Garden Photo of the Day

Memories of Summer in Maine

Flowers, vegetables, and pollinators living in harmony

Today’s photos come from Harriet Robinson, who sends us a merciful dose of the warm, early summer images that we all need right now:

“It has been a few years since I have sent in garden photos from my western Maine garden. It is so cold right now (thankfully we have good snow cover insulating the plants) that it was fun to look at my photos from late June and very early July 2017.

Some things have stayed the same: lots of peonies (daylilies later in July), beds of irises, and a vegetable garden that has flowers to attract pollinators. There have been changes, too, as I have explored new directions. I wanted a hosta area, but had to chose ones that could take the afternoon sun. I also wanted to try to grow more rock garden plants. Sempervivums already nestled in rock walls and sedum lined garden edges, but I wanted to try more and made some hypertufa troughs, including one with lewisia (my maiden name is Lewis, so I wanted to grow it). I stole 2 ideas from Joseph Tychonievich to pull this off: the lewisia cultivar is one of the easier ones for the northeast (‘Little Raspberry’) and I cut the bottom off a hypertufa trough (it was too shallow) so it is acting like a raised bed. Another container has a Dracunculus just like I have seen growing wild in Greece.”

Masses of peonies surround an armillary.

This garden is designed to attract pollinators, including this black swallowtail caterpillar feasting on dill.

Lewisia ‘Little Raspberry’ (Zones 3-8) growing in a hypertufa trough-turned-raised-bed. This hybrid variety is easier to grow than the sometimes fussy Lewisia cotyledon.

These poppies (Papaver somniferum) fill a vegetable bed. They were pulled as soon as they finished flowering to make way for brassica seedlings and to give the squash and pumpkins more room.

A container-grown Dragon arum (Dracunculus vulgaris, Zones 7-10) shows off with huge, dramatic blooms.

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  1. frankgreenhalgh 01/08/2018

    Nice work, Harriet. Love those pics of the peonies and hypertufa trough/raised bed taken during your early summer. Mid-summer here now, and it was 116F in western Sydney yesterday. The English cricketers (Poms) nearly melted playing a Test match against Australia in Sydney. Cheers from Oz

    1. user-7007498 01/08/2018

      Hi, Frank. Sorry to hear about the extreme heat. As much as I have been complaining about our cold (today is the 14th consecutive day below 25 degrees), I think I would rather have the cold that your heat. Stay cool, my friend. Here is a picture to cool you off. It is the front of my yard, with Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Kitten' standing tall in the snow. I love grasses in the winter. The 2nd photo is a black and white pic of the same grass.

      1. frankgreenhalgh 01/08/2018

        Hi Kev. - Thanks for your kind comment and wonderful pics of your grasses and front yard - very picturesque. We had a nice sea breeze since we are on the coast, and hence, it only reached 100F. I guess we all get used to the our local weather. The main problem with our heat is the associated threat of bushfires, especially when there are also strong northerly winds. Despite the heat, the Eremophila glabra is flowering nicely. Cheers mate

        1. user-4691082 01/08/2018

          Very pretty, Frank. The internet said that the high there reached 117 degrees F. The record is 118. Not good. Hope no brush fires develop.

          1. frankgreenhalgh 01/08/2018

            Gee you cannot put anything past you, Rhonda. My mistake with the conversion from degrees C to F. Evidently it was the hottest place on the planet on Sunday. There were a few bushfires, but they were brought under control pretty quickly - thank goodness. Cheers from a cooler Oz today

        2. User avater
          Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/08/2018

          I thought of you when I read about extreme it. I believe it was predicated to be short-lived? The Eremophilia is charming. I had seen a red flowering one with silver leaves and considered tracking it down as a container shrub/plant, but I've got to slow down the ever-growing seasonal migration into and out from my home!

          1. frankgreenhalgh 01/08/2018

            Thanks Tim. Yes a cool change came through and we have a few milder days before it heats up again. And yes the genus, Eremophila, is very diverse with quite considerable variation within the one species. They would make lovely container plants, but I fully understand your issue. Cheers mate

          2. user-6536305 01/08/2018

            Strange beautiful blooms again! Thanks for sharing Frank!

        3. user-7008735 01/08/2018

          Very pretty, Frank!

        4. User avater
          meander_michaele 01/08/2018

          Certainly all the beautiful flowers that you have sharing with us during your summer seem to be doing just fine with your hot temps. They are probably holding up better than some humans who keep turning up the air conditioning.

          1. frankgreenhalgh 01/08/2018

            Another very insightful comment, Michaele. Yes our flora have evolved under tough environmental conditions. The big question is though - how will the plants handle a warming a drier climate due to climate change in the future? Yes better than humans, but water will become a scarcer resource and we will need to use more drought tolerant plants in our gardens.

          2. User avater
            meander_michaele 01/09/2018

            I watch a lot of nature shows on our Public Broadcasting Network and it sure seems like Australia has had some amazing land mass and climate changes throughout its existence. It's sometimes hard for me to get my mind wrapped around how dramatic some of the evolutions have been.

          3. frankgreenhalgh 01/09/2018

            You are very well informed, Michaele - and good on you for taking an interest in natural history and other countries. Our mountains are very old and eroded, and hence our soils are generally very leached and infertile - especially low in phosphorous. As a result our proteaceous plants have developed proteoid roots to increase their efficiency in taking up nutrients. A wonderful adaptation to our environment. Cheers my friend

        5. user-7007140 01/09/2018


      2. user-6536305 01/08/2018

        Beautiful winter garden Kevin. Thanks for sharing.

      3. user-7008735 01/08/2018

        Your Miscanthus stands up very well in the snow, Kevin. It is lovely to have plants that continue to put on a show through the winter.

        1. user-7007498 01/08/2018

          Thanks Lorraine. After much trial and error, the best grasses for winter in my area are ‘Little Kitten’ which you saw, as well as
          Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’,
          Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’, and
          Molinia caerulea subsp arundinacea ‘Skyracer ‘. They make through our entire winter upright.

          What about ornamental grasses in Vancouver. How do they do in the warmer, but wetter winter climate?

          1. user-7008735 01/11/2018

            Hi Kevin, I apologize for the delay in my reply; I signed up at the last minute on Monday for a creative writing course and have been searching my home office for an official transcript showing my degrees from UBC, registering, going to class, and making another trip to campus to pay tuition, get my student ID, and buy books. Oh, how I love being "retired"!
            As for grasses in Vancouver, I grew Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio' for many years, but it eventually petered out in the centre. I think I should have divided it every couple of years to keep it alive in the middle, but I'm not sure. The root ball was tough work to dig out. I have had Hakonechloa macra "Aureola' spilling out of pots for a couple of years and it seems to be going strong. I've also grown Festuca glauca (I think it was 'Elijah Blue') in my dry garden (if one can have such a thing in a rain forest), but it also petered out over time.
            Some plants seem to have a naturally shorter life span, but sometimes I think our high rainfall hastens their demise. The peonies from my Dad's garden have been growing strong here for 20 years, were in his garden for at least 35 years before that and may have been there for 75 or 85 years. Maybe it's just as well that all plants are not so long-lived or we'd never get to try new ones.
            I have a clump of Chasmanthium latifolium that I rescued when it was booted out of the border around our allotment garden; it has been sitting on our driveway -- not even in a pot -- for a full year, and it still looks healthy. Please don't report me to the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants Society! Anything that tough deserves a spot and I promise to find it one.
            I really love Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' for its burgundy plumes, but it's not hardy here and I've had no luck trying to overwinter it in the garage. The feathery plumes of grasses in the fall is such an attractive feature, but here the seed head tassels eventually clump together in the rain, looking soggy and bleak. It all depends on how long the monsoon holds off. I think I will consult the Great Plant Picks website to see which grasses they recommend for this area. I can get lost for hours scrolling through that information!

      4. user-7007140 01/09/2018

        I love grasses in the snow. They look so glamorous gently moving if a breeze wafts thru.

  2. user-7007498 01/08/2018

    Good morning, Harriet. I reviewed your previous posts where you had filled in your swimming pool and planted abundant peonies and daylillies. Is that the location in the first photo around the armillary sundial? Your sundial looks exactly like mine (except mine is on a column pedestal-I think I like your pedestal better).

    It looks like we never got to see the last photo of the Dracunculus. Hopefully it will get fixed or perhaps you can upload it yourself. I have never seen it grown outside a botanical garden.

    Great color to brighten up our snowy landscape. I feel warmer just looking at your pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      Thank you, Kevin. Yes, the armillary is in the filled in swimming pool. I wanted a pedestal that I could grow flowers under and asked a local steel shop to fabricate the tripod stand. A large daylily, Websters Pink Wonder, grows under the armillary tripod.If the dracunculus doesn't come through with tomorrow's photos, I'll try to figure out how to download it.

  3. reubi 01/08/2018

    The poppies are amazing! Did you grow them from seed? And the Lewesia - I’d love to try that as well - do you have a source? Lovely!

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      The poppies self seeded, which is why they are so exuberant. I like a few to get the pollinators interested before the winter squash and pumpkins get going, but last season they took over. I made sure the doubles didn't go to seed for this season since the bees prefer the singles. They are so easy to pull that "taking over" is not a problem.
      I got the Lewisia at the now closed Cady's Falls in Vermont. Joe T.'s book (our new GPOD host) pointed me in the direction of the "Little" series (Little Plum seems most readily available) and said that Lewisias need a deep root run and one could take the bottom out of a hypertufa trough and use it as a mini raised bed to give it the conditions it likes.

      1. reubi 01/08/2018

        Thanks Harriet! So nice to see such color now in the dead of winter!

  4. Maggieat11 01/08/2018

    Lovely, Harriet! Very impressive stands of poppies and peonies! I also admire your hypertufa raised garden. That Lewesia is sweet!

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 01/08/2018

    Wow, those poppies are gorgeous. I love them but it is way too hot where I live to grow them.

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      I am not sure where you garden, but annual poppies are a Mediterranean native. They bloom around March in the cool rainy springs. Could you try them in winter or early spring?

  6. User avater
    meander_michaele 01/08/2018

    What is this foreign language that you speak, Harriet?..."I wanted a hosta area, but had to chose ones that could take the afternoon sun." Hostas that do well in the afternoon sun? That is definitely one the advantages of gardening up in the north...having beautifully lush hostas that don't have to be grown in the protection of deep shade. I'm thinking we will get to see those hosta in tomorrow's pictures.
    Your armillary is gorgeous ...reminds me of a lighthouse as it stands so visibly in the sea of peony blooms. And what a satisfying sight the swath of poppies you count on them coming back each year as self seeding volunteers?

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      Thank you. Yes, the poppies self seeded. Other friends had amazing poppies last season, so it may have been a better year. I saved some seeds so that I can replant if necessary.
      Some hostas do take more sun than others (not sure about the south, though) while others fry. I did a lot of research on the internet to get a list of sun tolerant ones. Many like morning sun, but what I offer at my garden is afternoon sun. Moisture is important so they are in one of the places that gets supplemental water (the peonies are not watered) if rain hasn't done the job.

  7. user-4691082 01/08/2018

    Good morning Harriet, I enjoyed these photos today. Those peonies are beautiful. I only wish they would stay in bloom longer...

  8. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/08/2018

    It's great to see your garden again, Harriet. I remember your peonies and vista. Love your black swallowtail caterpillar. Those are great poppies. I had trouble getting them to reseed for me; too much plant cover and mulch. I've finally found a spot where 'Lauren's Grape' can colonize! Love that poppy. Thanks for sharing Joseph's tip on Lewisia; haven't tried them yet. I need to get a copy of his book as well. Hopefully the January thaw is coming your way. We'll see our first temperatures above freezing this week!

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      You are right that mulch can prevent reseeding. My veg gardens are mulched with ground leaves and grass, and it disintegrates enough to allow the reseeding. I have little luck with reseeding in the perennial beds that have bark mulch. Lauren's grape is beautiful!

  9. Beezos 01/08/2018

    Love the beautiful peonies! Your garden is wonderful and I love seeing how people around the country express their creativity in their gardens.

  10. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 01/08/2018

    Good morning, Harriet and thanks for the great photos today. It’s always a treat to look back at our summer garden in the depths of winter. Do you grow any Itoh peonies? We also grow poppies in our vegetable garden but in our area they bloom all summer ( the California kind) so they just grace the edge of the garden. I’m looking forward to seeing more tomorrow.

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      I have never tried the Itohs. Mine are all old fashioned varieties. I got started with divisions from my parents' garden. I should try some California poppies. I have to watch it or I'll have so many flowers in the veg I won;t be growing food! I like to have zinnias, borage, and marigolds in them, too.

  11. user-7008421 01/08/2018

    So pretty! Beautiful garden.

  12. sheila_schultz 01/08/2018

    What beautiful waves of color coming from your gardens, thank you for a delightful start to the week Harriet. Your poppies are downright dreamy! I must admit to being very envious of your Lewisia, it is a such tiny treasure. I planted several in my CO rock garden over the years, but only one survived. You may have given me a clue as to my dismal failure though, if I remember correctly I tried Lewisia cotyledon. Given another opportunity, I'll search for the Lewisia hybrid!

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      I would think Colorado would be an easier place for Lewisias. The deep root run is important for them to get the moisture they need. Try reading "Rock Gardening: Reimagining a Classic Style." I am just learning about rock gardening. It is another world with tiny plants that are challenging to grow. NARGS (North American Rock Gardening Society) has local chapters where other gardeners are a great help to other gardeners. My chapter is in Massachusetts, but well worth the drive.

      1. sheila_schultz 01/08/2018

        Rock gardens are definitely amazing, Harriet. All the little nooks and crannies to fill with tiny treasures. I had mine for 12 years before we moved last June. It's quite the adventure learning what works and what doesn't in the site specific locations, inches of distance can make huge differences... if you enjoy yours a fraction of how much I loved mine, you are one lucky gardener!

        1. mainer59 01/08/2018

          I should be getting rock gardening advice from you! I just googled and was reminded of how fabulous your garden was. Good luck in your new location, and post pictures as your new garden matures.

          1. sheila_schultz 01/09/2018

            Hardly Harriet, you are very kind. I learned by doing, mainly, I learned by my failures and having the easy opportunity to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens to find another sweet plant to try! Alas, I won't be posting anything from my new gardens because I won't have an opportunity for another year or 2. We sold our home in Denver last year and moved with our daughter's family to Mexico for a great adventure to live in a different culture and give the grandkids a chance at becoming bilingual. I've gone from a high desert to the tropics! Please keep posting photos... I need my fix!

  13. edithdouglas 01/08/2018

    So beautiful, and thank you for sharing. I liked the way the plants were arranged in each view, and actually thought I might arrange some peonies that way. Really liked the Lewisia hybrid, and will look for it. I have a spot that needs it!

  14. Chris_N 01/08/2018

    Thanks for bringing us more photos of your garden, Harriet. It all looks wonderful. I have one of those Lewisia hybrids in a trough but it is not open at the bottom. We'll see if it survives the winter. Great photo of the black swallowtail caterpillar. I love finding them on dill. Somehow how your poppy photo (wonderful) got duplicated and the Dragon arum photo went missing. I looked it up and, wow, that's a wild plant. Looks sort of like our native Jack-in-the-Pulpit decided to head to town as Jack-at-the-Party!

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      Hopefully the arum is posted tomorrow. If not, I'll try to put it into the comments. We'll see if my Lewisia survives, too. It has been bitter for days, but we have good snow cover. Glad to hear you let your dill go to caterpillars, too. I have to be careful cutting dill as salad greens not to harvest any when they are just tiny black specks.

  15. user-6536305 01/08/2018

    It IS fun to look at your July garden right now. Love these poppies! Thanks for sharing Harriet.

  16. User avater
    Vel Rhodes 01/08/2018

    Wow! Very, very pretty!

  17. btucker9675 01/08/2018

    Poppies never fail to bring a smile!!

  18. foxglove12 01/08/2018

    All so beautiful. Loving that spread of peonies.

  19. user-7008735 01/08/2018

    Gorgeous photos, Harriet! Peonies are one of my favourite flowers and yours are lovely. Thanks for sharing!

  20. greengenes 01/08/2018

    Hi Harriet, thanks for sharing with us spring hungry gardeners your beautiful memories! All so lovely and hopeful for this up coming year! I love what you did with the hypertufa. Ive made some before and some have been shallow so this is something to consider. The peonies are a sight to behold! So glad they do well in your cold weather. I am so sorry for all of you on the east coast. It has stopped me from complaining about our gray and rainy days.

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      You can always use the shallow ones for succulents, which I'll bet you do! I made some deeper ones this fall. I want to try rock garden plants and mini hostas in them and not have to remove the bottoms.

  21. tennisluv 01/08/2018

    Such a joy to see summer photos when it has been so cold for many of us. The poppies are a breath of summer for sure; I've never tried to grow poppies, uhm. Love peonies and you have some especially pretty ones. Thanks for sharing.

  22. JoannaAtGinghamGardens 01/08/2018

    Thank you for sharing, Harriet, but I wanted more. Garden pictures are what gets me through our zone 4 winter. The backdrop for your gardens is spectacular too. Please share again soon.

    1. mainer59 01/08/2018

      Thank you! More are coming from the batch posted today. Maybe I can gather some more from another month in my garden. You could try to find the old posts from a few years ago to see the progression, if you are interested.,.

      1. JoannaAtGinghamGardens 01/08/2018

        Thanks Harriet. I will do a search for some of the older photos.

  23. carolineyoungwilliams 01/08/2018

    Perfect timing Harriet....for a moment there, your beautiful garden made me forget that it is cold and wet outside. Thank you. I truly enjoyed your flowers, especially the Peonies.

  24. mjensen 01/08/2018

    i love peonies

  25. chris_buscemi 01/09/2018

    Thank you Harriet for making me feel warm with photos of your summer gardens. They are gorgeous. Love the poppies and the photo of your little friend among the herbs. I, too, live in Maine and today it felt so nice out because it was above zero! Winter well!

  26. janeeliz 01/16/2018

    I am drooling over your lovely peonies and poppies, Harriet. So nice to see them in the cold of this fridgid winter. I lost much of my snow cover during our brief thaw. Did you? The Lewisia looks perfect in the trough. Did you make it?

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