Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On the Homefront: Summer in the Garden

A luxuriant Lantana camara 'Miss Huff' in full bloom.  This shrub
was developed and introduced by our local plant nursery,
Goodness Grows.

This has been an unusually lush summer because of all the rain we had over the winter and spring.  I have even been inspired to put in more planting beds in an effort to spruce up the yard.  Our new dog Maddie has tried to help with the digging, and I have to keep explaining to her that random holes all over the lawn were not what I had in mind!  I started a new border with half a dozen blueberry plants, and I replaced a dead Cleyera at a corner of the house with a forsythia bush.  A new variety of crape myrtle replaced a Japanese maple that succumbed to a late spring frost.

Crape myrtle 'Black Diamond Crimson Red'
(from All Things Plants)

I have high hopes for this striking shrub with its almost black foliage and vivid red flowers.  I bought mine at Lowe's earlier in the year.  While mine will probably not flower this year, I noticed that some of the larger ones at Lowe's are beginning to bloom and the flower color is spectacular.  If my plant survives the winter I may put in a few more next year.

Our little shrub won't be flowering this year, but I am pleased with
the way it has adapted to the transplant (it even has some new
leaf growth).

Recently, a trip to our local nursery for a craft beer festival led to the purchase of a few more new plants, including a new variety of Vitex, a couple of vibrant scarlet-red daylilies, and a flowering quince (Chaenomeles sp.).

Vitex agnus-castus 'Shoal Creek'
(from Goodness Grows)

Vitex, also known as chaste tree, is a hardy shrub with lovely lavender blue flowers that are especially attractive to our local bumblebees.  The variety I got, called 'Shoal Creek', is fairly new and was developed by the nursery, so it should be well adapted to conditions in our yard.

Our newly planted Vitex (and you can see a few of the new
blueberry plants in the background).

Daylily 'Chicago Apache'
(from Monrovia)

In an earlier post I mentioned a couple of beautiful red daylily varieties I saw at a show in Athens.  The daylilies we found at the nursery, called 'Chicago Apache', were very close in color to those varieties, so we had to get them!

Daylily 'Chicago Apache' flowering vigorously in our yard!

Actual unretouched photo of one of the flowers (the colors
practically glow!).

Flowering quince 'Superba Fusion'
(from Almost Eden)

I bought a variety of red-flowering quince called 'Fusion' to complement another flowering quince I planted when we first moved to Georgia over ten years ago.  Since this is also a relatively new variety, it is certainly not the same as the first one, but hopefully the flower color will be similar.

It will be a while before my little flowering quince produces blossoms,
 but I will be satisfied if it manages to survive the winter.

In addition to abundant flora this year, our yard has been filled with visiting wild fauna as well.  A pair of cardinals nested in one of the Loropetalum shrubs on the west side of our house, and successfully fledged a pair of babies.  A couple of months ago a bird species I had never seen before, the Great Crested Flycatcher (new addition to my life list!), decided to take up residence in our back yard.  I would never have known had they not decided to attack their reflections in our French door windows every afternoon for several weeks!  Fortunately, no one was hurt, the windows survived, and they eventually gave up the attack.

Great Crested Flycatcher
(from Wikimedia Commons)

Our property is completely fenced, and I am doing my best to block off gaps at the bottom of the fence to keep out nine-banded armadillos, since they are even worse than Maddie when it comes to digging holes in the yard.  Armadillos are not native to this area, but over the years have managed to work their way farther and farther north.  They can carry the leprosy bacteria that also affects humans, so it is best not to handle them (a recent increase in the number of leprosy cases in Florida has been partially attributed to contact with armadillos).  The other day Maddie still managed to find a half-grown armadillo in our yard who was small enough to squeeze through a tiny fence opening.  The two of us chased it off and I filled in the little hole it went through.  Hopefully Maddie terrified it enough that it will not come back!

Nine-banded armadillo mother and baby
(from Arkive)

Our yard has not been neglected by herps.  Black and reticulated king snakes have made an appearance, but both species are nonvenomous and relatively nonaggressive, especially the black snakes, so I welcome them as they control rodent populations.  Toads are abundant at night right now, much to the delight of our dogs Ruby and Maddie, who love to goad them into jumping and will play at that game for hours if I let them (I don't!).  A tiny little frog was hopping through the grass recently, and I think it was a species of chorus frog:

I have seen my favorite visitor, the Eastern box turtle, on many occasions this year, including a tiny baby.  Recently several adults have been making their way across our yard, including this handsome fellow:

We are now suffering through the height of a typical Georgia midsummer, with all of its excessive heat and humidity.  The only bearable time of day is the predawn hours when I walk my dogs, but at least the garden seems to be loving this weather!

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