Definitely not a stellar time in my garden. First of all, it’s so $#@&! hot, and I have little interest in being outside for more than 10 minutes unless I’m poolside. So the garden gets a little – well okay, a LOT – neglected.

August is also one of those “in between” months in the garden – most of my summer bloomers are done for the season (or on their way out), and the fall perennials have yet to hit their stride. And what does remain looks raggedy, bleached out and generally forlorn.

As a landscape designer I’m ashamed to admit this because I should know better, yes?

Something blooming at all times.”

I believe a good garden provides 4-season interest.”

As one plant goes dormant another should be coming up.”


Here’s the reality of what my perennial beds look like right now:

The Hydrangeas are actually LAYING on the Boxwood shrubs.

The rear bed – a hot mess. Literally.

 And here are some close-ups:

The Butterfly bushes are covered in dead flowers  that should have been removed weeks ago.

Tattered Salvia foliage – pretty.

The last of the Echinacea – I mean, what am I thinking here?

The truth is, I just don’t have it in me to do much more than some basic housekeeping this month – Conor comes home from sleep away camp, we’re getting Chelsea ready to go back to college, and Noah is done with his camp. Plus, we’re busy preparing for our annual vacation. So I designate one early morning (before it gets too hot), and in a few hours strive for the goal of making the garden look – if not completely photogenic – at least a little tidier.

First, I cut back all of the spent, lanky and tattered foliage, leaving up only what looks fresh and clean. Next, I cut down any awkward or misshapen branches and stems (that Echinacea in the above photo? Gone).  I deadhead the Butterfly bushes, to extend their bloom time (read here on how to deadhead) and allow the new flowers to really shine. And I put a thin layer of mulch down in all of the newly bare spots – this helps regulate the soil temperature and provides a neat and finished appearance.

Nepeta clippings

Removal of the center deadhead prolongs bloom time…….

…….and allows the beautiful new blooms to show off

I introduce 2 new additions that will provide some later season color:

Monarda – attracts hummingbirds and butterflies

And finally, I stand back and observe the fall bloomers that are already hinting at things to come:

Snakeroot – which will soon have big, white bottlebrush blooms

Anemone – mostly in bud now but will  put on a beautiful fall display

I can retreat back inside with a clear conscience and wait things out till fall (and cooler temps) arrives.

Are you out  there toiling away in August to keep your garden in pristine form? Or do you adopt a more laissez faire approach? Any tips or tricks to keeping your garden perky and bright during the dog days of summer?


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