Even though this year’s midsummer was mostly spent inside due to it raining all day, I had a chance to nip out in the morning and snap some pictures for my mid-season garden tour. This was the year that I was FINALLY able to get some major work done in my vegetable garden. Some design ideas are also starting to take shape for the various flower beds around the property, which I spent a few years observing before deciding what was going to stay and go. This was also the year that I started harvesting cut flowers for bouquets, such as the peony and lilac table centerpiece above, which have made the house smell lovely.
Speaking of bouquets, midsummer is the best time to be picking and giving them as well. A bunch of lilacs for the mother-in-law and a seven-flower midsummer bouquet for the sister-in-law. As the Scandinavian/Nordic tradition goes, maidens pick seven wildflowers on midsummer and place them under their pillows to dream of their future match. While I have no way of knowing if she will use them for that purpose (or if they count, given that they were gifted rather than self-picked), it seemed like a lovely theme for a bouquet. I suspect some of my “wildflowers” might be garden escapees, but quite are few are classics and all were collected on our grounds during my morning stroll with Blob. Lemme see — we have (1) garden lupines in pink and purple, (2) purple columbines, (3) bright pink red campion, (4) classic white oxeye daisies, (5) tiny blue forget-me-nots, (6) wild pansies, and (7) sunny yellow buttercups.
The garden tour starts on our small deck, where I have been working on getting hanging planters populated and positioned for a while now. The problem is that the railings are old and don’t really do well with holes or screws drilled into them, so instead I’ve tied loops of rope so that the wire racks can hook into them. I’m arranging the planters like saddlebags on either side of the railing to help distribute weight more evenly, since the entire wooden wall looked like it wanted to tip over after I tried just putting them on the outsides.
Perky little angel pelargoniums in a hanging basket and two more planters full of various regal pelargoniums. Yeah, I kind of like them 🙂 One rack currently housing two aloes (outside for the summer, after having languished for too long on a dark windowsill) and two French lavenders from different sources. The bushy one on the left is from a reputable garden center, the rangier one on the right is from a discount-type store. There was a significant price difference and I’d say that overall, it was probably worth it because that cheaper one takes quite a beating whenever the winds start up before a rain. Still, it is standing so we will see how they both are looking by the end of the season. Last, a planter of pink-flowered strawberries, which were too cute to pass up.
Speaking of strawberries, I bought several more to fill my various hanging baskets and put them up on the carpet rack. The rationale behind this being that even if I didn’t end up having time to cover my strawberry patch before the birds got to them, or the weeds overran them, or the bugs ate through them all — you get the point, they’re old plants and not as reliable as they used to be — I would still have backup plants left for a small well-meaning harvest.
The front steps, where my little pansies from Easter are still going strong. Next to them are some cute little light pink frilly fuchsias. The second step down, some hot pink double fuchsias that I typically would have in a hanging basket, except that all of mine are currently occupied by strawberries.
A reclaimed corner close to the front door, which was overrun with grasses and weeds. Now it contains two anemones — pulsatilla vulgaris and a Japanese hybrid “Serenade”. Hopefully they will settle in and return next spring to add a bit of color to an otherwise drab little area mostly full of rocks.
I started this shade garden a couple of years back on the foundations of an old kids’ playhouse and sandbox. While the front half is now mostly overrun with chickweed (soon to be fed to the rabbits), a nice stand of foxgloves has matured in the back and the dicentra has been returning reliably every year. I’m probably going to toss some lily of the valley into the front area next, to see if those will take hold where the other flowers failed.
Foxgloves (left) take two years to flower from seed, so these guys took a bit of patience. They’re supposed to be pretty good about reseeding themselves, though, so hopefully once this first generation goes through its cycle, there will be enough staggered seedlings that I’ll get yearly blooms. I really would like them for cut flowers, but was never able to grow enough in dry SoCal to bring inside. The pink dicentra on the right is the last of a set of three — one white, one pink, and one formosa — that I’d originally planted. Guess it was the hardiest. Might try to replant the white one at some point, after this one has grown a bit more. Every year, it puts out a couple more branches of flowers than the year before and I’d like it to get as big as some of the floriferous clumps I’ve seen in larger gardens.
Some wildflowers edging the woods – red campion in the front and blue dog violets behind. I love that a lot of what I’ve only heard of as garden flowers in the States are growing wild here.
Our stand of lilacs, doing better this year despite a lot of neglect. I’m mostly pruning via flower-cutting right now, but will try to go in and clean out the branches a little after the flowers die down. If I can get the hang of their upkeep, I’d really like to get another in the classic blue, to use in mixed color bouquets.
Past the lilacs, we see the very neglected greenhouse, which is now being overrun by its resident grapevine on the inside. It is being overrun on the outside by the giant prehistoric-looking rhubarb patch, which is currently in flower because I just didn’t have the time and energy to lop off the buds. I haven’t harvested that patch since two years ago, so will have to do some major hacking and thinning next year. Our Norway maple is currently festooned in bright red helicopter seeds, which are always picturesque. The honeysuckle vine is in great shape this year — I’m pretty sure this is the first time that it has flowered enough for me to really take notice.
The back of the house, which also happens to get great full sun exposure, is about 50/50 keep and tear out. The former owners put in a cute little water feature which is now home to a lively little clan of frogs. Irises and anemones have proliferated along its sides, which I’m pretty content with. The same lady who did that also put in a nice perennial garden of daylilies, lilies, marigolds and delphineums, which are great in the latter half of the summer. Unfortunately, these only partly take away one’s notice from the huge expanse of leathery bergenias and horsetails which take up the majority of the area right up to the house foundations. I don’t know why, but I have serious issues with bergenias — maybe because they just NEVER DIE. I find it vaguely unsettling to see them sitting there in the snow, smirking. Anyway, I have decided to slowly start removing those hideous plants, bit by bit, as I put in replacements. It is a task that would take weeks otherwise, and I’m not entirely sure it would be a great idea to remove that much ground cover in one go, from an erosion and flooding standpoint. It will slowly be turned into a rose and peony cutting garden, however, as time allows. A little walking stone path and archway are in my mental plans, but for now I just have a young Sarah Berhardt peony there, beside the wooden bench swing, alone in a sea of elephant eared leaves and feathery weeds.
Now, let me present to you my biggest accomplishment this year — raised vegetable beds! I had previously been trying to figure out ways to build wooden frames for my beds. This year, I just decided to go oldschool and mound them up instead. I just didn’t have time to worry about hardware — besides, I figured I could always build boxes later on, once Blob gets a bit older and more useful for manual labor 😉 As it turned out, the mounds actually gave everything a lovely country feel. They were created with a bottom layer of rabbit manure and newspaper (free and awesome fertilizer), followed by a layer of old potting soil, followed by a layer of new potting soil. Wood mulch on the pathways, straw mulch and grass clippings on the beds once the plants are big enough.
Two boxes of herbs, in the front. On the right, two clumps of chives (one flowering), some dwarf dahlias, a scraggly little mint and an even scragglier little rosemary sprig. Half of these were survivors from the previous year, so I just let them be and filled in the blank sections. On the left, I popped in brand new herbs, which are taking off pretty well. The sweet and red basils are sulky but surviving, the lemon balm and “strong” mint are happily spreading (as mints do), the dill is filling out rather well, and the chives are looking comfortable. I will have to get out there and snip a few for my next omelette, now that they are established. Maybe one of those flowers as garnish? Mmmm. A little potted angel pelargonium between the herb planters, in front of the wicker bed partition. Last year, I put down an old door frame to use for a raised bed and now it is home to broccoli, bush beans and tomatoes. The broccoli and beans have started sprouting, but I think only one tomato has poked up so far. Yeah, it hasn’t been a very warm summer yet. Following up the bed starting at that door frame, I have a cutting garden of three English lavenders (Munstead, I think?) and three varieties of poppy. Under that, I also tossed some gladiolus and freesia bulbs, but have not been very successful in getting those to grow in Finland. Around the bend, we enter the salad portion, with a few rows of very enthusiastic spinach which will need to be thinned this week. Next to those are the carrots, taking their sweet time, followed by mixed salad, green onions and parsley. Down the center is my oldest bed, made of two childrens’ bed frames, put in during our first year here. It is currently housing two staggered blocks of mangetout peas and three colors of pak choi. Further down into the less cultivated portions of the veggie patch, I planted a new whitecurrant bush, since our other one doesn’t seem to fruit very well. Across from that is the kids’ allotment, with some very healthy looking leaf lettuces and baby carrots. Finally, on the far side, there is a the free-range nettle patch. Since I harvest young stinging nettle leaves as vegetables, I let them grow as much as they want in one confined space when I’m not using that area for anything else. They also help to enhance the soil, so it will be nitrogen-rich by the time my veggie beds actually extend that far.
Lastly, we come up the other side and see the large midsummer rose bush taking up most of the area underneath the kitchen window. Usually, this white rose blooms on, you guessed it, midsummer. This year, these were the only two open flowers I found. It is covered in buds, though, so I’ll probably be able to bring in some roses in the next week or so.
How was your midsummer?