August 2017
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Tall and Successful

While some fancy hybrid lilies may not be easy to grow in parts of Alabama, the old-fashioned, white Formosa lily (also called Philippine lily) thrives and multiplies. Look for it in bloom at this time of year – it’s the tallest lily in the landscape. Formosa resembles an Easter lily, only it’s 5 or 6 feet tall (and will need a stake for rainy and windy weather). What a wonderful item to enjoy at night when the white flowers glisten in moonlight while their sweet fragrance attracts giant hummingbird (sphinx) moths! Another plus is that they reseed, giving you lots of seedlings to share with friends. In fact, that may the easiest way to find a Formosa lily. The lily grows throughout the state, but is most popular along the coast where many other Lilium species and hybrids struggle. Look for it in the garden of a friend, at local plant sales or a favorite garden center. Like all other lilies, the stalks will gradually die back at the end of the season, but the plant will bloom again next year. Don’t pull it, just cut back the stalk after it naturally dies back in the fall.

 

Summer Croton Also Perfect for Fall

Often sold as a summer houseplant, croton is a good choice for containers outdoors. Great as a late-season purchase, most plants sold at this time are large enough to fill a container instantly. Use them in full sun or partial shade to freshen a porch or patio. Later, the red, orange and yellow leaves work very well for autumn decoration. In frost-free areas, crotons are landscape plants, but here they don’t survive winter freezes. However, they can overwinter indoors in a bright window. Some leaves will drop, but, if the plants stay healthy, new leaves will sprout next summer when you move the plants outside again. You can give them a shower or two during the winter to help keep the foliage clean and free of mites.

 

When Kousa dogwood fruits, everybody looks.

It’s a Dogwood!

They might make you think of a cross between cherries and sweet gum balls, but they are neither. They are the fruit of a dogwood, but not the one that is so well known. This is the fruit of Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), or Chinese dogwood. Not only does it put on a show at this time of year but in the spring it waits until our native dogwoods have finished blooming before opening its white blossoms in late May and June. Fruit that looks like Christmas ornaments follow the flowers in July and August! There are several named selections of Kousa dogwood, including the well-known Empress of China, part of the Southern Living Plant Collection. Kousa dogwood is not bothered by anthracnose, a leaf spot disease that disfigures plants, especially those growing in sun or under stressful conditions.

 

 

Left, the green or brown pupa of the black swallowtail is sometimes found attached to a plant or structure around the house. Above, pretty parsleyworms eventually morph into beautiful black swallowtail butterflies.

 

Swallowtail

Those beautiful black swallowtail butterflies flying from flower to flower may have grown up in your garden. Parsley is one of the caterpillar’s favorite foods, which also earns it the nickname "parsleyworm." It feeds on members of the parsley family including Queen Anne’s lace, dill, carrot, fennel and celery. It also likes citrus, rue and milkweed. Adult butterflies land on nectar-rich flowers such as glossy abelia, zinnia, purple coneflower, sedum, butterfly bush, garlic chives, porterweed, Joe Pye weed, lantana, butterfly weed and many others. If you see a chrysalis like the one pictured above attached by two threads, check it regularly and you may see the butterfly emerge. Watch for these now, as they are on their second or third generation and more numerous than earlier in the season.

 

Fall Vegetable Garden

It seems unlikely to be thinking about a fall garden now, but this is the month to start seeds of many crops that will mature as the weather cools in the fall. To me, fall is the best time to garden, especially after the weather has cooled enough to control insects. Right now there is still time to seed early-maturing bush beans and summer squash directly in the garden for a late-summer and early-fall harvest; basil and dill, too. It’s also time to direct seed many cold-hardy crops such as beets, mustard greens, snap peas, Swiss chard, carrots and turnips. Cover carrot seeds with a board and check them daily, uncover when most of them have sprouted. The board provides needed cool and darkness. It’s also time to start seeds of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower and endive, or purchase transplants later in the month to set out in early September. Lettuce might need a little more time in the shade because it is bad about bolting in hot weather. Timing is everything for the fall garden because crops must be planted early enough to catch the mild fall days for good growth before the shorter, colder days of winter.

 

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