The Perennials of August

Those heady, early days of spring feel like a first date. Everything is new and full of promise. The perennials of August, however, are more like a comfortable relationship. They’re predictable, sure, but they’re easy, reliable, and strong.

When we removed the last of our lawn in 2015, we made way for a number of new perennials, most of them native to semi-arid California. From my back garden swing each day, I see bees, hummingbirds and butterflies moving between plants. They find nectar for sustenance, and pollinate as they go. They’re welcome visitors and a daily reminder of the benefits of “going native” in one’s community.

Won’t you come have a look?

garden from of house

Front garden: Yellow kangaroo paw stand tall, with swaying grasses and Salvia to the front of them.

This is the front garden, facing the house. It’s taken a few years, but the plants have matured and filled in the space nicely.

Here’s another perspective:

Magnolia tree and perennials

Pink, orange and yellow hues surround the Magnolia tree

And here are a few closeups of the plants surrounding the Magnolia:

Mouse the cat and little free library

I love this shot of Mouse the cat with the Little Free Library cat silhouette in the foreground. Tall native grasses, left, and pink Scabiosa in the curb garden.

Scabiosa, sometimes referred to as a pincushion plant, has lovely tufts of soft pink. I was in the process of dead-heading some of the plants this week, when I encountered a praying mantis. They’re otherworldly, always fascinating and good for the garden. They will, however, sometimes pray on hummingbirds, so I’m always of two minds when I see one.

Here is a view of the back garden at dusk. I’ve taken several pictures of this plant grouping but always struggle to capture the beauty. I wish you could see it in person. The sun warms the plants, releasing that wonderful sage-like scent. Most of the flowers are quite small, but beautiful closeup.

I never tire of watching the bees go about their day.

bee pollinating trichostema

Trichostema, commonly known as blue curls, visited by a bee

Trichostema trichostema

Small lizards like to sun themselves in the garden, but Tessa treats them like toys. I’ve placed over-turned saucers under several plants to offer shelter from her reaching paws.

garden swing

A nice place to read the paper on a Saturday morning

perennial plants back garden

Back garden near the swing planted with native perennial plants

I’ll always love Spring’s first blush of show-stopping bulbs and flirty annuals. They quicken the heart and remind us that we’re alive. Yet as we endure these hot, dry dog-days of summer, the August perennials are a lovely reminder of strength, endurance and love.

Bagby Garden: How Does Your Garden Grow?

We lucked out with two weeks in the Bagby Garden this summer.  We harvested a few summer squashes but the berries weren’t quite ripe for picking. The greatest treasures, however, always lie in the unexpected: a lizard panting in the sun, bees among the petals of a flower and that earthy, damp smell after an uncommon summer rain.

Bee in the Borage

Latin name: Borago officinalis

Lounging Lizard

This little critter is probably a Western Side-blotched lizard, abundant in the warm, western areas of California.

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” -Aldo Leopold. A Sand County Almanac. Oxford University Press, 1949.

All Out Artichokes

Green Thumb Gardener

Bagby Garden

It’s been a joy to share in the Bagby School Garden experience these past few years. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Donna Boss since 2007. Donna and one other parent pioneered the school garden. They rallied volunteers and donors along with the school custodial staff, and with a day of sweat-equity, gave birth to the Bagby Garden and Outdoor Classroom.

Donna Outside the Garden Shed

A handful of parents turn out once a month and we collectively share and instruct eager students in the joys of planting, watering, harvesting and tasting the fruits of their labor. Students are inquisitive and willing to try new things. Green soup anyone? Kids covet the rakes and watering cans along with the over-sized wheelbarrow. At the school’s Open House my own children were proud to show off what they planted. Budding gardeners take pride in what they grow.

Bagby Garden

In addition to planting and harvesting, we have a chance to look at bugs, read stories and make garden-related crafts. One of the more popular Garden Fridays included a pumpkin raffle. Our first pumpkin harvest yielded several beautiful specimens. Other years, we supplement from a local patch. One afternoon, my garden duty was babysitting a pair of mantids (praying mantis) from curious but occasionally over-eager hands.

Pumpkin Raffle

Each summer we sign up to take care of the garden for a week. It’s my secret pleasure having the garden all to myself for that week. During the teaching Fridays my role is to instruct, not to plant, water or weed. It’s not always easy when you have green blood running through your veins to step back and let others do all the work (and have all the fun)!

Happy Gardener

My son graduates this year and a whole new crop of students will take his place. We’re both ready for new experiences and growth, but I’ll look back wistfully on my time in this lovely garden. It went by too fast.