July is drawing to a close. Living in southeast Texas for much of my life, I've never really been overly-fond of August. It's our hottest month, and that's saying something. But for some reason, this year I am feeling rather benevolent towards it. Part of the credit can surely go to the garden. Lots of plants are pushing through quite happily in the heat.
It's always a pleasure to amble through a thriving green space. August also brings us one month closer to Autumn. It's a wonderful time to work on the fall garden plan, to (literally) plant the seeds, and to dream.
Isn't that the most ridiculous thing you've ever seen? Doesn't the plant above appear to be getting enough sun? It's facing south, after all. That large, gangly, overgrown shrub is a Butterfly Clerodendrum. It's supposed to be covered in lovely, blue, butterfly-shaped flowers and I, for one, cannot understand what the problem is. But that's the thing with gardens. It takes time to get to know them.
Our front yard is small and home to four mature (not ancient) oak trees. Most of the garden receives dappled sunlight most of the time. However, on long, hot, summer days, part of it receives at least a few solid hours of "strong, afternoon sun". I've taken photos. I've logged the hours of full sun. In certain spots, flowers should be blooming, but they're not. I must begin again.
I know that at least a some of my neighbors have no idea what's in their front yards. They told me so when I congratulated them on winning "Yard of the Month". Either the original builder or their landscape crew planted the shrubs, etc. They just want their yards to be neat and low-maintenance. At the opposite end is me, crawling around in the beds, adding soil, spreading compost, adding and removing plants, and trying very hard to have a welcoming cottage garden by my front door. With all of my master gardening classes and years of experimenting, gardening, and garden blogging behind me, not only will I not garner "the prize". I will most likely receive a reprimand. "E for Effort" is not in the HOA's manual!
I don't really care, of course. I garden because I love it. Frustrating as reinventing a garden can be, I have been enjoying the challenge. While I will definitely be switching out some plants this fall, I might have discovered a few keepers. The pentas, pentas lanceolata, also known as "Egyptian Star Cluster," are blooming away in the shade. They bloom just as happily in full sun, too, and butterflies love them.
Capsicum Chinense "Scotch Bonnet"
It's a sweet name for a very hot pepper, isn't it? Named for its resemblance to the old Scottish bonnet or tam o'shanter, the Scotch bonnet is actually the Caribbean chile pepper of choice. Most sources reference its Scoville Heat Units (SHU) between 100,000- 350,000, although I've seen a few higher. That makes it way hotter than the average jalapeno and also as hot or hotter than its cousin, the habanero. Personally, I don't think it's terribly hot when its green, but it does deliver heat as it ripens. I like it for its heat and its fruity nuance. Most of all, I like it for its name. :)
A Poem by Robert Burns
O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.
And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' twere ten thousand mile!
I plot and I plan. I work under dangerous conditions. I am frequently under assault. At times, I might drop everything and run for cover. I strive to work towards the greater good.
Gardening in southeast Texas can be brutal. Heat, humidity, and potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes are problems for more than half the year and a dangerous combination in summer. That’s to say nothing of fire ants and other biting, stinging insects. Snakes, too, although they only make a rare appearance in my little garden. Poison ivy and oak are common and birds sow both generously.
Despite some uncomfortable conditions, I feel very protective of the wild in my garden. It’s important to know friend from foe, for example, venomous from nonvenomous snakes and even then, it’s often not necessary to engage. As for the bugs, it is not fine with us to hurt the good with the bad. Pesticides are banned. So are herbicides. Our beds, whether food or ornamental, are organic. And while our garden isn’t entirely native, we do have plenty of native plants that please the local wildlife as well as ourselves.
While every garden is different, they all offer challenges, pleasures, time with nature. Much like people, they have their good days and bad days, high seasons and low; and they can all be fun and beautiful if you love them enough.