Learn With Us, July 2022

Durham Garden Forum – Agronomics: The Economics of Land Use
July 19, 2022, 7 – 8:30 PM

with Delphine Sellers, retired director of the Durham Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Via Zoom. Registration Required: durhamgardenforum@gmail.com. Dues for the 2022 calendar year are $25. (Another option is to pay $10 to attend one lecture.)

Are you interested in becoming a Master Gardener? Durham County’s 15 week training program will begin in January 2023, and interest meetings will be held this summer. Contact the Master Gardener office at mastergardener@dconc.gov for more information or to be added to the interest list.

Check out Triangle Gardener‘s list of area lectures and other learning opportunities.

Stay hydrated and cool while you are enjoying outdoor spaces, and keep learning!

Ten Plants That Can Take the Heat

by Andrea Laine, EMGV

The pilgrimage to local nurseries has begun and warm-weather gardening is upon us. With so many plant selections available and a heat wave due by the end of the week, it seems like the perfect time to revisit one of our most popular blog posts: “Ten Plants that Can Take the Heat,” by Andrea Laine. Grab a cold iced tea and plan your garden for the long hot summer to come. 


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 system.  

Here are 10 plants that tolerate sunny, hot, and dry conditions reasonably well:


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 grandiflora This 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!

Footnotes, Resources & Further Reading

1. https://www.ahsgardening.org/gardening-resources/gardening-maps/heat-zone-map

2. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/evolvulus-glomeratus/



Learn more about other plants listed above: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/

(Unless otherwise noted, photos taken by A. Laine)

Article Short URL: https://wp.me/p2nIr1-1vS

Curbside Collection of Live Christmas Trees (2017-2018)

Non-Yard Waste customers must contact Durham One Call at (919) 560-1200 to request a curbside collection of their live Christmas tree. All service requests must be received no later than the end of business on February 1. Once received, service requests will be scheduled for the next available Saturday collection on either January 13, January 27 or February 3.

Yard Waste customers should place their live trees at the curb on their scheduled collection day. Tree locations will be noted by the weekly collection crews and added to the next available Saturday collection day on either January 13, January 27 or February 3. A tree collection will not count toward free brush collections for yard waste customers.

Requirements for live Christmas tree disposal are as follows: trees taller than six feet must be cut in half; all decorations including tinsel, lights, garland, ornaments, nails, stands, and hardware must be removed. Trees should not be placed in bags.

In addition to free curbside collections, residents may drop off their live Christmas trees at the City’s Waste Disposal and Recycling Center for no charge from January 2 until February 3. Trees delivered after February 3 will be subject to the usual yard waste disposal fees.

County residents (outside of Durham city limits), please see: Durham County Solid Waste

The Sound of Silence

by Andrea Laine, EMGV Durham County

A silence has come over my garden that I do not recognize. It is the absence of squirrels.

By most standards, I live in a generally quiet neighborhood. It is beyond city limits and there are natural wooded areas – oak-hickory forest – all around us and between most of the houses. Aside from the sounds typical of many neighborhoods such as lawn mowers and blowers, children playing and dogs barking, the familiar, yet irregular, back beat has long been the activity of squirrels amongst the dried leaf litter on the forest floor.

Where have all the squirrels gone? Whoooo might know? The owl, that’s who!

Digital Painting of  Barred Owl perching
Digital painting of a barred owl. Credit: Big Stock Photo.

I saw it in flight a couple of times and assumed it was a hawk. The third time I spotted it (or it spotted me), it was stationary, perched on a tree branch where the forest meets my lawn. And I felt its steely stare as I walked from the garage to the house. It was then that I noted two eyes facing me and the distinctive owl-shaped head. It was a breathtaking sight as I had never seen one outside of captivity. My curiosity was piqued; I had to learn more about this bird of prey which I believe to be a barred owl (Strix varia).

A barred owl is relatively large with a wingspan of 40 to 50 inches and body length of 17 to 24 inches.

They favor mature forest with a relatively open understory, which describes my yard perfectly. They nest in cavities of large deciduous trees and will sometimes adopt old nests of hawks, crows, and squirrels.

The barred owl hunts by day or night but is most active at night. It seeks prey by watching from a perch or flying low through the forest. Like all owls, their eyesight and hearing are very good. In addition to squirrels, the barred owl hunts mice, voles and shrews, rabbits, opossums and other small mammals. The barred owl also eats various birds, frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, and some insects.  The array of its diet illustrates the adaptability of the species to live on whatever food source is available.

“My” owl was mottled brown and white. It was so well camouflaged against tree bark and leaf litter that twice I have not noticed it until it takes flight.

The barred owl is common across eastern North America and more common in eastern North Carolina than the mountains or foothills including Durham County. It is a non-migratory bird and its range is one to six square miles. I read that it has a distinctive hoot that often identifies its presence. But so far I have only seen, not heard, the owl. The sound of silence endures.










Learn With Us, week of May 7

Gardening in Durham for Beginners & Transplants
Thu 5/11 6:30pm – 8pm
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson Street, Durham, NC

Presented by Gene Carlone, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.
Understanding Durham’s soil and climate will help you succeed in your garden whether you are a Durham native or a transplant, an experienced gardener or just beginning. Join Gene as he explains the strategies and techniques that are time-tested in Durham and help you take advantage of our year-round growing season.
Free / Registration required.
Contact: 919-668-1707 or e-mail gardenseducation@duke.edu