Monday, June 3, 2019

Why do my gardens look so good just as I'm leaving?

Greetings! I've been getting ready for my Big Trip to the UK with my family, and things are looking better than ever in my gardens -- just as I'm about to leave to go see some of England's most famous gardens....

I've been furiously trying to weed, mow and plant everything before I go, but I can't help but notice that many of my garden areas look much better than they have for years. Part of that's the relatively cool, rainy weather we've been having for the past month -- things are blooming longer because it hasn't been hot yet -- like those Japanese tree peony flowers above; part is that I've been working for the past year or two to downsize and improve my garden areas; and much of it's probably because this is the first week of June, when most people's gardens look their best. But it still makes me a bit sad to leave my beautiful gardens, even if I know the gardens I see in England will be truly magnificent.

Here are a few highlights from the past week or two:

The Long Border

My Long Border (formerly known as the Rainbow Border) is looking pretty good. I originally deigned it to be a May-June-peaking border, and even though I've  added many plants for later blooming, this border still has a good show for this time of year. This is looking down the entire length of it.
The near end of the Long Border (which is actually not as long as it used to be before I shortened it to make it more manageable a couple of years ago). The 'Red Charm' peony looks fabulous with the dark red irises, lightened up with ox-eye daisies and alliums.
A bit further down that border, alliums, a single-flowered peony, Siberian irises and white salvia surround a hardy geranium that isn't quite flowering yet.
The Siberian irises look sharp with the orange of the very early-flowering daylily.
The end of the Long Border, with alliums, Siberian irises, Baptisia and Dame's rocket. A study in purple.

The North Border:

Looking along the length of the evergreen North Border. This border is starting to look OK, as the trees and shrubs are beginning to grow in size.

The end of the North Border that I always see out of my kitchen sink window.

Paradise Garden

The roses are starting to bloom in my Paradise Garden. I have moved nearly all of the shrub roses into this area, so they can be protected from the Japanese beetles that will arrive later this month. I'll put up the Big Net (2.0) when I return.

These clematis 'Rouguchi' have small bell-shaped flowers with a light scent, and the plant has really taken off in its 2nd year.

I'm so happy these poppies opened up before I left -- I couldn't remember what color they were and wanted to buy more for this area (but I didn't want to mix colors) so I had been hoping I could see their color this spring -- and they obliged! Their papery flowers are glowingly beautiful in the sunshine.

Recent Projects

A few weeks ago, my handyman, my teenage children (under compulsion) and I built a 5-foot-tall fence around our vegetable garden -- I don't know why we didn't do this when we first made this garden. The rabbits (and some deer) have gotten worse each year, and it really took the fun out of gardening to have to fence each individual bed with stakes and wire fencing in this garden with so many beds. It was starting to look ridiculous with all the stakes -- not to mention making it hard to weed the beds too. I think my husband has gotten back his enthusiasm for vegetable gardening since we built this fence. Rabbits begone!
During the past few days, I've been working on putting most of my potted plants in one place, so it will be easy for the pet-sitter to water them all at once when I'm gone. I've been putting wooden tongue-depressor markers in some of them with sayings like "purified water only" (for plants that hate my limey well water) and "needs less watering" (in the case of my new olive plant). There are also many indoor plants still inside. I have to say that I'm pretty worried about going away and leaving all my plants and gardens....

We're leaving tomorrow evening, flying from Chicago to London Heathrow airport overnight. I'm excited to see things I've been wanting to see in England (Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, etc.), but also worried about many things: will it rain heavily every single day we're there? will my own gardens and potted plants be OK? will we miss our plane or get lost? (Don't even get me started about my fear and dread of flying...).

But I'm sure we'll have a nice time -- rain or no -- and I'm so happy to see some English gardens after reading about them for so many years. Time to finish packing!


But I can't end this blog post without mentioning the sad recent event we've experienced -- my husband's mother passed away a week and a half ago -- she was 89 years old. We visited her several days before she died, and she was very weak and couldn't walk, but she was still in her home -- the farm house she had lived in during her entire adult life as a farm wife -- with her family caring for her. 

When we visited, I brought her a small bouquet of the earliest Japanese tree peony blooms, iris, columbine and lily-of-the-valley. I had to hold it for her, and she brought it to her face and for nearly a full minute she breathed deeply of the scent of the lily-of-the-valley flowers with her eyes closed, like she couldn't enjoy them enough. I'm so glad my gardens were able to provide a small moment of enjoyment in her last days. It's hard to believe the matriarch of our family -- 11 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandchild -- isn't with us any more.


  1. Your gardens are looking fantastic! I envy your vegetable garden - I keep thinking someday I'll get to putting beds and paths in.
    Sorry about your MIL, I bet lots of fond memories came to her while smelling those flowers.

  2. I'm in the same boat as gardens are starting to hit their stride as I am about to go visit my family for two weeks! I am sad to miss my poppy "Sissinghurst White" bloom the most.

    Know of my prayers for your mother in law and your family during this time.

  3. Beautiful flowers! I hope you enjoy your trip to the UK... I'm sorry about our awful weather at the moment! :D