I am Charles Markman, long-time Fine Gardening subscriber. I have been gardening on the shoreline of Lake Michigan in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, for 10 years, facing the challenge of a short growing season. Spring comes especially late, as the winds blow in over the water and act like a giant air conditioner. Minneapolis is considerably warmer than Whitefish Bay in May. The vegetable garden, which has been placed on terraces down the lake bluff, definitely needs to be given an indoor head start.
A perennial bed in early August in the late afternoon glow after a thundershower. The remnants of dried Allium that flowered in spring can be seen. Dominant blooms are Rudbeckia ‘Goldensturm’ (Zones 4–9), purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea, Zones 3–8), red bee balm (Monarda didyma, Zones 4–9) a bit past peak, and hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens, Zones 3–8). Off to the right is feather reed ornamental grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora, Zones 5–9).
Another view of the bed, with the lake beyond.
A tiger swallowtail butterfly that has alit on a potted zinnia (Zinnia elegans, annual) on the patio. Lake Michigan can be seen in the distance.
The pathway to the front door on the street side of the house flanked by two flowering lilac shrubs (Syringa ‘Miss Kim’, Zones 3–8) and pots of annuals.
The street side of the house with a flowering crabapple (Malus, Zones 3–9) and a birch tree (Betula). A row of New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri, annual) separate the lawn from the border bed of pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis, Zones 4–8).
Below the top of the bluff, hidden from view, are terraced beds for growing vegetables. The terracing was created by pounding in conduit pipes vertically to hold up timbers behind them, then filling in with topsoil and compost. A drip irrigation system was also installed and is controlled by the lawn watering system.
Tomatoes and cucumbers harvested from the bluff beds
Except for the vegetable beds near the top of the bluff, we have tried to get native wildflowers to cover most of the steep bluff. I am partial to purple asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, Zones 4–8). This picture shows a pollinator convention taking place on a cluster of asters. A monarch and other butterflies can be seen as well as numerous bees.
More asters overlooking the lakeshore.
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