Summer in the Garden!

This April was perfect; with warm breezy days, cool nights, blue skies, and an unseasonal amount of rain that revived the parched landscape. The gardenias and orchids have bloomed profusely. But, make no mistake, sultry summer with its unrelenting heat and high humidity is on its way. So is hurricane anxiety Asses your landscape now with an eye to trimming or removing potential problem trees. In spite of all we lost in Matthew and in Irma (when one of our cherry laurels landed on Denise’s roof) , we’ve just had a towering old maleluca in the front yard and the last of the big Washingtonia palms close to the carriage house cut down. Sad but necessary and a definite stress-reducing decision.

Below are practical things for you to consider in the coming months and some fun things to distract you from worrying about the upcoming hurricane season.

During the dog days tender plants and even seasoned Florida gardeners are subject to wilting. Make life easier by gardening very early in the morning or at dusk. Swap spring’s petunias and pansies for heat-loving flowering plants matching plants requirements to location keeping in mind that prolonged afternoon summer sun is brutal.

When planting in soil where there is little shade choose undemanding plants like Rudbeckia (brown-eyed Susan), gaillardia, gazanias, beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis), vinca, portulaca, and coneflower (echinacea). Sun-hardy plants like pentas, bush daisy, torenia, marigold, celosia (cockscomb), zinnias, and melampodium also add color to the summer garden. Coleus is a wonderful choice for areas with afternoon dappled shade. Unlike older varieties many of the beautiful new cultivars can take quite a lot of sun. Just be sure to check before planting.

My solution to sweltering summer conditions is to focus on container gardening, creating arrangements of plants in pots of varying heights, diameters, and materials. I love experimenting with various combinations of plant, colors, textures, and growing habits (thriller, filler, spiller). Mix flowers with edible plants like okra, sweet potatoes, southern peas, cherry tomatoes, and some hot peppers. Containers can be moved in response to changing conditions. Lavender, for example, declines in summer sun but you can move a pot of lavender to an area of dappled sun and enjoy it year round.

A trick for planting in large containers: Add empty water bottles with lid on or packing peanuts to bottom third of pot. To keep soil from falling through cut a piece of weed prevention cloth and place over the peanuts. Then proceed to pot the plant. The pot will be lighter and also have good drainage.

Don’t neglect to monitor your landscape routinely. Catching insect or disease problems early can save you a lot of trouble and expense. A quick daily tour allows you to revive wilting plants with a shot of water or adjust sprinklers for turf areas.

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