The gardens at Greenleaf grew by leaps and bounds this summer and with everything going on (kids/work/new house) it bounded right out of control by early fall. There was still plenty of beauty despite the chaos and I was especially pleased with how well the dahlias did. Here's an ode to our last few months at Greenleaf Garden – what we grew and how it all went!
May is a beautiful month just about anywhere and at Greenleaf the peonies and nepeta "Walker's Low" (my go-to) stole the show.
By June, the oakleaf hydrangea (this is a popular dwarf cultivar called "Sikes Dwarf"), geranium "Rozanne" and monarda began to bloom while other perennials start to fill out. There's also some evidence of me trying to squeeze in misfit plants (Allium "Millenium" and more Nasella tenuissima)
My favorite part of the early summer garden turned out to be the Nicotiana "Alba" in the small borders near the raised cutting garden + veggie beds. I grew these (and a zillion other things) from seed last year and some of these had self-seeded from that batch along with a new bunch that I grew from seed again this spring. They're a night-blooming flower and open and release their incredible fragrance as soon as the sun starts to go down. They positively glowed and the way they were perfectly framed by one of our bedroom windows was enchanting. They're also quite big (~4' high) and, dare I say, aggressive, so I'll want to stay on top of thinning out seedlings more next time I plant these.
I managed to stay on top of weeding and feeding everything well into July, and that mixed with the drip irrigation system in the raised veggie + cutting beds meant that the zinnias and tomatoes were plentiful! But a busy travel schedule caused me to get extremely behind on staking and pinching the tomatoes which became a giant, jungle-y tangle of green. Too many off-shoots shaded out portions of the plant and also stole energy from flower-making, so the San Marzanos and Brandywines had relatively low production after the first summer flush. The Sungolds were prolific, but also needed more space than I could give, so they definitely created some of the problematic shade for the other varieties. The cucumbers and zucchini were fantastic in the garden and in the kitchen.
Early August brought a brief pause in color in the garden borders, but some much-needed rain gave everything a boost to carry it into it's last big push of the year.
I experimented with growing several new things from seed this year including these Nicotiana varieties. The colors were glorious, but they needed more support or pruning to keep them from flopping into a sticky tangle (their stems and leaves have a lightly sticky coating). I definitely want to grow these again and be more strategic about care and placement. Also, the lemongrass grew to be enormous (left side against the fence which is 6' high!) and smelled wonderful when the breeze caught it.
I also tried growing perennials from seed with mixed results. The aquilegia, digitalis and formosa lily all came along with some strong foliage (they should start blooming next spring) and the digitalis bloomed a bit. But the anemones, pulsatilla and thalictrum were all duds as I don't think they got the proper winter stratification that they need. I discarded them throughout the garden beds so perhaps they'll spark to life next year!
The Carolina jessamine vine has filled out beautifully on the deck railings and is about to mingle with the jasmine. Next spring and summer should be a glorious show of blooms.
After a brief lull in color in August, the garden sprang back into action in early September with the arrival of the dahlias and reblooms from others (gaura, zinnia, geranium).
Here's a smattering of some of the dahlias – all tubers came from Swan Island Dahlias and were put in the ground in May.
Dahlia "Tahoma Moonshot" is an elegant, smaller variety and while it wasn't as much of a bloomer as others, I love the shape of the blossom. It likely needed more sun.
This was my second year with dahlia "Juanita" and the plant was huge. I still wasn't too pleased with the length of the stems (they were quite short and heavy on foliage). I think I need to prune and pinch these more next year.
Dahlia "Coral Gypsy" had a fabulous first year. Beautiful blooms with long and sturdy stems. But if I had to recommend just one dahlia, I would go with "My Forever." This one blew all the others out of the water in terms of blooms, sturdiness and general ease. It got a lot of powdery mildew by late September (normal/treatable), but was undaunted and bloomed it's heart out. I'm partial to peachy-pink sunset colors and over-performers and this one checks both boxes.
This was the last dahlia bouquet and it lasted about 8 days. The white ones are "Center Court" and did pretty well considering they likely didn't get enough sun. Their stems were a bit weak and curvy which are red flags for too much shade.
Just a week before we left the house, the Meyer lemon tree's 7 lemons finally began to ripen! We picked 3 to take with us and left the other 4 for the new owners to enjoy. The lemons were a bit small, but gorgeously fragrant and a delightful add-on to our seltzer water addiction.
The week we moved was mild and breezy and I stole some moments out in the garden with Murphy in between packing boxes. While she crawled around I tried my luck (1 last time!) at finding a 4-leaf clover and found one! It felt like the garden was wishing us "goodbye and good luck"on our next chapter back north.