Foliage Color

“Foliage Color”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

This time of year does not have the blooms that early spring does, but that does not mean that there is no color or interest in the garden.  This year, in particular, there isn’t the amount of flowers around as is usual for summer.  Our heat always does seem to make plants stop flowering during the hottest months and then pick up again when the cooler temperatures of fall arrive, but this year, with our unusually high heat in June, flowers are pretty scarce right now.  Thank goodness for coleus and caladiums, two brightly colored plants that help a summer garden look nice.

Coleus is having a sort of revival in the past few years.  The Victorians were crazy for this plant, but as with all things, it went out of favor for a while and is back now.  When you look at coleus, you don’t miss not having flowers.  Not only are they colorful, but the different leaf shapes and textures make these such interesting plants.  I especially like the puffy or puckered leaf coleus.

Coleus Alabama Sunset (redu)

Coleus II (redu)

Coleus R. Radish (redu)

Coleus Un-named (redu)

Caladuim is another plant with colorful leaves that can outshine many a flower.  I am lucky that I can leave my caladium tubers in the ground, and they will overwinter.  I just make sure that they have a lot of mulch and stay dry.

Caladium Carolyn Wharton (redu)

Caladium Firecracker Red (redu)

So, even though this year’s heat has stopped the normal summer flowering, we still have a great deal of interest in the garden with the different textures and colors of coleus and caladiums.

July Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

“July Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for coming up with GBBD.  This is the day (15th of the month) in which we post everything which is blooming in our gardens.

Well, this month there is not a whole lot of blooming flowers.  The unusually high temperatures of June and lack of rain seems to have stopped many of the summer bloomers.  When the rains did come, they just seemed to beat up the few flowers that were around.  That is what happened to our crepemyrtle trees.  The flowers are very delicate and papery and rain can really do a number on them.  More rain is expected this week, so maybe by August’s GBBD more blooms will be showing up.

A few daylilies are finishing up blooming.  I was surprised to see buds on the daylily Misty Mayhaw, but they won’t open for at least a week.  Eye Yi Eye and the red Mack the Knife daylilies have are giving their last hurrah.

 

Daylily Eye Yi Eye (redu)

 

Daylily Mack the Knife (redu)

 

Another flowering shrub that has put out its last blooms for the year is the mophead hydrangea.  Most of the flowers have started to fade, but there still are a few fairly fresh ones around.

 

Hydrangea (redu)

 

I was surprised to see two gladiolus starting to bloom.  I had thought they were all finished by the middle of June, and then these guys show up.  I will have to say that with the high temperatures, the flowers are not lasting as long.

 

Gladiolus (redu)

 

There are a few flowers that are just showing up.  The toad lilies have started showing a few flowers, and white hosta flowers are just starting to open up.

 

Toad Lily (redu)

 

Hosta (redu)

 

Perennials that are continuing to bloom are Texas Star (my favorite), jasmine, and society garlic.  Except for the Texas Star, the others are small flowers which are blooming in clusters.

 

Texas Star (redu)

 

Jasmine (redu)

 

Society Garlic (redu)

 

I think the only new flower that is blooming is the spreading torenia Amethyst Ice that I put in about three weeks ago.  It is slowly taking off.  I wish I would have planted these earlier before the high heat came; I think they would look even better if I had.

 

Torenia Am Ice (redu)

 

This July there is also an agapanthus or two still blooming, a few roses, tropical hibiscus and gerbera daisies, but they are not very showy at this time.  I am hoping next month is a little better.

Old Favorite

“Old Favorite”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

For several years now I have been using two urns planted with Purple Fountain Grass as markers to show the entrance to the side garden.  About this time each year is when these plants start looking their best.  The purple-colored foliage and plumes help tie this area of the garden with the nearby area which is planted with the purple-foliaged lorepetulum.

Pur Fountain Grass (redu)

When these plants first were introduced, you seemed to see them everywhere, but, now, they do not seem as popular since so many other ornamental grasses are now available.  I still think that the purple fountain grass plumes are one of the prettiest there is.

Pur Fountain Grass Clsp (redu)

Even at dusk, this grass and its plumes look good against the evening sky.  You can’t say that about many of the newer grasses.  This photo is a little dark, but you get the idea.

Pur Fountain Grass Dusk (redu)

Even though there are so many attractive newer grasses, this is still one of my favorites.

Substitutes for Annuals

“Substitutes for Annuals”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

I am starting to see some results of my planting perennials instead of annuals.  I have gradually moved away from annuals, and this spring, I put in only a few spreading torenia.  But, I still wanted flowers and color especially at the front of borders.  Last year I planted some of the dwarf Katie ruellia, and even with the unusually hot temperatures they have been blooming well.  I have planted a few additional ones this year, and now have white, pink and purple flowering ones.  The Katie varieties stay small ( 8 – 10 inches tall) and clumping, not like the regular Ruellia brittoniana which can spread very rapidly.  Here in my zone 8 garden they are perennial which makes them a great substitution for annuals.

 

Ruella Katie Pk (redu)

 

Ruella Katie Wh (redu)

 

I also have some of the tall Mexican Petunias in both purple and pink in the garden.  They are mostly in the back of the borders, though I have been pulling them up lately.  This is a great plant when you are first starting a bed and want some almost instant plantings.  The tall ruellia will spread which can be a problem, but they are easy to pull out.  I have found that the tall ruellia in my garden is not blooming as profusely as they should, and I have started removing them.  I have both the pink, which I prefer, and the purple.  I really like the pink variety and wished that they would bloom better, but I am only going to leave a small clump because they are taking up too valuable a garden space for the few blooms they are giving.

 

Ruella Pur (redu)

 

I also have what is know as creeping ruellia (Ruellia squarrosa) which I use as a ground cover around a bird bath.  I have also used this successfully in a hanging basket.  I believe this one only comes in purple.  This does spread very well, too, but I have no problem controlling it.  One warning though, this plant evidently sends out a ton of seeds.  I find that small plants are starting to show up all over, especially in containers.  I don’t know if the wind or birds are spreading the seeds, but there are a lot of little plants around.  Again, I have not found this to be uncontrollable, but some people don’t have the time or inclination to be bothered with plants that spread so well. I have just noticed this happening this year, so I don’t know if this is normal or not.  I don’t ever see seeds so they must be very small.  I really like this plant because it blooms even more than the other ruellias, but I feel it is only fair to warn others that this may be a problem.

 

Ruella Creeping (redu)

 

All three of these ruellia attract butterflies and hummingbirds. That, plus the fact that they survive the winter here, makes them a good alternative to planting annuals every year.

Always Late

“Always Late”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

My four o’clocks are always late.  They are late even when you consider we are now on daylight savings time.  Even if they are on Eastern time zone time, they are late.  The old-fashioned four o’clock flowers (Mirablis jalapa) don’t start opening up until after 7 o’clock at night around here and aren’t fully opened until almost eight o’clock.  Even on cloudy days when it is reported the flowers will open up early, ours don’t open until it is almost dark which makes them very hard to photograph.  You can still see them, especially the lighter colors, and, of course, you can smell them.  They really can perfume the night air.

I got my first four o’clocks from my son-in-law’s mother who had them growing all around her pool.  These were the fushia-colored ones.  Now, when I occasionally dig up a tuber, I am shocked at how large these gift ones have become.  Not too long ago, I was planting in the garden before the 4 o’clocks emerged and thought I had come across a log that had been buried in the ground.  It was no log, but a huge tuber.  I have the fushia ones in the “pink’ garden, though I have gradually replaced many with other perennials.

 

Fushia 4 o'clock (redu)

 

About two years ago, I found a local nursery that was selling 4 o’clocks, which is unusual, and they had white and yellow ones in addition to the fushia.  I didn’t need the fushia, but I did pick up two of each of the white and the yellow ones.  The yellow went into the “circle” garden which is predominately yellow flowers, and the white ones went into the “white” garden that I have dedicated to my dad.

 

Yw 4 o'clock (redu)

 

Wh 4 o'clock (redu)

 

The white ones have produced seedlings, but I am sure they will not be white, but a mix of the others.  These plants produce a lot of seeds, but it is very easy to pull out the ones you don’t want.  Also, I find that if they are in a well mulched area, the seeds do not germinate as much.

These old-fashioned flowers deserve to be in more gardens.  They are attractive, night-bloomers which makes sitting outside on a warm summer night an enjoyable event, and these old garden flowers bring a little bit of grandma’s garden to our modern world.  So, even though they do not bloom “on time”, I still love having these night bloomers in the garden.

Summer Favorites

“Summer Favorites”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

We all have favorite plants.  Ones we never tire of seeing in our garden or extolling the virtues of to anyone who will listen.  For the summer, I have two plants that I simply must have every year.  I don’t know why they are my favorites, but I do know that every time I look at them, I smile.

The first is the Gingerland caladium.  This is one of the more sun tolerant of the caladiums and was first planted in my garden three years ago.  I have it in the entry garden where I used to have a summer color scheme of red, white, and green.  Now that I have changed that to red, purple, and green, these caladiums still look fantastic with those colors, too.

 

Gingerland Caladium (redu)

 

My sister has planted Gingerland in her garden, too, and she has told me every time she looks at hers, she thinks of me.  I guess that is because I have raved and praised this particular caladium so much (maybe ad nauseum?).

The next plant is one that I have had in my summer garden for over ten years.  It is a coleus that goes by several names, but I usually find it available as Solar Sunrise.  Again, it is the color combination that I just love.  The purple, chartreuse, and streaks of red make this a stand out.  The fact that it can get very large is also a plus.  It makes a small shrub by mid summer.

 

Coleus (redu)

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great plants in a summer garden that I really love, but these two plants, for some unknown reason, really are my favorites, and they  must be planted every year.

Too Much of a Good Thing

“Too Much of a Good Thing”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

For weeks now, I have been lamenting the lack of rain and high summer temperatures – 100+ degrees.  June was a horrific month.  Well, of course, the old saying  “Be careful what you wish for”  has come true for us.  Last Thursday, we had a terrible thunderstorm come through, and even though it brought much needed rain, it also included 70 mph wind gusts which knocked our electricity out for fourteen hours.  We have also had downpours on this Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  It is predicted for one more day of rain and then back to hot, dry weather.

Needless to say, with over four inches of rain in such a short time, every thing is waterlogged.  We have puddles in the yard now that will take a day or two to dry out.  There is a big one by our oak tree.

Puddle by Oak Tree (redu)

The circle garden is soaked.  This area has slightly raised beds, and so the rainwater has accumulated along all of the edges.  I know these plants needed a good soaking, but this is ridiculous.  It is a good thing the beds are raised because now there is standing water twelve hours after it rains.  I wish I could send some of our excess rain to Texas where it is really needed right now.

Puddle (redu)

I won’t even talk about all the mosquitoes that have shown up in just a few days of rain.   Those annoying creatures must hatch in hours not days.  I couldn’t believe how they were swarming around me this morning as I was trying to take a few photos.

It has been rather nice not having to drag the hose around watering all the container plants and borders ( I rarely if ever water the lawn).  The cooler temperatures that the rain showers and cloudy weather brings are also welcomed and will be missed I am sure in just a few days when the sun is beating down again.  But, I won’t miss the squishy lawn and the puddles that seem to be everywhere.  We need to dry out.

Dead or Alive?

“Dead or Alive?”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

How do you know a plant is dead?  Well, that seems like an easy question to answer, but I, who have been gardening for years, am unsure about one of my curry plants.  How do you tell when a gray foliage plant is dead? 

I put in four curry plants in the spring, and one of them is not doing too well.  I think because of the heat and dry weather it is at best struggling and may even be dead.  The one curry plant I planted last year is doing very well, but, then again, it is better established.

I can still see some gray-green in some of the stems the sick curry plant (which gives me hope) even though the leaves look pretty far gone.  Here are some close-ups of a few stems.

 

Curry Plant Clsp I (redu)

 

Curry Plant Clsp II (redu)

 

Here is what the whole plant looks like. 

 

Curry Plant Sick (redu)

 

Pretty pathetic, huh?  I am thinking that maybe the heat stressed this particular one more than the others, and then, maybe, with having to water so much earlier in the summer, it didn’t like that.  I know that most gray-colored foliage plants do not like a lot of humidity which is why so many melt in our humid summers.  But last year’s plant has thrived. 

Here is what another curry plant that was also put in this spring  looks like; it is doing so much better.  To be fair, this afternoon’s shower does make this look greener than it actually is.

 

Curry Plant Alive (redu)

 

The reason I am hesitating to pull this one out is that I have planted the four curry plants equidistant in a flower bed, and taking one out would ruin the symmetry.

So, what do you think?  Am I not facing reality?  Is this plant a goner?  Should I give it some more time before yanking it out, or should I just accept that this particular curry plant is not going to recover, and I need to pull it out now?

Keeping Busy

“Keeping Busy”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

Finally, we seem to be getting back into our normal summer pattern of afternoon showers every three or four days.  We had a big thunderstorm last Thursday, and unfortunately lost our electricity for fourteen hours.  Thank goodness it was from 6 at night to 8 in the morning.  I don’t think I could have taken the daytime heat.  We had another good shower today and received 1.07 inches of rain with more expected tomorrow.  The rain does bring cooler temperatures and much needed moisture to the plants, but it does stop any garden work.

About the only thing blooming right now is the cannas.  They just love the heat.  Tropical Sunrise is one of my favorites even though this is only the second summer it has been in our garden.

 

Canna Trop. Sunrise (redu)

 

Before the rain started, I discovered azalea caterpillars on the front azalea bushes.  Because of the Fourth of July holiday and a family get together on Sunday, I haven’t been able to do my daily walk around the garden.  This is when I am able to just check things out and catch problems like the caterpillars early.  Boy, these guys can chomp through azaleas in no time.  I usually don’t find any of these caterpillars until around the end of August, but they seem to be early this year.  I guess I need to check all the other azaleas that are planted in other areas even though I haven’t had any show up anywhere but on the front azaleas.  But, of course, there is always a first time.

It seems there is always something to keep a gardener busy.

Harvest

“Harvest”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

The harvest has begun in earnest.  Our four tomato bushes are still doing well and providing loads of fruit.  I can’t believe that fruit is still setting with all the high temperatures we have been having the last two to three weeks, though I don’t know how much longer we can expect that.  We have three Husky Reds and one cherry tomato that are growing in containerswhich is more than enough for the two of us.  We have been having to water a lot.  Sometimes two to three times a day, but it has been worth the effort.  Biting into a red, ripe homegrown tomato is just heaven.

 

Tomatoes (redu)

 

We have certainly enjoyed our tomatoes this year.  We have taken some of the suckers and rooted them for a fall crop.  So far these seem to be doing very well, so maybe this autumn we will have a repeat of our summer harvest.

Right now there are twenty of the Husky Reds and about fifteen cherry tomatoes on the window sill in the kitchen.  With the afternoon sun shining on them, this is such a wonderful still life that just shouts – Summer!

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