The Summer Garden

Crinum lilyYes, the summer garden is history. It had more than a few moments of glory and at the same time, some disappointments. But the overall learning experience was valuable.

So in the interest of onward and upward in the garden, following are impressions of the winners, the losers, the ho-hum and the “teaching moment.”

First, the good news. Clear winners in the summer garden for long-lasting bloom, color, ease of culture and apparent indifference to our weather extremes were pentas, angelonia, torenia, scaevola, melampodium, coleus and caladiums. In the shrub category, hydrangeas are included.

All of these annuals performed beautifully all summer, blooming well through August. Salvia Victoria could be added to the list, although there is an extended period of non-bloom after cutting back the first vigorous flush, which was long-lasting and magnificent. Cannas were also reliable in that they will re-bloom several times just when you think they are finished. Journey’s End, Panache and Australia are in this category, as are others. All of them created a colorful focus in the summer garden.

Disappointments include stokesia, or Stoke’s Aster, which bloomed sparsely and briefl y, whereas the large sturdy clump of leaves takes up space in the garden while providing no color. Daisies, even the popular Becky, have not performed in my garden, providing few blooms from six plants over a period of years. Meanwhile, mildew and black spot have attacked and vastly disfi gured the foliage of the Swizzle zinnia, which sports attractive bi-colored flowers. It appears a fungicide will be necessary. On the other hand, smaller Profusion zinnias are not affected.

Another setback involved the newly planted purslane, a low-growing succulent with lovely multi-hued blooms in the pink, apricot and yellow spectrum. Deer arrived and ate most of them to the ground. Later I found out that not only deer, but people eat purslane in many parts of the world, mostly raw in salads or simply out of hand. And it is healthy!

The major disappointment and teaching moment dealt with pruning a beautiful lemon tree at the wrong time, resulting in no lemons this year. It was a real garden tragedy. They were the plumpest, juiciest lemons ever and a far cry from the supermarket variety. And bees, butterfl ies and humans love the sweet scent of the flowers.

In the ho-hum category is ruellia, Mexican petunia, even though it is carefree, free-blooming, self-perpetuating and beloved by bees. It is too tall and lanky for any place but the back of the garden, although the smaller variety has a nice clumping form as fi ller for certain garden spaces. Pleasant surprises included the emergence of two crinum lilies, gifts from the past and totally forgotten until the full and fragrant pink blooms appeared to adorn the garden with color and fragrance for several weeks. A source for this carefree and lovely gift to the garden must be found. Finally, for perfume and ease of maintenance, a ground cover of creeping thyme can scarcely be beat. Try it, you’ll like it.