Tag Archives: drought

Looking Ahead

I love summer but not my perennial garden in summer.

A garden club friend told me several weeks ago she and another were wondering when they could drop by to see my garden. I must have gasped audibly. Laughing but serious, I answered  “next May!”

My garden peaks in spring when the irises bloom. In anticipation I enjoy booting winter on its way and seeing the awakening of plants as the weather warms. Spring is the time when, with the foliage fresh and each first blossom so pure, my hopes and optimism as a gardener are soaring.

But summer!

Though I love summer for the long daylight and easy pace, this particularly dry, hot  and humid summer has challenged my interest, if not my very identity, as a gardener.  Soon after the irises started blooming, the rains stopped coming. Temperatures spiked into what I once thought was the range only of the hottest days of August.

I planted a few zinnias and other seeds, but postponed my planned trips to the garden center to select colorful annuals for planters and for filling in some bare patches in the garden. I pulled out the pansies that had added so much color to the meditation circle all winter and spring, thinking soon I would install some other cheery flowers. I watered a few times but soon it became clear that with the extreme heat a few times would not be adequate to tide the garden over until the next rain. For weeks dense, dark blue-black clouds that formed overhead kept bringing empty promises, either dissipating completely or just drifting away. As the garden dried up I abandoned it for other activities.

Although there are no interesting scenic views to share,  I want to note a few individual plants that have tolerated the drought and heat this summer.

Lantana died back hard during the cold winter. It took a while for it to start blooming this summer but has been happy producing its multicolored florets for several weeks.

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

This little skipper posed briefly for me, but, just seconds before, it had settled upon my hand and sat patiently while I marveled. This was the first time ever I have held a butterfly.

Skipper on fence post just after leaving my hand

Skipper on fence post just after leaving my hand

Last summer I planted the very center of the labyrinth with thyme.

Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)


I learned too late this is not the kind usually used in cooking, but is is slightly fragrant. It is Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme).

Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)


I am pleased the thyme has spread so well and the bees are attracted to the pink-violet flowers.

Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)

Waving above the thyme are a few cleomes sporting seed pods. On one a grasshopper (or maybe a katydid?) found resting spot.

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower) and Thymus serpyllum 'Pink Chintz' (Pink chintz thyme)

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower) and Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme)

Grasshopper Atop Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)

Grasshopper or Katydid Atop Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)

The zinnias I planted from seed earlier in spring get by without much water. I like that the seed packet contained a good mix, including yellows and oranges, and not just mostly pink.



Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ began blooming several weeks ago. Here a Hairstreak butterfly (not sure which one) and a bee travel around the cone.

Hairstreak and Bee On Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes'

Hairstreak and Bee On Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Hairstreak and Bee On Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes'

Hairstreak and Bee On Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Finally the bee moves on and the hairstreak emerges into the sunlight.

Hairstreak On Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes'

Hairstreak On Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Three or four gardenia flowers appeared last week on the Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’.

Gardenia jasminoides 'Chuck Hayes'

Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) is also blooming this week.

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Last year I planted a row of Alyssum ‘Easter Bonnet Violet’ along the path of the labyrinth. It did poorly but a couple overwintered and now are flowering.

Alyssum 'Easter Bonnet Violet'

Alyssum ‘Easter Bonnet Violet’

Last Tuesday around 5:00 pm we finally had a big thunderous storm. While I just thought my garden seemed nicely refreshed afterwards, I did not realize how much rain had fallen. In fact several neighbors told me later we had five inches. Some of the storms drains a few streets away were overwhelmed. One neighbor shared his video of water a foot deep streaming down the road and into his yard, a small amount of which entered the crawl space of his house.

My garden had some sprawling plants, tangled and twisted after being knocked down by the wind, but largely the garden benefited from the storm. The temperatures moderated appreciably for the rest of the week.

This morning brought another shower, a soft gentle rain this time, and I find myself liking the garden again, imagining it can be redeemed. Who knows? It might be ready by “next May!”

After The Rain. Garden View With Meditation Circle

After The Rain. Garden View With Meditation Circle


Seeing Green (Irish Eyes)

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ Against A Brown Clematis Vine


Distressed from heat and drought the first yellow flowers of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ are opening with petals already streaked with brown. This cultivar gets its name from the green center.

A plant division taken last year is faring better than its parent near the garden’s southern entrance, where it waves above the four-foot gate.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Yesterday I explored the garden and though the heat has been keeping the gardener away, there is activity in this ecosystem.


This morning a steady rain sounds against the roof. From the upstairs window I watch goldfinches dart between spent stalks of verbena and echinacea, supplying bright sunny color to the gray morning.

Early into the record-setting heat of July, the garden became quickly desiccated. The change was dramatic and yet, from the window there is green again in the garden. Plants stand refreshed. Will this rain be restorative? For a time I think so, but the rain stops.


July 3 – 8, 2012. This area of North Carolina set a record for having six consecutive days with temperatures above 100 degrees F. (Most days were hotter and heat indexes were around 110.)

July 8’s 105-degree day tied the record for highest temperature ever recorded for this area and beat the previous record of 103 set in 1977 for the date July 8.

Despite last Friday’s big thunder and wind event that sent two trees crashing down in the garden, July has been seriously hot and dry. That afternoon storm brought an hour of much needed rain, but the severe heat wave continued through the weekend. The heat wave finally broke on Monday leaving the area feeling noticeably cooler with highs in the mid-eighties, even bringing occasional, spotty showers.

Winter and spring were marked by abundant rainfall that left the garden lush and verdant. Rains stopped around mid-June while temperatures steadily rose. Early into July’s record-setting heat the garden responded by shutting down. Now rain is forecast for a couple of days.

Closing Out June — Yellowing, Browning, Wilting, Crisping

Despite many ominous indicators around the garden, Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ cheerfully showed itself off in the new front garden.

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Coneflower)

I worry most about the shrubs and trees, which take so long to establish and are so expensive to replace. Inexplicably though, I spend the most time watering the Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes,’ which is ever so close to blooming, and also the patch of annuals where this morning I discover the first zinnia flower of the summer. Last year’s ‘Blue Point’ Juniper hedge gets a reasonable amount of water.

Watering the garden is something I rarely do, but for two of the last three days I have entered the garden very early and dragged around a water hose, encouraging selected plants to deeply soak in as much as possible of this cool, wet offering in preparation for serious times ahead.

The garden’s situation is diminishing rapidly as no appreciable rain has fallen here in a few weeks. The temperature was 105°F. yesterday and today is 102°F. so far this mid-afternoon. (These days forecasts are frequently supplemented with the feels like number, so I must add it currently feels like 105°F. if one takes the heat index into account.)

How do the plants like it? Much of the Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ is shriveled and no longer blooming. Shasta daisies are wilting, wilting, with many of the 4-foot stems simply flopping over. Other floppers include the northern border’s rosy Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), which tends to land askew, pushing anything nearby down as well.

Almost evergreen here most years, the foliage of German bearded iris is yellowing throughout the garden. [Those irises really need to be divided this year.] Tall fescue lawn never tolerates the summer well and is a crispy brown, receding visibly and opening up patches of hard, cracked earth where weeds are waiting to take hold.

The garden always holds some measure of optimism. Just as I had begun to worry about it, thyme in the meditation circle (Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme)) presented a tiny little bloom yesterday. And today’s early morning walk around the meditation path was peaceful and full of sighs.

Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme)

Since starting to write this article our neighborhood lost electricity due to the demands from the serious heat wave. After 45 minutes it has come back on. Other neighbors across the highway were without power for 4 hours.