August is not a month to be trifled with. Spring comes so early here, with winter more a brief, rainy intermission than a season, that by August I really need to 1) loosen compacted clay soil that refuses to absorb another drop of moisture 2) add some compost/manure 3) water thoroughly 4) mulch again. Yes, it’s August, miserably hot and ant-ridden, but to ensure I have a garden worth looking at in October, these chores can’t be avoided. At the very worst, for a few days I look like the Wild Woman of Borneo and require three showers before nightfall. Maneuvering under the tetrapanax to water and mulch always brings down a shower of ants, and finding them later crawling on my arms and neck becomes commonplace in August, to calmly flick off like dandruff. While accomplishing Nos. 1 through 4, a huge amount of plant material is cut back and even some transplanting done if slightly cooler weather is expected. It has cooled down a bit, so anything that looks like it won’t survive until that optimal window in autumn for transplanting gets dug up and relocated, like the Digitalis ferruginea buried under Pennisetum spathiolatum. As I worked, I uncovered a few more plants of the buried-alive variety that had to be moved, to hell with the consequences. The Echeveria agavoides much prefers life freed from that heavy-breathing mass of variegated sisyrinchium. The sisyrinchium was the one moved in this instance, split into about five pieces, a small fan left behind.
Paraphrasing garden writer Christopher Lloyd, who fielded many anxious queries about the best time to move plants, “[T]he task should be deferred until spring. That is my official pronouncement. Don’t expect me to follow it myself, because I’m also a great believer in doing a job when I want to do it, and to hell with the consequences.”
Any of the potted pelargoniums I collect can be popped into bare spots after the clean-up, like this ivy-leaved Pelargonium ‘Crocodile.’
The local Home Despot had good prices on Aeonium nobile, a monocarpic species.
So nice to have something shiny new in August, which handily gets my vote for the cruelest of months.
More shiny happy new. Local nurseries stock interesting selections of begonias in August. Rhizomatous Begonia ‘Silver Jewel’
You’d think it would be impossible to lose track of plants in a small garden, but I do it all the time. This grass or, more likely, sedge, wasn’t moved but left where it was discovered growing under the Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish.’ The blooms are just peeking through the top of the salvia, which are what alerted me to its existence. It probably reseeded here. Any possible ID’s welcome.
This mystery grass/sedge comes from the old Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California, probably the last plant I purchased from them, and I don’t want to risk losing it. I vividly remember asking then-owner Maggie Wych what was the grass with the plumey inflorescence dotted throughout the sunny borders, but I just can’t remember the name she gave me. I’ll wait until autumn to move it to a spot where it can be better admired. The blooms stand about 3 feet above the nondescript leaves.
Last task for August: Order tulips!
I prefer my deadheading and stripping out yellowed and dead foliage tasks for August over yours any day. If I had to do a job that put me under a plant that rained ants on me it would be all over with. My skin is crawling after reading your post… You are a dedicated gardener… Now I need to spend a bit more time looking up all those plant names that I have no clue as to what they are.
I can’t wait to see what that grass is!!!
I agree about the plant moving. Sometimes you just have to do it when it works. I too need to remember to order tulips. The shiny leaves of ‘Crocodile’ really appeal to me.
What beautiful plants you have! Most of them I can hardly identify. That’s why I love to come see what you’re up to. Yes, we have a lot in common. I sweat down, run inside and wash up, then go back for more punishment during August. I don’t have ants in my hair, so you’ve got me beat on that one!
Cooler weather shall come.
And about transplanting…smart Texans stop sometime in May. But then if it rains or gets cloudy for a week we tempt fate and transplant in June and even July. HOWEVER, it’s ‘all stop’ for August. Transplanting now would mean certain death except for Opuntias (which probably could grow on a tin roof without soil!) and Agaves(that seem to be oblivious to heat).
Love that pelargonium. Never saw foliage like that before.
I got that same HomeCheapo Aeonium. It’s a good one (as an ant crawls across my computer screen). Up late, late, too hot to sleep. Stay cool out there.
@Deanne, the only plant I’m guessing you’re unfamiliar with is maybe the sisyrinchium. This one is from Chile, S. striatum, to zone 7. They’re also West Coast natives, called blue-eyed grass.
@Scott, me too! Maybe I’ll look up Greenlee’s email and ask him.
@Michelle, so far everything I moved is holding on. Really a foolish stunt for August but I hate putting stuff off when I’ve got the time to do it.
@David, you Texans have all the cred when it comes to enduring heat. I don’t think we’ve topped 100 here near the coast yet.
@Jason, I think I’ll cut off the flowers if and when they come — it’s all about those leaves!
@Hoov, damn Argentine ants, they’re everywhere!
I am OK with August, at least it is not January or February. This one has been particularly good from the rainfall front, the only thing I have had to water were some pots underneath the porch roof.