“Summer Readings”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana
This is the time of year that Southern gardeners are tempted to stay in the air-conditioned house and only look out the windows at the garden. Sometimes it is just too hot to try and work outdoors. So like our northern friends who spend the winter looking at garden catalogs and books, we usually do that in the torrid summer.
I have been rereading several of my garden books trying to get ideas for next year. There are three in particular that I have been concentrating on – Sunbelt Gardening, Heat-Zone Gardening, and Tough-As-Nails Flowers for the South.
Sunbelt Gardening by Tom Pease is subtitled Success in Hot-Weather Climates. This book contains chapters on both southeastern and southwestern gardening as well as winter gardening. The author, using his experience as a Texas gardener, lists plants that will do well in zones 7 – 10. In hot climates, it is often not the cold hardiness of plants that concerns us but a plant’s ability to take our hot, humid, and often dry weather. If you love plants, you will appreciate this book’s extensive list of perennials, shrubs, vines, grasses, bulbs, and annuals that can take the heat.
Another book that I have been looking through is Heat-Zone Gardening by Dr. H. Marc Cathey. What is nice about this book is that it lists a plants heat zone and hardiness zone. Only listing a plant’s hardiness zone can cause disappointment for many Southern gardeners. For example, I live in zone 8, the same as parts of Oregon, but there is no way that I can grow all of the plants that those gardeners do. Many of the plants that grow in the Northwest simply will not take the heat of our summers. When you consider that many of the big box stores sell plants strictly by hardiness zone, you understand why they have peonies and lily of the valley for sale here in the spring. This book is really good for new gardeners who are unfamiliar with plants that just won’t make it down here.
The last book, Tough-As-Nails Flowers for the South by Norman Winter, is for gardeners in zones 6-10. This book, too, is a great reference for plants that thrive in our area. The listed plants will give four seasons of flowers for your garden. For each plant listed there is a color photo, growing requirements, landscape use, and, especially helpful, a toughness description.
So, in the heat of a summer afternoon, I sit inside an air-conditioned house, sipping ice tea, and planning how next summer my garden will have even more colorful flowers for me to look at through the windows.