July is looming, threatening even, with punishing weather that demands the utmost from both garden and gardener. It will be more comfortable if you have done your homework (and yard work) previously and have provided the hardiest perennial surviviors to see you through the next two to three months.
Frequently it’s the little things in life that add surprise and pleasure to the daily routine, and nowhere is that more evident than in the garden.
Although most gardeners seek out the big, showy flowers that flaunt bright colors for a brief season, at the same time it’s the smaller reliable ones, the workhorses, that quietly provide the background and foundation for the splashier ones.
Sometimes these are groundcovers, which may have little bloom, but have an interesting form and texture. More often they will be small annuals with persistent long-term flowering — and maintaining extended bloom in the summertime extremes of a Lowcountry garden is much to be desired.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
- Anais Nin
Although Nin may have been referring to something more elusive, to winter-weary Lowcountry gardeners it means that spring is about to put in its long anticipated appearance. Following a cruel and damaging winter, forsythia, spiraea, azaleas and cherry blossoms are the first garden plants to take the risk of blossoming.
Gardening is art, science and philosophy all wrapped together in one mysterious and sometimes unattainable enterprise. But that has never stopped anyone from pursuing it. A satisfying garden requires a basic knowledge of the science of horticulture in order to meet the physical demands of growing plants; sufficient knowledge of the primary principles of art to combine them harmoniously; plus your personal philosophy of what represents the ideal garden.
Get help identifying the horticultural and physical requirements of your plants through nurseries, catalogues, books and online. State or county extension agents and the Master Gardeners program are also useful. The book “Bulletproof Flowers for the South,” by Jim Wilson, features high-heat and humidity-resistant flowers. When searching these resources, be sure to seek information for your specific area and do not succumb to glossy catalogues from other regions.
Although New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken, why not resolve to become more familiar with botanical or horticultural designations of plants that we grow or wish to grow?
For starters, it’s useful for precise identification, for information about growth habit and habitat preference, and for bloom expectations.
Though written in Latin, it is often possible to tease out the meaning due to some similarity to the English equivalent. That’s not always true, but it helps advance your general gardening prowess just to try. At the risk of preaching to the choir, it is well known that the binomial system of naming plants and animals was devised by Swedish physician/botanist Carl Linnaeus and published in 1753 in “Species Plantarum.”
What plants are good to fill in the spaces recently vacated by summer annuals?
Though Shakespeare declares that only in June come perfect days, gardeners in the Lowcountry know better. We have not forgotten the crushing days of heat that afected both gardens and gardeners last June. But, October, November — and even into December — we are furnished with perfect days outdoors when brisk air, moderate temperatures, adequate rainfall and bright Carolina blue skies that stimulate and inspire our efforts.
While Northerners are putting their landscapes to bed for months under snow cover, Southern practitioners are busy planting winter annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees.
Mastering the Art of Fine Gardening
What a refreshing idea! It is well known that gardens thrive in the spring and early summer, but what happens or can be expected in the fall in a Lowcountry garden? Those and related questions will be answered on Oct. 17 when the Lowcountry Master Gardener Association presents its second annual educational garden tour. The emphasis is on education and even the most experienced gardener can learn something.
Yes, the summer garden is history. It had more than a few moments of glory and at the same time, some disappointments. But the overall learning experience was valuable.
So in the interest of onward and upward in the garden, following are impressions of the winners, the losers, the ho-hum and the “teaching moment.”
First, the good news. Clear winners in the summer garden for long-lasting bloom, color, ease of culture and apparent indifference to our weather extremes were pentas, angelonia, torenia, scaevola, melampodium, coleus and caladiums. In the shrub category, hydrangeas are included.
All of these annuals performed beautifully all summer, blooming well through August. Salvia Victoria could be added to the list, although there is an extended period of non-bloom after cutting back the first vigorous flush, which was long-lasting and magnificent. Cannas were also reliable in that they will re-bloom several times just when you think they are finished. Journey’s End, Panache and Australia are in this category, as are others. All of them created a colorful focus in the summer garden.
Visit gardens and enclosures to learn what plants will attract butterflies to your yard
As Jane Austen might phrase it, a summer garden must be full of butterflies to be complete. If only all desires could be so easily achieved, because there is scarcely a garden in the Lowcountry that does not already grow one or all three of the major butterfl y magnets: lantana, pentas and salvia.
Add coneflower, verbena, coreopsis, rudbeckia, butterfly bush and honeysuckle, (the Lonicera sempervirens variety), and a water source, and they will come.