I Hate August!

In a gardener's sense that is. Or maybe I should qualify it further and tell it like it is. I am a lazy gardener and that is why I hate August. Okay, it's out. I've said it. Which should be the first step toward doing something about it.

First, let's enumerate the reasons for hating the month whose sole job is to hint at the end of summer. I am the gardener who espouses excess in a garden bed.

Flashback: Sometime in April

Lilies emerging from the litter.
"Let no space go unplanted" is my motto for April. It's the month when there are so many bare patches to fill and the best garden centers have the freshest, perkiest plants--the ones you dream about all winter long.

Recovering from the bunny brunch.
Sure, there are plants coming up -- hopeful and innocent babes just grooving on the newly discovered warmth and sunshine. Anticipation is the attitude for April, and all of the things you vowed to avoid last season fly out the window with the first nudge of a warmish breeze. These are the issues that don't come calling until August, like not crowding the lilies, cutting back the Amsonia and Baptisia, or staking tall plants BEFORE they topple. Who thinks about these things when nothing in the garden is more than six inches high?

Any color other than brown, or dirty snow is welcome in April. It's the month your patience pays off, when tender stems and buds draw you out each day after donning rubber boots, warm gloves and the ugliest, warmest hat you own. On warm days you can skip the gloves in favor of a cup of coffee that can be carried in one hand while the other holds a stick to brush back the dried leaves so you can see what's going on.

The Present Reality: A Day in Early August

As glad as you are  in April that you planted spring bulbs, it's hard to believe that just four months later you can't imagine planting, or even ordering anything that would force you to deal with the exuberant chaos that is now your garden!

Would you want to wade into this mess?
Franklinia alatamaha with two flower buds!
The lilies are finished, but you have to leave the unsightly stems up to photosynthesize. The Baptisia you didn't cut back after blooming is threatening to smother everything within a 12-foot radius surrounding the spot where you planted the cute little thing four years ago. Even the single tomato has bit the dust due to a mysterious case of late summer suicide.

And did I mention the mosquitoes? Suffice it to say they're out there in droves from noon to 4 pm and in whatever-is-more-than-a-drove all the other times. What's a lazy gardener to do in August? I scavenged for a glimpse of hope on a day when the mosquitoes weren't too bad. And I found several glimmers!
Hibiscus 'Cherry Cheesecake' prepares for its close-up.

The most obvious because of its proximity to the deceased tomato plant is the Franklinia alatamaha, a rare tree that's been surviving in my garden for several years. Not thriving. Surviving. Which is about all I can ask considering it couldn't survive in its home environment.
Hibiscus 'Cherry Cheesecake' from last year.

I must be desperate. I'm even rooting for the hardy Hibiscus (or rose mallow) 'Cherry Cheesecake', a plant group I've never gotten excited about. In fact, I'm surprised it's still in my garden. Anyway, the foliage is relatively unmarred by Japanese beetles, and there is a bud about to unfurl its pink petals.

Last year, I got a photo of the only bloom that opened without beetle damage. It's a gorgeous flower with plenty of substance, and even after fading, doesn't detract as much as some others.

Cyclamen purpurascens
I had to scrounge a bit lower for another plant with pink petals. It was worth it. Cyclamen purpurascens is something you don't see at many garden centers. Or online plant emporiums for that matter. It's under four inches tall, so I've yet to experience the fragrance it purportedly exudes.

I've been practicing my Army crawl, but haven't mastered it to the point where I can scuttle and

inhale at the same time. The little plant is pretty to look at, though, and appears whenever it feels like it, usually right after I think I've lost it.

The pineapple lilies are still in varying stages of bloom (or not); the one that makes me glad I went outside today is Eucomis montana, which I purchased from Brent and Becky's Bulbs.
Eucomis montana is just beginning
Compared with all the other species and hybrids I'm growing, this pineapple lily has some serious substance!

Its leaves aren't necessarily stand-up, but the flowers are very waxy. I'm pretty sure this Eucomis will keep me entertained most of the month.

Although I really don't remember which poppies are blooming right now. I know they're corn, or Shirley poppies, which more accurately are Papaver rhoeas, an easy from seed species with several hybrids available.

Because of their lackadaisical appearance, it's likely they are volunteers from last year's sowing. But on a somewhat colorless August day, I'm not complaining.

In one respect, August in my garden is not unlike April. There is not enough color, and the temperatures can be uncomfortable, but there is always something waiting in the wings to provide my required quota of enchantment.


  1. This post brought a smile to my face. You and I are on the same wave length regarding the gardening year. August is my least favorite time any way you look at it. The heat and drought this month makes my garden look pitiful. I water only newly planted plants. I figure if they get at least one year of decent water supply they should fit in. I have tried cyclamen so many times. They just can't get past our August weather which makes me sad. I just love this plant.

  2. Yes, Lisa. If there are "dog days" in the garden they definitely are in August.