By the end of June, the promise of summer is in the air. Flowers I planted June first are taking hold, and growing. But this summer’s promise came with strings attached; night temperatures hovered in the fifties. Our first night over 60 degrees would not come until mid-July. Though small the end of June, the window boxes still had that going forward fresh look.
No matter what you fancy in your garden, nothing in it ever stands still. A garden actively grows, or actively sulks, or goes down. Some days I wish I could shift into neutral and coast, but I know better. I also know that as much as I would want to devote a chunk of time to nurturing all my plants, every day, that rarely happens. I have a demanding work life; moving that along every day takes priority. I hedge my bets some with plants that seem to handle the hit and miss nature of my care. Petunias thrive on this treatment; this is one plant that the more I fuss with them, the more they resent it. A trim once in a while is enough. Angelonia does not like cold weather, but it’s not a prima donna either. Once the hot weather comes, they come on strong.
Blue salvia is puny early on; it is a late season annual. In a good year, they handle cooling fall temperatures with aplomb. I knew I would have these late. Planting the blue star-flowered laurentia was risky. Not only am I not so familiar with its habit, it has that look of an early season annual destined to peter out. This I cannot really explain, except to say some plants just look like they won’t do. The heliotrope was stuck in first gear; this plant likes hot weather. But for the moment, the lime nicotiana alata has my attention; the weather was instrumental in making it look perfectly happy. Every year, the weather is perfect for something; I thus follow the National Weather Service three month predictions with a lot of interest in late winter. Occasionally that helps.
By August first, we were getting an 80 degree day once in a while. You can see the effect on the licorice and heliotrope; too little heat, too late. The flowering on the laurentia is slowing down, as I thought it would. Though the flowering is so- so, the plants are growing fine. The overall shape and the interaction of the group is the success of the box. Cool and dry made for unusually few bugs and no disease .
By early September, my balanced box has gone too tall-bad maintenance on my part. Trimming plants back keeps them stocky, and encourages them to reflower. However, this height is a great look from the street; the flowers are visible over the boxwood.
As I predicted, the laurentia bloomed out, and needs replacing. By September 15, our weather is in transition. I expect night temperatures in the high forties this week yet. However, I am not willing to rip the boxes yet; I hold on to my summer season as long as I can. We are having our warmest daytime temperatures of the season. As there are plenty of plants that thrive in cool night temperatures, I will replace as needed.
A good haircut and deadheading came first; late is better than never. As long as the warm weather holds, the coleus will respond quickly to the trim. There is no reason to give up what you have looked after all season. There is every good reason to keep what is good, and replace what isn’t.
This looks better. I have unhooked all if the tall plants from their stakes; I like the loose, almost overgrown look for late summer. The laurentia has been replaced with a lavender pansy mix and a pair of frilly white kale. In another two weeks, we’ll have a different look going on here.