July 20, 2022
It is high summer in the garden right now. July is the dry month in RI and the sprinklers are going, the sun is shining and it is a hot 80F at 8:00 AM. Gardening is regional and even within a small state such as RI the coastal gardens move along a bit differently than those in the high (a relative term since the highest point in RI is only 811 feet)western part of the state. My garden is about 568 feet in elevation which may be high enough to avoid a tsunami but it is also high enough to produce winter temperatures which are five to ten degrees below the state average. I garden here in Zone 6a with a maximum low of -10 F. It doesn't happen often but it happens and is particularly damaging when there is no snow cover and when the temperature drops quickly.
Daylilies are blooming and the hydrangeas, depending on variety, are in various stages of bud and bloom. Last year I planted a crescent of Hydrangea arborescens 'Incrediball'. The smooth hydrangeas are much more dependable bloomers in my garden than the big leaf blue hydrangeas. The smooth hydrangeas bloom reliably every year since they bloom on new wood. My blue hydrangeas, Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer' are often a disappointment. There are no blooms or buds on these plants yet. It may happen but since the flower buds are much more sensitive to cold they can fail to bloom in my high altitude - ha- garden. We did have a quick drop in temperature this past winter which could have caused flower bud kill. I will note here that I do not prune this cultivar until new growth begins and I prune only dead wood above new growth since hard pruning cuts off the flower buds which are formed on old wood. The white Incrediball hydrangeas should be pruned in the spring. I prune about a third of the growth to shape them and encourage new branching. The Incrediball has a sturdier stem than the cultivar 'Annabelle'. I have yet to find a source for the straight Hydrangea arborescens which is perfectly fine in the garden having smaller but abundant flowers with sturdy stems. Marketing and trademarking have made it a less than profitable shrub. The best way to acquire this species plant is to find a friend who has an old planting of them.
High summer is a relatively easy time for the gardener. Tasks include deadheading flowers, cutting back wild growth, re-edging those borders and water, water, water. Containers are full and happy but annuals do require frequent fertilization to keep flowering and to look their best. It is a good time to take stock of blooms and blanks in the garden and to plan on fill ins or divisions for later in the summer when rain is more plentiful.
High summer is the best time to take advantage of the patio, garden bench or lawn chaise and just enjoy the bonus of blooms from spring's hard labor. Today, in the heat, I am going to sit, enjoy, and relish the warm summer evening.