Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Flower Care in the Hot, Hot Summer

Down here in the South we have two summer seasons; hot and hotter.

Once May slips through we’re into summer. And there won’t be much of a break from the heat until October/November. As the summer months crawl along, the heat builds up, day after day. Sometimes we get an afternoon rain to give us relief, but the humidity just builds until there’s a good old-fashioned thunderstorm. Or even worse, a hurricane!
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It goes without saying the plants we planted for color and beauty during the winter months will not survive in this hot heat. Even in the shade, the sturdiest of plants will suffer.
That’s why it is important to pick summer annuals to replace your winter annuals. You can still achieve a beautiful garden by using the right plants.

Listed below are summer annuals I like to use.
Caladiums, Cassandra, Periwinkle, Purslane, Sedum, Pentas, Portulaca, Lantana, Bush Daisy, Blue Daze, Angelina, Coleus, Phlox, Dipladenia, Scaevola, Gomphrena, Zinnia, Sunpatiens, Mexican Heather, Gaura, Society Garlic, and some varieties of Begonias.

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Along with selecting the right plants, proper care is essential. You need to make sure that the plants are watered consistently and thoroughly, fertilized when needed and check for insects weekly. This also means removing debris from around the base of the plant, looking at the underside of the leaves for the critters and snapping off any problem areas. Because the plants grow so fast during the summer months, the insects thinks it’s a feeding frenzy for them. A healthy plant will tolerate an insect infestation much better than a week plant, and that’s why it’s important to make sure they’re watered and fertilized properly.
With all this heat and humidity it is also important to keep an eye out for disease, mold and fungus problems.

This is also when most landscapers do their hard cut-backs on the landscape plants. Often this looks severe, but the plants will flush back out over the summer months to their full lush beauty. In the meantime, the area where you had your winter annuals may now be exposed to the full brunt of the summer sun, with no shade from the surrounding shrubbery. You need to be aware of these changes when you decide what plants to plant.
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But don’t be afraid to continue to garden in the summer months. Switch out those old tired annuals and put in fresh flowers that will last the summer.

Then hop in the pool and enjoy your garden.
Go ahead, you earned it!

 

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A Good Day in the Garden

Any days a good day… 
                                         If you can get into the garden.

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And every day is a different day in your garden.

Sights, sounds, smells; they change by the day, by the hour, and by the minute. If you’re in your garden enjoying your time there, you’ll soon notice this. Some changes will be subtle, and some will be in-your-face. But you need to be aware of your garden’s activity to enjoy it. 

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I have a bird feeder in my garden (actually I have three) and I get a wide range of birds visiting. The same birds seem to visit, over and over, I could almost name them and tell you what time of day they will show up, demanding a meal. I have a couple rabbits who scurry in and out from the bushes when they think no one will notice them. And the squirrels rule the whole domain. Occasionally I have a falcon who appears, looking for meal, but he doesn’t stay long. Once he leaves, everybody else comes back out to play. The egrets come to visit; flocks of white, unusual looking birds with their long legs and equally long beaks, looking for bugs and worms.  A pair of Sand-hill Cranes may wander into the neighborhood. They meander in and out amongst the backyards, breaking the peace with their loud cry. Sometimes we’re even lucky enough to see the furry little chicks that come along with them.

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It seems like each animal has its own cycle to be in my garden, and they almost become complacent about sharing your garden. The last couple days I’ve been very surprised to look out my window and see a pair of ducks. I know there’s no water around my house, so I don’t know where they came from. They arrive every day right around three p.m., stay for bit, and then they go on their merry way. 
There’s also cycle butterflies and  colorful moths that come to the garden. Being lucky to live in South Florida, I get to see  the migration when the monarchs come in.
When the date palms produce seedpods, they become a hub of activity. The bumble bees arrive in swarms. Not only can you see them, but you can clearly hear the bees buzzing around the pods as they open, trying to get as much nectar as possible from the flowers before they turn into seeds.
If I happen to be in my garden when there’s a storm approaching you can even smell the rain coming. And on those many summer days when the heat and humidity are overwhelming, the heat will hold the smells from the gardenia, jasmine and honeysuckle, practically overwhelming you with their scents.

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Personally, I enjoy the approach of the storm clouds. They bring out different colors you might not notice in the full sun. The sky turns different shades as the clouds approach; the wind picks up and you can smell everything from dust to flowers.
So rain or shine, sunrise or dusk, I find it’s great to spend time in the garden. 

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

The Gift of Rain

The Gift of Rain.

The gift of rain can do many things for us; water the crops so that we can eat, fill the lakes and ponds so that we can drink. The rain does much more than that and it truly is a gift.

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Have you ever noticed how some much-needed rain can change your whole attitude? It can wash off the dust, clear the cobwebs to refresh and renew you. Not only can the rain renew you, the rain can change your whole outlook. On a gloomy, dismal day the sun breaks out in amongst the rain and it can create a rainbow. But, remember, that rainbow wouldn’t be possible without the rain. The gentle rainfall can be relaxing and peaceful versus the thunder and lightning and pounding rain of a good storm can be frightening. Yet, without the change of rain types we would never be able to experience all the rain has to offer.

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Rain has many benefits as you well know. It opens the flowers, which produces seeds, which produces food. The results of a good rain will green-up your lawn and open the leaves on the trees giving this world the oxygen it needs. And the oxygen wouldn’t be there without the green plants and the green plants wouldn’t be able to survive without the rain; are you seeing the circle we live within? Sometimes the gift of rain comes in abundance and it’s almost too much for us to handle. Other times we find ourselves praying for rain to save our farms and livestock. Whatever amounts of rain we receive, we should always be grateful, because it means our world, our precious earth, is producing and growing and surviving.

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So, the next time you find yourself caught in a rain storm, will you moan and groan about the inconvenience?

Or, will you be grateful for the gift of rain?

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Posted in The Southern Garden, Uncategorized

A Southern Rain

 Rain in the south is different from up north.
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Songs are written about the rain– there’s a country one out about rain, corn, and whiskey. Conversations are made about the rain; perfect strangers will think nothing of commenting to you in an elevator or on a sidewalk about the lack of rain or the overabundance of rain. Because down here that seems to be how it is. We get it either too much or not at all…
It’s sweltering hot and humid and we’re dying for the rain,  the lawns are turning crispy and folks are looking for cloud cover to just cool the temperature couple of degrees.
Or it’s raining so hard the parking lots are flooding. Backyard suddenly look like they are hosting a small lake, and roads look like they have rivers running down them.
If you pay attention, you can tell when the storm is going to hit.Yes, the sky gets dark and the wind picks up, but there’s other signs too. The birds and the squirrels are suddenly eating like crazy out of the bird feeders.  There’s a stillness just before the storm hits, not only with the movement of the wind, but with the sound of the animals. And then the first crack  of thunder breaks the silence. You run for cover.
It’s not uncommon to see rain coming down heavy across the street, and your yard is getting nothing-not a drop. And then, just like that, it’s over. Their lawns are wet and yours is still crispy.
But there’s a saying down here about the weather:
Wait 5 minutes and it will change.
Roads that were flooded are clear in a matter of hours. You can almost see the grass getting greener as it sucks up the water and overnight the difference is amazing.
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There’s a fern that grows on the Live Oaks called Resurrection Fern. When the rain comes the foliage turns into beautiful green within hours, but when it’s dry the fern is brown and dead-looking. The rain resurrects it once more to beautiful plant.  The trees are covered in green lush foliage from the fern growing up the branches and trunks. Everything has a new fresh look to it. The dust is going from the leaves,  the plants shimmer in the sunlight, the grass is green once again. For a few minutes the humidity is gone and you can almost feel a hint of coolness in the breeze. The birds come back out in full force, singing happily, the cricket start chirping and the squirrels are running from tree to tree to make sure that their nest are still intact.
So a Southerner may lament the lack of rain and then moan about a couple of days of steady rain. But to me there’s no better place to live than down here in South Florida. Because after all; just wait 5 minutes and the weather will change.
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