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Dishin' the dirt from the garden and beyond

Showy leaves save the day when blooms fade

What’s going to be left? That’s the question many of us are starting to wonder as we look around our gardens zooming ahead of ordinary bloom schedule thanks to all the rains. Several plants that would ordinarily have come into their own in late July have already come and gone, and I wonder what’s going to be left to bloom in August aside from some sun-faded coneflowers. There’s a reason so many of us plan garden parties for June, when we’ll be fairly certain to get either late spring or early summer blooms.

Luckily, there’s always foliage. Bright blooms steal the limelight, but at heart, the bulk of the garden is really composed of leaves, so it helps of they provide a supporting role. These days there are many more options to choose among, from the deep burgundy of ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ bugbane to the pretty patterned leaves of ‘Jack Frost’ brunnera. Those leaves might as well do something besides photosynthesis.

In some cases, the leaves outshine the blooms. Take coral bells or foamflower, for instance. The tiny blooms are cute, but hardly the star. Foamflower’s leaves in interesting shapes and colors far outshine the spikes of tiny blooms. Ditto with many hosta: Who remembers hosta ‘Hadspen Blue’for its blooms when those giant gray-blue leaves are around? Even the names of coral bells sound pretty: ‘Chocolate Ruffles,’ ‘Black Taffeta,’ ‘Grape Soda,’ and ‘Buttered Rum’ are but a few of the entries. Many of these exotically named and leaved coral bells brighten the otherwise drab shade on the north side of my house.

And it's not just with color that leaves augment the landscape.Shape and texture add rich variation to the garden from the spiky fronds of a 'Dre's Dragon' fern to the lacy Maiden Hair.

Of course, you can overcorrect on anything. I’m such a sucker for variegated leaves that it’s led me down the garden path more than once. As an early adopter of variegated artemsia, I’ve lived to regret it, and now treat it as a weed because it’s just such a ferocious spreader. But sometimes I get a good surprise. After planting some kalimeris variegata (Japanese aster), I was delighted to find it a mass of blooms later that year, and reported this joyous discovery to the friend who had been with me when I bought it on impulse. She said, “Oh, so it’s not just another pretty leaf.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially come late August.

What’s providing color in your garden? Are your plants ahead of bloom schedule too? Here’s a link to a site that offers description and examples of colored foliage plants:

Barefooting just got a new name.

July is a perfect time in the garden.  Things are growing; weeds are manageable (thanks to mulch); flowers are deadheaded and tomatoes and squash tied up.  It’s time to grab a beverage, kick your shoes off, find a nice spot in the grass and enjoy the weather.

At a recent reunion, I was explaining this enjoyment of the garden to an old schoolmate.  “Oh,” she said, “you were earthing.”  What?  She went on to explain that the Earth has energy and connecting to the earth promotes good health.  Really? Seriously?  You have to “call” it something.  

“Look it up!” she said grabbing her smart phone. “They even sell copper yoga mats to help you connect.”  
Ugh!  Why do they have to take every simple pleasure in life and commercialize it?  I thought I was simply enjoying my garden… now I’m ‘earthing.’  The worst part is that when I was walking around barefoot in my nice thick grass last night, I couldn’t get that WORD out of my mind.  No, I’m not earthing, I’m enjoying.  I’m not transferring electrons, I’m wiggling my toes.  

The thing is that no matter how angry I got at the world for stripping simple pleasures, I could not help but feel calmed.  That’s what my garden does, that’s what walking barefoot in grass does.  We don’t have to ‘call’ it anything.  We just do it because it feels good.

So maybe this weekend when the humidity is thick and the lake is cool, I will take my towel down to the beach.  Strip down to a bathing suit, kick off the flip flops and have some kids bury me in the sand up to my neck.  That ought to transfer some electrons!

What are you doing to ‘earth?”

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