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There is one word that describes the month of August in central Virginia… steamy. Not unlike steam room cloying temperatures and humidity with dew points in the 70’s.

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August skies over Swallowtail Cottage

This year does not disappoint. Any Virginia gardener knows this month requires resolve and fortitude and multiple trips to the shower. If Mother Nature holds back quenching storms, this gardener must rise before dawn to drag hoses around for blooming plants, inviting nectaring insects and butterflies to have sweet tastes. Newly added plant material must be monitored for even moisture, if they are to survive and put down healthy root systems.

Despite these character-building conditions, I want to share with you the beauties that dot my landscape this month…

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The Chinese Lycoris squamigera, more commonly known as Naked Ladies, are plentiful around here (zone 7a) as summer beauties yet are extremely persnickety. They send up tall, flat leaves in the spring that die off, then tall spikes appear this month. With multiple flowers on plain or naked stalks reaching 36″ tall, they are quite the show stopper. They never need staking, yet when I transplant them to other garden areas, many never bloom. Go figure…

Formosa lily from Tufton

Formosa lilies are native to Formosa and grow easily in my gardens where they readily self sow… the original seed came from Tufton, a property once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

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The Formosa seed pods during winter, with actual seeds removed. Stunning, yes?

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This Honeybells fragrant hosta and nine sisters were gifted to me last year. Now blooming and 48″ high, the steamy August garden is blessed with visual cool and fragrance. PS: generous applications of spent coffee grounds around the base of early leaves completely stopped the onslaught of slugs…a Whole Foods Barista was happy to give me their dregs any time that I asked.

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A close up of this dreamy hosta Honeybells. Too bad the biting ants like the flowers too or I would cut stems for the house and market.

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The only phlox I grow here at Swallowtail Cottage, Davidii stands tall and does not succumb to any mildew. Incredible.

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Another gift from Kate. The Celadon poppy blooms early spring and again this month. I am told this poppy is invasive, yet tucked back in the rear garden, I invite a bit of delicate color and naughty.

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THIS is a thug. Rudbeckia triloba…I do not remember ever planting it, yet this year a huge area of the butterfly garden is filled with these 6′ tall bloomers! I took many bunches to market and will stuff the rest in the burn barrel, as they have needles along the stems and are as rough as a cob. OUT!!!

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Autumn Joy sedum attracts flutterbyes by the dozen and is an easy-care perennial. A classic in any garden. This was on the property when I bought it in 2001, and I have shared many clumps with neighbors.

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Ahhh, my summer delight. The Natchez crape myrtle. One double trunk grows in the front lawn, and a five-trunked specimen thrives on the west side of the house. These beauties provide dreamy shade during summer months, have refreshing blooms where honey bees bury themselves, and in fall, leaves change to a brilliant hue. Did I mention the peeling bark during August? This shed reminds me all is well with much visual interest.

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The shedding bark layer curls and twists, revealing the baby smooth leather-like under bark. I often find myself stroking the trunks as the sensation is like no other.

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I laugh every year when this silly PJM rhododendron blooms in August…All of its companions bloom in the spring, when they should, but here, no. I really do not like pink of any kind in the garden, yet planted PJM’s years ago for their winter bronze leaf color.

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Let me introduce you to a new variety… Black Diamond crape myrtle, added to my front garden this summer. Notice the wonderful deep leaf hue and pleasant color of the flowers…this plant blooms multiple times per year and the plant tag promises a mature height at 12′. I look forward to many years with this new variety…

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And Babe, the topic of my last post, survives despite its weird appendage in front of its right leg. After emailing photos to the Wildlife Center, they too are stumped and suggest that as long as Babe is eating well, to leave it in the wild. Although Babe continues to molt and look rather pathetic with its shabby coat, I eagerly wait to see what sex it is…can anyone guess?

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This plaque, found in a shop at Tryon Palace, reminds me that the garden teaches forever.

Twice per week this time of year I run errands and make deliveries very early, then confess to enjoying short afternoon naps in the air conditioning. Heat is hypnotic. Reclined on the loveseat, dozing between paragraphs of a Baldacci novel, I later rise and do indoor chores. Then around 7PM I dress for insects and head out weekly to mow and perspire. Soon. Soon. Very soon, there will be lower dew points and garden clean up, as the blooming show will be mostly over until next spring. And this gardener will sigh a large exhale.

Thanks for reading along. Your comments are always enjoyed.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved