-morning gardening before the worst of the heat were foiled by summer school and work, although a change in my class schedule might allow at least 30 minutes of gardening - fingers crossed.

I also combat the blistering heat by following the shade cast by the numerous trees around the yard as the sun moves across the sky. Every area of the garden is shaded sometime throughout the day, rendering this strategy the most effective I've found.

Although flowers are relatively scarce in my garden this time of year due to the heat (and the fact I was traveling when I should have been starting seed 🙂 ), I still have a fair amount of color.

Wingstem (Verbesina ) is one of the few composites I grow that enjoys full shade.

Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) is a new one to me. This native daisy relative bloomed for the first time this year, reminding me it was still existing in the back corner of my shade garden after four years of silence. I'm considering moving it to the banks of the small creek that flows through one corner of my property; it doesn't appear to enjoy the rich but dry soil in its current situation.

This magenta/mauve phlox is one of the hardiest plants in my garden.
This magenta/mauve phlox is one of the hardiest plants in my garden.

The screaming magenta phlox in the cottage garden seems to call "Look at me! Look at me!" as I walk past it each day. Although it is prone to mildew and tends to self-sow politely, I prefer it to the more modern selections because of its height and vigor.

Unknown Begonia Variety that overwinters nicely in Zone 8a.
Unknown Begonia Variety that overwinters nicely in Zone 8a.

For the past five years this begonia has reliably overwintered unprotected in a sheltered location on the north side of my house. It resembles the tender Begonia 'Dragon Wing,' only with slightly smaller, white flowers. An enthusiastic gardener gave me a start of this Begonia at a local plant swap, labelling it "Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis)." Unfortunately, I've never been able to pinpoint the exact species and variety, besides concluding that it is an unknown member of the cane-stemmed Begonia clan.

Silphium radula is attractive to hundreds of native bees and beneficial wasps.
Silphium radula is attractive to hundreds of native bees and beneficial wasps.

Silphiums are the reigning composite in my midsummer garden. They begin blooming as their neighbor, the Giant Coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima) fades and won't slow down until late August when Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) bursts onto the scene. I currently grow three species (with plans to try more): Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum), Rough Rosinweed (Silphium radula), and lacy-leaved Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum).

Here are a few more pics from the summer garden:

This is the first year Nicotiana sylvestris has bloomed for me. It was definitely worth the wait!
This is the first year Nicotiana sylvestris has bloomed for me. It was definitely worth the wait!
'David' Phlox is just beginning to bloom.
'David' Phlox is just beginning to bloom.
I love this combination of Rudbeckia fulgida and Curcuma 'Emporer.'
I love this combination of Rudbeckia fulgida and Curcuma 'Emporer.'
Native Hibiscus moschuetos becomes more impressive every year.
Native Hibiscus moschuetos becomes more impressive every year.
Curcuma 'Emerald Choco Zebra' is a highly unusual ginger relative.
Curcuma 'Emerald Choco Zebra' is a highly unusual ginger relative.

I can't believe this exotic Curcuma 'Emerald Choco Zebra' has survived two Louisiana winters! The Master Gardener who gave this to me labeled it as a Zone 9 plant, but with heavy mulching and well-drained soil it seems to survive in Zone 8a.

My garden definitely needs some rearranging come Fall, but until then I am enjoying the spontaneity of it all: unplanned, but beautiful.

Hopefully I can resume posting regularly soon, but until then I will be on instagram @thegardenscout. Happy gardening!

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Travis

About Travis

Hi there! I'm Travis and have been gardening for over 10 years now at my home in Ruston, Louisiana. I currently run a garden consulting business and enjoy experimenting with new plants and techniques in my own garden. My goal is to help everyone by providing advice based on experience and enabling people to garden confidently. My greatest passion: connecting with the younger generations (including my own) and helping them see gardening for what it truly is.