Late Summer Garden Challenges


THIS IS NOT my East Hampton garden’s finest hour. I came back after two weeks in the Big City and a hurricane — no, a tropical storm, but still — to find it looking…well, shvach. That word comes to me from my grandmother: it’s Yiddish for ‘lacking, underwhelming, disappointing.’


The only real color in the front perennial beds is the ligularia, which puts out rich yellow spiky flowers right about now. I was conscientious about my Deer-Out regimen in spring and early summer, but as the season progressed, “SPRAY!!!” moved farther and farther down my list of things to do. So the cranesbill geranium ‘Rozanne,’ for instance, which is supposed to bloom till frost, is bare of flowers.

One of the accomplishments of the season was the extension of my perennial border another 30, maybe 40 feet, to the left of the path below. It’s all mulched [thank you, Barbara!] and ready to go — if only I could think what to plant there. To the right of the path, the shadiest area is home to ferns, Korean boxwoods, pieris, epimedium…green, all green.


It’s not unusual for gardens to lack color in late summer and fall. They needn’t; it’s just that people tend to start out all gung ho and buy out the nurseries in spring, then rest on their mountain laurels and more or less forget about planning for later in the season. That’s not entirely my problem — it’s more about the challenges of excessive shade and deer.


On the plus side, the recently pruned rhodies, above, are happily sending out fresh new growth. Below, the miscanthus are satisfyingly full at the end of their second season. I’ll probably be dividing them before long.


Perennials will be on sale in a few weeks, and I’ll try to pump up the late summer color quotient for next year.


An old clump of chelone, or turtlehead, above, pre-dates my 2009 arrival. I moved it from under my about-to-be-built deck to a spot way at the back of the perennial border, where it is a  standout. Ought to get more of that stuff, come to think of it.

Below, still no decision on what to do with the amoeba-shaped island bed in the middle of the back lawn. Ajuga (bugleweed) is colonizing it, and I see no reason not to let that happen.


Then there’s this vast empty area along the western property line, below, a fairly sunny spot where I might create a fenced cutting garden, or plant a variety of ornamental grasses. There’s an baby Eastern Redbud tree toward the back; I’m looking forward to it filling out and blooming pink next spring.


Below, the wrath of Irene. A huge — no, I mean, huge— oak keeled over toward the back of my property. Actually, its trunk was on land belonging to the Town of East Hampton.The first five feet of it fell on Town land; the other 70 feet on my land. I’ve made the phone call and been told someone will “take a look.” Uh-huh.


Trees and shrubs go on sale around here tomorrow. I’ll be exploring the local boxwood selection. Boxwoods are tidy, shade-tolerant, deer-resistant, evergreen, classic. They provide screening and structure. Yay, boxwoods. What could be bad?

Deck Day


ALL HANDS ARE NOT YET ON DECK, but at least the wood was delivered yesterday for my backyard deck and shower platform. The builder will be here tomorrow to begin, and within 3 days, weather permitting, I’ll have a much improved situation behind my house.


Above, the “before” in the area of the outdoor shower, where there will be a 6’x9′ raised platform, three steps up, with a bench and enclosure (it will be nice to have some privacy;-) The small bathroom window will be replaced with a glass door, which is on order.

Below, the “before” of the backyard itself, where my temporary covering of wood chips will be replaced with a separate 16’x24′ cedar platform one step up from the ground.


I’ve moved a big old stand of chelone (turtlehead), below, as well as some ferns that will be affected by the new deck, to another spot in the yard. That was a three-afternoon undertaking (afternoons because I spent most of each day working myself up to the task, before finally heading out there around 3 o’clock).

chelone lyoni 2
Didn’t want to lose these shade-loving, deer-resistant fall bloomers: chelone lyoni (pink turtlehead).

Late in the day, a local landscaper — one of several I’d put out feelers to — came with a worker to dig up an 18′ tall threadleaf false cypress, below, in a corner of the screened porch, which would have had to be cut down if I couldn’t find someone to give it away to. I guess it must be worth something, because one of them agreed to take it. Brutal job, and it’s not done yet. The root ball is enormous and has to be fully dug up today and carted away.


This is the first major building project I’ve done here. Can’t count the new roof; that wasn’t any fun. A new roof hardly improved my quality of life, especially since the old one wasn’t even leaking (though I was assured it would if I didn’t replace it right away).

The deck, however, and the outdoor shower…Now those say ‘beach house.’ Yeah.