Summer garden, a remake

These Indian feathers turned out to be one of the highlights of my summer garden.
These Indian feathers turned out to be one of the highlights of my summer garden.

Sometime in the last few years, probably inspired by the chopping up of a huge red oak tree whose roots had mutilated our driveway, I decided to create a small flower garden around the mailbox out front. The first year, I dug around a bit, added Miracle-Gro soil and ringed the area with rocks. If I planted anything, it wasn’t very memorable.

This spring, though, some of the grand kids and I took up the rocks and created a nice wall with preformed bricks from a local big box store. Then we made a visit to a local high school whose FFA group holds a terrific plant sale each year. I made several rounds inside the greenhouse, on the hunt for eye-catching perennials, preferably those with a long blooming season. I chose a number of specimens, putting my favorites in a cardboard box before returning some to the shelves when I found something I liked better.

I made it home with two Black-eyed Susans, various zinnias, a few flowers memorable only because they dried up before summer really showed itself, and some whimsical plants called Indian feathers. I dug through more clay in the hard-packed earth, added more Miracle-Gro, and buried each plant, careful to leave each one room to spread out and grow.

The Black-eyed Susans, which I planted near the back of the flower bed, bloomed profusely, but were not as tall as expected. A coreopsis I had planted was also covered in flowers, but it ended up being short and bushy, and therefore upstaged by the surprisingly huge Indian feathers.

These tall, airy Indian feathers sported pink and white blooms all summer.
These tall, airy Indian feathers sported pink and white blooms all summer.

Last week, we had several cool days in a row, and I figured it was time to do some rearranging. I carefully pulled everything up, including a few Irises scattered around the back yard that my husband has refused to give up on. Then I dug, and dug some more, as there was still a lot of hard-packed clay underneath the flowers, which probably is the reason some of the plants didn’t quite make it into fall.

While I had hoped all the flowers would survive my travels over the summer, the Black-eyed Susans didn’t fare too well, due to high temperatures and lack of rain. I salvaged what was left of them and planted them in front, by the mailbox. I’ve watered everything well, a few times since then, but I also saved a few seeds, just in case.

The zinnias’ performance was so-so. I probably should have deadheaded them, like I did the coreopsis, but I mostly just let them be. They’re kind of nice, but not my favorites. I may find something to replace them with next year.

The Indian feathers, their leaves now a nice shade of red, are in the middle of the flowerbed, flanking a homemade birdbath I placed there after I noticed the robins’, goldfinches’ and dragonflies’ tendency to show up each time I watered the flowers. I put some compost in with each plant I replaced, so hopefully everything will be off to a good start in the spring.

In the meantime, I’ll let the garden rest, and keep an eye out for good prices on spring bulbs. I’m sure the garden has room for a tulip or two.



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