Bye-bye garden blahs, hello new life

late summer 1

Suddenly this summer: the hydrangeas puffed out and the phlox bloomed large, the ‘Karl Foerster’ grasses made themselves known and the echinacea took on a strong supporting role, ending my attack of the summer blahs

One thing I like about the garden in late summer is that it signals the end of the mid-summer blahs, that time when everything looks so awful you wonder why you ever took up gardening in the first place.

In late summer something happens. Suddenly the hydrangeas are huge and gorgeous, like massive white–or chartreuse or pink tinged–bowling balls; the Phlox paniculata is in full glory, and the black-eyed Susans are putting out their cheerful yellow faces by the hundreds. I’ve been trying to banish those Susies from my garden for years, but late every summer they redeem themselves by being a bright spot in a sad-looking garden, and so they have managed to stay.

Almost every gardener I know goes though these annual blahs. Partly it’s us–we’ve spent months planning, buying, planting, weeding, mulching, deadheading, and by early August, we (me, anyway; I should speak only for myself) are tired of it all. I can hardly work up the enthusiasm to turn the compost, which is often the only thing in the garden that’s doing well.

The garden is a major contributor to our ennui, however. It’s definitely not at its best. Insects, annoying mildews and other garden pests, lack of rain (or too much of it) have taken their toll. Some perennials have spent their youth and are looking sprawly and over-mature; the annuals haven’t reached their zenith.

But I was sitting in my new garden chair reading a book  one late August afternoon when I looked up and noticed how full and lush were the hydrangeas and the white ‘David’ phlox (plus a mauve one I didn’t plant but, like the black-eyed Susies, it performs so well I’ve allowed it to stay, even though I hate mauve). A couple of ‘Karl Foerster’ grasses had made their spiky presence known outside the gazebo door. Good old dependable echinacea was complementing the show. My eye travelled a little farther long the planting and a big display of orange and gold appeared–the Susies, plus some annual marigolds and threadleaf coreopsis I’d almost given up on. Behind them was blue anise hyssop. I’d actually planned this blue, white and yellow combo, but this was the first year I’d seen it in action.

I grabbed my camera and took a tour of the garden.

late summer 2

Yellow, white and blue: I planned this colour scheme and can’t believe it finally worked. I’ve been waiting for all the plants to bloom at the same time for years, but nature hasn’t co-operated. The black-eyed Susans add to the show, and even though I’ve been trying to eradicate them from the garden for years I think I’ll let them stay.

late summer 3The stunning white blooms at left seemed to appear overnight. They’re on a hosta with lively yellow-green seersucker leaves, which sits with a yucca and a blue oat grass beside a path, a group that provides a triumvirate of textures and shades of green. I don’t know the variety because it was given to me as a root from the garden of a friend.

The bright orange canna below has dark green leaves flushed with maroon, and is the highlight of a big pot outside our living room windows, which face to the back garden and provide a

late summer 4great view of the garden while you’re reading the morning papers.

The canna–which I overwintered in the basement, essentially ignoring it until March–is outdoing itself this year. It’s produced four stalks of blooms since early  August.

I wish the other cannas in the garden would perform the same way. I wonder– what’s its secret?

I was bemoaning the death of the daylily blooms under the living room  window at the front of the house, and hadn’t noticed that the grasses had taken on a rosy tint, complementing the Russian sage and the Japanese maple–which has recovered pretty well from the frigid onslaught of last winter. The pots of zinnias at the bottom of the front steps looked good, too–their flowers last so long and continue to look great even when they’re long in the tooth, I mean seed pods.

grasses in front


zinnias at front


And so my enthusiasm for the garden has returned. I felt even better when I saw last evening the fat little points of the colchicums poking through the ground. They mean winter is not far away, but not before the glorious colour blast of a Canadian fall.

For a list of a dozen late-blooming perennials to plant now, this fall, for next year’s garden click here.

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