Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Is Summer Here Already?

We were hit with blast furnace heat here last week, with temperatures nearing 100F (37.8C).  The heat, accompanied by high winds, took a toll on the garden, as well as the gardener.  Although I supplemented the twice weekly automated irrigation received by most of my garden during our "warm season" with daily hand-watering of the most fragile plants, it wasn't enough to save them all.  Although the losses are discouraging, as those of you in areas affected by the "polar vortex" know all too well, I was surprised by the number of plants that seem to be thrive in the heat.  Based on a comparison with last year's photographic record, it appears that that many of my early summer bloomers have a 2-3 week head start this year, including many of my daylilies.

Hemerocallis 'Blythe Belle'

Hemerocallis 'Double Impact'

Hemerocallis 'For Pete's Sake'

Hemerocallis 'Russian Rhapsody'

Hemerocallis 'Spanish Harlem'



Other perennials are also producing early blooms.

Achillea 'Moonshine' didn't bloom until late May in 2013

The Agapanthus are now appearing en masse - I stopped counting those in the backyard when the number reached 70 and I didn't even bother checking those in the front yard

Gaura 'Snow Fountain' is taking off

Leucanthemum x superbum 'Snow Lady,' although divided last fall, are also blooming early



Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' and its companion, Anagallis 'Wildcat Mandarin,' sailed through the hot, dry weather without any sign they even noticed it.

I am definitely getting more Digiplexis when it becomes available in additional colors



On the other hand, the heat and wind proved to be too much for some plants.

Baptisia australis, planted more than a month ago and doing fine until last week, was just taken off life support

The demise of this Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid' is a mystery - those on the back slope that got far less water are doing fine
 
The sweet peas, Lathyrus odoratus, collapsed virtually overnight

Nepeta 'Pink Cat,' planted more than 6 weeks ago from starts as an experiment, all croaked 



In addition to these plants, I lost a large mass of Ajuga 'Catlin's Giant' and one whole strip of plants along the driveway.  Other plants are damaged or struggling.

Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost' looked to be doing fine until I noticed damage to some of the leaves just as the heat wave came to an end

The flowers on Dianthus barbatus 'Heart Attack' took a beating but the plants themselves seem healthy

In addition to the grass in the one section of the front yard, which is most dead, there are patches in the backyard that are looking pretty bad - dethatching, fertilizing, aerating and overseeding are planned



I expect that the lack of winter rain, combined with a pattern of stingy irrigation on my part, are factors in my plant losses and damage.  However, as our drought is unlikely to end this year and as mandatory irrigation restrictions are possible (if not likely), I'm treating the lessons of this recent heatwave seriously.  I'm considering new, more drought-tolerant options to replace the plants I've lost.



26 comments:

  1. I was wondering about the Heart Attack. All the flowers on my red one curled up and died. I cut it back to the first node. Then half the leaves browned. I pulled those off. Lo! and behold when I went out this morning there were two three-inch shoots with flowers! Yay! And, yeah, I went out looking for drought and heat tolerant summer plants today. The El Niño news is not good.

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    1. Despite its name, 'Heart Attack' does seem to be quite resilient, Jane. I'm glad yours came through this 1st heatwave too.

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  2. I am in love with your digiplexis. I'm hunting one or two or three down asap! I'm sorry to see the plant losses in your garden. That is always hard. If you can believe it, we even have things die up in the rainy PNW because of drought so I can't even imagine the challenges you face. But the garden is always changing and hopefully some things will come back, and for those that don't even better alternatives come your way. Cheers!

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    1. The Digiplexis is definitely a good investment, Louis!

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  3. Heat that comes on strong so early is difficult. We had a run last week too, topping out at 89. Several plants took it hard with sunburn and crispy leaves, although I don't think I outright lost anything. I am sorry you lost things and like Louis said I can't imagine your challenges with heat, wind, and no rain.

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    1. Spring planting tends to be dicey here, Loree, which is why I try to do as much as I can during the fall and winter months but, as you know, sometimes the plants you want just aren't available on a convenient schedule. As the nurseries tend to sell plants only as they're going into bloom, I think I'm going to need to rely more on mail order to get non-blooming plants I can tuck in during the cooler part of the year.

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  4. We are at opposite ends of the same scale Kris - you do all you can to protect susceptible plants in summer, where as I have to do all I can in winter. It seems though that what ever our climates throws at us - we can thoroughly rely on daylilies! What an amazing group of plants. They cope with heat and drought there yet cope with cold and flooding here in my garden. Amazing! Sorry to read of your losses.

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    1. Yes, our summer (which is getting longer as it eats up a good part of our spring!) is definitely our equivalent of your winter in terms of gardening challenges, Angie. I spent last week hunkered down, only creeping outside to tend to the garden in the early morning and early evening hours.

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  5. How sad to lose so many plants. I am surprised you lost your Euphorbia.
    Your Digiplexis are looking wonderful. I' m goint to see if I can find them here.
    I was amused that you went on counting your Agapanthus flowers right up to 70. I count my flowers too. Is it a compulsion shared by all gardeners do you think?

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    1. That Euphorbia seems to be an anomaly, Chloris, as all the others hung on - maybe my irrigation system is missing that spot altogether. Re the Agapanthus, as I had a few flower here and there throughout fall and winter, I was afraid they might be too tuckered out to put on their usual show in early summer, hence the urge to take stock to verify that they'd really arrived en masse after all. Don't all gardeners have to be a little compulsive?

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  6. Sorry to hear and see your losses due to the heat wave, and pleased to see the ones that have done well. It sounds like you have a plan forming already to make your garden more adaptable to this phenomenon.

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    1. It's not a well-formed plan but, yes, I'm committed to finding plants that can withstand hot, dry conditions and, if I'm lucky, put off rampaging raccoons too. I may follow Loree's example and invest in more spiky things.

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  7. Hmm! Winners and losers ! I suppose every season is the same but maybe not as extreme. For every plant that loves the conditions there is one that hates it. You have some lovely successes - and commiserations on the ones that curled up and died ! I love 'Spanish Harlem' - such a rich colour.

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    1. Our summers are getting longer, drier and hotter. My goal now, Jane, is to adapt to that reality.

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  8. Nice Hems! You did get some damage--ouch! I've not been overly stingy with water.
    I decided to just cross my fingers for an El Nino winter and not worry about it right now--what else can we do?

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    1. You seem to have a nice mix of drought tolerant plants to balance your thirstier ones, Hoover Boo. I think I need to shift the proportions of those in my own garden and do a better job of when placing plants in order to lower my losses in certain areas of the garden. This garden is hotter, drier and windier than my old garden and I've been operating in denial of those facts.

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  9. Ohh, love your Hemerocallis, especially 'Spanish Harlem' – absolutely beautiful! Sorry to see you have had some losses lately, the weather has been really tricky for a long time – we had stormy winds here today too and I was fearful of my tall baby magnolia, but it seems to have survived. Not much we can do with the weather, only prepare the plants as best we can :-)

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    1. No, we certainly can't change the weather; however, in my own case here in southern California, I think I do need to face the fact that our warm season is steadily growing longer, our already brief rainy season is growing shorter, and our summers can be expected to be very hot. That means I need to shift my plant selections to more heat and drought tolerant plants no matter how much I love those thirsty, mild-weather plants.

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  10. Having to contend with summer drought myself I found your post really informative. One thing that surprised me was that you plant anything in spring - I only plant in autumn now as I have so much more success, no plant can build up a root system to deal with wind and high temperatures in just a few weeks. I don't irrigate the larger part of my garden so am always looking for drought tolerant plants with the added difficulty here that winter temperatures can fall to minus 10°C so I have a smaller choice than you. Not many American plants are available here but I must try to get seed of some of the plants you grow; I also like your selections.

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    1. I could be more resolute about fall planting if I could find all the plants I want during that time period. The local nurseries generally offer plants only in season (i.e. when they're coming into bloom) and many of the mail order nurseries outside of California don't make summer bloomers available until spring.

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  11. I'm sorry for your plant losses. Isn't it funny how gardeners so often want to grow things more suited to other regions? The PNW wants to grow plants from California and the Southwest, and many of the plants I see in your garden I would expect to see in wetter, cooler areas. There are so many fantastic drought-tolerant plants, but maybe they aren't your style?

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    1. I actually have a lot of drought tolerant plants but proportionately probably not enough given the current degree of drought and heat. The winds here are tricky too - I didn't have a wind problem at our prior home 15 miles to the north but it's a daily issue here.

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  12. I'm sorry for that dang heat wave. We had it up here in Oregon too. But it only lasted for a few days. Now it's back to rain. Surprise, surprise. :) I sure hope the Digiplexis proves to be hardier than they're claiming. I'd love to grow it since the flower colors melt my heart. Your Agapanthus photo with the fat gray tree trunks--just beautiful! Hemerocallis 'Russian Rhapsody' ooh la, la!

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    1. I might be able to forgive and forget the heat if we'd just get some rain but there's nothing on the horizon except another heatwave.

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  13. Austin feels your pain, Kris. Our new normal (for the past few years) is mandatory once-a-week watering between the hours of 7 pm and 10 am. We're likely to go to Stage 3 watering restrictions in June, with fewer watering hours. I'm glad for all my drought-tolerant plants, but even xeric plants, when new, need watering. It's tough. And yet we gardeners don't give up but keep looking for new ways of doing things, right?

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    1. Some areas already have mandatory restrictions but they haven't been applied in my community yet. With reservoir levels so low, I wouldn't be surprised to see the restrictions go state-wide this year. I reduced the amount of water I apply earlier but now I'm looking at different watering strategies too. With this 2nd heatwave, it's clear I'm going to lose more plants so drought tolerant selections are becoming not just a choice but a necessity.

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