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Chesapeake Native Plant Gardens: August

A little rough around the edges with lots of bright spots!

native perennials blue hyssop in full bloom
Blue Hyssop in Full Bloom in August

Heat and the whims of weather make August in the garden somewhat a game of chance. In the native garden, there are certain plants that withstand drought without a second thought. Not everything is looking great though and that's just the way gardens are!

Heat Tolerance

In our garden, these perennials are looking strong with absolutely no watering or other attention whatsoever. This is saying something following a recent heat wave. These are all growing in full sun in average soils but would also do well in part sun.

On the shady side, plantain leaf sedge (Carex plantaginea), wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle') and dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata) are doing the same. Thriving with no attention needed. Plantain leaf sedge and dwarf crested iris are strong ground covers that add interesting texture and contrast. Wild hydrangea has a very long bloom period, particularly for shade. These are all good things come August.

Every Gardening Year is Different

This is the same area of our garden last year and this. The area is planted with Virginia bluebells (Mertensia Virginica) and wood poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) which bloom profusely in spring and coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) which usually bloom profusely in July and August. This year? Not so much for the coneflowers. There has been no change in the area. Hopefully the coneflowers will return to their profuse state next year!

The change from year to year is a key to gardening and a lesson that has taken me a long, long while to finally grasp. Some perennials are short lived so they will not repeat bloom in the exact same way every year and will slowly fade away. Other years, conditions may favor a nearby perennial that grows more strongly causing others to languish a bit. And then there is the weather. Cooler or warmer weather at key points in a plant's growth cycle can make a big difference later on in the growing season. My takeaway - there is always hope for the next growing season!

Note What is Working Really Well!

There are a ton of variables that determine whether a plant will grow well in a certain location in your garden: moisture level, light, soil ph and soil structure. Don't fight mother nature. If something is growing well, plant more! Besides, repetition is always key to good garden design.

Right now, Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) is continuing to bloom, though more sporadically than the flush of blooms in late June and early July. The foliage is upright and dark green and it is doing well in both shade and full sun. Eastern red cedar 'grey owl' (Juniperus virginiana 'Grey Owl,') a low growing cultivar of the easter red cedar, newly planted last fall, is covered with blue berries and hasn't needed any water so far. Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) continues to seed itself throughout the partly shady spots of our garden. It brightens up those spots and is so easy to pull out if you don't want it in a particular location. These are all plants that look good and need no care so I'll be looking to add more. Which of your plants are thriving in August?

Self Sowers

This year, more than any other, we have many volunteer plants and not just the typical self sowers like black eyed susans (Rudbeckia fulgida), blue hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), golden alexanders (Zizia aurea), mistflowers and penstemon (Penstemon digitalis). Sedges and downy skullcaps are volunteering, particularly in river stones surrounding a fountain and in gravel pathways. Taking the time to carefully transplant these volunteers is one of the best bargains around. Waiting for cooler weather to move these will likely increase the chances of success.

Enjoy the Sounds of Summer

At this time of year, you can hear nature up close without even trying. Even in a small garden like ours, there is something new to hear and see every day. Whether you perch in a favorite spot during the day or open a window in the evening, I hope you have a chance to listen to those sounds of Chesapeake summers!


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We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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