Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Delights in my Dry Summer Garden

a closeup of tuliptree leaves with black spots from insect damage

Hello fellow readers, As I write, it is Labor Day, a day of rest for many, and thankfully soft rain has begun. Countless plants in our gardens and trees and shrubs are tired from the dry summer we endured. But there is magnificence too. This morning I invite you to walk with me to find the delights in my dry summer garden.

There are garden treasures despite a drought.
a Seiryu Japanese Maple wiht lacey lime green leaves near a stone patio.

The Seiryu Japanese Maple is beautiful despite the drought.

The first stop is a Seiryu Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) to the left of the stone walkway. Its leaves seem sparser this year, but still lovely and lacey. The Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa) below is happily unaffected by the dryness. Next to it, a few hostas are flowering their dainty violet bells, although deer have nibbled the leaves.

As I walk towards the bridge, rising high is Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium) below the American flag. It’s a tall native plant seen roadside. ‘Gateway,’ standard in the trades, has volleyball-sized purplish-pink flowers that butterflies and hummingbirds adore August through September on top of five to seven-foot maroon stems. The seeds are dropping early this year but still have a pinkish cast.

Making my way down to the brook, it’s so low you can walk across it atop the stones. With the anticipation of a significant storm ahead, there’s a risk of flooding overnight—one extreme to the next.

Tired leaves opt to drop. 
browned tuliptree leaves on moss by a brook

The moss is lush despite the dryness.

The carpet of moss along the brook’s edge is soft and plush despite the season, with brown Tuliptree leaves scattered about — tired leaves, the tree opted to drop. Glancing up at the mother tree, several of her leaves have turned yellow early, looking like flowers amongst the lime leaves. Walking below her, I see many are scarred with fungus or insect damage—scars of life’s challenges, a badge of honor to resilience.

small teardrop baby bottlebrush buckeye nuts against green foliage

Baby Bottlebrush Buckeye Nuts

The Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) outside the screen porch are forming their baby buckeye nuts that will grow one or two inches. They’re plentiful and seem unaffected by the drought. Next to them, the young volunteer Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) has charming little donut holes from an insect making polka-dotted leaves.

Thank you, Mother Earth
a Mother Earth Face Pot with bangs of Japanese Forest Grass

Mother Earth with bangs of Japanese Forest Grass

Between the garage doors, a Mother Earth face pot takes center stage. I encouraged a dear client to buy her when we shopped for plants. Then Judy gifted her to me years later when they moved from their home; I cherish it.

The ‘All Gold’ Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa) with bright golden foliage is less bright this year. But the wispy leaves puffed in flower look like lovely bangs below her ‘Brunette’ Snakeroot (Actaea ramosa) hat of dark purple foliage that can grow four feet tall. This year the vegetation is worn despite due diligence to keep it well watered. But the narrow white plumes with a tinge of pink are beginning to emerge. Less than last year, but more adored given the difficult season of growth– thank you, Mother Earth.

Now comes the best of the show.

two yellow flowering sunflower heads I stuck a few sunflower seeds in a pot from a mixed seed pack I snagged on a whim. When they sprouted, somebody ate them, likely squirrels. But a few survived, and they are now in bloom. I’ve enjoyed watching their progression from the kitchen window— each flower opening up like an eyeball. As they unfold, they’re winking at you. And then comes the full bright yellow face of happiness. Today a maroon one is in full bloom and sheds its joy too.

Yes, the leaves are tattered, but let’s not scrutinize things so closely. Instead, look at the big picture and marvel over the magnificence. Enjoy your garden. Enjoy the Garden of Life.

Garden Dilemmas? (and your favorite Podcast App.)

There’s much more joy to be shared in this story in Episode 73 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

a Mother Earth Face Pot with bangs of Japanese Forest Grass Link to the related stories – A Happy Ending to Naked Pots and Treasured Tulip Trees 

and Bird’s & Bloom’s article – Top 15 Drought-Tolerant Plants That Can Handle Dry Weather







Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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