July 2014
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

 
  Crinum is an old Southern lily. Plant it and let it be because these plants don’t like to be moved.

Crinums Worth the Wait

Summer is the season to search for crinums in bloom and hope your neighbors will share. These old Southern bulbs live a long, long time. You may not find every type for sale in garden centers, but they are usually available by mail order from some companies that specialize in bulbs and perennials, if you need a source. When you find your crinum, plant it in a spot where you can let it be because these are plants that don’t like to be moved. Over time the clump will grow larger and larger. Crinums also go by names such as milk-and-wine lily, St. John’s lily, Creole lily and star lily.

A Red Picket Fence?

Not exactly a conventional fence color, this red picket fence was spotted in the big city of Chicago, but it’s an idea that is adaptable anywhere, especially around a kitchen or flower garden. In winter, the red pickets can add some color to an otherwise bleak landscape. The blue morning glory winding over the structure is especially nice for summer. Other vine ideas might be yellow jessamine for late winter, clematis for spring, tropical vines for summer and climbing aster (Ampelaster carolinianus) for fall.

Oleander Loves the Summer

When the weather is hot, oleander keeps on blooming through hot weather in blazing sun and in poor soil. It is a good choice for a container or the ground in South Alabama anywhere the soil drains well. At the beach, it tolerates salt spray. In North Alabama, look for cold-hardy varieties: Pink, Hardy Red, Double Yellow (also sold as Matilde Ferrier) and Sister Agnes. Because oleander is toxic, do not burn the leaves or plant it where children or pets might be tempted to chew on any part of it.

Go Easy on the Lawn

Ever watch your lawn turn brown overnight in the summer after you mow? Mowing during a dry spell will weaken the grass and open the turf for more baking by the hot sun. Wait until the weather breaks to mow. The grass isn’t growing in a drought. It’s just trying to stay alive. When the weather breaks and it begins to grow again, raise the mower blade to its maximum setting for the rest of the summer. Taller grass grows deeper roots and shades itself, too. Water thoroughly. One good, deep watering is better than multiple shallow waterings. Deep watering (at least an inch of water at a time) encourages roots to reach down into the ground, creating a deep root system making the grass more drought tolerant so you don’t have to water as often. Also avoid fertilizing in the middle of a drought. The plant food won’t be utilized and it could even burn the grass. By this time, warm-season lawns should have received the feedings they need, and cool-season lawns aren’t ready for feeding until early fall.

 
Succulents on a window shelf can be set out in summer and brought indoors for winter.  

Succulents Like it Dry

One way to beat the heat and still enjoy a window box is to plant it with succulents. Succulents are usually desert plants built to naturally take the heat and bright sun. You can plant them in their own individual pots on a shelf, like the ones pictured here, or plant them in a hay basket. Because they are desert plants, they don’t like rich, moist potting mix. Use a soil made for potting cactus, or make your own with equal parts perlite, builder’s sand and a premium potting mix. This will give the plants good aeration and drainage to help avoid rot during rainy weather.

A Different Twist on Chives

In bloom in July or August, garlic chives are relatives of onions and chives, but their thin, flat, leaves taste very much like garlic, only milder. You can use them raw or near the end of any cooking process (their mild flavor is destroyed by heat). The pretty, edible flowers also have a mild garlic taste. If you keep the flowers harvested, the plants will produce more leaves. Now is a good time to find friends who have this plant and make arrangements to collect some seeds. They sprout easily. This same quality causes them to reseed readily in the garden, so keep that in mind. They will grow in full sun or partial shade. These perennial plants are tough, enduring summer and winter with no problem. Garlic also grows well in pots, which is a good way to grow them if reseeding becomes a problem. After a couple of years, the original clumps will need dividing in spring.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.