Open garden, take two
Maybe it's like childbirth - afterwards you forget the pain.
In mid-June I planned a second open garden to honor the roses, clematis, daylilies and lilies. Never mind that before my first open garden in May it rained so long and hard that the lawn turned to mud. All I remembered was the joy of sharing my garden with appreciative visitors. So I announced a second open garden for evening of July 12.
When I e-mailed invitations in June the weather was mild, but in early July the mercury soared into the high nineties. Even though I went outside at 6 a.m. when it was cool, around 10 a.m the sun would drill down like a laser.
Worry set in that week, when the katsura leaves turned papery with heat, when the hydrangeas wilted, when the rose petals shriveled up. The containers dried out so quickly I had to water them twice a day. The mosquitos bit morning and evening (I later discovered Repel which helped immensely).
Still, the dahlias and daylilies loved the heat, so did the clematis, especially dark purple 'Rooguchi' with thick petals that look waxed. The coral and red Flower Carpet roses burst into bloom along with dark pink 'Lovely Fairy.' Blue speedwell (Veronica) set off the white regal lilies and masses of betony (Stachys macrantha) opened purple and white flower spikes. The garden was ablaze with color.
The afternoon before the open garden was hot and sticky. After a while a craving for gelato overtook me. The weather gods predicted cooler weather tomorrow, and I'd have all day to finish deadheading the daylilies and roses, to water the pots and fill the birdbaths.
Tom and I escaped to Staccatto Gelato, selecting favorite flavors after plenty of tastes. We sat outside where a cooling breeze had begun to stir the air. I relaxed into Sunday evening, feeling like a human being instead of a slave to the goddess Flora.
But early Monday morning Flora cracked her whip, urging me to finish grooming the garden. The promised cooler weather arrived as predicted - what a relief to snip and weed with a light breeze refreshing me and the plants.
At 4 p.m., guest artist Laura Hopper arrived with floral watercolor paintings which she hung along the grape arbor posts. Then she set up a table under the apple tree and began to paint. Beginning at 5 p.m., old friends and new friends arrived in a steady stream.
The dahlias stole the show, especially coral-pink 'Karma Fuchsiana.' Visitors marveled at burgundy 'Grace' smoke tree, backlit by the afternoon sun. Many loved the back border of 'bamboo,' actually giant Florida grass (Miscanthus giganteus), an eight-foot-tall wall of green with a secret garden behind it.
The long stretch of Houttuynia cordata 'Flore Pleno' in full bloom at the front of the grape arbor got lots of attention - its double white flowers look like tiny roses.
'This is a dangerous plant,' I warned. 'All of this came from one four inch pot that I bought by mail order.' At the front of the grape arbor it serves as a barrier to keep the lawn from creeping under the arbor, and makes a beautiful green ground cover rising about 18 inches tall. In the right place, it's beautiful. One woman promised she'd grow it in a pot; I yanked out a few rooted stems for her to take home.
A new favorite of mine was discovered by quite a few visitors that evening: 'Tanna' burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis 'Tanna'). I love all the burnets because they don't mind wet clay, grow in full sun or partial shade, and have ferny foliage that keeps them beautiful before and after they bloom. Low-growing 'Tanna' has profuse chianti-colored flowers that pop up on foot-long stems above the foliage. They stood out well against the bright blades of 'Bowles Golden' sedge, a great backdrop for the dark blossoms.
Tall Culver's root (Veronicastrum virginicum) was another hit that evening. Its slender white spires were a perfect foil for dark purple 'Romantica' clematis and red daylilies.
And oh, the daylilies. Despite giant slugs that pestered their stems during the relentless spring rains, they'd throttled right along, sending up masses of flowering stems with buds opening red, yellow, coral and pink. Dancing together with dahlias in equally vibrant colors, they turned the garden into a midsummer fiesta.
'People were so happy,' said my neighbor Doug, days later. In a nutshell, that's why I keep opening my garden.