Midsummer beauties to behold

Beckie Fox


Mid-July is high season for flower borders. There’s so much in bloom, so much colour to take in and so, so, so much to do. But let’s pause, instead, and focus on how much there is to enjoy at this moment. Here are a few plants that have caught my eye in other gardens or in my own.

•  I’ve never grown foxtail lilies (Eremurus species and cultivars), but have admired them in gardens I’ve visited. Plants with a strong vertical line are a good way to punctuate and accent a perennial bed filled with mounding and spreading plants. “Reach for the top with foxtail lilies” profiles a few favourites.

Foxtail lily
You can’t help but notice dramatic foxtail lilies in a garden. This is ‘Romance’, a soft salmon-pink. (Stephen Westcott-Gratton photo)

•  Lavender plants must be loving the hot, dry summer we’re having in Ontario. The few plants in full sun beside the driveway need renewing or replacing. My poor pruning practices have left gnarly, woody stems and not as much fresh foliage and flowers as I would like. For descriptions of varieties, and growing, pruning and harvesting advice, see “A passion for lavender.”

•  Tall, fragrant nicotianas aren’t as easy to find in garden centres as they once were. Most nicotianas found on the annual benches at nurseries are those that have been bred to be short and stocky. Fine for pots, but I like the heady fragrance and etherealness of the white species on a warm summer evening. I’ll need to start my own from seed next spring following the guidance in “Sweet scents of Nicotiana species.”

Blossom end rot on tomatoes

There are a dozen different tomatoes growing in a raised bed in the back garden and three dwarf varieties in pots on the patio near the house. In addition to removing suckers and staking diligently, I’m checking for blossom end rot on early fruits. So far, so good.

Here are explanations from Savvy Gardening, Garden Myths and Michigan State University extension service that describe why some tomatoes end up with blossom end rot while others are fine. Basically, it’s more of a calcium distribution issue in the plants, not necessarily a calcium deficiency. When and how much water is one factor.

If you do find a mushy bottom on a tomato, don’t give up hope. It’s often just the first few ripening tomatoes with this affliction.

Gardening during COVID-19

I bet every gardener has said this more than once during the past few months: “Thank goodness for my garden!” Here’s how this feeling is playing out in other gardening news from around the world:

  “Huge spike in young new gardeners has Manitoba’s horticultural community blooming” (from CBC News)

•  “Lawn mowed into checkerboard becomes natural social distancing space” (Poland)

•  “New green urban park designed for social distancing” (A proposal from a Viennese-based company.)

•  “Britain’s best gardening couple outdo themselves with spring spectacular after spending lockdown tending their oasis” (Includes beautiful photos from a West Midlands garden.)

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