Archive for August, 2012


Tonight’s the night, the August Blue Moon. Blue moons are properly said to occur when there are 4 full moons in a season. However, it has become commonplace to call the second moon in a calendar month a blue moon. The first full moon in August occurred on the 2nd, making tonight’s full moon of August 31st the second of the month.


There’s an August Moon in the garden as well, this brilliant classic hosta. A medium to large hosta, it’s one of my favorites. The big, heart-shaped leaves are bright gold to chartreuse depending on the amount of sun they receive, with more sun intensifying the gold.


The leaves are corrugated and of good substance, making them relatively slug-resistant, a problem with many hostas. Although it was first introduced in 1969 (though not registered by the American Hosta Society until 1996), August Moon has remained very popular with gardeners. It’s easy to see why.


August Moon is an excellent choice for brightening a shady corner. A touch of sun will bring out its full beauty.

Now, back to the blue moon…


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The weather was beautiful this morning, and I decided to take a little stroll through the horses’ field to see what is blooming. The horses were busy with their usual morning activity, standing in their shelter. But donkeys are a curious lot, and Teddy is a very curious donkey. He left his buddies and followed me out into the field, interested in seeing what I was up to. And of course, where there are humans, there may be carrots, you never know.

With Teddy leading the way, the others soon followed. Here they are as seen through Teddy’s ears. Did you ever in your life see a more beautiful set of ears?


The horses do most of their grazing at night, when the heat of the day is past and the hordes of biting insects that plague them are diminished. They spend much of their day in their shelter, staying out of the sun and avoiding the bugs to the extent that that is possible.

Diva’s not so curious as a donkey, but she is a friendly, companionable horse, and was happy to accompany us. But where is Czarina?


Czarina had no interest in my activities. She was for returning to the shelter, but she just couldn’t bring herself to leave her friends. Horses have strong herd instincts and only a few can bear to be left behind when the herd moves on, no matter how much they’d rather not go.


The meadow is dominated through August by goldenrod and Joe Pye weed, but now those are giving way to the white flower clusters of boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). You can read more about boneset here.


The boneset comes up to Diva’s belly but it nearly hides Louis. On more than one occasion, I haven’t been able to locate the donkey boys and have had a minute of panic, wondering if they have escaped, before one raises his head and a pair of long ears appear above the plants.


After a while, everyone lost interest in my walk and left me to carry on alone.


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Stars, Big Gull Lake, North Frontenac Park. (Half-hour timelapse) Thanks to guest photographer Kris Jaffray.

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Thanks, Ellen!

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Wiregrass Czarina and Me

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Wow, the middle of August! Hard to believe, although we can’t complain that we haven’t had plenty of hot summer weather this year. My garden is at its peak in July, when the 140 varieties of daylilies are in bloom. There are just a few late daylilies blooming their last blooms now.


Here’s Flaming Wildfire, so brilliant and intense it seems to glow. And below is Cameroons, a 1984 Munson introduction, showing off the washed eye pattern shared by many of the Munsons.


By August, there are hints of autumn as the ornamental grasses begin to put out their seed heads and the bright gold of rudbeckias dominates.


Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’ is in full bloom. Named Perennial of the Year way back in 1999, it is a very reliable standard for the late summer garden.


Here’s Goldstrum anchoring a planting with its taller cousin, Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstonne’ (Autumn Sun). Behind Herbstonne is the very tall grass Miscanthus giganteus, Giant Maiden Grass. To the left of Herbstonne is a tall switchgrass, Panicum virgatum ‘Thundercloud’. Between the Goldstrum clumps you can see the reddish seedheads of Redhead Fountain Grass (Pennisetum ‘Redhead’). At the right of the photo are stems of Willow-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus salicifolium), which has yet to bloom.


My Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) has really matured this year and is putting on a terrific display. Some of the stems are drooping, which allows you to see visiting pollinators. The sprays of yellow flowers are mostly held so high, well above my head, that it is hard to admire insect activity up there.


Silphium is a native plant and quite appreciated by pollinators.


This spring, I split a clump of Lemon Queen sunflower (Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’), and thought it would take a year or two for the new clump to take hold. However, it apparently loves its new home and the hot summer we’ve experienced, and has filled out enthusiastically. Here’s the newly-established clump, just coming into bloom, embracing a bird house post with Phantom Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium ‘Phantom’) in the foreground.


Another brilliant gold bloomer is Golden Dwarf Goldenrod (Solidago ‘Golden Dwarf’). It has taken me a while to get used to seeing goldenrod in the garden. It is a prolific native wildflower (aka weed) in these parts, and I have had to suppress an urge to yank it out of the garden every time I pass! It is actually quite well-behaved and its brilliant yellow is set off by an assortment of pink and purple phlox plants.


Here’s a newer phlox, just introduced to the garden last year. In addition to pretty flowers, Phlox paniculata ‘Nora Leigh’ offers interesting variegated foliage.


Phlox produces a wonderful blaze of colour that sets off other perennials beautifully. Here’s a hollyhock backed with phlox.


And here’s Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ set off by phlox.


Geranium ‘Rozanne’ was chosen as Perennial of the Year in 2008 and is a deserving winner. It has proved drought resistant and hardy, and blooms over a long period with no attention from the gardener. Here’s Rozanne tumbling over the edge of a path.


Kniphofia ‘Shining Sceptre’ was new this spring. It settled in well and wasn’t disturbed by drought conditions. I was a bit surprised and pleased to see this attractive preview of the future clump of sceptres I’m hoping for. This winter will be its first test for hardiness.


Most of the echinaceas have been in bloom for a while, but Echinacea ‘Green Jewel’ is just hitting its stride now.


I’m very fond of the agastaches, mostly because they are beloved by pollinators of every stripe. Unfortunately, I haven’t found many of the varieties I’ve tried to be very hardy here. The sturdiest has been Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, shown here with Coreopsis ‘Sweet Dreams’ in the foreground and Echinacea ‘Prima Donna’ to the left.


They’re not flowers, but I couldn’t resist including the showy berries of this pokeweed (Phytolacca acinosa).


I don’t really think of hostas as flowering plants, but their wands of mauve or white flowers can be quite attractive. Here’s a clump of a small, unidentified hosta with violet blooms, backed by Hosta ‘Ryan’s Big One’, with an hydrangea bush in the background.


Thank you for visiting the Willow House garden! If you would like to tour other gardens, visit May Dreams Gardens for more August Bloom Day links.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) visiting Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’.


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One of the garden estates we visited this summer was Naumkeag, located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. You can tour the house (no photos allowed!) and walk the grounds. A self-guided audio tour of the garden is included with admission.

Joseph Hodges Choate (1832-1917), was a successful New York lawyer. He and his wife Caroline had five children. In 1884, they purchased property in the Berkshires and developed a summer retreat where the family and their guests could enjoy tennis and golf, hiking and swimming and entertaining. ‘Naumkeag’ is a Native American word for the area around Salem, Massachusetts, Joseph Choate’s birthplace.


The 44-room mansion combines the ‘Shingle Style’ popular at the time with European elements. The grounds, initially laid out by Nathan Barrett, included formal perennial beds, two terraces, an evergreen topiary garden, lawns and a linden tree allĂ©e. The balance of the 49-acre estate included a farm with greenhouses and vegetable gardens to provide the family with fresh produce. Here’s the Arborvitae Walk of clipped cedars (Thuja occidentalis), which dates to 1890.


Mabel Choate, second-youngest of the children, inherited Naumkeag in 1929. She continued to spend her summers at Naumkeag until her death in 1958. Mabel was an avid gardener, and in 1926 began a collaboration with landscape architect Fletcher Steele that would, over the next 30 years, transform the Naumkeag gardens.


Their first project was the Afternoon Garden. Fashioned like an outdoor room, it features a central reflecting pool and brightly painted Venetian-style poles that frame a view of the surrounding hills.


The most original and famous result of their collaboration is The Blue Steps. The water that cascades through a series of fountains down the hillside is supplied by the Water Runnel, linking the Afternoon Garden pond with the Blue Steps.


Constructed in 1938, the concrete stairs provide a gradual descent down the hillside. Originally, a cutting garden was laid out at the foot of the stairs.


The Art-Deco design is framed by white paper birches, which compliment the curves of the white railings. The Blue Steps design is one of the most famous creations of American landscape architecture.


The Chinese Garden was developed over a number of years from 1936 to 1955. You enter the garden through the Devil’s Screen, designed to thwart the Devil. The entry, with its sharp turn, obscures the garden from view and creates a surprise entrance to the enclosed space.


The garden features a Chinese-style temple and oriental plants and trees. The Spirit Walk leading to the temple features a tablet carved with the Imperial Dragon over which only the emperor could be carried for purification. A group of nine ginkgo trees shades the garden and is underplanted with large-leaved butterburr (Petasites japonicus).


You exit the Chinese Garden through the circular Moon Gate. Passing through its perfect circle into the light is said to bring good luck. The path from the Moon Gate leads back to the house.

Late in life, Mabel Choate spent more time in her rooms, and the Rose Garden was designed to be viewed from her 2nd-floor bedroom. The serpentine lines of gravel wind through 16 small beds of roses.


Mabel Choate never married or had children, and left the house and grounds intact to The Trustees of Reservations in 1959, a reminder of a bygone era of gracious living, at least for the very rich. Below, Steele and Mabel Choate consider the paint colour for The Blue Steps.

steele and choate

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The garden is beginning to wind down from the height of its July glory into its autumnal display. It is still attracting plenty of visitors. When I walked through the garden this weekend, it was alive with butterflies. The summer drought has made for a difficult growing season, but it seems to have been good for butterflies. There were white Cabbage butterflies and some Monarchs and Viceroys, but mostly there were Painted Ladies. Every flower was decorated with one of these beauties and I couldn’t resist photographing a sampling to share here.


Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) are cosmopolitans. They can be found across the continent and throughout much of the world. Their huge range includes Europe, Asia and Africa as well as North America.


They are not winter-hardy, and most northern residents perish. In the spring, Painted Ladies from southern areas and Mexico fly north on warm spring breezes and recolonize much of North America by summer.


Painted Ladies nectar at a wide variety of plants, but particularly enjoy thisles. They are also adaptable in their choice of host plants for young caterpillars.


Here is a selection of photographs of Painted Ladies visiting Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), Persicaria polymorpha, Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstonne”, hydrangea, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum, and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium spp).






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Look closer…


See him?


A Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor)

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Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) on Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ‘Cinderella’)

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