Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Summer Garden..Winners And Losers

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The summer garden these past two years has been one of boom and bust.  Very cold winters, and very hot summers just about sums it up.

I don't pretend to be a master gardener and some of you know that when I moved to this house I had to seek the help of my readers to identify most of the plants.  But I have learned, the hard way.  Lots of reading and trial an error and lots of dollars spent experimenting with different plants have gone into this garden.  I had no experience with perennials and, what little I knew, came from weekend gardening up north in Connecticut.   Most of what grows well there, including my favorite lilacs and peonies, does not do well in the South.

Ten years in Florida were spent mastering the art of container gardening on the balcony of my ocean front apartment in Key Biscayne.  There the killer was the wind.  With a growing season of twelve months, everything you planted grew like a weed.  Orchids lasted forever and then re bloomed six months later.   I had retired and this was the kind of gardening I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

And then I moved to Georgia....and here I learned that, just like investing in the stock market, it pays to diversify.

Between my daughter and me, we have just about tried every traditional perennial that grows in the South including azaleas, Confederate jasmine, gardenias, hydrangeas, crepe myrtles and camellias.  . The only one I haven't been able to stick in the ground, for lack of space, is a magnolia.  We have one growing in the woods next to the fence, but it won't bloom.  It gets no sun and little light and I'm afraid to go near it for fear of stepping on a snake.

Surprisingly, some of these traditional  perennials are the ones that have gotten hit the hardest .   The azaleas and the jasmine bloomed but not as long or vibrantly as usual.  No such luck with the gardenias or the hydrangea macrophylla. They got hit with a frost just as they were starting to bud and that clinched their fate.  No blooms, except for this one.

No blooms either for the Moonlight Hydrangea by the garden gate.  That was a killer for me, I so look forward to those flowers.  The camellias bloomed later than usual, almost right into Spring. Nothing fazes the crepe myrtle.  It does it's thing year in and year out in spite of the weather.  It needs a good pruning this winter before it overtakes the front of the house.

What saved the summer were the hydrangea paniculata which blooms on new growth.

The one above  is the limelight hydrangea .  There are four in front of mother's window out back.

I have a few of the hydrangea paniculata tardiva along the fence but they are not showing any blooms.

My daughter planted caladium bulbs in a pot to add some color interest out back.  They have done well in spite of the heat.  They are a definite comeback next year.

The hostas have also done well.  Their only enemy is the little Sous Chef who likes to play hide and seek with Lily our lab.

The winners this summer are the ferns.  Now I know why they are a symbol of Southern hospitality. Nothing else thrives like them in this humidity!

Boston fern by the garden gate.  Moonlight hydrangea on the bottom right had no blooms this year.

The Man fern almost died after the surprise frost in early Spring.

That's what you call a come back!

Boston ferns hanging from the crepe myrtle add some interest to the front garden

I've never had a fern that looked this good!

Kitties and ferns by the front door.  How is that for Southern charm!

The fox tail fern is a new addition and definitely a keeper

It will over winter in Madame Mere's apartment

I just came in from watering the front garden.  It's like the land that time forgot out there.  Every year I promise myself that I will not buy as many plants.  Every year I violate this promise and curse throughout the months of July and August when I have to go out and water.

The kitchen is closed for awhile.  The last thing on my mind is food...   I can't wait 'til Fall.


  1. Hostas and ferns are always what thrive best in this shady valley but I have come to love them. We keep adding to them all summer and the wild ones spread and spread. But we've never had or seen a fox tail fern. Yours is stunning! I would winter-over that one too! I try each October to bring ours in, hating to lose them but soon they begin to shed like crazy and are put in the picnic shelter where some make it until Thanksgiving. When you have shade you soon learn to love ferns!

    1. I had never seen a fox tail until this year. When I bought it I did not have high expectations. You never know do you?! It will be interesting to see how it does inside this winter.

  2. Your garden is beautiful! I love the fox tail fern.

  3. Despite what you may say I think your garden is really lovely. The ferns remind me of lazy southern summers where the living is easy, minus the watering of course. You have a much, much greener thumb and lots more knowledge than I do and I was a Master Gardener once upon a time. Enjoy. Most of us don't have anywhere near as pretty a garden as you do.

    1. Thanks Sam, I think boredom more than a green thumb has a lot to do with it. I only wish I had a front porch with rocking chairs to go under those ferns. Then the living would really be easy!

  4. I particularly enjoyed this post! Fun to learn the names of different hydrangeas. Going to plant some next year. Fingers crossed, living here in Texas where the heat ruins so many pretty plants.

    1. Try them! they are really beautiful. Some like sun, like the paniculata ( limelight) others, like shade, particularly in your neck of the woods. Those would be the French hydrangeas or mopheads. They also dry out beautifully and make nice arrangements in winter. Good luck!

  5. Like you, I'm beginning to equate gardening with a mood of philosophical resignation. Harsh winters haven't been particularly kind to the Iceberg roses, or the Winter Gem boxwood parterres which surrounded them. In fact most of my roses gave up the ghost this year! These things can break your heart, but also harden it against too many hopes pinned on to plant life.
    Yet there are always consolations and as I type these words, the Casablanca Lilies are beginning to open, and they are exquisite this year.
    PS Your hydrangea paniculata are marvellous...long may they thrive!

    1. And we do this for fun. I think of our poor farmers all the time whose livelihoods are at the mercy of this ungodly weather! The hydrangea paniculata are in the ground. Th blooms have been fantastic but the heat is too much for their poor branches to support them. I have Irises somewhere out there but they haven't seen the light of day. The cherry trees began to shed their leaves in the beginning of July! I'm hoping for an early Fall, my favorite time of the year. Seriously, this year I can't wait for summer to be over, I'm tired of hibernating and even look forward to Fall cleanup. If they boxwood don't get hit in winter, they get hit in this heat. The four dwarfs I planted around the mailbox are toast. That's it...wood chips will have to do. I must have spent over $300 trying to grow something up there.

      Glad to see you figured it out!!

  6. Love Christy's caladium! I was never a big fan of them until, out of desperation, I tried some two years ago. Gorgeous!!! The color and texture add something to my dry shade area (have them in pots and in the ground.) Yes indeed, it is trial and error and always expensive…. I have some white iris sitting in a pot, ready for a new home. Would you like some? I can easily box them and send…just let me know. My brother and I send bulbs all the time and it works fine. Really, let me know!

  7. I've never liked them either, until now. They look great in that pot and you really can't stop them . Sure, send some down, I'll try them. Thnx!

  8. It sound so familiar...every year whe have the same problem.
    Go to the gardencentre and buy to much and it don`t work.
    We live in the woods and the soil is very dry...and i like roses and lavender...
    But the garden is also shady.
    But....i have roses...Now i put them in big pots and put them in spots in the garden where whe have sun.
    Is it very cold in winter whe wrap pot and all in a blanket or something to protect them.
    That go`s very well.
    Even carrots and tomato`s, peppers and cucumbers in pots.
    And whe have (not much) but for fun... several meals from them...
    It take a little time but than you know more and more about the garden.
    I learn every day.....

    1. Where there's a will, there's a way! I had a beautiful rose growing in a pot up on the deck but it died. I don't know if it was the harsh winter or me. But I will replace it, like you I love roses. Of course what we call a harsh winter is nothing compared to your winters so I admire you. It is very fulfilling growing something, especially vegetables. Like you say, we learn from experience.

  9. Your garden is lovely! I made your Sweet and Spicy Mango Chutney and we love it. Thank you for a wonderful recipe and you're right, the spices are perfect. Now I want to make your Georgia Peach Chutney!

  10. Glad you liked it. You will also enjoy the peach. I'm late making mine this year!

  11. Those Limelight Hydrangeas are wonderful--with their white color and smaller blooms, they look like spring flowers misplaced into summer. I love ferns, and am fascinated by the way you have integrated them into your gardening scheme.

    1. These ferns don't do well in the winter here so every year they have to be replaced. Hanging then and setting them in pots in the garden is my lazy way of integrating them. That way I don't have to dig a hole! The limelights turn a beautiful color as they age. Love them .

  12. Hello Lindaraxa,

    Your garden looks very lush indeed, and healthy too, which is more than I can say for any garden in our area right now. The drought is punishing us all, ugh!

    Your ferns are spectacular, well done, and those hydrangeas (something I've yet to grow but admire) look divine.

    Gardening is a pleasant past time but, ultimately, nothing we do has as much effect on our efforts as Mother Nature who rules.

  13. I hate to tell you this, but even within a garden, some plants only need a better location to thrive. I remember a friend told me this years ago when I despaired about a fancy specimen plant that was doing terribly. I moved it to another bed not 15' away and voila, success. Soil, shade and even plant neighbors can make a big difference. Some plants just don't play well with others and are very fussy about neighbors. Sometimes it's just PH (which you can easily test these days. PH can differ from one plot to another!

    Your garden is lovely -- I think you've done a brilliant job with it. I'm in the pot gardening phase at the moment but very proud of my tiny potted garden -- it is so much easier to deal with than a bazillion beds and no weeding!!!

    1. No question. Inside or out it's location, location location...unless Mother Nature decides to intervene and then all bets are off! I put a lot of pots within the gardens. The ferns are in pots since they won't make it through the winter. It's one less hole to dig and some will hibernate in MM's apartement. Hopefully with a little TLC they might make it to Spring.


Thank you for visiting Lindaraxa. Your comments are much appreciated.

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