Jul 27, 2019
by Roger Raiche David McCrory, Planet Horticulture
Time to Relax. August (and September) tend to be a relatively laid-back time in gardens, time to enjoy the work put into your landscape earlier in the year. Not that there’s nothing to do, but with the heat and dryness, better to sit back with a refreshing drink and appreciate what’s there, rather than burning yourself out on chores.
Observe. While you’re sitting outside relaxing, don’t fail to notice what is missing in your landscape or garden. The glass is half full, but let’s consider how to fill it up. These can be added later in the cool season, but make a mental note about what you might like to grow. Need more shade, more screening, more fragrance, more cut flowers, more produce??? Pay attention to what you see in other landscapes that may appeal to you. Will any of these work for you? Make notes for your planning purposes.
Take a picture. If you don’t know what a plant is, take a picture or several, there are many online sites for plant identifications, or maybe you have a friend who knows plants, or you can visit a local nursery. And a picture is invaluable compared to fumbling verbal descriptions, especially if you don’t speak “plants.”
For those who followed my suggestion for a “June prune” should be enjoying a repeat on some of those plants now. You might even find the time to nip back a few again and try for a third show; this works well for roses. Even classic “summer plants” such as dahlias, cosmos, zinnias and such can be extended by dead-heading. Generally, after any significant pruning, some extra water may be crucial at this season to put out new growth. But always balance the appearance with leaving some seed for birds and other wildlife.
Summer Showoffs. Plants that peak in summer are not limited to annuals. Perhaps the showiest shrub to small tree that flowers now is the crape myrtle in the genus Lagerstroemia. There are dozens of color selections to choose from, depending on your color preferences. Some are even small shrubs, and new types with near-black foliage can be found in nurseries. Most have attractive muscular-looking trunks with mottled flaking bark. They do best with routine water until established, but are surprisingly drought tolerant afterward.
Another large shrub to small tree in flower now is the Chaste tree, Vitex agnus-castus coming from the Mediterranean region. It has lilac-blue cones of flowers, and other color forms are available. This plant is an excellent attractant for pollinators during July-August.
On a smaller scale, our native California fuchsias once called Zauschneria, now Epilobium (mostlyEpilobium canum selections), are great additions to any sunny garden. While not true Fuchsias, they put out scarlet tubular flowers on 1 – 3’ stems most of the summer months, and attract hummingbirds. There are quite a few selections available, some short, some taller, some with silvery leaves, others with green, most scarlet, but even white and pink flowered ones are easy to find. Most spread underground to create mounding colonies that are very drought tolerant but will look lusher and flower longer when given some irrigation.
Fruits and Veggies. Those who have vegetables or orchards will be reaping the rewards with ample homegrown produce, often too much, but that can be seen as a good thing, as sharing is good for everyone.
Enjoy the outdoors. With the range of temperatures varying widely from the coast to the interior, you can pick a climate that suits your needs. Enjoy the already changing season as the native buckeyes drop their leaves, poison oak turns attractive tints of salmon through scarlet (making it easier to see), and the air is fragranced by the many native “tarweeds” – a group of annuals in the Daisy family with aromatic oils that some describe as the “scent of California in the summertime”.
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