How did it get to be December already? Wasn’t it 100 degrees and October yesterday? Unbelievable! So, I was looking at last year’s December calendar and I can’t think of how to improve it. Therefore, y’all get an encore! Heck, come next year it might be a new tradition.
The holidays Are upon us. It’s cold enough To prune the euonymus.
Most of the leaves Have fallen down And into the compost Raked and blown.
The door is closed On the potting shed. Most of the garden Has been put to bed.
But before the year Turns over anew There are a few more things Left to do.
Lawn Mow the fescue One more time. Remove the leaves To keep it fine.
Planting Landscape plants Can still be planted There in that space Where you’ve always wanted.
Prune Prune the nandina And red-berried holly. Arrange them on the table To make it look jolly.
Herbaceous perennials Can still be cut back. While weeds and “bad” trees Can be thoroughly wacked.
Spraying While some of us think Spraying is fun In the month of December There should be none.
Other Stuff That’s Mostly Fun The Christmas tree Really needs water And will appreciate Being away from the heater.
To keep your poinsettias Cheery and bright Put them in the room With the sunniest light.
As to your soil recommendations Apply the lime. Save the fert For the warmer springtime.
If it’s viticulture Or an orchard you seek Order plants now To plant by March’s second week.
For your strawberries A sweet straw bed Either wheat or pine A blanket for their heads.
May your holidays Be blessed and merry As bright and cheery As the holly’s berry.
And may next year’s garden Be like my Grandmother’s A bounty for you And a bounty for others.
September is synonymous with school. So, this week we are
getting back to basics with a post that defines foundational gardening terms.
The better you understand these terms and phrases, the easier it will be to
identify, select and care for plants in your landscape.
Growing season: The period between the beginning of growth in
the spring and the cessation of growth in the fall.
Hardiness zone: Expressed as a number and letter combination
from 1a to 13b, the US Department of Agriculture has assigned a zone to every geographic
area of the United States based on the average annual minimum winter
temperature. Tags on plants sold commercially often identify the zone(s) in
which the plant will grow.
affected by landscape, structures, or other unique factors in a particular
for the three major plant nutrients contained in manure, compost, and
fertilizers. N stands for nitrogen, P for phosphorus, and K for potassium.
started from seed that grow, mature, flower, produce seed, and die in the same
Biennial: Plants that take two years, or a part of two years, to complete their life cycle. By freely reseeding, a biennial plant may seem to come back year after year, but you are actually seeing new plants.
Perennial: A plant that lives more than two years and produces new foliage, flowers, and seeds each growing season. Tenderperennial: A perennial that is not tolerant of frost and cold temperatures. Applying a winter mulch can help it survive It may die off above ground and regrow from the roots.
Woody perennial: A plant that goes dormant in winter and begins growth in spring from above-ground stems. Herbaceousperennial: A plant that dies back in the winter and regrows from the crown in spring.
Exotic: A plant of foreign origin or character; not native; introduced from abroad, but not fully naturalized. Naturalize: The process whereby plants spread and fill in naturally.
Native plant: A plant indigenous to a specific habitat or area. Nativar: A plant that is a cultivar of a native plant. Cultivar: A cultivated variety of a species. Propagation of cultivars results in little or no genetic change in the offspring, which preserves desirable characteristics.
Integrated pest management.
A method of managing pests that combines cultural, biological, mechanical, and
chemical controls, while taking into account the impact of control methods on
Invasive. Growing vigorously and outcompeting other plants in the same area; difficult to control.
Noxious weed. Weeds that have been declared by law to be a species having the potential to cause injury to public health, crops, livestock, land, or other property. Noxious weeds are very invasive. There are 124 plants in NC that meet the legal criteria.
When a gardening term has you stumped, refer to the glossary chapter of the Master Gardeners Handbook for a definition – there are hundreds of entries — and a small dose of continuing education.
It’s August and my garden (and myself) are showing signs of weariness. So I turned to my fellow Extension master gardener volunteers to find out what is growing well in their gardens. There are plant picks and care tips in the vignettes that follow to inspire us all; and if too late for this year, then definitely for next year! All photos were taken by the master gardeners. — Andrea, Blog editor
I seeded these indoors in early 2018 and planted outdoors after April 15th in 2018. For the past six weeks I have awakened to new blooms every morning and they have exceeded five feet in height. As a bonus the solitary pollinators sleep in them at night to be ready for the morning harvest! Missouri Primrose will have a perpetual place in my garden. – Brandon W.
Caladium and Coleus
My front porch plants are doing well. I have been planting caladium and coleus every summer for 30 years. I love the combination and it also goes really well with the pink knockout roses in front of my porch. I think this year I will try to save my caladium bulbs for the first time ever. — Kerry H.
Coral bells and hostas
Coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea) loves the shady side of my house. It has thrived in this spot for about five years and never fails to surprise and delight. It’s an evergreen plant with maximum height of a foot-and-a-half and a spread of slightly less. The hostas are doing well, too! — Carol T.
Almost all of the plants in my garden are perennials. For the first time since I was a child living in hot and dry Texas, I decided to plant Zinnia seeds this year- as a nod to a childhood long past. Thank goodness I did; It is practically the only flower blooming along the edges of my mostly shade garden. It is definitely drought tolerant and deer resistant and planting them will make every child feel like a successful gardener! Also, it is a simple delight to see what color might unfold on top of their tall sturdy stalks during the course of this hot dry summer. — Cy G.
Both Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop) and Agastache rugosa ‘Golden Jubilee’ are in this photo. I wish you could see the multitude of bees and butterflies that are feeding on the spiky blooms. Throughout the blistering heat wave, these plants have been alive with pollinators. This is my second year with them. They get a bit “floppy” late in the season, so I’m going to try aggressive deadheading this year and see if I get more new growth and less flop. During the hot, dry weather I make sure they get one good soaking a week. — Tina F.
Cleome or spider flower (Cleome hassleriana) is a fragrant, sun-loving annual. Mine are still growing tall, producing blooms and lots of seeds. – Cathy L.
Solomon Seal (Polygonatum spp.) on left, is a native herbaceous perennial that grows well in shady areas. Quarter-inch blue-black (poisonous) berries dangle from the stem in the fall. Pictured here is one with variegated leaves. Weeping love grass (Eragrostis curvula), on right, is an ornamental grass whose leaves turn yellow to bronze in winter. It is used as erosion control on highway right-of-ways. – Beth A.
Year after year our bronze fennel is host to swallowtail caterpillars. Since rethinking our lawn care routine, the fennel has a bigger following than ever with a variety of bees, other insects and even a praying mantis who’s motives might be suspicious. The fennel is easy care with an occasional drink and it readily reseeds to keep the patch going strong. — Lynne N.
My gardening interests are primarily focused on creating an aesthetic and pollinator friendly landscape, along with a few herbs. This year I decided to try a tomato plant. I bought a golden tomato shrub plant at the farmer’s market. It is doing so well! I’ve lost two tomatoes to blossom end rot, but have harvested a dozen already and have 30 more on the plant. — Kerry H.
Tomato ‘German Johnson’
Here is one of my German Johnson tomatoes, a really sweet, pink variety. I planted some in the garden and put one plant in my homemade self-watering bucket. I really like the self-watering bucket. All month (July) I have had tomatoes. This is the first time ever I have had an indeterminate really continue bearing. It is eight feet tall and blooming. I think having uniform moisture is the best thing about the self-watering bucket. – Linda D.
Come July, I am unlikely to be outdoors — much less gardening—unless watering or weeding is absolutely required. I dislike the heat of a North Carolina Piedmont summer. Luckily for my garden and the birds and insects who visit it, there are perennials and annuals that do just fine despite the heat and even when rain is not plentiful.
I’ve been noticing those plants more lately as it has been almost two weeks since a measurable amount of rain has fallen on my garden. And, we’ve had some very hot days, with heat indexes of 100 or more. I watered six days ago and again this morning (July 20).
Plants begin suffering physiological damage at 86 degrees
and above1. Keeping up with watering is important, especially for the
newer additions to the garden or those recently transplanted. An established
tree, shrub or plant will fare better due to a stronger, more settled root
Here are 10 plants that tolerate sunny, hot, and dry conditions
Blackberry Lily or Leopard Flower (Belamcanda) This is my first experience with this semi-hardy summer bulb. It prefers morning sun, but this plant is doing very well in afternoon sun in well-drained soil. The dainty flowers began blooming in July atop stalks 30 to 36 inches high. Blackberry refers to the black seeds that follow flowering. Store corms in dry sand at 35-41 degrees.
Catmint (Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’) This is another plant I had never grown before this year and so far I am very pleased. Lavender spikes of flowers (10 inches high) appear late spring to mid-summer and flowers are always crowded with bees, moths and butterflies. It is deer resistant. Photo credit: Debbie Roos
Lantana (Lantana Camara) The ‘Miss Huff’ cultivar is a generally reliable perennial in the Piedmont region of NC. Treat all other cultivars as annuals here. Miss Huff is a woody evergreen shrub that will grow 4’ high and wide in full sun. It blooms from late spring to fall and flowers are a mix of orange, yellow and pink. Cut it down to four to six inches in the spring before new growth begins.
Garden Sage (Salvia Officinalis) This plant is the star of my herb garden – good-looking, evergreen and productive all year. It is planted in well-drained soil and receives four to six hours of sun; that’s about as ‘full’ as my heavily wooded property allows, but obviously it has been good enough for this plant.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) Being native to the southeast United States, it’s not a great surprise that the purple coneflower tolerates heat and drought. But it also tolerates humidity and poor soil and can grow in full sun or part shade. Pinkish-purple flowers appear from May to October. It is deer resistant, too. Photo credit: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/echinacea-purpurea/
Summer snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia) For years now I have relied on this annual to add color and grace to my front walkway. I choose white and purple flowering cultivars but there are pink and variegated ones, too. It grows at a medium rate and flowers from June through September. I bet it would do well in a container. Actually, most plants that tolerate drought probably would.
Begonia x ‘Dragonwing’ This has long been my favorite begonia because it fills out so nicely. I don’t readily think of begonias as being heat and drought tolerant, but I’ve included this one because of my firsthand experience with it under exactly those conditions. I love its drooping clusters of flowers. I usually plant this in a container on my deck which receives morning sun. This year I put it in the ground outside my front door, a western exposure that also receives a good bit of shade. As you can see, it is doing well.
Evolvulus glomeratus ‘Blue daze’ It was serendipity when I spotted this plant in a nursery in Mebane last summer. I was through with my planting for the season (or so I told myself) but just couldn’t resist its charms. I do like plants with blue flowers. I brought it home without knowing anything about it. I put it in the ground in full sun among some perennial grasses and it proceeded to take over! I eventually learned that it is a ground cover in the morning-glory family. It’s flowers close at dusk or on cloudy days. If planted in the ground, it forms sprawling mounds nine to 18 inches tall2, which was precisely what I experienced. I would plant it again, but in a more open space. It was yet another lesson in “right plant, right place.” Photo credit: JC Raulston Arboretum
Mandevilla (Dipladenia sanderi) Every summer my mother planted this tropical vine in a container (with trellis for climbing) on her deck in Southeast Pennsylvania. In a short time, it looked spectacular. I’ve often considered doing the same, but the vines have become more expensive than I care to spend for a one-season plant. So, imagine my glee this spring when I noticed a new compact mounding cultivar for $6 in a big box store. I planted three in the ground; I mulched but have not been aggressive with water. They attract hummingbirds and butterflies. NC State Extension says they can be wintered indoors in a container.
Portulaca grandifloraThis is an old favorite of mine that I have not planted in a great while but is such a crowd pleaser. I think it might come to own this sloped spot (therefore, well-draining) among the native pink muhly grasses. There are varieties that flower in a single color, but I enjoy the ones with a variety of colors on one plant. So cheerful! Like evolvulus, the flowers close on cloudy days.
I’ll be looking to add more of these plants to my garden in future years. I am so grateful that some like it hot!