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Monday, August 22, 2016

Hot, dry and doing well

Hydrangea leaves are drooping. Wild ginger leaves are lying flat on the ground. The vegetable garden is parched. All kinds of leaves I’ve never seen chewed on before have been nibbled by thirsty mammals or insects. 

What chewed these clematis leaves?

The tomatoes in the vegetable bed have disappeared. Despite the bird netting I encased them in, I think they were harvested for their water content by super-motivated squirrels. Even tough lily-of-the valley leaves are edged in brown. Dead brown leaves announce lost branches on roses and boxwood. The list goes on.

    It’s easier to enumerate what’s doing well in the drought than to list all the casualties. I’m watering, but I’m clearly not keeping up. Yet some of my plants are looking good. In the vegetable bed, borage and nasturtiums are undeterred, blooming in the hot sun.

Nasturtiums like it hot and dry

    A few perennials are thriving unexpectedly. The epimediums have some chewed leaves, but the plants look just as fresh and green as they did in June.  Heucheras too are going strong. A white phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘David’) is putting on a good show. The meadow rue I wrote about last week keeps flowering. The last daylily in the series is blooming profusely; its companions flowered in July. 

This is especially impressive because these plants are outside the reach of the sprinkler irrigation system. I give them a quick drink when I’m watering pots of houseplants that are spending the summer on shelves in the driveway. Nearby the honeysuckle against the house hasn’t batted an eye. Its main flush of flowers came in spring, but it’s still putting out occasional blooms, and it’s producing fruit for birds to eat. 

Honeysuckle fruits

    This is the first year that my potted basil looks good in late summer. Usually by this time it has flowered and isn’t producing many new leaves. This year the plants are still full, and the leaves are large and shiny. 

I’ve read that herbs don’t like too much water. Maybe I was over-watering them in previous years. The cucumbers I planted in the vegetable garden dwindled and died, with just one fruit produced on three plants. But the ones I’m growing in a pot on the deck are flourishing. Their many flowers are getting lots of attention from bees.

    Some of my container plants seem to have given up on flowering, perhaps because of the heat. A few are happy with the hot dry conditions: cannas, elephant ears, and wax begonias. My best container plant this year was a serendipitous choice. I grabbed some celosias in June from the last annuals left at the garden center. 

I’d heard that they attract beneficial insects. They’re blooming like crazy, while nearby dahlias flop over and barely produce.

    Live and learn. If there’s any silver lining to the rainless clouds, it’s the chance to observe what’s thriving in this drought. Someday maybe I’ll tear up the garden to create planting zones based on water needs. In the meantime, this year’s winners will get more garden space next year.

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