Life and Gardening After Slugopocalypse

Anyone else feel as though this year has got away from them? In theory, my garden should be magnificent this year since I haven't been traveling. Somehow that's not my reality. Between a biblical plague of slugs that is STILL ongoing, crazy wet weather in spring (summer didn't even start until about a week ago) and prioritizing my time for our granddaughter, the garden got way from me a bit. The paths have a few weeds, I have lace-leaf zinnias, the tomatoes are struggling, the peppers have given up, and I haven't even walked through the woodland garden for two weeks. But I always promised you I'd keep this blog real, so here is an early August glimpse of a few bits and pieces. Some are prettier than others.

Big Picture Views

View from kitchen door, adjacent to main patio – looks MUCH better from a distance!!

This little border is seen every day from inside the home, when walking to the vegetable garden, and while sitting on the patio. This year it has been a war zone. I have replaced the annuals TWICE that were beneath the Tiger Eyes sumac – then gave up entirely because the slugs ate them to the nubs overnight again. Moles infiltrated the bed for the first time ever and their tunnels and mounds uprooted many of my young test plants. (I have replanted one poor Russian sage at least four times so far). I grew the zinnias and also some Strawberry Fields gomphrena from seed for this beds. Of the 30 gomphrena I think 2 or 3 are still bravely holding on. The zinnias? See for yourself;

Slug fest

Enough said. Moving on…

View from front door, down entry path towards driveway

This area got reworked last fall when we had to remove an ailing multi-trunked Himalayan white birch and replace it with this young paperbark maple. In spring it is surrounded by Euphorbia, bluebells, alliums and poppies. The summer view is a froth of white gaura sprinkled with sea holly and Rozanne geranium. Not fabulous, but not too bad.

Island border entrance

You may recall my earlier post about finding ways to do containers this year either very inexpensively or by using what I had to hand. This was a case in point – using various samples sent from Proven Winners and First Editions.  It's not the best design I've done (the balance is off) but I still like the way the contemporary container anchors this entrance and repeats the shimmery shades of silver, white and blue.


Close up of contemporary container

We may as well start off with this one. All the individual plants are lovely – but clearly the beautiful sageleaf willow in the middle-back is shorter than the alliums that flank it. I had hoped it would push out some growth and be just a bit taller than them – or at least the same height. That's the thing with young shrubs – it can be a bit hit and miss judging growth rate the first year or two. The three Montana Moss junipers are doing well in the front row but are perhaps a bit stiff for this application. Love the color and texture though. Plant list: Allium 'Serendipity', Denim 'n Lace Russian sage, Icebery Alley sageleaf willow, Montana Moss juniper, Euphorbia 'Diamond Mountain'. You can read more about these plants in my recent blog posts about deer-resistant annuals/perennials and deer-resistant shrubs.

Keeping it simple

Diamond Mountain euphorbia is a great workhorse in containers and I love the way it has mingled with this dwarf Sundrop spirea. As you can see the spirea has held its golden foliage right through to August even in partial sun and the delicate sprays of pink flowers have been produced steadily for many weeks already. I tucked in a couple of coleus for contrast as well as the little blue glass bird for fun. Here's a close up:

My two containers by the front door received the least care and attention this spring yet I'm actually quite pleased with them.

Front containers; one of a pair

The Summer Ruffle hibiscus, Carnival watermelon heuchera, Lemon Lime nandina and Purple heart were all there from last year. I tucked in a Montana Moss juniper, a Silver Falls dichondra and a spare coleus. Fun! The hibiscus should start blooming any day with semi-double lilac blooms.

Admission: the slugs ate the purple heart in the other pot LOL.

Smaller Vignettes

Driveway/front entry border

Yes the flowers on the coneflowers have been nibbled, but the overall cottage-garden-meets-simple-meadow aesthetic is still pretty I think. All planted many years ago and doing well; Russian Sage, Allium, Mexican feather grass, White Swan coneflower

Ruby Spider daylily looks like velvet against a Ginger Wine ninebark

I was given this daylily as a gift from the grower and love the rich color. I spray it with deer repellent of course – as I do the ninebark next to it. Love the color echo between the stamens and foliage.

Tiny Details

Twizzle buds!

Yes the speckled flowers of blackberry lily (Belamcandra chinensis) are delightful and the seedheads look wonderful in my Thanksgiving floral arrangements – but I love the twizzly corkscrews of the faded blooms even more! (Admission; the foliage is shredded by slugs….)

So there you have it. My less than stellar garden. At least I can laugh about it. And share my beer with the slugs on a more regular basis.

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  1. Brenda on August 4, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Hello. Thank you for your honesty. My zinnias are also shredded and I would shake my head and then my fist at the slugs. It has been a tough year in the garden. I agree, w more time in the garden I would have expected more. However, nature is unpredictable, isn’t she?!
    Well, the bunnies are devouring my heucheras and astrantia and hosta. Ouch! Which is painful as I do adore my heuchera.
    Thanks for the great blog and encouragement!

    • Karen Chapman on August 4, 2020 at 8:34 am

      Ah yes – I didn't even mention the rabbits… Thanks for commiserating with me!

  2. Donna Kittredge on August 4, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Karen! Nicely designed containers! I feel your pain regarding the slugs! They seem to be EVERYWHERE here in western Massachusetts. We’ve found them in really weird places like climbing down the side of the house! I’m not familiar with the life cycle of slugs but it seems like they’re hatching like mad around here as I’ve noticed loads of tiny ones. Regarding furry varmints, the chipmunk has overpopulated much of our state this year.

    • Karen Chapman on August 4, 2020 at 2:10 pm

      I thought only the PNW was inundated with slugs – they really are coast to coast this year! I've had them climbing up windows too. Ugh