Sunday, August 16, 2015

August Malaise

As I walked around my gardens this week, I found myself feeling totally and utterly dissatisfied with nearly every area. I'm currently contemplating redesigning all three of my large borders next spring because when I look at them, all I see are weeds and very few flowers. Hmmpph.

My North Border has a few blooming daisies and phlox, but not much else -- unless you count the grass and weeds that are taking over the back of this border, because little else seems to grow there. Grumph.

I suppose all gardeners must go through times when they feel deeply dissatisfied with their gardens in nearly every respect -- I know I cannot be alone in feeling this way. And I'm not sure what triggers this, but in my case there are probably several factors:

  1. Perhaps the heat of late summer, which makes it unpleasant to spend time outside, is partly responsible. I know that I often feel unenthusiastic in hot weather, when I seek refuge in air conditioning for weeks on end. 
  2. Since many of my favorite flowers bloom in spring and early summer, it can often seem like all the fun and excitement are past by the end of July. I try to include late-flowering plants in my gardens, as well as relying on numerous annuals that are just starting to reach their crescendo at this time: zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, petunias, four o'clocks and the self-seeded snapdragons that seem to go on all summer long. But these still lack the excitement of the glorious times of tulips, peonies, delphiniums and roses. 
  3. The weeds can often get out of control by midsummer if we do not make an effort to stay atop them. This year is even worse than usual in this respect in my situation, as my husband, since his hip surgery, has been unable to do his usual share of weeding, trimming and spraying of hardscape areas such as our driveway.
    Not many flowers here in the Front Border either, but plenty of weeds are growing in our driveway. Hummph.
  4. Maybe I feel that if I am not constantly improving my gardens, that they are of less interest to me, and most of my "projects" and planned improvements are usually finished (or put off until next year) by midsummer. Lack of direction breeds lethargy.
    Not much color in the so-called Rainbow Border. Meh. I think some changes are in order....
  5. Also, I tend to experience annual "seasons" of interest in various activities: 
    • April, May and June are "the gardening season" 
    • July is a month of rest and summer activities 
    • August and September are "back to school" in my homeschooling family
    • October and November are the depressing Autumn months which although beautiful and not unpleasantly hot or cold for planting bulbs and doing other outside tasks, do signal the coming bleakness of winter
    • December is for preparing for "The Holidays" and enjoying the novelty of the first snows 
    • and January, February and March are marked by dreary desperation and attempts to leave Iowa and spend at least a few days in a warm climate while waiting impatiently for spring. 
    • Rinse and repeat yearly. 

Does anyone else have trouble maintaining their interest in their gardens each year after spring and early summer? My malaise is even affecting my desire to write and read garden blogs -- it's been a whole month since I've posted....

I know I shouldn't complain -- perhaps I'm simply expecting too much (who knows what?) from my gardens.

And there are a few areas that do look pretty nice, so to try to be more upbeat I'll conclude by showing a few scenes from the past couple of weeks:

Zinnias are blooming like crazy in the Mint Circle. I started these inside and planted them outside after the tulips in this spot had a chance for their foliage to die back, in early June.

Rose of Sharon has been blooming well in a beautiful shade of blue.

The relative of Rose of Sharon, hardy hibiscus, is at its peak too. I just
planted this one this spring.
Another of my new hibiscus acquisitions. It doesn't seem safe for such a small
plant to have such oversized blooms....
Surprise! The surprise lilies / naked ladies / Lycoris are shooting up and blooming next to my
East Patio. 

My husband's vegetable garden has been productive this year -- perhaps the best year since we've lived here, despite his surgery keeping him from the garden for over a month. I tried to help keep it in order during his absence, but since it's not my garden, I'm never quite sure what to do in his domain. But I do know how to make salsa and pickles. Mmmm!

My husband and I went to St. Louis for his final checkup on his hip surgery last weekend and stopped at a garden center on the way back, where we happened upon just the kind of garden bench I had been looking for to put in my Yellow Garden -- and it was on sale too. It's a light, airy design that doesn't overpower the space, I think.

So maybe things don't look as bad as I've implied -- although I'm still thinking about big changes next spring. And I hope the coming cooler weather will allow me to focus more of my time and attention on gardening and blogging. I look forward to catching up with everyone's posts.

Thanks for reading! -Beth


  1. I am so sorry you feel this way, Beth. I often want to rip out a border and start over -- I think we all do. I believe you are low because of your husband's surgery and that's understandable. Apart from worrying about him, you don't have the help you need in the garden. I know I couldn't keep up with garden chores without my husband's help. About your seasonal interests -- I'm so glad we have four seasons here, because I wouldn't want to keep up with the garden 12 months of the year. I am glad you ended on a positive note... You are right, your garden doesn't look as bad as you think. In fact, you have some gorgeous blooms, Beth. And there's always next year! P. x

    1. Hi Pam, Thanks so much for your encouraging words -- I'm sure you're right that we all go through slumps when we feel unmotivated, plus this summer's extra challenges have been difficult. And you're also even more right that the seasons keep things interesting and give something we can look forward to at any given time. Thanks again for stopping by! :-) -Beth

  2. Your list of seasonal interests looks about the same as mine. March, April, May and June are top gardening months, July starts with a rest and in the end cutting back the early perennials. In August the garden is fading away, especially with the hot weather we also had.
    Don´t blame your self, we all have our ups and downs. I also have more plans to change the garden, I want it a lot easier in maintenance but I know that is not easy for me for I love flowes so much.
    You can´t keep it all year perfect, you must be glad you also have in August some hot spots like the Zinnias, the yellow garden, the lovely naked lilies and a great harvest from the kitchen garden. I´m sure other parts of your garden will look wonderful again in other seasons.
    And the weeds.........they keep us busy!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Janneke. We're getting some rain this afternoon, which together with having mowed the lawns very neatly (husband was able to trim again!), both of those have made things seem a bit less scraggly here. I'm glad you identify with the same feelings as I have been experiencing as well as struggling with the same goals (more flowers, less work is the magic trick, isn't it?). Thanks for taking the time to visit and to leave such a nice comment! Best Regards, -Beth :-)

  3. This has been such a disappointing year here in Texas for gardening. After years of drought (where things went pretty well) we have been surprised at the things that are dying.................after 40+ inches of rain in the first six months of the year. How can things be struggling? How can we have the least productive vegetable garden ever? Yes, the heat has been normal, and we have had no rain in the last 37 days, and it is hard to get everything watered! This has been tough to see. We do have a longer growing season and hopefully things will cool down, but................
    You have done an amazing job, especially since your husband had a MAJOR surgery and you and have children and lots of responsibilities. I am enjoying your blog and your inspiration to complete a garden map of our place this year. That was fun.

    1. Hi Kim, I'm so sorry to hear about the trouble you Texas gardeners are having down there. That's very strange that the rain earlier this year hasn't helped things growing there (although 37 days without rain sound pretty hard!). I hope thing improve for you. Thanks for stopping by, and for your very encouraging words. I'd like to see that garden map when you finish it. Regards, -Beth

  4. Hi Beth... I've thought of you through this extremely hot summer and have been concerned that you are doing well considering the difficulties associated with Brian's surgery... I have to say that most gardeners have a 'rhythm' that relates to their gardening style and it may take some years to figure it out and accept it as the way one gardens... this includes the kinds of things we do and our emotional well-being related to being intense gardeners... your rhythm reminds me a lot of my own with the exception of my intensity running through July, and that is almost certainly directly related to our individual climates with the heat of humidity of your July often not reaching us until late July or August. This year was amazing here until the last week of July and whoosh... all flopped in extreme humidity and heat... including myself!! You also remind me of myself in terms of perhaps being a bit of a perfectionist.... I can see the garden at 6:00 a.m. in August and think how marvelous it is and what a blessing... by two in the afternoon I can be totally depressed and hoping that noone dare come for a tour because I would be totally ashamed... that's just me and I've learned to accept the fact that I am this way... knowing that the sun that burns out all the color at 2:00 p.m. will provide the most gorgeous light by 7:00 p.m. and all will once again be beautiful to my mind's eye at least. It's all part of the rhythm of a devoted gardener's life and individual personality.... for this reason, I am ready to redesign, tear things out, improve once August comes and despite the hard work, I totally love this part of the process as well... visitors are of course welcome come August but I hope they come in July... because trees are coming down or being limbed up.... new acquisitions are going in... change is in the air... and almost certainly, this is how it will be for years to come as long as my arthritic old worn out body can maintain this 'rhythm of MY gardening life'... my best to you and your family... I hope you will come visit again at some point and we do want to see your gardens next spring... Blessings, Larry

    1. Hi Larry, Thanks so much for reading and for all your kinds words and encouragement. I hope you are keeping cool up there during the August heat and aren't working too hard on changing your gardens around. You're right that we seem to be always looking for ways to improve things -- even when that includes completely ripping out a whole bed! I indeed do want to see all your new areas and changes, and Brian and I both hope you and Sarah will be able to stop by during your busy spring next year. Thanks again! -Beth

  5. Hi Beth, I see a lot of beauty in your gardens still, Beth! Mine seems to be fading as the coneflowers which predominate in July and August are turning paler and well, dying back for the year. Weeds have been bad here too - weather, taking care of my mom and getting her into assisted living, getting her house ready to sell - too busy, too hot, too rainy - and not enough energy! I'm not thinking of major redos, but I am thinking of thinning out some plants so I can walk through the gardens! lol Take care! Loved seeing your garden today. Your gardens are really pretty, even as they go from peak to past peak. It's part of the cycle of life.

    1. Hi Beth, I'm sure you have been incredibly overwhelmed, as you help your mother downsize and move -- that's a huge job, one I saw my own mother go through with her mom some years ago. I hope you haven't been working too hard to fix things up to sell the house too (that's another big undertaking). I'm sure your gardens can wait until next spring for any changes -- they looked incredibly beautiful in your last few posts, although I see you have been on vacation in nice, cool Colorado recently. I look forward to seeing the lasted pictures when you post again after your return. Thanks for stopping by! -Beth :-)

  6. I actually think your North border looks so pretty! I hope your husband's recovery is going well! Your schedule sounds a lot like mine now that I've moved up North, but I do really enjoy fall with its cooler weather. We usually do some sort of hardscaping project each fall to help out the flow of the garden. Late summer is a tough season - the weeds just love the heat, while the blooms are faltering. I sow a lot of cosmos seeds which helps, as they are all in bloom now, but I would like to put some more late summer blooming perennials in as well. I was just thinking about how I needed to rip up and redesign one of my garden beds. Must be the season :)

  7. I always admire your garden set in beautiful farmland. I hope your husband is recovering well. As you know we have two houses and two lots of land to maintain. I'm very thankful that the UK garden plot is small, although that can be frustrating as I would like to redesign what we inherited from the last owner and add more plants, but that is taking several years to do. As we get less mobile maintenance is the biggest priority and that's why my husband is reluctant to have hip surgery although he really needs it. He has been finding it difficult to trim the hedges lately, but on the other hand the vegetable plot is rewarding for him to work on. We shall be enjoying the Italian garden and warmer weather soon and by then we shall have harvested the fruit and vegetables. I do love your lillies and coneflowers and the mixed flower beds by your sweet picket fence.

    1. Hi Linda, I hope your journey to Italy is enjoyable this fall, and also that your husband is able to get the hip surgery he needs -- my husband is very happy with the results at this point. Good luck with your gardens at both houses, and thanks for reading! -Beth

  8. I understand the feeling, I fall out of love a little with my garden in July and August. Everything has lost the early summer freshness and weeds are gaining ground. There are still plenty of blooms but I don' t love them so much. September is lovely though, late summer flowers are so exuberant. I love your Zinnia bed. What an explosion of colour!.

    1. Thanks Chloris -- I think you might have had a similar feeling of the garden Blahs a little while back, as I recall, so I know you can understand. And you're right: September is better! Thanks for your kind words, -Beth