Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ August 2022

Hi Friends!

Today seems like the perfect time to slip off our garden gloves and have a nice, relaxing chat over the garden fence. So glad you are here!

Hope you will let us know what garden projects you have been working on, your garden joys, and your garden challenges, too. 🌻

July 2022

This has been a very interesting gardening season for me with a huge, new home under construction right next door. I have learned to ‘go with the flow‘ each day depending on what is happening just beyond the tall, chain link, construction fence.

I’ve been enjoying every busy moment in my garden…

Old-fashioned Phlox, a bee bath, and an empty birdhouse

My new Sunshine perennial bed is now growing where our woodland Shade garden grew, beneath our towering Pine trees, for nearly a century. (Read that amazing story here!)

After weeks of digging and chopping long Pine roots, it was such fun to transplant colorful perennials to create this new border bed. I have been moving tall plants, like Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ to attract pollinators.

Bees on Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ (Autumn Sun)
Ailanthus Webworm Moth, with tightly closed wings,
on Rudbeckia seed head

This year, all of our birdhouses have remained empty. I’m convinced that all of our feathered friends have chosen to live in the new 4 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom ‘nest’ nearby! As I worked, cardinals, wrens, robins, and swallows would line up on top of the tall fence and fly in and out of the open windows. (They have very expensive taste!😉)

This old-fashioned Phlox is one of my favorites. It has been growing in my garden for more than thirty-five years! I deadhead the spent blooms and it always rewards me with more blossoms.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

The lovely, abundant ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms bring me special joy all year long! Throughout the month of June, I cut the large, white blossoms to fill stoneware crocks, pitchers, and large vases for our front porch.

As the summer progressed, I closely watched the lush ‘Annabelle’ blossoms slowly dry on the huge bushes. I was waiting for their dry, petals to turn a lovely shade of green. This week, they were ready!

Dried ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms

I spent an entire morning choosing just the right size, dried blossoms to fill baskets, an antique wooden box, an old crock, and a vintage pitcher with Hydrangeas. They will fill our home with sweet garden memories for a whole year!

A late summer wreath for our front door

Then I adorned a simple, grapevine wreath with dried Hydrangeas, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ blossoms, and seed heads from Rudbeckia and Bee Balm. It warms my gardening heart every time I open the front door!

Next week, I will gather more dried Hydrangea blossoms to save for Autumn and Winter decorations on our front porch. I will also hang more dried Hydrangeas from the ceiling rafters above my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.

Shhhh! Don’t tell the other perennials in my cottage garden, but I think Hydrangeas, Daisies, and Hollyhocks might be my favorites! On our wedding day, I carried a beautiful bouquet of Hydrangeas tied with satin ribbon. (I asked our talented florist to create a bouquet that looked like I had just gathered the blossoms from my garden!)💕

Dark Phase Tiger Swallowtail (We think!) and Phlox

I’m currently in the midst of another garden project. For the past thirty-five Summers, I have been hopping over Hostas and jumping though a large, naturalized bed of Daylilies every time I wanted to chat over the garden fence with our neighbors behind us. I’m getting older now, so I really should have a nice, safe path alongside my white, picket fence Herb & Tea garden all the way to our back fence.

So, I’m busy digging out Daylilies to create a wide path, adding a layer of cardboard, topped with a thick layer of wood chips. When it is ready, I will add large Pine slices (a final gift from our beautiful trees💕) to create ‘stepping stones’ along the garden path. Can’t wait for this new, easier way to chat over the garden fence! No more hopping and jumping will be necessary! 😊

Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ in bloom (next to a stack of Pine slices)

Our Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ plants were my biggest garden concern this Summer. They were thriving in the Shade beneath our Pine trees for over thirty-five years. In the Spring, I began dividing and moving these special Hostas to several different parts of our garden, hoping that they would continue to survive without deep shade. With lots of extra watering, all of the transplants have survived. I’m so delighted that several of these old-fashioned Hostas are now rewarding us with their fragrant, white August blossoms!

Very sadly. I have one epic garden failure to report…

In May, I splurged and treated myself to a beautiful Spanish Lavender topiary. It looked so lovely in a large container in the center of my Friendship Garden bed. Oh, how I loved that topiary!! It was doing so well for the first month. I carefully pruned the spent Lavender blossoms and it began to produce new buds all over. Suddenly, a very sneaky garden creature began climbing into the container, digging holes in the soil, and chewing on the roots of the Spanish Lavender. I think it was a chipmunk! I tried so hard to outsmart the culprit by carrying the topiary into the garage overnight for safety. I also tried shaking black pepper onto the soil in the container. Each rescue attempt only helped for a few days. Then the culprit was back chewing on the roots. In the morning, the topiary would be leaning sideways in its container. So sad… Soon the leaves dried and fell off. I continued to water my Spanish Lavender topiary stick to no avail. What could I have done differently to save my topiary???? I welcome any suggestions…

How is your garden growing this Summer (or Winter)? What garden joys are you celebrating? What projects are you working on this month in your garden? Have you experienced an epic garden failures?

🌻 Please share with all of us!

We just LOVE garden chats here!


Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

P.S. I’ll be back soon with garden-inspired art from my Paper Garden studio!


14 thoughts on “Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ August 2022

  1. Dawn your garden looks & sounds so beautiful. As for those pesky critters I have the same problem with them
    In my basil pots on my front porch. I took hair from my brush & that helped for a bit then not. Added of all things a little dog that has a motion sensor in it that my mom had. That helped for awhile then not. Then I added some garden tools upright in the pots & a few of the handheld whirlywigs. That has kept them out the most. As for your lavender tree mine did the same thing started drying up from the inside. I it’s small and been inside the entire time. This week I’m going to transplant it with new soil & different pot. Along with adding organic fertilizer..dried chicken poop. That gift did wonders for my struggling veggies & other flowers so fingers crossed that bird is the word. Lol If it works I’ll let you know.

    • So happy that you stopped to chat over the virtual garden gate today, Cynde! Those pesky critters just kept returning. My visitor must have come very early in the mornings. Thank you for sharing a lot of good ideas! The strange thing is that last Summer, I had much success with upright Spanish Lavender growing in the same container in the same garden bed! I never noticed any chipmunks in the garden until this year. Be sure to let us know if your new organic fertilizer helps your Lavender tree!
      I hope Mother Nature watered your garden today, too! We had almost an inch of rain here. What a much-needed treat! Happy weekend, Cynde! Thank you for chatting with us today!💗

  2. Hi Dawn – your garden looks beautiful – and I love that you will be using the pine slices to make a path. Looks like they are continuing to enrich your life.
    I’ve found moth ball crystals (mini moth balls) are a pretty good deterrent for chipmunks. I’m told they also don’t like cinnamon, but I’ve used both of those to keep them from digging by our brick walk; not sure how well they would do on keeping them out of a plant pot.
    We have not seen a single Monarch butterfly yet this season, and I know many who say the same. I have lots of natives in bloom as well as zinnias, so there is a lot to attract them – they just don’t seem to be in the area. 😦

    • Oh, thank you, Ginnie! I feel the same way about the Pine slices. Those trees lived in this garden for about 100 years. It is very important to me to honor that part of the garden’s history! Thank you for the tips about both moth ball crystals and cinnamon to deter chipmunks from digging. This is the first year I have seen chipmunks in our yard.

      We have only seen a few Monarchs in our garden this Summer. We are near a long stretch of native prairie that has a large area of milkweed. I read just recently that the Monarch butterfly was added to the Endangered Species list. We must continue to work to reverse climate change. Native plants will be the next additions to my garden.
      Ginnie, thank you so much for stopping to chat over the garden gate today. Wishing both you and your mom a nice weekend!💗

  3. Hello dear Dawn, I love your garden updates. Thanks so much for sharing. Your flowers look amazing. My grandmother grew hydrangea all down one side of her house. I need to plant some. They are so beautiful.

    About your chipmunks – would it work to put skewers (pointy end up) into the soil around your plant? – that keeps cats off our gardens here. They don’t like being poked by sharp sticks 🙂

    Gosh that is certainly a big house – here’s me thinking the trend was towards smaller places! Looks like you’ve done a great job at adjusting and having your garden thrive – love those yellow daisies growing tall.

    I’ve been housesitting a few hours drive away from home. If there was a month to be away from my garden, August is it. But not sure I’d do this again for so long. I’m missing my garden and using this time to plan my Spring veggies and dream of what’s next. I too have been putting down cardboard and about 6-8 inches of wood mulch on top – getting another load when I return. Some of it’s been down for a couple of years now and is breaking down nicely. I’ve buried mushroom spore in it and last year got lots of mushrooms. Looking forward to another crop this year. I’ve now covered all my grass so when this all breaks down I’ll have great soil for more veggies and trees. Will soon be like a forest!

    We’ve had the wettest winter/spring ever here in NZ. A lot of flooding in many parts of the country. Many of my trees don’t like wet feet but seem to be OK so far.

    Love and hugs to you from downunder 🙂

    • Oh, Vicky! I just love hearing stories about your New Zealand garden, dear friend! You truly will have an edible forest, now that you have replaced all of your lawn with veggies, fruit and nut trees, and flowers. Well done!! In just a few short years, you have created such a peaceful, healthy, beautiful paradise of your very own!💕

      I know how you are missing your garden while you are away for a month. I remember the Summers when I would take off on a long adventure! Before leaving, I would cut most of the flowers and bring big bouquets to all of my neighbors. While I was away, the flowers would have time to produce more buds and my garden would greet me with fresh blossoms when I returned!💕It was a win-win! The neighbors were happy with their bouquets and I always had fresh, new flowers to enjoy upon my return!😊

      Soon it will be time to harvest herbs. You know how much I love flowers… but if I could only grow one thing, I would choose herbs!🌱 Lately, herbs have been appearing in my artwork, too!

      Vicky, I will definitely try your idea of pointy, wooden skewers! I have some in a kitchen drawer right now. It never occurred to me to use them in the garden. Thank you for the inspiration! I always learn new things while chatting over our virtual garden fence.

      Yes, it is definitely a BIG house! It might be ready to sell in December. I can’t wait to see the inside! We have officially become the ‘gardener’s cottage’ in the shade of the big house. You know how much I LOVE old houses! But I also appreciate the beauty of well-designed new homes. So, it’s all good!!
      Enjoy the rest of your time away, Vicky! You will appreciate your garden even more when you return home. Sending our love and hugs across the seas!💗

  4. “A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.” May Sarton

    It has been a lot of years since I have dealt with chipmunks but I think I would try chicken wire for plants in pots and then press it down in the soil. Use two layers if necessary. I have a similar issue with something digging out half the dirt in some of my big pots. I think my culprits are raccoons. As smart as we think we are, we find ourselves trying to outsmart a chipmunk or raccoon! LOL Laughing at your birds! They aren’t dumb either!
    I envy you your beautiful green gardens with so many blooms. We did FINALLY get some rain. 1.30”
    And a chance of more. We now have a total of 4.98” for the year.
    Be sure to show us your garden path when you get it finished.

    • Very true gardening words of wisdom from May Sarton, dear Chris! Thank you so much for the great advice. I have not tried a barrier, like chicken wire, to keep the sneaky critter from digging and chewing the roots. That cute, little chipmunk doesn’t realize that an international group of the kindest, friendliest gardeners are making a plan to keep him away from my Spanish Lavender topiary ‘stick’ from now on! 🙌🏻 In the years to come, I will also have plenty of great ideas to keep the next Lavender topiary safe right from the start!!

      I’m so happy to hear that some much needed rain has come to West Texas! (Google just told me that your average annual rainfall is 36 inches.) I truly hope that more gentle rains will come your way very soon, Chris!

      I’m hoping to complete my part of the garden path soon. However, our property extends about two feet beyond the construction fence. Whenever the tall fence is removed, the builder will have his landscapers dig out the weeds (much taller than me already!), put down a weed barrier, and add wood chips to make my garden path wider. So, it won’t be completely finished up for a while. Then we will move the Pine ‘stepping stones’ into place. I’m looking forward to that day… and continuing to ‘go with the FLOW.’ 😊 Plenty of other projects to keep me busy as I wait!
      Heartfelt thanks, dear friend, for taking time to chat by the garden gate today! Sending hugs and gentle rains!💗

  5. If you go to the home center and get some wire screening or small opening hardware cloth (it’s actually made of wire with holes about a quarter inch in size) and cut two pieces with enough room in the center for the plant stem and bend it so it fits inside the pot edge that will keep the chipmunks out of the soil. It also won’t interfere with watering or require toxic mothballs. You can even put a little mulch over the wire mesh to hide it. Check the wire mesh in the spring and replace if needed. I only have room for some flower pots but we have chipmunks here and I found the wire mesh worked very well keeping the critters out of the pots. It also helps if you establish a place for the chipmunks to have a snack away from the plants (they love raw peanuts and they’re fun to watch as they stuff their cheeks then scamper off). Hardware cloth also makes a nice surround for plants that are inclined to flop over, a couple sticks and a length of hardware cloth wired together. Enjoy autumn.

    • Oh, Aquila! Thank you for sharing your time-tested ideas with us! I love the idea of using hardware cloth cut to accommodate the stem of the topiary. Bending the wire mesh to fit snugly inside the pot and then covering it with mulch sounds like a great deterrent for the hungry chipmunk(s). 🐿

      Your tips reminded me of a long-forgotten garden story…
      Years ago, a very kind, next-door neighbor used to put out a plate of Keebler Pecan Sandies cookies on her deck to feed the squirrels. Throughout the year, I would find those cookies buried in my garden beds. It always made me smile! I’m still waiting for my Cookie Tree to grow!!😊

      Aquila, I’m certain that your valuable gardening tips helped not only me, but so many other gardeners who will read them! It takes a ‘village’ to solve all of our gardening dilemmas! Heartfelt thanks for being such a kind, helpful friend! Our cooler mornings and evenings and shorter days remind us that Autumn is just around the corner.
      Wishing you healthy, happy Autumn days, Aquila!💗

  6. Dawn, it’s lovely to stop by your beautiful garden for a chat! I hope you receive my comment as I see you did not get my comment on your Red Letter Day post. I loved it and was so excited that you spent extra special time with Joe and Susan! The photo of you two is so nice–I would still be reliving those precious memories.
    I like hearing you are planting a sunshine garden since you lost your beloved trees. Every flower is full of sunshine and so well tended. I had to chuckle at your comment about the birds picking the construction home next door. They will surely return to your lovely spot next year. Birds really know when they are loved I believe.
    I’m in awe over your beautiful hydrangeas! Such beautiful arrangements you have fashioned! I especially like how you added them to your grapevine wreath. So pretty, my friend. Sadly I’ve had many garden fails this season. Frost killed the buds that were forming on my hydrangeas, so no blooms! I do have blossoms on the oakleaf hydrangea, so I’ll be picking them as they dry. But on a happier note I’ve had many volunteer vinca popping up in our patio planter. The hummingbirds and butterflies entertain us when we are sitting there. I love seeing your butterflies and bees–certainly a sign of a very healthy garden.
    Sending you and John hugs, my friend. Thank you for inviting me to chat over your garden gate!
    Martha Ellen

    • Oh, Martha Ellen! After reading this comment, I hurried to ‘look’ for you, dear friend. There you were, waiting all alone in the Spam folder. That should never happen to a treasured friend!! (I never even check there, but from now on I will check.)

      Heartfelt hugs for sharing my Red-Letter Day! As I sat surrounded by Girlfriends, on that very special evening, I was thinking of you, Martha Ellen! I wished you were there with us!! Fingers crossed that on a future booksigning tour, Susan and Joe will stop in Virginia. Perhaps you could email her with the names of a few small, independent bookstores in your area. That’s exactly how I invited Susan to Prairie Path Books! At the same time, I let Sandy (the bookstore owner) know that Susan and Joe were planning to drive cross country, stopping at a few independent bookstores. It worked like magic… and made lifetime memories for everyone there!!💕 Are there any places in Colonial Williamsburg that could host a booksigning? Perhaps ask around during your next visit there. Susan and Joe love visiting historical places! I would love to come there, too!! Just planting ‘seeds’ of inspiration… 💕

      So happy that you are here to chat by the garden gate, dear heart! I am tickled to have a new Sunshine bed filled with bright colors. The pollinators found the perennials, just transplanted from other beds, right away! Originally, I planned for a much smaller, border bed, but little-by-little, it kept growing longer and longer. 😉 Just adding one or two plants at a time! By using perennials that I already had and free wood chips that I carried home from many trips to our city’s free wood chip pile, I made a happy, new place in the garden!☀️The only plants I bought (so far), were two Russian Sage plants and a ‘Hidcote’ Lavender plant that I just added near the bee bath. I am dreaming of adding native plants next, especially Echinacea in several colors!

      I am especially grateful that the beautiful, old Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ plants seem to have adapted to the sunshine! They have been a part of this garden since long before I moved here. In the Spring, I divided them and tucked them into spaces all over the yard hoping that some would survive. They are all doing well! I even planted two in pots for the front porch and they are blooming this week! It feels like a small miracle!!💕 Now I will share some with a dear gardening friend!

      Our ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas all came from one small plant. As it grew, I would dig up one small root and add it to another part of the garden. I cut them back to about six inches tall in the late Winter and they just flourish and bloom like crazy! They grow bigger every year. I love the way that they are spilling over the corners of the white picket fence! I can’t take credit, they just do their own thing!

      I really hope you won’t have a killing frost next year when your Hydrangeas are producing their buds, Martha Ellen! That happened to me several years when I grew ‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangeas along our front porch. There were several Summers when we only had big, healthy shrubs without any flowers at all. When I redo my front porch beds, I will switch to the ‘Invincibelle’ Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood. They have stronger stems, so they won’t flop over. I’m planning to keep my front garden beds very simple, with all of the FUN in the backyard garden beds!🌸

      I’m delighted to see you here this morning, dear heart! I hope we can plan a virtual teatime one afternoon. It would be such fun to see you and catch up on your travels!!
      Big hugs for you, Grayden, and Samuel! 💗

  7. Ah, chipmunks – we have them, and they can certainly do damage along with their friends, the squirrels. Chipmunks here are driving me nuts digging tunnels in the yard. I haven’t come up with anything to deter them, but for potted plants the suggestions about fencing makes sense. Your gardens are looking good, and I applaud you for going with the flow because doing anything less would just be unnecessary stress for you. I have about six lavender plants, and I’ve lost half of them to the extreme heat and drought this year. It has been so bad, I’ve potted up plants and just stored the pots in the shade to see if I can keep the plants from dying. You know it’s bad when daylilies die out. I have a lot of work to do but am sidelined right now with a septic system project that is going to start any time, and I don’t want to have to pot up any more plants than I need to. You have major construction next door, and I’m getting ready to have the driveway, lawn, and gardens in general dug up. It’s a good thing we’re both keeping our sense of humor about our gardens this year, and you have your paper and I have my fabric. 🙂

    • Oh, Judy! How can those chipmunks be soooo cute and destructive at the same time?? I can’t tell if we have one chipmunk or a whole family of them. I have only seen one at a time and he runs so fast! 🐿 I thought he was so cute, until he began misbehaving and torturing the Spanish Lavender topiary! I’m SO VERY grateful to all of our gardening friends here who have shared their wisdom and successful chipmunk defense strategies! Thank you so much, Judy, for the MG stamp of approval! 😊

      High temperatures and drought conditions that even kill daylilies must be just horrible, Judy! I think of you each time we watch the weather reports from New England. Your septic system project sounds massive and so disruptive!! I’m so sorry that the backhoes and excavators will be visiting your driveway, lawn, and gardens, Judy. Ugh!! I’m sharing my 2022 ‘word’ with you ~ FLOW… The ‘beep, beep, beeping’ will accompany the birdsong for awhile. Once they begin, I hope that they will have good weather so they can continue working every day. Retreat to your needle and thread! It might be the perfect time to work on a new quilt project that excites you! I have spent many a day downstairs in my Paper Garden studio🙏🏼. I can still hear the beeping and heavy equipment, and sometimes feel our little house shaking, but my heart and hands are busy playing with paper and ink! Thank goodness for our other creative passions, my friend!
      Hang in there, Judy! Keep us updated with the progress!
      Sending big, tight, squishy hugs all the way to New Hampshire!💗

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