End of Month View

I have to admit, I get very discouraged about my garden at this time of year. Shade gardens are at their best in late winter and spring.  After mid-June, they quickly go downhill.  Even though I try to extend the bloom-season into summer with hydrangeas and other flowering plants, the amount of water required by the many towering hardwood trees, plus the deep shade they create, put tremendous stress on the garden below.  Add a huge construction project, like our new porch, and you really end up with a mess.

What a mess!

What a mess!

Currently, the back garden is a mud slick. The dead sod will not be replaced until I’ve sorted out the new garden plan (or perhaps won’t be, ever).  To make matters worse, four hydrangeas were lost to voles in recent months, and I haven’t yet called Tommy (who installed the patio) to work on our next action plan.

Things look better from the river terraces, where Tim spent three hours yesterday whacking back weeds.  The native hickory trees (Carya), Carolina silverbell (Halesia Carolina), and sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) have all turned a vivid yellow.  Sadly, the three native dogwoods (Cornus florida) which I planted along the river, and which would now be a lovely burgundy, were destroyed by beavers last winter.

Better view with colorful autumn foliage.

Better view with colorful autumn foliage.

In the front garden, a massive red oak (Quercus rubra) gave up the ghost in August and was taken down when I got home from my last tour in September. The weeping Japanese maple that grew at its base was moved, but the nearby Japanese flowering apricot (Prunus mume) was too large to transplant or protect from falling debris and lost more than half of its canopy.  But last week, the first flowers of the winter-blooming iris (I. unguicularis) began to bloom, adding a bit of cheer to the desolate spot.

A 4-foot wide stump is all that is left of a huge oak, but the tiny iris (bottom left) is a welcome sign that life goes on.

A 4-foot wide stump is all that is left of a huge oak, but the tiny iris (bottom left) is a welcome sign that life goes on.

Less than a month later we removed a second mammoth tree. This one, located to the side of the house near the driveway, had a double trunk which began to split in the hurricane that dumped 7 inches of rain in the Upstate (and twice as much in the Midlands, causing catastrophic floods).  Neither of these tree losses, though, damaged the garden as much as they hurt the pocketbook.

Near the front of the house, the full-moon Japanese maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’) is turning orange and red, adding a much appreciated touch of autumn glory to the garden.

Full-moon Japanese, not as bright as other years, but still pretty.

Full-moon Japanese, not as bright as other years, but still pretty.

Best of all, I made time to update the porch pots on the front stoop this weekend. You might get a kick out of these before and after photos.

Before:-(

Before:-(

And a much better after:-)

And a much better after:-)

Everillo carex, creeping wire vine, variegated box, viola, ferns, trailing juniper, ornamental kale, Chocolate Chip ajuga

Everillo carex, creeping wire vine, variegated box, viola, ferns, trailing juniper, ornamental kale, Chocolate Chip ajuga

Autumn fern, variegated creeping myrtle, Ascot Rainbow euphorbia, Colorado blue spruce, Peppermint heuchera, Toffee Twist carex, plus ornamental kale

Autumn fern, variegated creeping myrtle, Ascot Rainbow euphorbia, Colorado blue spruce, Peppermint heuchera, Toffee Twist carex, plus ornamental kale

Linking to Helen at The Patient Gardener.

23 thoughts on “End of Month View

  1. Susan Wilkins

    Marian, you need to coax your neighbors into getting an outdoor cat! My neighbor has one and voila! No more voles😀😀😀

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Susan–If I could find a cat that is interested in voles, I would give it a good home myself. The only neighborhood cat that visits my garden is a bird stalker, so I’m always chasing it away from the feeders.

      Reply
  2. Nancy Shannon

    Marion, beavers were destroying our trees along the bank at lake wylie. my husband wrapped the base of the trees with tall fence wire( I can,t remember what kind) but they cannot chew through it.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Reply
  3. Beth @ PlantPostings

    Oh yes, your before and after shots of the pots are fun! They look great. I appreciated your honesty about the challenges you’ve been dealing with, and it sounds like you’re finding workable solutions. I know how challenging shade gardens can be. I’ve been trying to add middle and late-season blooming plants, but it’s slow going because the critters like to eat them. 😉 I’m sure your back garden will look amazing when it’s done!

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Beth–I keep trying to love shade but it is a challange. I have some ideas for the back garden that I hope will give me more satisfaction…if not with plants, then with design.

      Reply
  4. Jane Hincemon

    I share your woes with voles..Lost seven acubas, planted for quick privacy to voles.,this summer…And three new Annabelles in a new garden room..Come by 41 Buist sometime and have a cup of tea or something stronger to commiserate. Planting in pots, pots, pots..

    Reply
  5. Chloris

    It’ s always sad to lose trees, it happens a lot here because I have honeyfungus throughout the garden. Still it’ s natures way of thinning out the woodland. You have some wonderful trees. I love your winter pots.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Chloris–Thanks for the encouraging words. Loosing the trees has been bittersweet. It’s sad to take them down but the front garden, in particular, feels decidedly less claustrophobic.

      Reply
  6. Pauline

    Sorry to hear about your vole damage, we have plenty but a tawny owl keeps them in check and so far we don’t seem to have lost any plants to them, you need an owl! Love your new pots, they will be a lovely welcome over the winter for your visitors.
    My huge trees in the woodland and round the edge of the garden make gardening a challenge, but it is possible to plant between the roots, maybe autumn crocus and colchicums would be able to survive if the shade isn’t too deep.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Pauline–I think you have hit on a solution. What I need is more owls! I adore that idea and am going to do some reseach to see what I can do to attract them. I really admire your shade garden…you have such an interesting tapestry of plants. I know I can do better.

      Reply
  7. digwithdorris

    I can understand that you are feeling downhearted with the post building mud and the loss of trees.Your pots look very beautiful and the autumn leaves are lovely. A section of blank canvas is a challenge but how nice to make new plans; I look forward to reading about it!

    Reply
  8. An Eye For Detail

    I do feel for you with those trees: the cost alone would send me into a downward spiral! Voles…wow, I’ve never encountered them but do hear awful things about the creatures. And yes, I think fall is hard everywhere. The color just doesn’t last very long and all those beautiful perennials of spring and summer look so forlorn. Ah well, at least down here it’s not long til spring! I am even seeing tips of iris and, I think, daffodils emerging!!!

    Reply
  9. Angie

    I’m sure that over winter you will have conjured up some marvelous plans that will lift your mood Marian. I wonder too if because there has been so much going on you are feeling a tad deflated and perhaps apprehensive about the next phase. Either way, I’m sure we’ll all be marveling at what you achieve by next year.

    Reply
  10. pbmgarden

    Marian, sorry the voles have been so destructive. They’re very hard to battle. Our neighborhood cats are more interested in birds than voles also. Bet you’re enjoying your new room.

    Reply
  11. gardeninacity

    Whoa, you have healthy American chestnut trees? That’s wonderful. What with the voles and beavers, though, it does sound like you could really use one my GardenGuardian (TM) garden drones (patent pending). I’ll let you know as soon as they start rolling off the production line. I never heard of voles taking out Hydrangea bushes. Sorry to hear about all the lost trees and shrubs, that does sound very frustrating.

    Reply
  12. Christina

    I think that when you live in such lovely surroundings as yours, you just have to accept that your ‘wild’ animals will take a toll on some plants. I didn’t think any of your images looked terrible so maybe the job won’t be so bad after all.

    Reply

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