My garden | 07.03.13

It was the most unusual early July evening last night, almost springlike as the thermometer dipped to the mid-70s. I walked through the garden with a clear blue sky overhead, the sun beginning to dip lower in the neighborhood. The cool summer so far has been a mixed blessing. We’re not having to water nearly as often, and many plants that would already have started showing stress are still lush. The heat-loving tropicals, on the other hand, have barely begun to grow.

Immediately off the patio, the airy texture of a potted ‘Pink Champagne’ Melinis allows for a coleus (Colorblaze® ‘Marooned’) and Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ to show. The light green-blue foliage of the Melinis and Stachys echoed each other as the sun backlit the deep burgundy leaves of the coleus.

My love-hate relationship with mophead hydrangea (H. macrophylla) has taken a turn toward love this summer. In even a normal summer, we have to water them endlessly to keep them looking good. With all the rain we’ve had this year and the cooler temperatures, not only does the foliage look healthy, but the flower show is more impressive. This ‘Twist ‘n Shout’ hydrangea is bringing some color to the patio terrace beneath the linden.

The northwest corner of the back border now receives a decent amount of sun each day as a result of cutting down the Whitespire birch that had seen better days. While I work on future plans for this area, I’ve used containers to fill this void. One of them includes this hot color combination of Zinnia Swizzle® ‘Scarlet & Yellow’ and Colorblaze® Sedona coleus that pops in the late afternoon and evening sun.

Last year, I divided a large ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea (H. arborescens), planting the divisions beneath the dappled willow that is the centerpiece of our back border. It’s doing remarkably well this summer in dense shade. Being protected by the willow from heavy rains has prevented it from flopping like its parent that is planted in the open.

On the opposite side of the willow, in one of the back yard’s remaining sunny spots, our Monarda is blooming better than it has in years. One of the remaining plants from the previous owner’s garden, I think it has benefited from the decline of the canopy of a neighbor serviceberry.


I placed this sunflower (artist: Peggy Clark, Milton, WI) to mark the edge of the backyard as it transitions down the dappled shade path towards the southern garden. Mindy and I purchased this piece of ironwork in June at the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, WI. We are both extremely fond of how ironwork garden sculpture complements and blends into the informal nature of our gardens.

When I’m placing containers, I’m always conscious of how they’ll blend with the perennials that may dip or arch into the potted plants. Under the honey locust near the gazebo, this common orange daylily bends in for a serendipitous combination with this container’s coleus centerpiece.

I’ve known gardeners who grow Hosta simply for the foliage, who even go so far as to clip the flower scapes before they have a chance to bloom. I have always let each have their own in the garden, but I’m a big fan of Hosta flowers. ‘Queen Josephine’ is currently blooming along the path through the patio terrace.

Nearby, I’m loving the combination of a new Heuchera (‘Midnight Rose’) with Tempo ‘Peach Butterfly’ Impatiens along the terrace wall.

One of my favorite plants in the garden is Hemerocallis ‘Kwanso’. This double-flowered daylily is not only a work of art, but also an extremely vigorous (almost aggressive) specimen.

As I worked my way through the southern gate into our bedroom border, I was pleased to see Heliopsis ‘Summer Sun’ blooming strong. Planted in 2011, this is the first year this plant can be characterized as a solid performer in the garden. I found it interesting that the intense yellow of ‘Summer Sun’ fooled the auto white balance on my camera, resulting in a blue cast to the surrounding foliage.


After a few years of growing Cleome ‘Senorita Rosalita’ as a bedding plant, I’m trying a different variety (Spirit ‘Violeta’) as the thriller in one of the driveway containers. So far, it has been a worthy choice, blooming constantly with lavender flowers that look like exploding fireworks.



My garden walk ended in the front yard, near a container that is a bit of an experiment. I combined two plants — Bonfire® Begonia and Helichrysum ‘Silver’ — to spill over the front edge of a rectangular black pot. I’m enjoying the way the two plants have intertwined.

I’m finding it hard to believe it’s July, but we certainly can’t complain about this beautiful weather. I don’t know what it will mean for the garden (especially the heat-loving tropicals), but as a gardener I’m used to rolling with the unexpected and look forward to the surprises each time I walk through my garden gate.

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Christopher Tidrick

Be real. Love always. Share beauty. Lead well. Learn more.

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