Any avid gardener who has left behind a mature yard with a garden full of large specimen plants can appreciate the magnitude of that last statement. So much trial and error, so many struggles and tears, and so much frustration and joy are contained in that one deceptively simple statement. Starting over has been a real challenge.
While recently walking the yard and observing all the holes, half-eaten leaves, and stripped stems the bugs and critters had so generously left me this summer, I began to seriously entertain the idea of perhaps abandoning altogether most of my gardening efforts here. Too much work and too much expense to have it all go toward feeding and nurturing bugs! After two months of unusually hot and dry weather, so many insects had proliferated and obviously had a field day dining at my house. Discouragement crept in.
As I was standing there bemoaning all the damage, the thought occurred to me that after having gardened for so long, what would I do without it? Old habits die hard and I am just too stubborn to quit now. I would try to look on the bright side. With less than a glimmer of hope, I set out with notebook and camera in hand searching to see if any plants actually still looked at least half-way decent in these waning dog days of summer.
Expecting to find very little untouched and unscathed, I got a most pleasant surprise. I soon became engrossed in the search. I began to find quite a few plants that were virtually uneaten or at least had the appearance of being mostly whole. There were a number of them starring in my late summer garden.
I opened the notebook and titled a page: "Stars of My Dog Days Garden". I laughed out loud at the title because even the neighbor's dog had repeatedly eaten much of my hyacinth bean vine from the fence between our yards. I began noting names and taking pictures of my discoveries so as to have the information available for this winter's annual spring garden planning ritual. Yes, there would be one!
Here, to my delight, is a list of the plants I found mostly uneaten and still flourishing:
Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)
Chenille Plant (Acalypha hispida)
Chinese Lanterns (Abutilon)
Dwarf Blueberry 'Tophat' (Vaccinium)
Yucca x 'Cousin It'
Yucca alofolia x 'Variegata'
Hardy Mums (Chrysanthemum)
Tall Cannas (Canna)
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum)
Hot Banana Pepper
Blue Cupflower (Nierembergia caerulae)
Kniphofia (no insect damage but some critters ate it; it had to be moved)
Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Purple Licorice Basil (Ocimum basilicum 'Purpurascens')
Common Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Hardy Bamboo (Fargesia)
Many Ornamental Grasses
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus)
Variegated Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Maypop (Passiflora incarnata)
While I cannot guarantee how any of these plants will look a month from now, it seems most of them have come too far this long difficult summer to give up any time soon. Neither will I. After all, this challenge really isn't a new one for me. Years ago after moving to California, I had to learn from the beginning all about new plants, plant pests, and ways of gardening just as I'm now having to do here. Gardeners are optimists. I expect the results will be equally successful.