Those aren't lottery numbers, they're the high temperatures recorded in my neck of the woods over the past six days.
At Nashville airport, it actually hit 109 degrees (42.8 celsius) on June 29, setting an all-time high temperature record
That's right, the highest temperature ever recorded in Nashville since modern record-keeping began back in 1871, over 140 years ago.
Oh and did I mention we have had basically no rain for over a month?
What does that do to a garden? It ain't pretty, folks. I'll spare you pics of the worst of the carnage today and just say that I'm fighting to keep most plants alive.
At the same time, I'm perversely interested to see what will survive. Especially in an age of scarce resources, I believe that coddle our gardens far too much. I think I want a garden that can prosper - or at least survive - with little intervention or assistance.
Is that too much to ask?
In any case, I have not been living up to that ideal, but I have taken feeble steps in that direction by refraining from watering every
day and limiting my watering to every other day.
(The exception is the vegetable garden. It's not fair to ask vegetables that were bred to be edible, not drought-resistant, to survive on their own. It would be like throwing a toy poodle into the Amazon jungle. So the cucumbers, the beans and the stubbornly small okra seedlings get some daily water. The tomatoes though, which are well-established, only get a deep watering every other day.)
So how are some of the previous garden superstars doing in this infernal weather? Not so well...
Remember the Rozanne perennial geraniums covered in blooms back in early June
? This is the same plant now:
|Perennial geranium 'Rozanne', nary a bloom in sight|
I had thought perennial geraniums like Rozanne were drought-tolerant, but as with my last post, I find that when I go back to look at the Bluestone Perennials plant description
, I must have actually focused on heat
tolerance rather than drought
That's a big difference. Rozanne might do great in steamy tropical wet Florida -- or even in a normal Tennessee summer punctuated by regular downpours -- but it doesn't seem to have much tolerance when the rains fail.
In any case, I tried cutting back the dead growth on my three Rozannes. (I was guided in part by this article
that suggests a big cutback can promote rebloom, though I'd be happy with just having them survive to bloom next year.) As a relatively novice gardener, I'm not sure if that was a good idea or not. Would more experienced gardeners like to chime in? Do you typically cut back drought-stressed perennials.
The trimmed Rozannes look better...for now. But we'll see how they fare through July and August...
|Rozanne geranium after a major haircut|
Since I was in a trimming mood, I also cut back two of the three gauras. Again, I was guided by an article
that said: "If the plants are looking tired prune again in summer to encourage a further flush of flowers."
But what is the best way to trim a wild and sprawling gaura that has ceased flowering?
|How do you tame a plant like a gaura? (Apologies to Sound of Music.)|
I tried two methods of pruning with these two plants:
1) For the plant on the right, I grabbed bundles of the long floppy stems and cut them back close to where the leafy bottom part of the gaura begins, maybe 8-inches off the ground.
2) Cutting bundles of stems is hard work, so for the plant on the left, I tried to cut back even further. I mostly chopped this plant back to its woody stems. One cut to a woody stem severs all the floppy ones above it, so fewer total cuts are needed. But I'm a bit concerned that I may have cut back the plant too severely.
There were a lot of dead leaves at the base of both plants, particularly the one on the left. I'm not sure if this is typical (it's only my 2nd year growing gaura and I know they are supposed to be short-lived plants), but I suspect that it's at least partly the result of the heat and the drought.
Well, here is a photo showing one trimmed and one soon-to-be trimmed gaura:
|Short-haired gaura vs. Long-haired guara :)|
With the trimming done, I took a walk around and visited some other plants, like this heat-and-drought stressed lily. I can't remember the name of these lilies we planted last year, but all three of them did come back and they were looking pretty good until about two or three weeks ago when they started yellowing at the base. Not all the flowers have opened and the ones that did open weren't looking all that happy. So I cut some of the flowers and brought them inside where we could enjoy the beautiful fragrance. The ones that are inside in the a/c and sitting in a vase of water look much happier now!
|Lily struggling in the heat.|
|A cool and comfortable lily blooming widely and fragrantly in the air-conditioned house|
As we established in a post about 10 days ago, the zinnias are looking extremely drought-stricken. But I've been watering them faithfully every couple of days and most of them seem to be (barely) hanging in there. The ones that are left are visited regularly by gold finches and butterflies. Many of the butterflies are little brown skippers, but there are other beautiful visitors including this one:
|Black and blue butterfly (swallowtail?) on zinnia|
|Same butterfly, same plant, different flower, different angle|
Finally, let's take a walk around to the North side of the house. It's a bit cooler and shadier over here, which means that while several of the Natchez crape myrtles sitting in direct sun on the west side of the house have stopped flowering and are sulking with drooping leaves, the ones on the North side of the house are looking much fresher and just starting to cover themselves with flowers. It's a welcome sight from an aesthetic standpoint, and I'm guessing that the bees are happy as well.
|Lavender crape myrtle blossoms|
|Smaller reddish-pink crape myrtle has grown a lot and has many more flowers this year compared to last year. I'm not sure if it will stay shrub-sized or grow into a small tree. This one is more susceptible to powdery mildew than either the Natchez or lavender crape myrtles, but so far it has fought off the mildew on its own to produce a multitude of flowers|
|Close up on reddish-pink crape myrtle flowers that harmonize nicely with the brick wall background|
That's all for now. Weather.com is calling for a 95% chance of rain in the next six hours. Accuweather says 90% probability of rain. I hope they are right!
Conversation starter --- Do you pamper your garden with life-sustaining water in times of drought or do you practice tough love and create your own little Darwinian survival-of-the-toughest situation?