Hot Gardens Newsletter: May and June
Hot Days, White Nights. As the temperature soars, most of us avoid our desert gardens until it begins to cool after dark. That is the best reason to consider planting a Night Garden. (But plant it in Fall or early Spring — not now. It is already too hot to plant anything except palms.) Night gardens are designed with moonlight in mind — filled with white flowers and plants with variegated or silvery leaves which are visible in the moonlight. Here are some plants to consider for a Night Garden in a hot, dry climate:
White Roses and some of the paler yellow roses can bloom all summer long. As a basic part of a Night Garden they will give you both shimmering beauty and fragrance in the balmy night air.
White Oleander (Nerium oleander) is a water-wise alternative to the white roses. Once established Oleander is one of the most rugged flowering shrubs and it blooms for months on end. It is also somewhat fire-retardant, in case you happen to live in an area at high risk for wildfires. (And if you live in a high risk for fire area be sure to clear all dry grass and brush in a 100 foot perimeter around your home and all buildings on your property.)
Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) This slow grower will only reach a height of 15 to 20 feet in a hot, dry climate primarily because it prefers acid soil so be sure to add a lot of organic mulch before you plant one. It blooms for months on end in summer
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii nanboensis) Make sure you buy the one that produces white flowers because the purple flowering variety is more common. Very fragrant, lilac-like blooms and a drought-tolerant Western native.
Evening Primrose (Oenothera Caespitosa) Unlike the invasive pink Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) which actually blooms during the day, this variety is actually night-blooming, fragrant and native to the West.
Variegated Turf Lily (Liriope muscari ‘Silvery Sunproof’) is a durable groundcover and reflects the moonlight softly. It has small purple or white flowers in late summer.
Nicotiana alata The wild species of this upright flowering annual is very fragrant and a night-bloomer, but the slightly less fragrant Domino variety takes our heat better.
Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) form a dense mat of soft, fuzzy leaves. In this photo the plants are blooming on upright stems. Beside the Lamb’s Ears is a small variegated Lirope and, behind. a sunflower.
White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a sturdy Western native that needs little water to survive.
Dwarf Cup Flower (Nierembergia caerulea ‘Mont Blanc’) is a low, mounding plant covered with small white flowers.
Hall’s Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’) — fragrant and attracts bees during the day.
White Jasmine Vine (Jasminum officinale or J. grandiflorum) — as the name says, the J. grandiflorum has larger flowers.
Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) — first cousin to the Morning Glory, but this one blooms fragrantly at night.
Texas Olive (Cordia Boissieri or Cordia parvifolia) — not an Olive, but a native Western shrub that begins a long blooming season in late Spring. May flower again in Autumn.
In addition to these you may find other night blooming plants at your local nursery. With all of them be sure to verify that the flowers are white.
One Color, One Garden. Recently we have seen several gardens that are essentially all-green gardens with perhaps one additional color. Often the one color comes from a row of white roses or a small bed of yellow Lantana or large garden urns, as was done in this Las Vegas garden.
After decades of dominance of the English flower border style with its riot of colorful spring and summer perennials and high maintenance requirements, the simplicity of the all-green garden is enormously appealing. Also appealing is the minimal upkeep required by the gardens we have viewed: mow and water the lawn regularly, trim the shrubs and trees once or twice a year and — voila! — the garden chores are virtually all done.
And Finally. Summer shut-down is underway in your garden. As longtime desert gardeners know, when daily temperatures reach into the 90s F. plants begin to go into survival mode for the summer. Blossoms fade and growth slows. Except for annuals you may have in pots on your terrace, summer is not a time of great activity for plants in the desert. Just keep to your regular watering schedule and be sure to deep-water your trees every week or two. But do not fertilize your plants in an attempt to make them flower and grow — you are likely to do more harm than good.
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