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August in Alabama

The sky is so bright the blue pops like cerulean paint splashed against a white wall. Hot air blankets the earth, moist and thick. We all shrug at the soaring temperature and humidity. It is August in Alabama, and what do you expect? I watch clouds form in the afternoon and evaluate their potential for rain.I am thankful we have not had a drought this summer, but even a day or two of high nineties heat can cause plants, as well as people, to wilt.

The clouds thunder and rain briefly pours over us. There is temporary refreshment, but when the sun comes out again, steam rises from the drive's hot pavement and only increases the sauna-like conditions.Deodar cedar 'Feelin' Blue' grows along the edge of the drive that overlooks the woodland garden. Steam rises from the road after a brief summer shower.But summer will soon begin to fade, and within a month the weather will be changing. Meanwhile, a quick tour of the garden:

The succulents take the heat gracefully. Not many plants will survive the summer in concrete pots, but these do well. I initially planted Sedum 'Vera Johnson' in the ground, where it languished for several years. After I transplanted it to this old concrete pot, it began to flourish.

Echeveria runyonii 'Topsy Turvy' is another succulent that is blooming this summer. It is growing in a hypertufa pot in full sun.

Hydrangea 'Limelight' continues to bloom, despite the heat. It is in partial sun, and I do have to water it whenever we don't get rain for a few days. I can see the blooms from the kitchen window. They brighten my day, for the greenish-white panicles truly glow amidst the greenery of the garden.

My watering can is put to good use this time of year!Arborvitae fern (Selaginella braunii) and wild violets surround my old watering can.

Some more plants around the August garden:Clockwise from top left: Coral colored Impatiens is a good companion to golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'); Yucca filamentosa 'Bright Edge', also called Adam's Needle; Variegated Liriope; Coneflower is spent, but the seeds remain for the birds.

We are harvesting lots of apples from our two apple trees. One is a Golden Delicious, and the other is Red Delicious. Neither are recommended for our Deep South location. I did not do my research before I purchased them! They are also prone to apple-cedar rust, and we have many cedar trees on our property. These trees should be doomed, but they don't seem to know it.

August is hummingbird season, as they travel through our area on their way to Central America. They will fly five hundred miles, non-stop on their southern migration across the Gulf of Mexico. I love these amazing little birds with such feisty personalities. I spent over an hour in the sweltering heat, trying to get a good shot of one. I had little success, for their aerobatics are too fast for my reflexes. I finally managed this out of focus image and decided that would have to do!


I had no trouble at all getting a photo of this ornamental metal bird:

Finally, the most amazing photo that got away... I was walking through the arbor garden and noticed black-capped chickadees flying around the iron chandelier that hangs over a small sitting area. The chandelier holds six candles, and a chickadee was perched on each candle, pecking furiously away. The chandelier was holding six chickadees, and wax was going in all directions! I don't know what they liked about the candles. Perhaps the wax was similar to suet. By the time I got back with my camera, the chickadees were gone and so were all the candles. Here is a photo of my iron chandelier, with new candles:

and here is a black-capped chickadee, a public domain photo, not mine:

So the moral to that story is to always keep a camera with you. Don't we all know that, and does anyone actually do it? Happy August to you. Soon it will be September!


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Reader Comments (23)

Fascinating to hear about the Chickadees playing with the candles/wax, I wonder too why they have taken a fancy to it. Your garden is looking lovely as always and nice to see some of your plants taking the heat gracefully. Hope the temperatures become a bit more comfortable for you all there :)

August 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

Oh, I can so relate to this post--everything about it. Our temperatures this week are the hottest we've had all summer--although most "normal" summers for us include stretches in the 90s and some 100s. (Not near as hot as your summers, though!) I will not complain. I don't mind the heat, and I don't look forward to the winter. So, this time of year is fabulous. And the part about "amazing photos that got away" ... that happens to me so often. Sometimes I think I'm so determined to get the photo that I miss out on the true beauty of the event. Lovely post, Deb. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

August 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ PlantPostings

Steaming pavement - ouch! I know the feeling about missing those great camera shots - just this morning, I also kicked myself for not carrying my camera every time I step out the door. It takes constant vigilance and good shutter-speed to catch hummingbirds.

We've been lucky in that we've had less heat in July and August this year - some days soar toward the mid-90s but we haven't had any triple digits yet, although we can get heatwaves as late as October. Unfortunately, we also haven't had much of anything in the way of rain. Although that's not unusual, the water restrictions are having an impact on what survives in my garden. I look forward to cooler weather and rain.

August 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

Oh those hummingbirds are impossible to photograph! I think you did rather well. The sky in the first photo is amazing! You have such extreme weather, so it is a pleasant surprise to learn that Hydrangea 'Limelight' does so well. Good luck with keeping cool for the rest of the summer. Winter will soon be with us - my kids are already talking about Christmas!

August 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Shoesmith

Happy August to you too Deb. Maybe the candles were scented and they thought they would get some food, seems odd behaviour though. Love the Sedum, a plant we can both grow.

August 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Great post as usual, Deb!

I especially appreciate your candor with plants like Limelight Hydrangea. So many sources will just say "drought tolerant" whereas what I suspect (and you've confirmed) is "drought tolerant for a hydrangea"!

I think the Oakleaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia) is supposed to be the most drought tolerant hydrangea. Mine gets morning sun, afternoon shade and I only water it once a week in late summer if we don't have significant rain the previous week. It wilts a bit in late morning, but recovers in the afternoon and overnight. Yeah, I know, it's tough love...

Fascinating how your apples are thriving *despite* what the books and Internet sources say should happen. If I have one major gardening fault (OK, I probably have more than one) I think it's that I rely to a fault on what the experts say instead of just going with my gut more often. Sometimes as your apple trees show, those impulse decisions can pay off deliciously!

Hope you enjoy the rest of the summer and that y'all have a beautiful fall.

August 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Dalton

Love the beautiful blue sky! My Deodar cedar is only 7 foot tall but I love these trees!

August 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermichael

Hi Deb, thanks for the lovely August impressions from your garden! I love, love, love the 'Limelight' hydrangea! This plant is forever on my wishlist, but with the continuing drought in Southern California, it is not really advisable to buy more hydrangeas :-(.
Great photo of your outdoor chandelier, with our without chickadees!
Wishing you a nice week!

August 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterchristina

I love the lavender bird house and the sedums...Such fun.

August 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie@Seattle Trekker

I can just imagine the heat coupled with your rain, just like a sauna!
Hopefully your temperatures will drop a little and keep you and your plants happy.
I think we have all missed what could be a super photo through not having our camera with us at the right time, I can picture the Chickadees attacking your candles!

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPauline

Just mist amazing photo opportunities... It happens to me all the time. Luckily you have the ability to describe the scene vividly.

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Deb your garden is growing beautifully and I love the concrete planter...hummer still here feeding away but I am stingy and don't want to send them your way yet.

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

I am glad I am not the only one in Alabama who obsesses on the clouds and determine if it will rain...

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJanie Jurkiewicz

We have had a coolish summer until now. Suddenly at the end of August it is hot and steamy. I can take the heat, but the humidity is a killer.
I have a lot of chickadees in my garden and they are such friendly little birds. They never seem to spook the way most other birds do when you approach. The incident with the candles and the chandelier must have been a sight to see.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Beautiful sights in your garden Deb! Silly birds tho! Haha! I am a big fan of the sedum. Really hoping to find places to keep them happy here in the woods! :-)

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEve

I wonder what they liked about the wax too. Beeswax but candle wax? My cousin makes candles and is a naturalist, I should ask her what is the attraction. Curious. Your hydrangea is looking good in that heat. Here, anything in the 90's has them on their sides.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

So that's where our hummingbirds went...one day they were everywhere, and then they were gone. We were wondering.

Wow, steaming pavement, even here with our heat, we rarely see that....


August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

Those hummingbirds are so quick, it's nearly impossible to get a good picture of them, especially if they see you coming! The only times I've managed to get a halfway decent picture of them is by hiding around the corner of a house or, in one case, sitting in the clubhouse of my kids' swing set! The hydrangea is beautiful. That is one thing I miss about living in the South, all the hydrangeas everywhere. I certainly don't miss the heat, though!

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

With heat like that I am surprised the candles don't melt. I hope you are keeping cool. I was wondering what the chickadees did with the wax. Apparently their favorite foods of the wild fruits are wax covered berries of bayberry and poison ivy.

August in Alabama seems suited to lazy days in the sunshine, if you can take the heat. I think its amazing to catch any shot of a Humming bird.

August 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlistair

Hello, everyone! Thank you for your interesting comments! Carolyn, the wax candles would certainly melt if they were in the sun. I found that out the hard way when I put a wax candle in a lantern on my patio. What a mess! My iron chandelier is in the shade, and that makes a big difference.
Best wishes to you all! Deb

August 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

I wonder what the birds wanted the wax for, very interesting. I love what's still blooming in your garden at the moment and your apple trees look wonderful, I hope mine grows like those eventually.

August 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaula@BloomsnSpades

Well, I don't always have mine with me, but pretty close. And I do keep it right next to the back door, so it's never far away. Today, I was really glad I did! I went to put out a jar of sun tea, and there was a monarch butterfly enjoying the buddliea by the back door. I didn't even have to step out the door to catch him with my camera! Success.

September 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobinL

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