Newsletter Autumn

Hot Gardens Newsletter – Autumn 2009

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crape myrtle hot pink in bloomAs summer cools down slowly and the Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) begin to fade we realize how much with love these brilliant long-blooming trees.

When you begin to consider what to plant this Fall add a couple of Crape myrtles to the list of trees to make your late summer garden glorious. For at least one month–and often longer–in the peak heat of summer they give faded gardens a jolt of brilliant color. The hot pink, shown left, is our favorite.

We have however, seen a garden where a row of Crape myrtles lined a boring concrete block wall and bloomed in alternating colors of hot pink and pale pink. They also come in white and lilac shades, but these always seem a bit washed out in blazing summer sunlight. So pick the one that best complements your house color and plant them in your parking strip or along your front sidewalk.

In the best of all gardening worlds, Crape myrtles love having lots of water, but they also thrive beautifully in low-water usage gardens. With plenty of water the trees grow to 30 feet, with less water they remain shorter. But at 30 feet or 15 feet they are among the best summer trees for color in the garden.

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Garden fountain recycled

Lantana camera in fountainIf you have a real fountain in your garden that you have drained for water conservation purposes, fill each level with good potting soil–making it as deep as you can–and plant Lantana (Lantana montevidensis or L. sellowiana). These low-growing varieties of Lantana have trailing branches that will cascade over the edges and for at least six months of the year will give you brilliant flowers. (Do not plant Lantana camara which grows upright to 6 feet tall. It is not suitable for a fountain.) And don’t settle for just one color. Mix it up!

If you have a three level fountain, pick the hot pink hybrid, ‘Christine’, for the bottom level of your fountain. On the next level up, plant a burnt orange, such as ‘Tangerine’. Then on the top level, consider ‘New Gold’, a warm golden yellow.  Then add white Lantana for contrast.

If you are really a fan of the color yellow, you can go a little bit wild by planting ‘Lemon Swirl’ which has variegated yellow and green leaves with yellow flowers. One bonus of Lantana, bees love it!

Wait until the temperature drops.

Do not plant until the temperature drops to below 90 degrees. (37 degrees Celsius).  Yes, yes, we know that there are young garden designers who will tell you that it is okay to plant during hot summer months. They say that so they can continue to have work during those months, but the real facts are that it will be the plants that have to work extra hard in the heat to survive.

palm trees very smallPalms, however, are the exception.  They love having their roots in warm soil and should be planted in the summer.  Virtually all other plants will do much better if you wait and plant in the Fall, when Mother Nature does her planting.  You will lose far fewer transplants if the soil is cooler.

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