Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Heatwave Aftermath & Wednesday Vignette

Gardeners in colder climates rue the losses that come from serious freezes.  In my frost-free zone, it's heat that causes damage.  Summer arrived here in Southern California in a fury and my garden felt the impact, despite what I'd hoped were reasonable stopgap measures.  While heat blasts always have an impact, the most recent heatwave, which extended from Friday and culminated on Monday when we reached a 105F (40C) high here, caused far more damage than usual.

I'd expected the sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) would go from the outset so that wasn't such a surprise.

The first 2 photos show the sweet peas after the heatwave and the photo on the right shows them on Bloom Day


I saw the Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) withering from my office window on Sunday so I also wasn't surprised by their condition.

The first 2 photos show my dwarf and ruffled Shasta daisies after the heat struck and the photo on the right is another Bloom Day shot


Some plants just aren't hardy enough to handle the heat and dry conditions here to be worth saving so I'll let them go.

Digiplexis 'Illumination Raspberry' (left) requires too much water under even the best of circumstances.  Heuchera 'Bressingham Hybrids' flowered well but they can't handle the heat that left a new planting of Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' (upper right in middle photo) unscathed.  Heuchera maxima is a California native but it always falls apart in summer here so it's out.


I probably never should've tried growing ferns.

The shade in my garden isn't deep enough to allow even western sword fern (Polystichum munitum, bottom 2 photos) to survive


I've always known that planting after April is a crap shoot.

I knew my last mail order delivery was pushing my luck.  Linaria triornithophora (left) may be drought tolerant but it didn't like the heat, although I'm holding out some hope it'll come back.  In contrast, Asclepias cancellata, received with the same order, doesn't appear to have noticed the heat. 


I was a little sick when I saw Alstroemeria 'Claire'.

There was a big, healthy clump with lots of bloom here before the heat struck.  I cleaned out the dead stems immediately because I couldn't stand seeing them.  I hope it'll recover in the fall, if not this summer.


The condition of one of my long-time favorite plants, Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior', which I brought with me 5 years ago when we moved in, was heart-breaking.

The photo on the left was taken Tuesday morning and the one on the right, showing the same plant, was taken last October.  All my Plectranthus, including those in more shade, were damaged by the heatwave.



The Campanula primulifolia I raved about last fall was delivered a death sentence.

This drought tolerant Campanula looked great last September (photo on right) but the combination of reduced water and reduced shade did it in.


My Cordyline 'Renegade' isn't looking good.

The Cordyline as it looks today (left) and as it looked in January (right)


Some plants, while injured, should come back.

As anyone who's grown it knows, Acanthus mollis (left) can't be killed.  The Agave attenuata (middle) on the back slope is sunburned.  Ajuga genevensis (right) looks bad but there are baby plants surrounding it.


Others seem to have suffered but are hanging on, at least for now.

The sunflowers (left) I planted from seed look scraggly but determined to bloom.  While the Phylica pubescens I've got growing in a pot sailed through the heat, the 2 newer plants in the backyard border (middle) look a bit unhappy.  Even Salvia discolor (right) took a blow from the heat but, with some cutting back, it should be fine.  I'm hoping that the perennial Lupinus (not shown), which suffered tip burning, will also recover.


Like freezes, the signs of heat damage may take time to show.  I noticed more this morning than I did Monday evening and Tuesday morning.  Even some of the Agapanthus, which I'd initially thought were unaffected, are looking worse for the wear.

The light blue flowered Agapanthus shown on the left has suffered more than the darker blue and white specimens (right)


All is definitely not lost.  With the exception of the impact to our air quality, the wildfires that are having such a devasting impact elsewhere haven't affected us.  My beloved Grevilleas, Leucadendron, and many other plants weathered this round of heat.  This summer is expected to be tougher than the last one and the early blast in June certainly reinforces the threat.  I'm going to eat into the water budget I've accumulated by my miserly irrigation schedule in an effort to improve the resilience of my plants to handle the next heatwaves.  I may also reconsider my efforts to appease my foliage-hating neighbor and let the tree canopies that so offend her spread to give my garden more shade.  Shade - and the lack of it - was clearly a factor in this heat apocalypse.  I'll haul off the dead, mourn my losses, and move on.

On the positive side, for my Wednesday Vignette, there are grapes ripening in the dry garden - and the raccoons haven't got all of them (at least not yet).



Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum for more Wednesday Vignettes.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

31 comments:

  1. Oh Kris, I'm sorry. For you heat, for me rain. The climate is out to get us either way.

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    1. It really can be discouraging, Jessica. I know I'll get over it but I'm down in the dumps at the moment. I hope your rain eases up soon - our heat has tempered for the time being but I think we're in for an unpleasant summer.

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  2. The microclimate that the shade from the trees provides ... is vital! (Neighbour owes you damages for lost plants)

    Even in this kinder climate, my Phylica has done that protea thing of sulking off. Easily offended.

    40C is fierce. Certainly sorts out which plants can survive. But hard to watch, and make decisions to fit.

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    1. Maybe the Plectranthus will return, sprout from the roots, if mulched till autumn rain?

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    2. The neighbor is annoyingly blind and deaf to the issues of heat and drought but I may become deaf to her concerns in the future. She can take them up with the city.

      I hope the 2 small Phylica don't give up on me. At least the one I have in a pot seems happy. As to the Plectranthus, I still have one by the back door that's in fairly good shape. It's the plant I brought from our old house as a cutting and the source of the others so, once it recovers, I'll try taking new cuttings and find a shadier location to plant them.

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  3. It was brutal, wasn't it. Sorry for your losses. To be honest you are far better off without Western Sword Fern. Nasty invader.

    My Leucadendron 'Pisa' is a goner.

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    1. I can't remember hitting 105F here, certainly not in June anyway. Some of my agave are showing signs of edema too so perhaps part of the problem was the rapid fluctuation in the temperature. I'm (mostly) used to the slow build up of the heat over the summer leading into the misery of August and September but this felt like the flip of an electric switch. Tuesday's 30F drop in temperature was similarly dramatic.

      I'm sorry you lost 'Pisa'. I gave mine a careful look-over but she seems fine thus far. My recollection is that yours is a younger plant so perhaps that accounts for it. Mine gets partial shade during the peak afternoon hours too, which probably helped. Shade definitely made a difference with other genera in my garden.

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  4. I can commiserate with you.

    Much of my losses were a result of what Hoover said in another post: The intense heat at this time combined with the longest daylight hours of the year and the plants will all their spring growth not yet hardened, that's what did it.

    Yet a camellia that has been here forever looks headed for the trash bin, as well as the ferns growing in the planter with it. A young Agave attenuata is totally yellowed and burned. Those babies really do need shade. A Tagetes nelsoni bit the dust. It grew from two inches to 2 1/2 feet in a couple of months. It was a pretty plant with red stems and fern-like leaves. Believe it or not some of the bougainvilleas flowers have burned up as well! These plants were supposed to take the heat!
    Be prepared for more ugliness: Same intense heat forecast for the weekend.
    Plus yesterday AQMD and Kaiser told us all to stay indoors to avoid the smoke from the nearby fires.
    Whew, thank you, Kris, for allowing me space to complain.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that you got slapped hard too, Jane. You and Hoover Boo are probably right about the resilience of the new spring growth. As mentioned above, I wonder if the dramatic jump in temperature was also part of the problem. The plants didn't have a chance to acclimatize as summer heat built up gradually - the switch just got flicked to the "heat on" position.

      We've been lucky to see the return of June Gloom the past 2 days. Weather Underground and Accu Weather are predicting morning fog off and on through the weekend so we may be luckier than you there, although neither predicted the 105F temperature either. I hope the fires are brought under control and your air quality improves soon. It's not great here either.

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  5. Amazingly, I don't have any losses to speak of. A Lobelia tupa, an iffy proposition anyway, had lots of leaf burn. There's a new isopogon that I shouldn't have planted in spring, which was looking iffy before the heat, about the same after. All in all, I ended up impressed with how the garden handled those temps. I've been mulching a lot this year, and there's more shade from the cypresses and acacia on the east, and Moon Lagoon shades a bit from the afternoon western sun. You're so exposed, I think you're right that more shade from trees is needed. So glad to hear the grevilleas and leucs are OK.

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    1. I mulched heavily too, Denise. Maybe it made a difference, although it's hard to imagine how Monday could have been worse. I do have a lot less shade than I had last summer, especially along the south west side of the main front garden level and the newly planted area in front of the garage. The wind was also relentless here over the weekend, which couldn't have helped either.

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  6. Wow, you had a lot more losses than I would have expected. I feel for you. This summer is expected to be hot, followed by a dry fall and winter. That will mean letting go of even more borderline plants. Gardening is even more about adapting now than before, it seems.

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    1. Yes, I'm trying to figure out what I should do with some of the areas that were hit the hardest, especially those in the front of the property. More Grevillea, Leucadendron and succulents are in store perhaps. I should probably wait and assess the situation at the end of the summer rather than taking action to fill the holes now, even large as they are.

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  7. I heard about the heat wave but how frustrating for you. Extremes on either end bring so much loss. I don't know how anything other than a cactus can survive extreme heat and dry soil. :(

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    1. So far, it appears that the Grevilleas, Leucadendron and other Mediterranean plants made it through. Some damage may take more time to become evident but my guess is that the worst has shown itself. A lot of the damage is due to heat scorch and, although it's ugly the plants should recover - unless the summer continues to deliver blasts like the last one. The biggest challenge for me will be waiting out the summer before I replant.

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  8. Oh Kris, those images are just heartbreaking. I am so sorry. Damn tree-hating neighbor!!! At least your grapes are beautiful...are they tasty?

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    1. The grapes are still a bit tart. They need more time on the vine to ripen fully but, as there's evidence at least one critter has found them, they may not make it to that stage. My husband and I've been picking the reddest fruit from the clumps one by one just so we get some of it this year.

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  9. Oh my god, Kris - I'm so sorry! 105F is BRUTAL!!! I would have crawled under a rock somewhere and died. Your poor garden. I agree with everyone before me who has said that that neighbor needs to be told no. I think you have every right to stop being so considerate, and start focusing on self protection from the summer Death Star rays.

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    1. It was a particularly brutal heatwave and I don't think the plants had adequate time to adjust from the unusually cool spring we had to that kind of heat blast. I've never seen damage this extensive in one fell stroke. Summer usually collects its dead over a much longer period.

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  10. Oh! Kris, I feel for you, I don't think I will be able to complain about the heat here ever again. You're so careful with your plant choices and still you have so much damage, it is heartbreaking - I think you really have to ignore your neighbour and do what's right for your garden. There is so much lush soft growth on everything here that I fear that if we do have a hot summer (as they keep promising/threatening) when all that growth will just die back. Could you spread shade netting over your most prized plants during the hottest part of the day as we put fleece over our plants in winter?

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    1. I was thinking of employing umbrellas to give plants cover but some broader shade cloth cover may be the ticket, Christina. I'll see if I can get my husband to build me some movable supports.

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  11. What a disappointing turn. Glad you're able to find a few positives but I know you must be feeling distressed.

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    1. I admit that I'm feeling down about the condition of my garden, Susie. This is usually how I feel in late August/early September after summer has taken its toll. I think we really just got off easy with a relatively mild summer last year but now, as the drought enters its 5th year, the impacts are hitting me square in the face. Fall, cooler temperatures and rain seem a long way away.

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  12. Oh I am so sorry Kris, too much and too little is just as bad isn’t it? The weather isn’t very well divided between us this year either, is it? I wish you could have some of the rain my garden has had the last 3 months because over here my dahlias are rotting in the ground from oversaturated soil – a problem I have never had before – and you probably never ever will face!
    Lovely to see your grapes, I am tinkering with the idea of growing grapes in my garden – it is possible here in London, but needs more space than I am probably willing to spend so it might just be an idea and nothing more.

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    1. It's the combination of the lack of rain and the intense heat that knocked the 1-2 punch this year, Helene. I can't remember the temperature going this high in the 5 years we've been here and the rapid change from relatively cool conditions was unprecedented. It's silly to plant anything now but I'm going to hate facing all those empty spaces for 3 months.

      I inherited the grapes with the house and garden. They DO take up a lot of room. The prior owner put in 3 vines - way to many for the size of the space - and I took out 2 of them. One vine is about all I can handle.

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  13. I think the fact that the heatwave lasted for days made it so much worse :( The heat built up more gradually here, so I didn't have the problem of lush growth - what a tough situation for the plants! Too bad about your ferns; my western native Lilium pardilinum didn't even survive till the heatwave. I guess western woodland plants aren't going to make it in these situations! Too bad, as there were others I wanted to try...
    I do think the crape myrtles handled the heat exceptionally well here, though it may be a question of variety selection too.
    Do you use paper bags to protect the grapes as they ripen? I've seen that recommendation here and wondered how well it works. Your photo makes my mouth water ;-)

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    1. Yes, I do believe the sudden jump in temperature was one of the factors in my heat apocalypse, although unfortunately not one I could've done much of anything about.

      I tried both mesh bags and paper bags to protect the grapes last year and got moldy grapes in both cases so I didn't bother with either approach this year. I checked the grapes this evening and most of the red ones have been stripped so I've got critters with taste buds picking them off this year (as opposed to the birds who'll get even the green ones). Oh well...

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  14. I'm SOOOO sorry about your plants! I'm enduring the same here in Austin. I just pulled out all the plants in a small bed against the sunroom window because the was just no point. Ugh.

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    1. Thanks for the sympathy, Wendy. It's a bit of a shock really. I hear the Texas bloggers talk about their "Death Star" but it's a surprise to receive a personal visit.

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  15. Heartbreaking, to be sure. To quote the Brits: 'Keep Calm and Carry On' ;)

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    1. I'm trying not to be hyper-dramatic about it, Eliza, but I don't think I'm succeeding. The garden really is hard to look at - much less enjoy - at the moment.

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