Friday, May 16, 2014

Foliage Follow-up - May 2014 Heatwave Edition

As I've mentioned (ad nauseum), we're in the middle of yet another spring heatwave.  The heat reached a ridiculous level for awhile yesterday - not that any temperature above 80F (27C) in May isn't ridiculous.

Nearly 105F (40.5C) outside at 2pm



The effects on the flowering plants have been obvious but the weather has impacted my foliage plants as well.  There are clear winners, plants that continue to thrive under heat and drought conditions, and losers, plants that are struggling, so I thought I'd use this month's Foliage Follow-up, the meme sponsored by Pam at Digging, to highlight some of each.

In the popular plants category, Yucca 'Bright Star' is doing so well that I kept myself awake recently wondering where I could put more.  My 3, planted in January in the backyard border, are still small but they get prettier with each passing month.




In contrast, Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt,' another popular newcomer reputed to be drought tolerant, has had more difficulty adapting to the abrupt increases in temperature.  Prior to the first heatwave, I'd have said the Acacia in the large pot near to the house was the best-looking of its brethren; however, despite receiving only morning sun and regular watering, it lost a lot of its leaves and now has a visibly thinner appearance.  To be fair, the 4 plants in the ground experienced less leaf loss than the one in the pot even though they get more sun and less attention.

Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' has receding foliage

Leaf debris dropped by 'Cousin Itt'



In the Japanese maple category, 'Sango Kaku,' growing in a partial shade location next to the garage, and 'Mikawa Yatsubusa,' which gets mid-afternoon shade in the backyard, are both looking good despite exposure to heat and wind.

Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' hasn't shown any ill effects to the heat thus far

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa Yatsubusa' has only the slightest leaf tip burn



This is not the case with Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost' despite extra water the other 2 didn't receive.  'Purple Ghost' stands on the southeast side of the house and, although it gets some shade from nearby trees, it probably gets more sun overall that the other 2.  The wind that whips through that area as it moves around the house  may be an even more significant issue.  And, of course, the visits by raccoons and a gopher can't help things.  I'm afraid that 'Purple Ghost' may have to be moved in the fall (if it lives that long).

My sad 'Purple Ghost'



All my Phormium are doing well.  They don't appear to notice the heat at all.

Phormium 'Amazing Red'



That's not true of Cordyline 'Renegade,' despite similarities in appearance and place of origin.  Perhaps, as in the case of the Acacia cognata described above, part of the problem is that my Cordyline are in pots.

'Renegade's' growth is stunted and the foliage has lost some of its intense color while the Pelargonium planted with it enjoys its sunny setting



In the decorative shrub category, Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' is performing very well in full sun conditions in the windy southeast side yard.




Justicia brandegeeana,' on the other hand, doesn't seem happy.  Although it seemed fine before the temperatures soared this week, it clearly needs more shade under current conditions.  I'll have to find another spot for it.

This Justicia brandegeeana is frying - the other one, in partial afternoon shade, is faring better



Some groundcovers are doing better than others as well.  The St. Johnswort is slow growing but seemingly impervious to heat.  The red hook sedge gets a touch of shade during the first half of the day but takes the sun's full blast from mid-day with no ill effects thus far.  But my experiment in stretching my zone to include Nepeta 'Pink Cat' was short-lived.

Hypericum x moserianum 'Tricolor'

Uncinia uncinata 'Rubra' in the midst of our 2nd heatwave

Nepeta 'Pink Cat' was dead after the 1st heatwave




The ugliest parts of my garden right now are the remaining areas of lawn, most of which are quickly turning straw yellow even though I've delivered far more water during the current heatwave than I did during the first one.  I've been reading about drought tolerant grasses, grass substitutes, and even fake grass.  Although we've eliminated various sections of grass since we moved in 3 years ago and I'd already slated other sections to go, I hadn't originally planned to take it all out but it may come to that.  Looking at this, in mid-May, is depressing:

This patch of lawn in the backyard was mostly green just a week ago



This, in contrast, is not depressing.

Lomandra 'Breeze'

Stipa tenuissima



If current conditions represent the "new normal," then I need plants that are better at adapting to sudden temperature fluctuations, more intense heat, and less water.  At present, my plants aren't the only ones having trouble adapting.  Heat and low humidity (plus dying plants) has made me cranky.  In contrast, at least one of my household companions takes the heat in stride.

Pipig has no problem with the heat despite being covered by fur


Please visit Pam at Digging to read her Foliage Follow-up post and to find links to other gardeners' flaunting their foliage.




23 comments:

  1. I'm sorry for your losses--it's especially hard when you've been thoughtful about plant choice to begin with. I'm in Seattle and we are also struggling with the more-abrupt temperature and climate shifts. It's tough on the plants when they don't have time to acclimatize.

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    1. I'm sure those rapid temperature fluctuations are indeed part of the problem, Emily. Plants I've never seen struggle in the peak heat of summer, like the Shasta Daisies, were curling up their leaves this week.

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  2. Ugh...so annoying, those sudden changes in weather...we've had one as well...and while things should be fine, in the long run, there's lots of crispy foliage in my garden as a result :-(

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    1. I hope your garden recovers quickly, Scott. In my own case, the biggest hits were to some of my recent plantings but the heat also led to premature exits by many of the early spring bloomers. I'd like to fill the vacancies with new plants but I'm almost afraid to do any more planting until summer has come and gone.

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  3. So sorry! Agaves would love these conditions! I've never seen a Yucca 'Bright Star' as beautiful as yours; they're stunning. If they looked that good here, I'd have a lot more!

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    1. I've got quite a few agave already but, after the lessons of this month, I expect there will be more in my future, Peter.

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  4. I'venever seen Uncinia uncinata 'Rubra' such a wonderful orange colour, I bet that just soaks up the heat. You have chosen most plants very well to cope with your conditions; I think you would have more success with some plants if you planted in autumn rather than spring.

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    1. I'd been looking for more of that particular Uncinia, Christina. Coincidentally, the grower from which I got the original 3 just made more available by mail-order. Eight more arrived on my door step yesterday but their color isn't anything that of those already in my garden. I can only hope that the color develops with sun exposure (and that the new plants don't perish in a future heatwave).

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  5. 104! It was a mere wimpy 98 here yesterday. I'm afraid to look at my own 'Cousin Itt'. He was already bald.

    Got to caution you--after 'Bright Star' blooms, it starts looking funny. No more symmetry. I'll have to take a picture if it ever cools off.

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    1. Oh no! I love that 'Bright Star' just as it is. I'll hold off on any new purchases until I see how it looks as it matures.

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    1. Even a little balder, it's still a great plant, Kim!

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  7. Your Yucca Bright Star glows, it's great you have some plants that do well in the heat. I can't imagine 105* F already. We just had temps around 90* and I foolishly left a Saxifrage out on my deck, it was pretty fried even at that temperature. I hope the weather doesn't get hotter for you.

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    1. During this heatwave, Hannah, I started thinking that a collection of small umbrellas to provide emergency shade would be a good idea. Water alone couldn't save some plants.

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  8. That sudden heat would be too much even in South Texas where we are used to it. We had a similar heat wave in early April just after we started spring planting and lost a few plants. I'm surprised by the Nepeta which can take a lot of heat but it's the sudden change that really did it in. Hope you cool off in time for most of the plants to recover.

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    1. We had fog this morning, Shirley, which was a welcome change and the temperature is down markedly already - hopefully, that'll help put an end to the fires to the south of us. Temperatures next week are expected to be "normal" for this time of year. I hope the severe heat stays at bay until July but I'm trying to prepare for the worst.

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  9. I'm sorry for your losses, but it sounds like you're on the right path thinking of more drought-tolerant plants and lawn alternatives. At least the heat is an opportunity to see which plants are true, stalwart winners. Is that a Helichrysum in the photo of 'Purple Ghost'? I love the Agonis, and the furry airplant in the last photo looks very content!

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    1. The "furry airplant" doesn't appear to like AC but she did come inside during the worst phase of this last heatwave. Yes, that's Helichrysum petiolare you see, another nearly indestructible plant here. The 2 in that area were planted from 4' pots a year ago and would take over that entire side of the garden if I didn't hack them back every few months.

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  10. I'm sorry about your horrible early heat wave, Kris. Combined with drought, it's enough to devastate a garden. It's good news that you have many plants taking it in stride though. Yuccas and agaves would be good additions, for sure. And sotols. I love sotols.

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    1. The sotols are one plant group I haven't tried yet, Pam. It might be something I should look into for that tough, dry area along the street.

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  11. Oh man, that's hot! I am glad you've got a few plants that are performing for you.

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    1. Thankfully, Mother Nature has relented this week.

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  12. Hey, Kris, I was going to ask you, but you commented on it on Piece of Eden ... my Agave vilmoriniana took a big hit, too. It didn't show up immediately, but now is looking very bleached as Hoover Boo would say.

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