Monday, July 14, 2008

Garden Diary: High Summer

We may be headed for drought. For the past six weeks occasional scattered sprinkles have left some corn fields in healthy, not thriving, growth, while others are stunted and very dry. So far, passing thunderstorms have been highly local, drenching some areas, leaving others parched.

Established plants in the garden are doing well. After several weeks of prelude, the Rudbeckia maxima and Filipendula rubra 'Venusta' are in full bloom across the "wet" prairie. I suppose this is proof of my high water table (at ground surface throughout winter and spring). This past weekend I did have to do some spot watering of new plants. The five-foot Almelanchier laevis looked close to expiration and some Kirengeshoma palmata in the woodland garden were in a state of continuous droop.

But the large, established plants are doing well and give me hope that in future summers I won't have to do any watering once root systems are well established.

Lesson learned this year: monarda does not thrive in this heavy, wet clay. Most of the Monarda d. 'Blaustrumpf' barely survived and only one M.d. 'Jacob Kline' came through winter in good shape. This will not be a plant I can rely on.

The good news. Silphium terebinthinaceum, which I planted as plugs three years ago, is finally mature enough to put up flower spikes (no blossom yet), and Silphium perfoliatum, which I planted as seed two years ago, has finally appeared and will be blossoming at about four feet. Vernonia noveboracensis, also seeded two years back, has appeared in profusion, promising a very colorful fall. And big, bulky roots of Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer' from Bluestem Nursery, planted only a month or two back, have taken root and appear to be well on the way to maturity and substantial bloom this summer.

A lot of yellow, I know. I didn't allow yellow in my former Rosemont garden. But in this garden in the woods, with a dark wall of trees all around, I need bright colors to contrast with the surrounding darkness.


  1. This is freaking gorgeous!! Someday, I'll have enough land to do this myself, by god. Lovely.

    And your mountain mint, previous post, looks much differnet than mine, which is Pycnanthemum virginianum and apparently struggling in my wet clay. I have MUCH wet clay, partly because of a small slope in the yard, and also simply having much rain this summer.

  2. Thanks, Benjamin. I have another mountain mint growing here naturally - not as dramatic as Pycnantheum muticum - which may be P. tenuifolium. It seems to be thriving in wet clay.

    I really enjoy The Deep Middle. Because I have so much wet, I've been thinking about that Japanese bridge you built. I'll have to take another look at that post. Do you have reference sources for construction details?

  3. Oh, that small bridge has no plans--it's simply a miniaturized guess at what I've seen on many websites and in landscape books. I'm going to have to make it wider, though: I used two, 2x6s and this isn't wide enough, so two 2x12s are my fall project. And I don't assume this thing will last long, either (I simply used 1x1 deck posts to give it the look that it was staked into the ground--I'd bet they aren't even treated, plus water still goes over the top in a heavy rain, so it needs to be raised). Obviously, you're going to have to do a much better job for a sturdy, lifesize version of this type of yatsuhashi design. Wasn't that helpful? Not really. I'm sorry. But I bet it'd look fantastic on your spread.

    Questions: how wide do rudbeckia get, and how many blooms per plant? I'm heading up to a favorite nursery in another state next week and was thinking of getting some.

  4. My oldest Rudbeckia maxima is a little over three years. It's about three feet wide and has probably (it's night now and I'm guessing) 8 to 10 flowering stems (only one flower per stem). These were planted as at least two gallon plants. I have some others that came mail order and started much smaller, but they are growing fast. The seed heads are very ornamental and last through the entire winter, even snow and ice. I'm amazed at how well they grow in my soggy conditions. Some of the flowering stems can get floppy if they don't get lots of direct sun. The foliage is yet another attribute I like. It's glaucous blue, with very large leaves. Quite a distinctive plant.



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