Friday, July 30, 2021

Summer Spruce Up

Summer is my least favorite season.  It's hot and it's very, very dry.  Many of my plants shut down or go into hiding.  Gaps develop in spots throughout the garden.  I hesitate to fill them as new plants need more water and, with California's request to reduce water consumption by 15 percent, there's too little to go around.  Try as I can to shut my eyes and wait out summer, hoping for rain in the fall, I usually break down and do at least some planting.  I consider succulents fair game but this year I've gone a bit off the rails.

The bed in the foreground here was driving me crazy.  This photo was taken at the end of June.  The white-flowered Argyranthemum looked worse with every passing day thereafter and all the filler plants around them did too.  I considered planting the whole area in succulents but fell prey to a pretty face in the form of a new-to-me Echibeckia.

I brought home the Echibeckia, an intergeneric hybrid of Echinacea and Rudbeckia, and purchased inexpensive 6-packs of other plants to fill in the area around it.  The coleus was labeled as suitable for sun or shade and, although I feared I'd been sold a bill of goods on their sun tolerance, I planted them anyway.

Clockwise from the upper left, the plants I used included Echibeckia 'Summerina Orange', Dymondia margaretae, Gazania 'Tiger Stripe Mix', and Plectranthus scuttelariodes 'Rustic Orange' (aka coleus)

Deciding that the coleus wasn't going to branch out unless I cut it back, I did just that.  Now the area looks scruffy again but I'm hoping the coleus bounces back quickly.

The coleus stems I cut were trimmed down and put in water to root.  If the plants in the ground die due to exposure to full sun, at least I should have some rooted cuttings to plant elsewhere (in the shade).

I've added some small plants here and there to fill gaps in other beds too but this week I focused on sprucing up selected containers.

Actually, I augmented this half barrel in early June, filling in a gap left when I pulled out rust-encrusted snapdragons with a Dahlia 'Waltzing Matilda' tuber purchased during a last-chance sale and a strawflower seedling (Xerochrysum bracteatum) given to me by Denise of A Growing Obsession

Even through the dahlia isn't blooming yet, I love the look of the barrel.  The yellow and orange Lantana has been in the barrel for at least 2 years now but I cut it back hard in June and it's looking great again.

There had been pansies and a yellow Argyranthemum in this pot with the dark blue Scaevola.  I pulled the dead pansies, cut back the Scaevola, and replaced the Argyranthemum with Helianthus 'Choco Sun', a dwarf sunflower.  Argyranthemum will come back here but it doesn't look at all good in its off season.

Earlier this week I read a post by Margaret at The Gardening Me about refreshing her front door pots and decided I really should do something about the two largest pots by my own front door, both of which were looking truly awful.

It didn't help that I haven't been watering these pots enough.  The pansies and Bacopa were dead and the shrubs, Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata' and Boronia 'Shark's Bay', were looking sad.  I left the shrubs but I may yet pull the Boronias as they've been disappointing.

I filled in with two groundcover plants at the base.  As I'd allowed the soil in the pot to dry out more than I should have, I used a wetting agent (surfactant) when I watered.  It seems to have helped.

The groundcover plants I used were Calibrachoa 'Double Lemon' (top) and Scaevola 'Bondi Blue' (bottom)

I haven't entirely ignored succulents this summer.  I filled two new containers, one of which I inserted in a garden bed to fill a hole.

I booted the plant that had been in this pot and popped in my new Mangave 'Night Owl'

Another recent purchase, bromeliad Orthophytum 'Gerkenii', went into an empty pot I had tucked behind our garage.  It's new home is my lath (shade) house.

Do you plant during the summer months, or wait until temperatures are cooler?


All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

26 comments:

  1. That's going to be a lovely combination when it fills in - as you know I'm a BIG fan of coleus! It's SO hard to pinch them back as they just seem tiny when you do so initially. Before they fill in I always feel as if I have to explain to people that pop by that I pinched them back and that's why they look so sad, lol! A lovely refresh on those pots and I love the echibeckia - not a surprise as I'm a huge fan of both of it's parents :) Do you know what zone it's hardy to?

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    1. Monrovia's online listing for the Echibeckia says it's suitable to zones 6-10. As both Echinaceas and Rudbeckias struggle in my climate (USDA winter hardiness zone 11a), I'm not convinced it'll have a long life here but I hope it lasts beyond one season. My biggest issue problem seems to be providing sufficient soil moisture.

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  2. Those last two plants are perfectly paired with their pot colours.

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    1. Thanks, Diana, I thought so too. That was mainly luck as I repurposed pots I already had for a change :)

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  3. I had the thought that you feel about summer the way I feel about winter... not a happy time in the garden!
    Didn't know that they have crossed Echinacea with Rudbeckia, but I'm not surprised. Both are popular plants.
    Your sprucing up the pots looks good and I expect your coming and going by them is mood brightening.
    I planted a pink scaveola this year in my droughty window box on the shed and have fallen in love with it... non-stop blooms always look good, along with Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' and a yellow portulaca. It's a lesson to try new things!

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    1. Yes, I've drawn parallels between winter in colder climates and our miserably dry, usually hot summer too. We've been remarkably lucky with respect to our temperatures to date - we haven't topped 100F here near the coast yet that I recall and there are no major fires in the immediate area. Fire remains a significant issue in NorCal, though, and the inland valleys in SoCal have had triple digit temperatures fairly regularly.

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  4. I admit to planting in summer. Often I will protect the plant for a couple of weeks with a shade cloth covered tomato cage . I shared your skepticism regarding 'sun' Coleus , and last year I decided to put them to the test and mail-ordered several from Rosy Dawn . I can say it was a great success , but they need plenty of water and all of mine are in large containers so even more so. They did so well I ordered them again this year.

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    1. Yes, I also feared that extra water would be part of the equation, although today it was the Echibeckia and not the coleus that was looked peaked!

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  5. You do much more than I do in the summer. Here it is only watering, cringing, and sulking.

    The Coleus, Echibeckia area looks really good. Should be great in September looking autumnal in those colors. Hopefully no Raccoon digging.

    B&N much improved this morning. Whew!

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    1. I really have done a lot more planting this summer than usual. I'm blaming pandemic-related stress...The raccoons are still here, as are the possums and the gophers. I check for upturned plants every morning and have deployed all my wire cloches to provide new plants some protection.

      I'm very glad to hear that B&N are on the mend :)

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  6. Both of your succulents are perfectly matched to their pots! It's interesting in that every time I look at West Coast temperatures this summer, Los Angles is cooler than Portland.

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    1. It's true, Loree! I'm surprised that we've dodged a major heatwave so far too but it's almost impossible to believe that'll last...

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  7. I have no doubt that your coleus will fill in fast. It seems that your plants grow fast. The mangave is really a cool looking plant. I have never seen one this color before. I would love to have one just because of the name 'Night Owl'.

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    1. I think this is a relatively new Mangave, Lisa. I first saw it in early April but passed as it was pricey. I usually buy them small and wait, but a friend gave me a gift card for my birthday with this plant in mind so I had to buy it ;)

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  8. Love how your new plantings echo the colors of CA summer; blue for sea and sky, yellow for the sun, and brown for our vegetation ;).

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    1. The colors of the Echibeckia make me think of fall - I think I'm trying to conjure an early change of season ;)

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  9. Hard to keep motivated when it is so hot and dry. Refreshing your pots is a good way to keep things from looking too parched. I keep telling myself there is lots of growing season left even though it feels like late August. The Echibeckia looks interesting. I grow a few of the sun loving coleus in pots where they do well but they need lots of moisture to keep looking good.

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    1. We look at mid-late summer somewhat like the way I imagine you look at winter, Elaine - it's a season to wait out as patiently as we can. The water required by the "sun coleus" is probably a factor I should have considered before I planted it as water use is a sore spot now.

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  10. The Echibeckia, Coleus, Gazania area with Dymondia will look fantastic. The colors of the specific Echibeckia, Coleus, and Ganzania blend perfectly. In 2019, Frankie at Elwood’s had shown me her catalog with Echibeckia when I went to purchase the Rudbeckias for the Garden for the Senses at SCBG. I thought it was an interesting hybrid and this is the first time I have heard someone use it! I found Coleus will easily propagate in wet perlite if placed in a plastic bag to increase humidity. Roots appeared in a few days and certainly in less than a week.
    Congratulations on your new Mangave ‘Night Owl.’ It is a beautiful specimen and looks fantastic in that container. I also adore your “Strawflower” with perfect bloom colors. I haven’t had this plant for years, but in the days when I use to have them, the genus was Helichrysum.

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    1. I've already got some roots developing on the coleus cuttings but I should've cut more of the leaves away at the outset. Adding an element to increase humidity and placing them away from morning sun probably also would have been a good idea! The strawflowers seem to be yet another species to be given a new name, although for a change I actually find this name easy to remember.

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  11. Summer is a wonderful time here in Wisconsin; winter not so much. I can see why people often have homes or cottages in different parts of the country. Believe it or not, though, it's been too hot and dry here this summer to plant much and expect great results without lots of water. My Coleus plants (potted in spring) are doing well, but of course I water them regularly and they are only annuals here. Your garden is amazing, and I'm sure your new additions will be just fine. :)

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    1. If I had any sense, the only thing I'd be planting would be succulents in pots, Beth. I had a dream of having a tiny summer house near water somewhere in the PNW but the recent heatwaves up that way have me rethinking the value of that (even if I could convince my husband).

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  12. Kris, you have so many creative ideas for your garden. And you seem to have boundless energy too. Your garden is amazing.

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    1. I don't know about boundless energy, Susie - the heat and humidity is restricting my gardening activity at the moment, although temperatures aren't as high as we usually see in July and August.

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  13. Kris -
    I have read that the roots a cutting grows in water are of no use to it once it is planted in soil, offering no head start for growing in soil.
    I have also read that if you do root cuttings in water, you should transplant the cuttings to soil as soon as you see the tiny white beginnings of roots.
    So, should I put my cuttings in water to root? Or directly in soil? Or even in soil with a rooting hormone?
    Can any of your learned readers help me out here with The Truth?
    -Sally in Northern California

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    1. Sally, I've planted coleus cuttings rooted in water before with some success, although if I recall correctly, I haven't tried planting them out during the summer months. Planting anything in summer here is a dicey proposition. My orange coleus cuttings developed roots quickly but the plants got too much sun exposure sitting in a window so most of them went into my compost bin; however, I planted out 2 cuttings just yesterday. It's too early to give you a report on those. I also planted 3 stems of another coleus I'd used in a vase 2 weeks ago but again, I can't yet declare the transplants successful yet. I use rooting hormone for most other cuttings, which usually go immediately into a mix of compost and planting mix until they root.

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