The Hedge: High Summer Blues
In the northern hemisphere, it's hot in August. It is what it is. It might be one of my least favorite months in the garden, but make no mistake. I'm very grateful for both the time and the garden.
The above photo is of one side of our short, eastern hedge. Facing west, it's in full sun most of the day. You can imagine that in 100 degree weather with high humidity, it takes special plants indeed to not only survive but thrive.
One of those plants is Butterfly Bush, also known as Butterfly Clerodendrum.
Native to eastern Africa, its botanical name seems to be rapidly evolving. It's gone from Clerodendrum ugandense to Clerodendrum myricoides 'Ugandense' to Rotheca myricoides in a little over 100 years. Since there are other plants called "Butterfly Bush", I prefer the common name "Butterfly Clerodendrum. But both are fitting names. Not only does it attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, the flowers look like small, adorable butterflies.
Isn't that sweet? Our Butterfly Clerodendrum is taller than me - probably about 7' high and 3' wide. I must say, it's the tallest one I've ever seen. I'm used to seeing them around four or five feet tall. It would be wider if it had room and shorter if I'd gotten around to pruning it sooner. I'm not going to do anything drastic right now, though. It's just too hot. While all of the eastern hedge is persevering, it does not need the challenge of extra stress.
Tough as it is, Butterfly Clerodendrum does have a few simple requirements. While it's fine with full sun, it does better with a little shade, especially in summer. It's not completely drought tolerant, but only requires average watering. And while it prefers a loamy soil, it is willing to negotiate.
It will bloom until the first frost. In a very mild winter, it might remain evergreen, but it usually dies to the ground and pops back up in spring.
From past experience, I have reason to expect our plant to be covered in small, butterfly-like blooms this autumn.
You should get one. :) Happy Gardening!
August 1: Here We Go!
Hello, August. Dukes up!
I did not mean to boycott the garden this year. I really didn't. But I had a rude bout with Covid and then got super busy, so it was sort of left on its own for a month, give or take.
Things are getting big out there. The weeds would take over -- they're making some headway -- but so far perennials that I've planted prevail. That's without any help from this gardener and that's saying something.
The tomato plants have ceased production. I've always pulled them in the past, but they've remained healthy this year, so I might try to give them a severe but careful pruning and see what happens. I say "try" because, well, who knows what might happen.
On the other hand, peppers that have received enough water are producing a lot. Those that have received sparse watering, not so much. As I mentioned, I haven't been working in the garden and our sprinkler system still needs improvement. Not everything is getting enough water.
But for the most part, there's abundant growth out there.
Hooray? Yikes? Both!
Since I'm not doing my traditional, intentional boycott (July through September), I do hope to get out there soon to tidy things up.
It's hot, humid, and buggy, but I still love it.
The Hedge: Blue Plumbago
Plumbago auriculata, commonly known as Blue Plumbago, Cape Plumbago, and Leadwort, is just beginning to bloom along my mini-hedgerow. Its clusters of blue flowers are a magnet for pollinators, especially butterflies.
The hedge is a work in progress. a comfortable, working mix of native and well-adapted, non-native plants. Cape Plumbago is native to South Africa and a prize performer in hot weather. It's a lovely, mild-mannered perennial that grows about four feet tall and, if left on its own, four or five feet wide. It thrives in full sun, even at the height of summer, and only requires a little supplemental watering during dry spells. Soil-type isn't an issue, it's pest-free, and deer-resistant.
It might bloom straight through a mild winter. Depending upon location and how well-established the plant is, it may or may not die to the ground during a freeze. But it returns in spring.
There's a white variety, too. It's gorgeous. I'm suddenly wondering why I don't have one?
More soon! Happy Gardening! :)
Rosemary -- Salvia Rosmarinus -- was moved into my favorite botanical genus just a few years ago. For a few hundred years, it was its own genus and the rosemary we know and love was Rosmarinus officinalis. While there had been debates through the years that it really did belong to the Salvia family, no one was willing to make the change. But in 2018, citing all sorts of scientific information, especially from DNA analysis, proponents for the move won out.
For rosemary-lovers, it doesn't really matter. For saliva-lovers like myself, it just adds to the attraction. A Mediterranean herb beloved around the world, Salvia rosmarinus is a versatile herb. Renowned for both its fragrance and flavor, it only makes things better.
Personally, I love it in the garden. Brushing up against it while weeding or sometimes simply passing close by, I am assailed by its lovely aroma. And of course, when cooking I add it to everything that I can. I just snip a couple of stems and stuff them inside poultry cavities, drop them into soups and stews, lay them atop fish... It adds unmistakable flavor to any dish and the house smells so good whenever rosemary is involved.
It also makes a wonderful tea. It works as a digestive. A few days ago, I brewed a tea of rosemary, basil, and bay leaves. It might sound strange, but I wanted to experiment. I'm glad I did. It was a deliciously fragrant tea -- equally good hot or cold.
And there are more uses for rosemary. It's an important ingredient in aromatherapy, appreciated for clearing the head. Its fragrance lends itself well to sachets, potpourri, and fire-starter bundles.
Culturally, rosemary has been an important garden plant since ancient times. Romans and Greeks cultivated it. For centuries it has been associated with the Virgin Mary. A close friend of mine from Croatia has told me that in her country, rosemary indicates welcome and is used in religious processions. It is because of her that I have one in a pot near our front door.
It's easy to grow, by the way, simply requiring plenty of sun and no over-watering. While it doesn't like wet or even damp feet, it doesn't care about humidity. As a matter of fact, the name rosmarinus comes from the Latin words ros, meaning dew, and marinus, meaning sea. In other words, "sea-dew" or "dew of the sea", which surely indicates it can handle humidity.
And have I mentioned that it smells really good?
The Hedge: Laurus nobilis
I absolutely love our Sweet Bay tree -- Laurus nobilis. A member of the Lauraceae family and native to the Mediterranean, it has been widely adapted, it has been used as a culinary herb for over a millenium. Here in southeast Texas, it gets big. We planted this one almost eight years ago, when we first moved to this property. It was a baby, about a foot tall, and we've cut it in half twice because of the power lines overhead. My husband has tried to shape it several times, too. Personally, I don't mind its shrubby-ness as I can harvest the leaves more easily.
It fronts our northern or golf course hedge. It might seem pretentious to name the areas of our small garden, but I don't care (which surely indicates pretention is not part of the plan). It's easier for me to refer to the different areas, whatever the size, and personalizes the space.
We love the aromatic leaves in the garden. We also enjoy them in soups, gumbos, with roasts, and for tea. I brewed a lovely tea with sweet bay and rosemary leaves just yesterday. It smelled and tasted so good. But that's for an herbal chat, not a hedge one.
For a pest-free plant that grows quickly, is undemanding, and tolerates most any type of pruning, Laurus nobilis is hard to beat. I'm pleased to have it along my mini-hedgerow.
Mexican Honeysuckle, justicia spicigera is a garden powerhouse. In our garden, it blooms from from late spring until well into a mild winter. It isn't aggressive and doesn't overwhelm, but it can fill a good space in the garden, growing to about four feet tall and wide. Its wonderfully wide display of bright, orange blooms are a big draw for pollinators. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love it. Deer leave it alone. It doesn't ask for much, either, just a bit of shade in the course of a summer day and a good watering now and then. It's known to be drought -resistant, but it doesn't balk when watered regularly.
With its vivid flowers, easy disposition, and hospitality to pollinators, justicia spicigera is truly a great friend in the garden.
The Hedge: Althea, Right at Home
I am a flower of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys. -- Song of Solomon 2:1
I'm so surprised. All this time, I've thought that Althea, Hibiscus syriacus, is native to Texas. Why I would think that, I freely admit, is something of a mystery. Then I thought, given its Latin name, that it is must be of Levantine origin. To further confirm that idea -- no presumption this time -- it's called "Rose of Sharon", as in the Plain of Sharon in Israel. But nope! Current opinion is that it originated in China.
Wherever it came from, it's a well-loved plant around the world. It's even the national plant of Korea.
It's certainly popular here in Texas. A member of the mallow family, it can grow very large; but it's not an aggressive plant. Not only are the beautiful blooms appreciated by gardeners; butterflies and hummingbirds like them, too.
I don't know what particular variety mine is. I really must start keeping better notes. But it's double-petaled, seems pest-free, and is about six-feet tall at the moment. It's been blooming away since the beginning of June.
It's the first Althea I've ever grown. I wish I had room for more.
The Hedge: Salvias Galore!
Happy Tuesday! Another round of obsessing over my mini-hedgerow. To me, it's startling how much a slight change of location can affect a garden. We live less than an hour away from our previous location. Same weather for sure, but the soil isn't quite the same and the conditions are different. There's even a a difference between our front and back gardens. The oak trees in front make the ground drier and the location more shady. Our back garden is north-facing, more open, and gets extra humidity rolling in from the oft-watered golf course. Roses don't love our backyard for the humidity and they don't love the front for the dryness and shade. So, I don't have a lot of roses. I couldn't anyway, given the size of our property, but there is space for more roses than I have. Oops -- tangent!
It's really a good thing. In the above photo is our eastern hedge. West-facing, it gets scorched in the afternoon. Salvias have reseeded and spread profusely and I am fine with that. They don't mind the intense sun at all and they are so much better for local wildlife than roses.
Roses are loved for their fragrance. But salvias smell good, too. Even their leaves smell good -- a fragrant, earthy scent that is entirely pleasant. I've always loved them and now more than ever. There are a lot of wonderful plants in the Lamiaceae family that have medicinal and culinary uses. This includes mint, deadnettle, and sage (salvia). Rosemary, by the way, has recently been moved to the salvia family. Formerly called Rosmarinus officinalis, its new name is Salvia rosmarinus. But that's another post.
There are many varieties of salvia in our garden. Along this, our eastern hedge, salvia coccinea has reseeded to the point I have to thin it out regularly. It's the smaller, mostly pink and white plant on either side of the old garden rose. To the far left is a treasure, Salvia guaranitica. At least, I think that's its name. I'm embarrassed to say that I've planted so many salvias and some resemble so closely that I have a hard time telling them apart! Whatever its name, it is one of my favorite plants in our garden. It's a giant, growing wide and tall. It's taller than me! It is loved by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Time to get out there and weed -- just a little! The sun is high in the sky. :)
Wishing you a lovely time in your garden.
The Hedge this Midsummer Day
Summer Solstice -- Midsummer -- Hot and Humid Here in Southeast Texas
No matter the weather, it's a magical time, full of dreams and hopes.
One daydream I've enjoyed over the years is about having a hedgerow. I've always wanted one, likening them to a "woodland edge", where all manner of creatures and plants can be found. I tried to grow one on our few acres back when, but it wouldn't have been anything like the old, enormous hedgerows of the UK.
And now I have this tiny dot of a garden. I can't have a hedgerow. But I do have a hedge and I make the most of it. And, wonderfully, birds, insects, and small creatures do make themselves at home there.
I've fronted the hedges with fruit trees, flowering shrubs, and a few annuals now and then. Not everything is flowering yet. Some plants have shot up rather quickly from winter slumber, surely because temps have jumped to triple digits earlier than usual. They are giant plants and I have every confidence that they will burst into color soon.
For now, the althea and rose mallow are strutting their stuff!
I aim to make this a regular, weekly blogpost. I think it will be fun to share my mini-hedgerow with you.
Regrettably, I didn't spend much time in the garden this week. On the upside, I will have to make up for it this weekend -- (almost) always a pleasure!
Some areas aren't getting enough water from the renewed sprinkler system, but most plants are thriving. Blackberries are finally ripening. They're so small -- not the Kiowa we are used to -- but lovely and tasty all the same. Tomatoes are coming along, even the cherry have begun to fruit. There should be no stopping them now! Our little section of beans is also looking good.
Daylilies have been making spectacular bursts. Coneflowers are coming up everywhere and I'm so excited. It's taken a few years for all the plants to settle in, but the results of are far more wonderful than I'd imagined.
Sometimes, we just have to allow nature to take its course.
This weekend, I'll have to do at least a little weeding (never enough) and finish planting the herbs I purchased last week. We will also have to see what we can do about a particularly dry patch in one of the raised beds.
And I will be experimenting with more herbs from the garden.
Herbal tea, anyone?
For years, my husband and I worked at creating a series of gardens on our four-acre lot in a rural, Texas subdivision west of Houston. I have to say, it was a fantastic experience. Now, I have a pocket garden on a golf course.
From me to you with a smile.
You have successfully joined our subscriber list.