Sunday
Aug112019

Hot Summer in the Garden

It's miserably hot and humid. I am sweating like an oil rig worker within moments of walking outside. I wear lots of sunscreen, so the broiling effect is enhanced. 

I should not complain. This is completely normal weather for Alabama in August. I have lived here all my life, so I should be used to it by now. Overall, our summer has not been a bad one. The good news is that September is coming.

Meanwhile, most of the garden looks something like this, with little color other than shades of green. Interest comes from various textures and the play of shadow and light:

A little pink shows in the tropical bromeliads plopped down beside a woodland garden path:

A bowl of succulents also provides some subtle color:

Many flowers don't fare well in our August climate. Lots of them look like this:

Bright pink Pentas are an annual that revels in the heat, though in its hanging basket it does need to be watered regularly. It attracts many butterflies and other pollinators, except when I wanted to take a photo! I had to settle for this decorative iron hummingbird:

I have several dwarf butterfly bushes (Buddleia), and they have also been a butterfly magnet through the summer:

Here are more flowers that bloom reliably through the hottest part of our summer:Clockwise from top left: Helenium and purple Veronica; Tropical Hibiscus; Delicate white bloom of Persicaria 'Red Dragon'; Annual Angelonia with yellow marigold in the background.

In the woodland garden I placed a ceramic mushroom on a stump. Its cap wiggles in the wind. This one is understated, but ornaments are a good way to add a bit of color to a green garden:

Finally, Tradescantia zebrine, also called Striped Wandering Jew, is an easy-care annual hanging in a shady area near the arbor garden. I love its beautiful variegated foliage. I have lost more than one plant in a hanging basket this summer. Not this one.

Sunday
Aug042019

Taming a Monster: Pruning the Jasmine Arch

It amazes me how sometimes I can ignore a developing problem in the garden (or other areas of my life!) until the issue suddenly overwhelms me. This is what happened with the two jasmine vines, Trachelospermum jasminoides, that cover the arch by the patio. 

Yes, Confederate jasmine, also called star jasmine, is a vigorous vine, but I love the lush look and the thousands of fragrant late spring blooms. This is the jasmine arch a few years ago. I pruned it only minimally since then.Earlier this year my husband Lou attempted to control its growth by shearing it, which solved the problem for a couple of days, until the plant responded with multiple spurts of growth at every single cut he had made. Hint: Don't shear a jasmine vine unless you are using it as a ground cover. Otherwise it becomes a monster pruning problem. I told Lou to stop shearing it. Instead, I began tucking excessive shoots into and around the arch.

Then one day Lou complained that he no longer could walk under the arch. All those long tendrils I had been working with were escaping the arch and threatening to devour passersby. I discovered that even I had to duck to get through, and I am a foot shorter than my husband.

I did some research about the proper procedure for pruning a jasmine vine. I was not encouraged. One source told me to detangle the vine and then lay it on the ground, cut back one third to two thirds of the growth, then finally reattach the vines to the support. Once I started, I realized how difficult this was going to be. I have a mature vine on each side of the arch, and the two were hopelessly twined together. This is what the arch looked like just after I started:

Over two days, I patiently detangled as many vines as possible, then trimmed away excessive side growth and shortened main stems. It was a rather sticky job, since jasmine excretes a sap when cut. I realized that I should have been doing this every year as soon as it finished blooming. Then my vines would not have become so out-of-control. Lesson learned. 

Here is the final result:

It was worth the trouble. I am looking forward to next year's blooms. I can see the arch again, and dear hubby has no problem walking beneath it. 

For more information about Confederate jasmine see my previous post:  Confederate Jasmine for a Fragrant Layer in the Garden