Early July Blooms in Gardens4me

We have had an extraordinary summer so far, with weeks of hot dry weather. My lawns have taken a beating with the extensive drought, but my gardens are still looking good in early July. When planning my gardens, I chose drought tolerant perennials that could handle little to no maintenance. These choices are being tested this summer.

This next set of pictures are some of the annuals I have planted in various containers on my front veranda and back deck. Succulents continue to be some of my favourites for containers; they love the drought…

A soaker hose prevents my perennial gardens from drying out in this heat, I have used it quite frequently lately. For those of you not familiar with soaker hoses, they are rubber hoses with tiny holes in them so water sprays at the base of plants. Set up early in the spring as perennials are emerging, the hose will disappear into the foliage by this time of year. Connect as many as you need to snake through your garden, especially in the areas that receive lots of sun. Turn it on early in the morning and let it run for several hours.

My granddaughter is always willing to help me water the gardens and containers too…

helping Grandma water

Although, now that she is a “big girl” of two and half years, she has graduated to manning the hose…

Propagation attempts of succulents

propagating succulents

If you follow my blog and gardening website, you will know I love succulents of all shapes and sizes. Tell me you noticed the succulents as the header of this blog’s landing page. I love them so much that I included one tiny succulent in each of the party favours for guests at my daughter-in-law’s baby shower last winter. I’ve also decided to try my hand at propagation recently.

Succulents are my favourite perennials as they tolerate hot sun and require little to no maintenance. Hen and chicks (sempervivum) are especially easy to propagate, simply by removing the ‘chicks’ from their ‘mother’ and inserting them into the soil in a new location right in the garden.

This off-season of my gardening business, I decided to try my hand at propagating some succulents inside the house. So far, so good. All I did to encourage propagation was tuck a few leaves from various types of succulents into houseplants around the house. Especially the ones in a sunny location. I also tried placing a few leaves in a small, shallow, clear container into which I added a tiny bit of water. (second picture) The container sits on a north-facing window sill.

The leaves withered up, but tiny new plants emerged at the base of the leaf in each propagation attempt. Just be sure to keep the soil moist around the leaves inserted in soil as well as a tiny bit (just enough to keep emerging roots wet) of water in the bottom of the container.

Confessions of a Plant Snob

Ok, I will admit it, I am a snob, a plant snob that is!  Some plants I find just too common and boring.  For example, “Look at that beautiful hosta!” said no one ever.  Or spirea either for that matter, unless you are talking one of the bridal wreath variety, then you may just hear or think that, but only if it is pruned correctly.

An Aversion to Hostas if You’re a Plant Snob

I appear to have developed an aversion to hostas, probably because people have overused them in their gardens.  The only time I enjoy them is in the very early spring when their green spikes are one of the first signs of new growth to emerge from the soil as it thaws out here in the Ottawa area.  In the summer they get eaten by slugs and earwigs, and in the fall they turn mushy and slimy…

A Plant Snob’s Alternatives to Hostas

So, what perennials do I prefer to hostas for the edges of my gardens?  Here are my choices:

Perennial Geraniums

For shady areas, I like perennial geraniums.  They are one of the first perennials to green up in the spring, require no maintenance whatsoever, and maintain their neat, non-sprawling (most varieties) mounded shape.  They do spread throughout the garden, but are very shallow-rooted, so easy to remove from places you do not want them to spread to.  These geraniums are great for planting under trees, even evergreen trees where nothing else will thrive.

In fact, I planted lots of these versatile plants as ground cover under the evergreens we limbed up at the hospice I volunteer at. They look beautiful!

plant snob

Lamium

Another good choice for an edging plant in shady areas is lamium.  Its variegated leaves, reblooming pale flowers, and tidy habit make it one of my favourites..

lamium (with daylilies)

Heucheras

For part shade to part sun locations in the garden, I am loving heucheras these days.  Some varieties tolerate more sun than others, so be sure to read the tags. 

Heucheras come in a variety of colors from palest green to bright chartreuse to orangy-brown to reddish-brown to deep wine red.  Leaf shapes vary too from smooth and rounded, to almost maple-leaf-like, to curly, lettuce-leaf-like. 

They look good all summer, need no fall cleanup or protection, and survive our cold winters with no problem.  A simple tug to remove any crispy leaves in the spring and they are good to go.

By the way, heuchera is pronounced with a hard c.  I will never forget that after I was chastised for mispronouncing it by a 93-year-old client. 

Sedum or Stonecrop

My first choice for full sun edging or container plants are those in the sedum or stonecrop families.  As succulents, sedums and stonecrops are all drought-tolerant, thriving in hot, dry areas, especially next to stone walkways where not much else will grow.

They too come in a variety of colors and shapes, in fact, look especially nice (I think) when varieties are mixed together randomly.

plant snob
stonecrop

So, next season think outside of your comfort zone, and become a plant snob by replacing those boring hostas with a little more pizazz!

Gardens4u in Texas

In Corpus Christi, Texas this week for my sister’s birthday, I just couldn’t stay out of the dirt.  For her birthday gift, I promised her a new garden in her front yard, one that she could not kill.  Seems like she did not inherit the same green thumb I did.

First, for inspiration, we went to the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens to see what will survive in this hot environment.  Instead of cold hardy as I am used to in the Ottawa, Ontario area of Canada, I had to think heat and drought tolerant…

We chose succulents, agave, cactus, sedum, aloe and various stonecrops for ground cover and trailers.  All are drought tolerant once established and can handle the extreme heat here in Texas.

Hopefully this new garden renovation survives the heat and drought conditions in my sister’s Texas yard.

Experiment with perennial succulents for containers in full sun garden locations

This year I am experimenting with perennial succulents in my urns that are located in full sun.  I had two coco liners filled with soil left from last summer’s hanging baskets.  I turned them upside down over my cast iron urns, tucking the fiber into the edge of the urns to make them fit and to prevent soil and water from leaking out.  I then cut slits in the fiber and tucked slips of succulents (sedum and stonecrop) into the slits.  For the top, I used a large sermpervivum rosette (the hen part of the hen and chicks succulent plant).   I am hoping the succulent slips will cascade over the sides of the urns as they grow.  I will rotate the urns occasionally as the sedums grow towards the sun, so they will cascade evenly around the perimeter of the urns.

Perennial succulents are an excellent choice for a hot, dry location in your garden.  There are many varieties to choose from; sedums and stonecrop are two of my favourites.  Choose a variation in color for a spectacular display. Once established succulents require very little water, and in fact too much water will cause them to rot.  These urns of mine sit in front of my garage with a hot, dry, full sun, southern exposure. Over the years I have not had much luck with any other plants growing there.  They all start off well, but quickly lose their appeal as they get leggy and dry out.  Hopefully the succulents will do the trick to keep my urns looking great all summer.

I also use succulents such as sedum and stonecrop as groundcovers in hot, dry, full sun locations in my garden.  They make beautiful edging plants in the perennial garden.