Summer Gardening – It’s Too Darn Hot!

Heliopsis 'Loraine Sunshine'

Heliopsis ‘Loraine Sunshine’

I’ve mentioned often that I’m heat- and sun-intolerant. As I remember, this started in my teens. I remember going out in my bathing suit to lie on the deck at home and try to get some tan. After a very short time I had to go back indoors – I just couldn’t take it. I was about 16 at the time.

When I lived in Des Moines, I had a job that started at 7:30 a.m. Since I’m a slow starter (NOT a morning person!), this meant getting up at 5:40. Thus, when I took my vacations for gardening (always the 2nd and 4th weeks of April), I was already used to getting up early.

The first week was for cleaning up and preparing the garden. The second was for planting. I’d be out there at 6 a.m. Of course, those weeks were (usually) nice and cool, particularly the first of the two weeks. 55 degree weather was perfect for me to work hard without getting any overheating symptoms. At that temperature, I could even take the sunlight.

But then there was the one time

Daylily 'Marque Moon' - New This Year

Daylily ‘Marque Moon’ – New This Year

I tried to mow my front lawn myself in midsummer using a push mower. Maybe I lasted 15-20 minutes out of sheer dogged determination. Then it was down the hill into the tuck-under garage, where I fell to my knees and crawled past my car to the door, into the basement, and into the downstairs shower. I remember having trouble reaching up for the taps. Got the cold water turned on and lay there, still clothed, till the dizziness and nausea passed.

That happened to me one other time. This time it was not terribly hot, and I weeded my brother’s garden for about an hour, sitting on the ground, no heavy activity … and then all of a sudden I knew I was in trouble, just from the sunlight. Again I had to crawl inside and into the nearest bathtub, turning the cold water on and letting it run over my head.

Heuchera 'Peach Crisp' - New This Year

Heuchera ‘Peach Crisp’ – New This Year

Fast forward many years to this month. I’m 25 years older than I was in Des Moines and don’t have the kind of strength I had back then. I couldn’t start planting as early as the 4th week of April because of all the work that needed to be done first. Not only did I have pots and planters full of things we had taken out of gardens preparatory to renovation, but I went ahead and bought more plants (stupid, stupid, stupid!). By the end of June, there were still a ton of them not in the ground. Then three things happened.

First, I went into a short depressive episode. Second, it got HOT. Third, I hurt my knee fairly badly, eight days ago, when I nearly toppled forward into the lake and had to throw myself backward up the slope to keep from getting a facefull of algae and duckweed.

The depression accounts for the lack of blogs during July. I started several, but decided they were garbage and didn’t finish or publish them. The heat and injury account for lack of progress.

Daylily 'Mighty Chestnut'

Daylily ‘Mighty Chestnut’

I did get some weeding done, early in the month, in areas where I could work in the shade. And I did get some planting done – mostly early in the month. A couple of the extracted daylilies – that had been planted – bloomed, proving to be Stella d’Oros, which I detest – so those were taken out and replaced by what I believe are hemerocallis flava – the old bright yellow non-reblooming flowers that are tall and gorgeous. And the island bed is almost entirely done – I just have a couple more of the ‘Mighty Chestnut’ daylilies to put in (I couldn’t plant them until they bloomed and identified themselves). But now it’s too damned hot.

I mean, I don’t do well in 75º weather. And as I write, it’s 88º out there.

Small Sedums in Nursery Pots

Small Sedums in Nursery Pots

So … until and unless I get some cooler weather down the road, I’m going to have to curtail my ambitions, at least to a point. As soon as my knee feels up to it, I can plant one or two plants, no more, per day. It may mean just sticking them in the ground wherever there’s room, but they’ll be better off out of pots no matter what. Weeding will just have to be put on hold, except for some areas where I just want to kill off everything, like the “Dead Zone” in my garden plan where almost nothing will grow anyway.

Still to plant or replant:

Dwarf gold false cypress

Dwarf gold false cypress

  • 9 astilbes
  • 4 or 5 hostas
  • 1 iris ‘Raven Girl’
  • 4 new daylilies
  • 5 or so old daylilies
  • 3 lilies
  • 1 dwarf maple
  • 1 spiraea
  • 1 butterfly bush
  • 8 (or more) sedums – various types
  • 1 (or 2?) mock oranges
  • 6 old iris ‘Immortality’
  • 1 Shasta Daisy ‘Banana Cream’
  • 3 dwarf chamaecyparis (third shown at right)
  • 2 or 3 heliopsis ‘Loraine Sunshine’ (above)
  • 3 verbena ‘Snow Flurry’ (below)
  • 3 dianthus ‘Heart Attack’
  • 1 diervilla
  • 1 coreopsis ‘Jethro Tull’
  • 1 heuchera ‘Firefly’
Verbena 'Snow Flurry'

Verbena ‘Snow Flurry’

Some of these can remain in their containers until fall (like the verbenas at right). Those that absolutely cannot include the irises, some of the sedums, some of the daylilies, and one or both of the mock oranges.

And because some of those are still in small nursery pots, they can be planted with a trowel, and these are the ones I should concentrate on first.

IF I can find places that aren’t choked with weeds …

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