A Sunday Walk in the Garden

Today was a great day to walk in the garden and take in what is happening here…and show me a few chores that I need to undertake. It’s cooler today…finally…and a cloudy sky takes away the harsh glare of a full sun. What follows are gleanings from my notes: observations, a few photographs, and a reminder that a garden is an ever-changing, living entity. In no special order:

I planted a weigela in a large pot at the side of the house to block the view of the utility meters. Weigela florida ‘Boksrasopea’ ‘Sonic Boom Pearl’ was noted on its tag to be a rebloomer. True to form it has bloomed all summer and is still going. Hooray for truth in advertising (and disciplined hand watering).

Variegated liriope is in bloom everywhere. It helps to have lots of it together for impact.

The clematis that I cut back after their spring blush have put out new growth and are blooming, albeit sparsely. ‘Comptesse de Bouchard’ blooms are much smaller, but this is its first summer in my garden; I will prune it back next spring close to the ground in hopes it will thicken and grow stronger. Several of my clematis are showing a lot of brown leaves. I am fairly certain it is not wilt. Clematis experts recommend severe pruning every so many years to rejuvenate the plants. I may have to try that next February.  ‘General Sikorski’ has rebloomed right on schedule, every year since it was planted. I was concerned about ‘Ramona,’ but here it is, as beautiful as last spring.


Clematis ‘Ramona’

The seed pods on Berckmann’s arborvitae are eye-catching:


Thuja occidentalis ‘Berckmann’s arborvitae

The hostas throughout the garden, despite a blistering summer, have held up well. Three in full sun are showing leaf damage, and I should probably think about moving them when cooler weather comes. The ones in pots are thriving, again because of hand watering.

Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ is a puzzle. I cut it back fairly severely because of winter damage. It is supposed to bloom on both new and old wood, so I wasn’t concerned that I would lose blooms. Not so. It is probably the healthiest looking plant in my garden, but I have yet to see a bud this year. Its ‘Blushing Bride’ and ‘Twist and Shout’ sisters have bloomed beautifully. As I am wont to say about my favorite football team: “Wait till next year.”


Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’

I must move the calla lilies. They are crowding the ‘Bartzella’ peony, the prized plant in the garden.


‘Midnight Marvel’ hibiscus

The ‘Midnight Marvel’ Hibiscus moscheutos has been blooming since early June, and it still has buds on it. Today I counted over 30 still to come. Its purple leaves have also contributed to the color of the garden.


The crape myrtles are slowing down. There is still  color about, but it is splotchy here and there. I have an annual debate (with myself) about removing the seed pods. It isn’t necessary, but I do think they look more tidy when I do remove them. I am also finding seedlings showing under them. Some years, when they were low enough that I was able to deadhead them, we had something of a rebloom. Last year I fell off a ladder while working on one. I survived, obviously, but a damaged shoulder and the dictates of my wife lead me to believe I’ll only take what I can reach…or get her to hold the ladder this time.

I must clean up the daylily foliage.

I was first introduced to Carex over ten years ago by an Ornamental Grass dealer outside of Durham, NC and discovered that there is a grass…and a lovely one…that thrives in shade. I have since used Carex ‘Evergold’ throughout my gardens, both in pots and in the ground. This grouping of three, under the shade of a Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), is doing well.

pic 2

Carex ‘Evergold’

I did try to plant a few of them in sunny locations, but the results over severely hot summers have not been satisfactory. I should have learned by now to pay better attention to a plant’s stated requirements.

Encore azaleas throughout the garden are starting to show their fall color. I am grateful to the hybridizer who developed this group of azaleas. Azaleas have always meant “old South,” and to have them blooming in the fall is a delight. These were planted last spring under a bedroom window to replace roses. Rose maintenance became more than I wanted, and adjacent trees had grown to shade the roses. I am pleased with the combination of the pink of the azaleas and the lavender of the liriope.


Encore azalea and variegated liriope

Camellia sasanqua ‘Our Linda,’ a gift from David Park of Camellia Forest Nursery, is loaded with buds. Now in its second year in the garden, it is showing increased growth. I think my trimming back the vitex above it has helped get it more hours of sun.

Spirea x bumalda ‘Goldmound’ is just beginning to turn to its red fall color. The barberries have held their purple color through the hot months, really for the first time. In past years all have faded green to some degree as the summer progressed. I continue to appreciate the dark color that ninebark retains through the heat.

The ‘Anthony Waterer’ spireas continue to be winners. Their flowers are beginning to fade, but I will give them a light trim in hopes of getting new growth and yet a third series of blooms, unless an early frost catches them.


‘Winter Gem’ boxwood, ‘Anthony Waterer’ spirea, purple barberry ‘Gentry’, ‘Lilac Flame’ phlox, Carex ‘Evergold, and  ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea

I have been very pleased with the new garden phlox I added this year, ‘Flame Lilac.’ With deadheading, it is still in bloom since planted in the spring.

Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is up and showing the first signs that it is getting ready to open its beautiful pink seed heads.

Several plants are disappointments. Coreopsis x ‘Tequila Sunrise’ simply hasn’t performed and will be replaced probably by Coreopsis vertcillata ‘Creme Brulee.’ Russian sage has lapsed into near invisibility where before it was a continuous challenge to keep it in bounds. Has it grown tired? And my stream of ‘White Swan’ coneflowers has been comparatively sparse and short, compared with previous years. Next spring I will scratch in some compost when they start to show their greenery.

And finally I looked at the two Green Giant arborvitae in my side yard. They have both grown from small plants to a stately fifteen+ feet in eight years. I have not had a moment’s problem with them in all that time. They have been maintenance free. It is a jewel.

Being intentional about observing my garden was a great step to recognizing what I can do better. It was also a means to appreciate what has come together well.

About johnvic8

John Viccellio retired after 24 years in the U. S. Navy and began to dig into gardening when he could finally land in one place. He completed the Master Gardener course in 1992 and has since designed and constructed two of his own gardens. He wrote a monthly garden column for ten years and was a regular contributor to Carolina Gardener magazine. John published his first book, Guess What's in My Garden!, in 2014. He lives in Stallings, NC with his wife, in close proximity to six of his eight grandchildren.
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7 Responses to A Sunday Walk in the Garden

  1. Love your Berckmann’s arborvitae, the silver-blue pods really stand out against the yellow-green foliage. I’m enjoying liriope blooms too but I’m resisting the lure of reblooming azaleas. Looking forward to seeing your muhly. Autumn has always been my favorite season.


  2. Annette says:

    Lovely border with the spirea – mine is just flowering again after a good haircut. I’m not a great admirer of conifers but that Thuja is remarkable and I love the seed pods!


  3. I like that clematis. What a lovely colour.


  4. Julie says:

    Your garden looks wonderful and beautifully tended. Your Encore Azaleas are really zingy!


  5. johnvic8 says:

    Thank you, Julie. Encore azaleas have truly added a new dimension to our late summer/fall garden.


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