September 21, 2012

The Return of the Blues

The blues are back in our garden. 

The outer sidewalk bed on
September 21.  Double-click
on any image for a full-
screen view.
During the heat of July and August, perennials with yellow and white flowers dominate our garden.  Except for some heavily watered and regularly fertilized annuals in containers, blue is almost absent from the color spectrum.  Now, with cooler weather, the blues are back.

The convention wisdom says that September gardens in New England are ready to be cut to the ground; the season is effectively over.  As the attached photos attest, that’s not the case.  Late September brings out a different side of our garden.  The most noticeable change is that blue flowers are out in abundance for the first time since mid-Spring.  For another, plants are allowed to play out their natural tendencies, sometimes with stunning results.

These three containers have merged
into one glorious mass of color
and texture
Yes, the first frost will put an end to the annuals.  The coleus that is growing with abandon right now – there are more than a dozen varieties in containers right now - will be the first to go: even a night with temperatures in the mid-30s will cause them to wilt.  But for the present, they are taking over the containers that were once dominated by plants that succumbed to the relentless heat of July and August.

Blue asters running amok.  They've
been hiding in plain sight all summer
The asters have been biding their time, effectively hiding in plain sight.  Now, they are in full bloom, creating carpets of blue and white all over the garden.  Hydrangea are heavy with blooms that are getting preposterously large; their branches drag the ground.  We have three caryopteris at the front of the property.  Each is blooming with delicate blue flowers.  In the rock gardens behind out home, a large patch of plumbago displays a carpet of mid-blue blooms.

The hydrangea are heavy with
preposterously large flower heads
Foliage plants are also in their glory.  We have three varieties of persicaria: Painters Palette, Lance Corporal and Red Dragon.  These are garden thugs that require constant attention to not take over the beds in which they are located.  Now, as their season ends, they are throwing up airy stalks containing red seed pods.  Our goal is to enjoy the foliage as long as possible, then cut the plant back to the ground before its seeds mature.  It’s a delicate balancing act.

In the Manhattan bed, an ipomea
(sweep potato) vine has been allowed
to dominate its container for the
final weeks of its season
Betty is also allowing her containers to ‘naturalize’ for this, their final month.  Throughout the spring and summer, she has carefully trimmed back individual plants in mixed containers to maintain a desired shape or color balance.  Now, the ipomea are trailing six-foot-long chartreuse vines.  Three containers have grown into a single, glorious quilt of color and texture.  Off in a corner of the property, a ‘Big Red Judy’ coleus has ballooned to a height of four feet and a girth of equal size.

This caryopteris is one of three on the
property, each with blue flowers
for September
From mid-September on, New England gardens live on borrowed time.  Each evening weather report brings reports of possible frost or freezes a little closer.  For the present, it is the Worcester Hills – some 40 miles distant – that are the target of nighttime temperatures in the mid-30s.  One unexpected drop in the jet stream could bring that weather to our front doorstep.

And so we are relishing the return of the blues.

1 comment:

  1. Your garden is looking spectacular Neal! You and Betty enjoy the delights because as you say, the garden is on borrowed time. Same here as we are forecast to have a frost this weekend!