Into summer

Recent thunderstorms have rescued the garden, at least for the moment, from the start of its typical slow fade into summer. The contrast between the garden in late spring and early summer is rarely drastic, but without irrigation the garden is dependent upon regular rainfall to look its best. While gardens in some parts of the country cannot survive without irrigation, plants in this garden are adapted to occasional drought and flooding that are a part of the typical Virginia summer.

Purple coneflowers are seedlings at the edge of the driveway that originate from the white flowered ‘White Swan’. Both white and purple coneflower seedlings in this area are far taller than the parent plant.

The stone path beneath the Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia, below) is littered with freshly fallen white blooms. A day later these darken and turn slick, so crossing beneath the tree is done cautiously in late June. The stewartia is now quite tall, but it was slow to get started and thus costly. After a few decades I can say that the marvelous tree is well worth the investment.

Fallen flowers of Japanese stewartia make footing treacherous on this stone path. The stewartia has been flowering since mid June, and with plenty more flowers on the tree (below) the path will be slick for another few weeks.

The last of the Japanese irises (Iris ensata, above and below) are flowering. I feared that ‘Lion King’ (below) had perished, overwhelmed by aggressive Yellow Flag irises (Iris pseudacorus) that have taken over much of the rocky edges of the koi pond. But, here it is, and I must heed the suggestion from my wife to somehow carve the Yellow Flags out before the treasured Japanese irises are lost. I fear they are inextricably intertwined.

A year ago two buttonbushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis, below) were recovering from beaver damage that chopped them nearly to the ground. I expected the vigorous shrubs in damp ground to rebound quickly, and now there is no sign of damage except the chicken wire cages that remain to protect the trunks. Buttonbush is ideal for this swampy soil with space to fill, but even in dry ground it is wide spreading so it must be placed with care.

I have not intended to collect this number of hydrangeas, but have added one here and there, and then I’ve been intrigued to purchase several hydrangea relatives. My unintended collections are, of course, not surprising to my wife who now just shakes her head and mumbles, but there is no arguing that most hydrangeas are worthy of inclusion in the garden, and how could I be blamed for this?

A dozen or more mophead and lacecap hydrangeas are scattered about the garden along with handfuls of Oakleaf hydrangea (below), Mountain hydrangeas, and hydrangea relatives.
Lacecap hydrangea are less prone to damage from extreme winter cold, or from late spring freezes.

Finally, buds of the recently planted ‘Aphrodite’ sweetshrub (Calycanthus x ‘Aprhrodite’, below) have opened, long after other sweetshrubs have faded. A small collection of sweetshrubs is well worthwhile, and I am curious to see if ‘Aphrodite’ flowers off and on through the summer as claimed. Its flowers are roughly equivalent in size to ‘Hartage Wine’, and so far it grows with exceptional vigor.

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