Brutal summer didn’t stop colorful borders
Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 9:06 pm
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
Summer, by now, has supposedly turned the corner. Supposedly.
Some years, miserable summer lingers on into late September. Let us hope it will, instead, steal off into history as it should and relieve us of the onus of heat and humidity that has bound us into a pattern of merely holding on instead of realizing any gain.
June, July and August have been their usual nasty selves this year, not too much unlike 2007, albeit not quite so brutal.
These are, indeed, the times that try men’s souls. Women’s too. It becomes a matter of just trying to keep the hoses going. Merely walking out into a 100-degree midday to move a hose becomes a major undertaking.
With woody plant losses on our place well into double digits for the second year in a row, disgust and disappointment can easily overwhelm any latent potential ambition before it even surfaces.
Having said that, I must admit our late August garden, at least the part that is within the confines of our irrigation system, is an oasis and well worth being in. It hasn’t come without effort.
If you have done your part despite the high mercury, then you, too, can enjoy late summer and autumn by savoring what is performing and trying your best to ignore the rest of it.
Summer phloxes, in pink and mauve, are yet in fine fettle, save for a few mildewed leaves. This the result of rather constant deadheading as each head of bloom has gone over. Sometimes there is a bit of sacrifice when blooms are deadheaded before they are totally used up, but in the long run (that is, through late summer) it pays off with fresher and more abundant re-bloom than would otherwise be the case.
A big feature now is self-sown salvias in our borders. These are Salvia coccinea, which offers endless spikes of white, pink or red. They have been rogued to keep the colors where I want them, i.e. red in the red border, whites and pinks in our pastel beds.
Thank heaven for the old rose of sharon, Hibiscus syriacus. What other woody plant, pray tell, keeps in constant and abundant bloom for fully 90 days in the heat of summer? I have used them copiously in our mixed borders, where they blend well with other ingredients, particularly the aforementioned phloxes.
Late hostas do their part. Any derivative of Hosta plantaginea, and the species itself, has fine lily-like white or pale mauve flowers that are enticingly fragrant of a late afternoon and into the evening. Site a few of them near a sitting area, as we have, and snort up the perfume. One of the offspring of the species is Honeybells, with broad green leaves and white, fragrant blooms that spear up to fully three or four feet. A luck would have it (bad, of course) deer snipped off every bud of one clump in our rock wall border before the blooms ever opened.
Then there are annuals, of course. They get into ever finer blow as long as pestilence stays at bay.
A big bed of Wave petunias in front of the Ten Commandments monument at First Baptist Church reseeded from last year, to the point there were excess hundreds that needed thinning. Peggy Veazey and I, who are always looking for another bargain, quickly snapped the extras up and took them home.
Mine have worked in a couple of places in that rock wall border, following winter and spring pansies. A month from now, I am sure I will be loath to hoick out the petunias for another round of pansies (or violas). But you must pay a short term price for a longer term benefit, and ruthlessness is the only answer when it comes to keeping up color the year through, or most of it anyway.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Abundant color results from tough love.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 9.2.08
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path