Dog Days of Summer

Blossoms of Clethra alnifolia, also known as summersweet, in the August garden.  Photo (c) Hilda M. Morrill
Blossoms of Clethra alnifolia, also known as summersweet, in the August garden. Photo (c) Hilda M. Morrill

It’s hard to believe that August is here, the dog days of summer. Our recent hot-and-humid days are definitely getting shorter.

There are tons of berries on the Kousa dogwoods; and when they ripen, they will keep many birds happy (as well as our resident rascally squirrels).

While on the subject of squirrels, we scattered some red pepper flakes in a couple of our container plantings where the rascals had been digging up the plants. While the red pepper works at keeping the squirrels away, I still remember the year the “flakes” germinated. Letting some grow uninterrupted and untrimmed, it was interesting and fun to be “gifted” with some cute little peppers at the end of the season.

We continue to see visiting turkeys (mommies being followed by little ones), occasional deer, and a scary fisher cat. Not so evident this year are hungry bunnies and groundhogs. Yeah! Maybe the fisher cat got them. We can hear a neighbor’s chickens and it’s a comforting sound.

We’re harvesting lettuce, zucchini, green beans and tomatoes from the vegetable garden. We’ve even enjoyed a couple of cucumbers from the solitary vine that emerged from the row of seeds planted. In fact, we are late in seeding more lettuce, cucumbers and radishes for a fall or second harvest.

In bloom in the flower gardens are Shasta daisies, lavenders, hydrangeas, malvas, daylilies and hostas, to name a few.

The Clethra alnifolia blossoms are spectacular. Also known as summersweet or sweet pepper bush, our clethra has been trained into a cute small tree rather than a shrub.

The weeds are plentiful and quite healthy. For the first time in more than 45 years of gardening on the same property, hundreds of oak seedlings appeared this spring and early summer. Most have been dug up and discarded. Interestingly, we have no oak trees on our less than 1/2-acre property. Our so-called “friends” the squirrels are responsible, I’m sure, since many of our neighbors have beautiful oak trees.

Also considered “weeds” in our garden are some morning glories and the white blooming autumn clematis. Planted by yours truly many years ago, it has been an unpleasant chore to remove the clematis where they have seeded themselves with abandon. What makes this clematis even more of a pain is that it is a perennial and it has a habit of growing through our desirable shrubs, such as the azaleas.

A weed that I don’t mind so much is the red perilla (shiso), which is an annual, and has pretty coleus-like burgundy leaves. Some people even cook with it. Hubby hates it, especially when it seeds itself in our so-called lawn.

Very welcome, indeed, are the self-seeded cosmos, the salvia sclarea (clary sage), the monarda and the verbena bonariensis. Their blossoms are loved and visited by butterflies, bees and hummers.

The daily newspapers are full of back-to-school and even holiday sales. I’ve already seen ads for Christmas wreaths.

Spring bulb catalogs are arriving in the mail and are being touted on the Internet. Speaking of spring bulbs, we still have some hidden green daffodil foliage growing in the garden.

Maybe it’s time to pull it out! (Ha! Ha!)