I love how reading a poem can almost instantly alleviate stress. So I thought I’d share this sweet bit of verse from W.S. Merwin. Not only does it capture the beauty of an everyday moment, it tells us a little story. We learn about the narrator’s history, age, and how his garden exists with or without him. Merwin lived for many years in Hawaii, restoring a few acres of treed land he preserved as the Merwin Conservancy (not pictured above). Lucky for us he did.
If you need a silent moment of relaxation, read this. You can hear the soft chiming as if you were there.
In the garden house
the digging fork and the spade
hanging side by side on their nails
play a few notes I remember
that echo many years
as the breeze comes in with me
out of the summer light
they know the notes by now
so well that the music
seems to be going on
all by itself in the shade
of the roof I made for them
half my life ago
and I see the garden now
far away in itself
reflected in the polished spade
as a place I have never been
while the music goes on
echoing the days
–W.S. Merwin, from The Moon Before Morning, (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). Copyright 2014 by W.S. Merwin.
For another garden poem by W.S. Merwin, click here.
At this time of year, most blooming plants have finished their show and are just enduring the heat until the rains come. Buddleia, phygelius, fuchsia, echinacea, and cistus still offer a few blooms, thank goodness, but late summer / early fall is not when they shine. Here are 7 of my favorite plants that bloom in late August or early September in my garden.
Albizia julibrissin, or Silk Tree (above photo), is an elegant, feathery tree that has a broad canopy and delicate, divided leaves. In August, fan-like, wispy flowers of white and pink cover the surface of the foliage, providing a stunning, tropical look. I love how the flowers sit atop the leaves instead of hang beneath. There’s a purple leaved cultivar named ‘Summer Chocolate.’ Though it likes to bake in the sun, it does have a few drawbacks: the branches can break during strong winds, leaving wounds in the main trunk, and it’s susceptible to verticillium wilt. It also leafs out much later than other trees. But given it’s own sunny space, the tree is a graceful, eye-catching specimen.
Caryopteris x clandonensis, or Bluebeard, is a tough shrub, hardy down to Zone 6. It matches well with our Mediterranean-like summers in the Northwest. It’s drought-tolerant but doesn’t mind our winter rain, needs little to no pruning, and in August blooms with pretty blue flowers. Sometimes branches can be brittle and twiggy but cleaning them out is easy enough. Caryopteris ‘Sunshine Blue’ is a yellow-leaved cultivar that literally does glow like a sun. It will pop with color from far away. It has lighter blue flowers but the foliage really makes this plant worth growing.
I have Clerodendrum trichotomum, or Harlequin Glorybower, planted not far from my patio so I can smell it when it blooms. The fragrance is strong and spicy! It’s known for spadal leaves that smell like burnt peanut butter when rubbed, but that smell is nothing compared to the white starry flowers in bloom. After the flowers fade, shiny, blue berries take their place for a beautiful pattern of pink and indigo. Drawbacks to this small tree include its running habit, where small stalks emerge near the mother tree and its weak, crunchy, breakable stems. Still, the scent of this tree in the heat of August can not be beat! Just don’t prune it, otherwise it will grow into an ugly mess.
Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Zuni,’ or Zuni Crape Myrtle, is one of my favorite trees for a Seattle yard. You can spot it from a mile away. Stunning magenta flowers, pretty mottled bark, and tight glossy foliage. It’s a smaller, multi-stemmed tree that fits nicely in the corner of a city yard. It needs little care save for a hot sunny location and good drainage.
Rudbeckia hirta, Black-eyed Susans, are an oldie but a goodie perennial. I love the bright, cheery daisy-shaped flowers and sunny color. When happy, Black-eyed Susans, spread voraciously so watch out. But it’s easy enough to put a spade in the ground, cut some out, and pass them onto neighbors. My only complaint generally with Black-eyed Susans is in winter they leave stringy threads about. There’s a cool cultivar called ‘Cherry Brandy’ that has cherry-colored petals with a blackish center. This is more of a bushier, self-contained perennial, rather than thin-stemmed and spreading. It has bold color. If you’re a newbie gardener and want to grow something low-maintenance, any Rudbeckia is a great choice.
Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’ is a succulent perennial that grows in poor soil with little water. It starts out with cute rosettes in early spring that then elongate into rubbery stalks whose flat flowers turn from bright pink, to red, to maroon, and finally brown. Even though the stalks dry during autumn, they hold their shape, offering nice structure for winter. And birds feed off the seedheads. Sedum ‘Brilliant’ is an easy care perennial that I do little to except for cutting away dried stalks in early spring. If you plant Sedum ‘Brilliant’ or ‘Autumn Joy’ and the stalks flop over, it probably means your soil is too rich. Think desert conditions with these plants. Sun, well-draining soil, rocks, etc.
Vitex agnus-castus, or Chaste Tree, sends out spikes of a long, blue inflorescences during the hottest part of the season. This tree likes to bake in the sun, and though I call it a “tree,” it’s really more of a tall shrub, forming a rounded habit that will bounce back surprisingly even after the toughest winters. It also loves dry conditions. Good for a parking strip.
For more information on these plants, check out the Oregon State University landscape database. Happy gardening!
As much of the U.S. (and Europe) copes with warmer heat waves, you may be looking for plants that can thrive in hot sun. Blue plants often fit this profile since they create a waxy coating that protects them from hot sun and helps them hold water. And what’s even more enjoyable for us is that waxy coating makes them appear blue, thus creating an unusually pretty accent in the garden.
So if you want a tough, interesting looking plant, try these three below. They pair well with dark-leafed plants or boldy colored perennials.
Blue Star Juniper
I love this little sub-shrub because it’s hardy down to zone 4, evergreen, and wonderfully dense in its foliage. That means it shades weeds out easily. Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ also requires very little supplemental water, which is handy if you’re planting a city parking strip or rock garden. Also, it won’t grow beyond about a foot or so in height but spreads gently in all directions. I have five lining the front of a sunny perennial bed and they work well with purple sedums, ajuga, or salvias (see top photo).
Blue Surprise Falsecypress
Blue Surprise False Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Blue Surprise’) is a small evergreen tree that stuns in the landscape. It’s bluer in color than vertical juniper trees, albeit those are pretty too. But I like this tree because it’s very behaved in its form. You won’t ever need to prune it unless it creates a few dead lower branches. And it adds a lovely spire-like accent to a mixed shrub border. I have two flanking a small circular patio in an area blasted by hot sun. Hardy to zone 5 and gets to about 10 feet tall at maturity. Great for front entrances or where space is tight.
Blue Limber Pine
I normally don’t care for pine trees. They often drop needles and sometimes need pruning at the tips, but I love this Blue Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis ‘Cesarini Blue’). It grows in a small, puffy, pyramidal shape so it’s great for screening out unwanted views. Also, it’s hardy to zone 4 and can take dry areas. In fact, since it’s a pine, it will probably do better in a garden in Colorado with dryer, colder winters than in the rainy Pacific Northwest. At maturity, it tops out at 20 feet but during the first several years will hang out at around 10 feet. Unusual specimen.
I realized in writing this that I happened to choose three conifers so in a future post, I’ll spotlight some blue-leafed perennials. I’m thinking hosta, euphorbia, rue, and more. Until then, happy planting!
Just a quick post to let you know Leaf Your Troubles Behind: How to Destress and Grow Happiness Through Plants is now available for sale. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local bookstore. Thank you so much for your support! This book started as a fun pandemic project that actually turned into a book. It’s aimed at helping you grow a happier in life. Also, read on for the three winners of the Leaf Your Troubles giveaway.
I’m happy to share the winners of the giveaway are Alyssa, Jennifer, and Donna! Alyssa, Jennifer, and Donna, please read your latest newsletter email for details on how to get your paperback copy.
And if you didn’t win, don’t worry. I’m giving away a few more copies on Goodreads! But the offer ends in 7 days so click here for details.
Finally, don’t forget that I’ve created a companion workbook, which you can download by clicking here. Until next time, have a great day and don’t forget to relax with a plant!
For today’s green scene of the day, I’ve chosen an image from my garden. My Crispa spiraea (Spiraea x bumalda ‘Crispa’) is an unusual spiraea because it grows these crinkly, toothy leaves, which is very unlike a spiraea. But what it shares with other spiraeas are those gorgeous summer blooms. Butterflies love their flat umbels. I also find this shrub sooo alluring.
Plants Popping Through Each Other
The spiraea all by itself is pretty darn cool but my peach Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) are pretty heavenly too. They often poke through the spiraea as they reach for sunshine (and because I often forget to stake them, haha). Isn’t that peach and yellow pattern with the tiny stripes so neat? This variety, whose specific name I don’t know, is absolutely my favorite alstroemeria. I bought it eons ago when I lived at a different house. But I brought a couple clumps of tubers to the house I live in now and they’ve flourished.
A Color Combo to Please the Eyes
So I thought it would be a nice bit of relaxation for you to have access to this image. I love how the deep pink puffs of the spiraea play off the smooth coral color of the alstroemeria. If you’re on a lunch break sometime, you might take three minutes out just to sit quietly and enjoy them both. Take a few deep breaths and allow your eyes to roam through this lovely little moment of nature. Hopefully, you’ll feel a bit more relaxed afterward. Cheers.