From one extreme to the other: Cool and rainy to hot and dry with a few thunderstorms interspersed. What a difference it has made in the garden.

My banana, that I brought up from the basement in mid-May had been sulking. Now it is growing new leaves at a rapid pace and my Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ are huge.

Hydrangea ‘Twist and Shout’

Old Hydrangea serrata ‘Blue Billow’

Meanwhile, Hydrangea ‘Twist and Shout’ has been putting on a show as has Hydrangea serrata ‘Blue Billow’. In fact, ‘blue billow’ has always been such a reliable bloomer that I added two more last year in front of the garage hayracks. Would someone please explain to me why the one in the right bed is blooming but the one in the left bed doesn’t even have any buds?

Trifolium rubens

If you have a dry to moist, sunny bed with good drainage, I highly recommend Trifolium rubens (Red Feather Clover). It is highly ornamental, is only two feet high, and blooms continuously from late June through July. It took a few years to get established but is now starting to spread.

Astilbe ‘Freya’ in front of Pieris japonica

Many Astilbe are relatively short but ‘Freya’, sent to me by DeVroomen, is nearly three feet tall and rosy pink. It is quite striking in a bed shaded by an ancient magnolia and in another in front of ancient Pieris.

At the end of last week, Niki and I went to Traverse City, Michigan for the first time. Traverse Bay is absolutely gorgeous and a boater’s paradise. We went for the vineyards and the Cherry Festival. We stayed two nights at Chateau Chantal, a gorgeous, luxurious hotel (a birthday gift to Niki from our oldest son and his family) and then two nights at a Cambria Suites. We explored two peninsulas that jut into the bay.

Pink poppies

On Old Mission Peninsula, we found a lavender farm where we bought lavender honey and then passed a roadside, xeric garden that was so beautiful, I not only stopped to photograph; I also pulled up the road, into the driveway, and found the owner Ginny who has a business called Old Misision Flowers. She sells bouquets of cut flowers. She took me into her garden and we were swapping information like kindred spirits. What stopped me in my tracks were the pink poppies that were blooming in her roadside bed. I’m hoping she’ll remember to send me seeds.

Warning sign

The small black dots on the darker sand are the people who disregarded the sign

The next day, we explored the Leelenau Peninsula, home to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. What an amazing place. There are trails through the dunes that can be hiked but we elected the driving route with stops to look out over the dunes. At stop 9, there is a dune that must be on at least a forty-five degree angle. At the stop is a sign that suggests trying to go down and come back up is not wise. However, several fools had obviously elected to disregard the sign and we watched them trying to claw their way back up. A volunteer at the Visitor Center told me that it will cost you $2000 if you have to be rescued.

Red fence

Skis and crutches painted red

Further up the peninsula, we saw large stands of white birch, a sight rarely seen in Cleveland because of the birch borer. Driving up to the lighthouse, we went through the town of Northport where I sighted an antique store with a fence that begged to be photographed. The shop has a red door and red shutters and a red fence that is composed of old bedsteads that had also been painted red. The arbor that frames the path to the door is topped with red skis and crutches. What creativity!

I had no idea that Traverse City has a botanical garden but was alerted to that fact by a dinner companion at the bar of the Old Mission Tavern. The Garden in only ten years old but they’ve made a great start. I loved the combination of Alchemilla mollis and Allium christophii and then of Dianthus carthusianorum and an Achillea that was virtually the same color.

We had decided that we should sample the local wines and, much to our surprise, many of them were excellent. I know you’ll be shocked to learn that we brought some home as well as a cherry pie.