“All your renown is like the summer flower that blooms and dies; because the sunny glow which brings it forth, soon slays with parching power.”
~ Alighieri Dante
Ah… Late August in Texas… Where even long-time Texas gardeners wonder if cooler days will ever come. The calendar may say fall is around the corner, but this heat says, “Not so quick, I am not done yet.”
This summer has been particularly hot. And dry. I won’t bother you with statistics (like how many days in a row it was 103 degrees and above…) but I will say this: This summer, in particular, I am thankful to each and every plant that not only decided to brave the Texas sun’s parching power, but did so with style and grace.
To the each and every survivor and thriver, I say Thank You.
Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus drummondii)
With bright red blooms that shine from late spring to first frost, Turk’s cap attracts hummingbirds aplenty. It is native to shady, wet areas of Texas, but can take sun and drier conditions if it receives irrigation during the most intense part of summer.
What started as one or two plants in my garden has happily spread the entire length of the driveway to take the place of the roses that once grew in this bed. Parts of this flower bed are shaded by a volunteer bur oak tree while others are in full Texas sun. All receive reflected heat off the driveway.
(As an aside, there is Full Sun, then there is Full Texas Sun. If a plant tag or garden source says the plant can take Full Sun, check and verify with a Texas source before believing. Because. There is Full Sun and Full Texas Sun and they are as different as New Jersey and Texas.)
Variegated ginger (below) receives dappled shade where it grows in a container alongside the driveway. While not hardy in my Zone 8a garden, I am willing to schlep it into my garage in the winter. It is important to remember that tropical foliage plants can offer summer interest when some plants may be dormant or uninteresting.
Dwarf pomegranate has quickly become one of my favorite post-rose-garden plants. Below, the pomegranate grows and blooms with Turk’s cap in my front flower garden. The glossy, deep green leaves hold up in the full sun.
The flowers and ornamental fruits (below) are a bright reddish-orange. (My new favorite garden color – also, in these post-rose-garden days.)
So much to love and be thankful for! A great addition to the kitchen garden, an ever green shrub in the flower border, a tactile plant for the sensory garden… Here, the rosemary grows along the front sidewalk in full sun. Not quite its rocky Mediterranean habitat, but it is still a happy grower in Texas.
Another post-rose-garden plant for me: The newer Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle. I have three planted around the garden and all are settling in nicely and blooming well two years after being planted.
Blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata
Plumbago is a tropical addition to my garden and has been blooming since early June. Its soft blue color is so welcoming.
This plant is several years old, as it was planted with another tropical and was brought inside for the winters. It grows fast enough and is readily available in the nursery trade, so that it can be treated as an annual. It is winter hardy in Zone 8b, so may survive outside in a mild winter in North Texas if planted on the southern side of the house. It grows 2-3 feet tall and wide, with a draping habit. It is beautiful cascading out of a container or over a raised bed.
Beautyberry. (Callicarpa americana)
The native shrub that lives up to its name.(Shown below)
It is a sprawling plant, growing 3-5 feet tall and wide. It is loaded with berries through the summer, which the birds will devour once they ripen. There is a white variety but I honestly can’t imagine growing it when one can have luscious purple berries in their garden.
Thyme (below) does equally well in a container as it does in the garden. I keep this one right outside my door so I can easily harvest for culinary use. (Don’t forget that containers can offer a great splash of color year-round.)
Another herb – garlic chives, below. Half weed. But how you have to love something that comes into bloom when it is hotter than Hades outside.
These should be in full bloom within the next few days, making an important nectar source for sulfur and skipper butterflies. (Photo below from several years ago.) I do not care to use this variety for culinary uses, as onion chives have a milder – and more pleasant – taste.
Passion vine (Passiflora)
This is another plant that thrives in our hot summers and is an important larval food source for Gulf Fritillaries. The holes in the leaves (below) are from the caterpillars. It is purely cosmetic damage and does not slow down or hinder its growth. (Ha. I don’t think a chemical bomb could slow down this vine. Plant with care.)
Autumn… It will come in its own time. Until then, Keep Calm and Garden On.
“There ought to be gardens for all the months in the year, in which, severally, things of beauty may be then in season.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon