November 22, 2011
As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for this year’s revelations.
It would be just lovely if we had naturally luscious soil, rain on cue (but not too much at one time), a scattering of days over 100° instead of an ordeal, and a little snow for fun without those root-freezing 17° hits.
But as gardeners, we strengthen our roots to the earth with each challenge. Over the years, I’ve weaned out troublemakers and promoted my congenial partners.
I’m always experimenting, of course, but with a strict eye on behavior. If we’re headed to pioneer days’ water restrictions, it’ll be just another chapter in my evolution (though I’ve always been pretty water-strict). Until then, the bees and I are loving my new white mistflowers (Ageratina havanensis or Eupatorium havanense). But this native wouldn’t still be around if it couldn’t take tough times.
If water eludes us next year, I don’t know that I’ll plant summer annual pentas again.
But when I tried them again this year, they made it through the toughest summer on record. And the butterflies and bees love ‘em! I’m always thinking about plants that feed wildlife. Exotic annuals help out a lot when native perennials and annuals are between cycles.
Native annual Salvia coccinea attracts wildlife like crazy, but it likes some water, too. Like the pentas, it wimps out with months of drought, but springs into action with just a bit of rain. Even in my mulched garden, some return from seed in spring. Generally, we lose the mother plants in winter. Right now, they’re flowering like crazy to set seeds for a new generation next year.
The herbaceous perennial salvias do better with water, as well, but I’ve had one my dad passed along years ago that’s never veered from its low-water course. So, recently I added some I haven’t grown before: Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’ (Salvia leucantha ‘Midnight’ x Salvia elegans), a compact plant that fits right in with the crape island bed.
And I added roses! Yes, I did. My Iceberg has been blooming like crazy in a scalding hot spot, with little water, so I added another that gets the same grueling late afternoon sun (muted here with a welcome veil of clouds).
By the way, when I moved the first wimpy Iceberg to its hot spot two years ago, it turned into Cinderella almost overnight! If you’ve got good roses, but they seem to be in trouble, this is a good time to move them to more sun.
For under the den window, I went through a long list of options, but ran into the perfect one: compact Republic of Texas Pioneer rose. I wanted a soft, mounding, low, evergreen, and fragrant plant for open window days. And drought tough. This fit all the requirements.
This is one of Michael Shoup’s Pioneer roses that he’s been breeding at the Antique Rose Emporium, combining the toughest of the tough (available at many local nurseries or online at ARE if your nurseries don’t carry them). Its yellow, sweetly scented flowers come again and again, followed by colorful hips. This one looks pinkish at the end of its day, but they open as sweet yellow.
On CTG this week, the team gathers together for a round table discussion on drought, how to deal with stressed plants this winter, favorite survivors, and tips for the vegetable garden. Tom, Trisha, Daphne, and Lyda Guz from The Natural Gardener join Tom for perspectives and advice that you won’t want to miss!
This weekend, I’m planning a whole day to garden, a rare treat! I can’t wait to plant the bulbs that I’ve stockpiled on indoor shelves. They’re pioneers for sure, and won’t mind a bit when the water turns off.
Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear ones! Linda