Now that the record-breaking summer of 2011 is safely behind us, I got to thinking....if gardening during a Texas summer were a TV reality show, could you bear to watch? Oh, there would be plenty of drama, that's for sure, with lots of whining and crying and pouting. Sadly, though, there wouldn't be much singing or dancing. In fact, most episodes would seem rather dry. Everything would be in need of an Extreme Makeover, and you'd end up feeling like the Biggest Loser. But one thing you could count on is that it would be very hot and steamy. So tune in, you may even find a new Idol and a few Survivors.
Seriously, though, the reality of a Texas summer is that it is just plain HOT. And the Summer of 2011 was the hottest of 'em all. Yes, Dallas/Fort Worth is now officially in the record books as the summer with the most 100-degree days. 70 days. I finally feel vindicated for all of that whining, crying, and pouting!
1980 still holds the record for the most consecutive 100-degree days (42), but 2011 missed it by just two days and a few degrees. Hopefully that torch has been extinguished, never to be lit again.
Needless to say, this hot and dry summer episode took its toll on our gardens. Yet in spite of it all, there are SURVIVORS.
The words “water restrictions” seem to strike fear in the heart of every gardener. Don’t spend the next summer season battling the elements. Turn the challenges of this summer into opportunities to make your garden better by choosing more drought-tolerant plants that have proven their worth.
Let's take a look at some of the players, marooned in the seemingly desolate locale otherwise known as...my garden. My “tribes” of plants faced daily endurance challenges and overcame many obstacles, yet some seemed immune to elimination.
Since I am the sole member of my garden's “Tribal Council” and “jury,” here’s a list of the plants that were star performers in my garden this summer and are deserving of my vote.
Salvias are the workhorses of my garden!
'Henry’ and ‘Augusta’ Duelberg (Salvia farinacea)
Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)
Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Zexmenia (Wedelia hispida) is extremely drought tolerant
(Tradescantia or Setcreasea pallida)
is tough as nails!
Ornamental grasses are must-haves!
Mexican Feathergrass (Nasella tenuissima)
Hameln Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’
Lindheimer’s Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri)
Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’ (Dwarf Maiden Grass)
Black Fountain Grass (Pennisetum ‘Moudry’)
Fountain grass ‘Karley Rose’ (Pennisetum orientale 'Karely Rose')
'Karley Rose' beat the heat with ease!
More great plants for SUN:
Pink Skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens)
Dwarf Mexican Petunia (Katie’s Ruellia)
‘Powis Castle’ Artemisia
Mexican Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)
Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
Gray Creeping Germander
Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida)
Flame Acanthus (Anisacaths wrightii)
Texas Star Hibiscus
‘Bath’s Pink’ Dianthus
Four Nerve Daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa)
Variegated Liriope ‘Silvery Sunproof’ (with afternoon shade)
Pink Rain Lily (Zephyranthes grandiflora)
‘Gulfstream,’ ‘Nana,’ and ‘Harbor Dwarf’ Nandina
Yaupon Holly tree
Redbuds: ‘Burgundy Heart,’ ‘The Rising Sun,’ and ‘Oklahoma’
Rose of Sharon (Althea)
Lots of shady characters were star performers as well
Native Turk’s Cap
Another native, American Beautyberry
attracts our feathered friends
Hostas absolutely fried, but Leopard Plant (Ligularia/Farfugium) survived with no special care
is not bothered by slugs, snails, or heat
More great plants for SHADE:
Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra)
Chocolate plant (Pseuderanthemum alatum)
Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis)
Forsythia Sage (Salvia Madrensis)
Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum)
Purple Heart (green variety)
'Tropical Giant' Spider Lily (Hymenocallis)
Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)
Ajuga ('Giant,' 'Chocolate Chip')
Heat Loving Annuals
Angelonia ‘Serena’ series
Blue Daze (Evolvulus glomeratus) loved the heat!
Variegated Tapioca (Manihot esculenta) was still going strong in mid-August!
Caladiums can't be beat
for a shady spot.
for a shady spot.
More great annuals for sun and shade:
Salvia coccinea (red and ‘Coral Nymph’)
Malabar Spinach (vine)
Esperanza (Tecoma stans)
‘African Blue’ Basil
Sweet Potato Vine
Hyacinth Bean Vine
Pentas (in afternoon shade)
Some of my plants got sent to Redemption Island. They started out strong, but then quickly burned out when the heat was intense. After a disappointing debut, they have redeemed themselves this fall showing some recovery now that cooler temperatures and some rains have returned.
Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’)
Summer Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Black & Blue Salvia (Salvia guaranitica )
Lamb’s Ear ‘Helen von Stein’
Wood Fern (Dryopteris)
'Texas Gold' Colubmine (Aquilegia chrysantha hinckleyana)
‘Gold Dust’ Aucuba
Autumn Joy Sedum
Knock-Out Rose 'Rosa Radrazz'
Unfortunately some plants went to Dead Man’s Island:
Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum)
‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea is on its last legs
Thankfully the list of winners is much longer than the list of losers (hence this ridiculously long post). If any plant survived the Winter and Summer of 2011, it is a keeper in my book. If this challenging summer (and winter) has wreaked havoc in your garden, incorporate some of these well-adapted plants into your garden. Fall is a great time to get new plantings established before we have a re-run of this season’s fiery episodes next summer. Make some changes to your garden now and you will be rewarded next year with a garden that not only survives; it thrives!
All indications are that this drought in Texas may persist for another two years. Don't let that news make you wish you could escape to Exile Island. A few wise choices can make a drought-tolerant and heat-loving garden a beautiful reality.
If you are still reading up to this point, you deserve some bonus points! Here is a list of some other survivors recommended by a few of my garden friends:
Duranta erecta (Brazillian Sky Flower)
Texas Sage (Cenizo)
Moss rose and purselane
Gregg’s Blue Mistflower
Fall Aster (Aster oblongifolius)
Woolly Stemodia (Stemodia tomentosa)
Inland Sea Oats (Casmanthium latifolium)
Congratulations on surviving through the Summer of 2011 and this long post!