Summer Readings

“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.




  1. Randy said,

    June 27, 2008 at 4:09 am

    The heat a humidity are so bad here, when I look out the window all I see is stressed plants. I can enjoy our garden in the early parts of the morning, but by three o’clock or so it takes on a whole ‘nuther energy. You can almost feel the discomfort of the plants when you walk around in it. I sad to report it looks as though the new Dogwood we planted out front has become a casualty of the heat… or over watering… I can never tell which. This is the fourth tree I’ve lost out there over the years.

  2. Jan said,

    June 27, 2008 at 5:58 am

    Hi, Randy, sorry to hear about your dogwood, they are one of my favorite spring flowering trees. I know dogwoods are great understory trees, so may be it is too much sun and heat. You also could check to see if the tree needs water. I have a large hydrangea that was wilting everyday, and everyday I would go out and water it, and this was before the real heat and drought kicked in. I cut it back thinking maybe that would help, but it didn’t. Finally, I dug it up and was shocked to find that underneath the shrub it was dry – dust dry. I couldn’t believe it. The ground was moist around the edges, but not underneath. I transplanted it to a shadier spot, and it seems to be recovering. Even though I watered slowly and deeply, I guess it wasn’t enough since we hadn’t had rain for so long. I wish I had dug around the shrub earlier to see if lack of water was the problem and, not as I thought, a root fungus or something more sinister than just a lack of deeper watering.

  3. Nancy Bond said,

    June 27, 2008 at 6:02 am

    They sound like great books — your gardening environment is very different from mine here in NS, but I, too, am slowly gathering a small pile of gardening books to fill those long winter days ahead. 🙂

  4. Jan said,

    June 27, 2008 at 6:12 am

    When the weather makes gardening impossible, it is nice to look at pretty pictures, Nancy. Lately, I have been buying garden books that are specifically for my area. So many gardening books seem to be for cooler areas, and the plants shown or suggested just won’t grow here. When I first started gardening, I would read about certain plants and wonder why I never could locate them at nurseries. If you don’t have an experienced gardener around to tell you that the plants suggested by some writers don’t grow in your area, you can waste a great deal of money, time, and effort.

  5. Phillip said,

    June 30, 2008 at 8:01 am

    I wrote a collection development article for Library Journal a few years ago on Southeast Gardening and I included the first and third book (I’m not familiar with the second one you mentioned). I especially liked the Norman Winter book. He has an online column that I have bookmarked. I’ve learned some great things from him not to mention great planting ideas.

  6. Jan said,

    June 30, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Phillip, as I wrote in the comment to Nancy, I rarely buy any garden books now that are not geared toward gardening in the south. I have many more of these books that I will write about in future postings, but the one that I learned the most from on why certain plants do not do well here is Gardening in the Humid South by O’Rouke and Sandifer.

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