Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Front Garden: The Halftime Report

In December 2011 I wrote about my hopes for "Leap Year" in my front garden which was re-planted about three years ago.  As the saying goes perennials follow a three year pattern of "sleep, creep, leap" and with this being the third year for much of the front garden I had high expectations.

Intending to write the halftime report in early July, I found that things were not going well out there and decided to wait.  Some parts of the garden don't look that much better in the heat of August so it's time to be realistic and assess what did not go right and needs to be corrected this fall.

Overall the front looks good, especially for August in San Antonio.


The garden area nearest the front door was planted three years ago and was almost immediately hit with two years of record freezes and drought.  That's where I'll focus in this post.
The Blue Hill Salvia (Meadow Sage) was meant to grow over the low rock terracing, but has died back again in the heat of the summer so I plan to add Nepeta 'Walkers Low' which thrives in the summer heat.

Winter 2011                                                          Summer 2012

Oak sprouts are a fact of life under live oak trees and spring rains brought on a bumper crop.

 
Trimming the oak sprouts is only temporary and I can't keep up so I'll take a tip from local landscaping pros and plant a groundcover disguise where they present the biggest problem.  If that doesn't work then I might just let them grow as ground cover as shown in The Desert Edge blog. (scroll down to the third photo in David's post)

The Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) should have been divided last fall and are splayed outward from an empty center.  They will be divided as soon as the weather cools.  I'm reworking this entire bed around the tree since the iris get too much shade in early spring to bloom properly here.  Salvia 'Indigo Spires' (right of the tree) bloomed well in the winter but continues to wilt every afternoon in the summer.


The bed of white blooming and silver foliage plants has filled in a lot.  But the oaks have also filled in so the bed gets too much shade, so the plants are not blooming.  The best bloomer here is the white Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata 'alba').  Most of these plants will be relocated and I have plans for a sedge "lawn" which should do well in partial shade. 
Winter 2011 (top photo), Summer 2012 (lower photo)
Russian Sage in the island bed has underperformed this year and is obviously declining.  It will be replaced with low maintenance yucca and a new blooming plant.  You can see how this spot should look in the photo second from the right in my blog title collage.

Winter 2011 (top photo), Summer 2012 (lower photo)
 
 The Creeping Germander continues to creep along, although slowly.

Winter 2011                                                             Summer 2012

Across the way the Hamelia patens and Flame Acanthus (Aniscanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) are not getting enough sun to bloom and Calistemon 'Little John' continues to grow very slowly and I need to check to see if it is in too much rock.  Typical of the rest of the area, the blue Plumbago is also the best bloomer here.


There you have it, the part of my yard I see most often is not looking the way I'd like it to look at all.  Far from being discouraged, I plan to rework the problem areas as soon as the weather cools off.  This will be an opportunity to apply what I've learned about gardening in San Antonio over the last three challenging years.

17 comments:

  1. Russian sage is a weird animal. When I lived in Colorado Springs this plant prospered with neglect. In Oklahoma City it grows great in heavy clay. In my garden it melts in late summer. I'm wondering if its variety dependent from a standpoint of durability.

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    1. Could be the issue since the large variety russian sage is going very well in the back yard. I didn't keep track of these varieties but have just noticed a more compact blue one at the nurseries recommended for our climate and might try that next year.

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  2. I loved the "sleep, creep, leap" tag - so true in climatically challenged gardens.
    The end of the summer is time to take stock so that the winter can be spent dreaming of "next year".
    By the way I loved the use of the blue foliage and contrasting textures.

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    1. I have been trying to get a blue and white theme going in the front. It's a challenge though. I will add a greater variety of blue bloomers to extend the seasons.

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  3. I'm a bit disappointed with my garden this year, too.
    This should be that 'leap' year for quite a lot. But, it's not leaping.
    I'm thinking some of it looked better in last summer's awful heat and drought. That makes no sense to me.

    Some things are getting moved when it gets cooler. That might start the whole 'sleep, creep, leap' thing all over again. I don't know.

    Another note...you have plumbago in the deer areas? I wonder if that would work here. I'd love more color in front. Our deer are hard to deal with, though.

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  4. Shirley/Rock-Oak-DeerAugust 15, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    It's surprising in this year of milder weather and rain that our gardens are not responding as expected.

    The deer here completely ignore the plumbago and step over it to chow down on the nearby liriope. I'd recommend giving it a try especially since it is inexpensive and easy to find.

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  5. It must be difficult to garden in an entrely new climate. Love the way you're already making plans for next year. The area with the agave and Bismarck palm is soo gorgeous! That palm always makes me want to move further south!

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    1. The Bismarck palm is quite the star here this year. Making plans for next year is the best way to beat the heat of August. Because we can garden most of the year, this fall should be a good time in the garden.

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  6. This post runs counter to my experience photographing my garden: my close-ups usually look way better than the overall shots. We gardeners can never rest on our laurels, can we?...there's always next year.

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    1. We spent some time setting up the bones of the garden so the plants can move while the basic layout remains. It's a matter of learning that the garden can be better...next year.

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  7. Hi there Shirley, I think you are too tough on yourself. I see beautiful plants. It looks great but I understand what you're saying:) Yes the Oak sprouts....oh the Oak sprouts. I just let them now grow and grow more:) There's not much one can do to prevent them. It's part of living with the oaks. But I like how you have the mulch. We have similiar posts today.....I think it's that time of year. We're exhausted and I don't want to say give up but a little cooler weather would help:) Great post and thanks for sharing your garden journal. I've got more writes in several weeks on what I'm planning for winter. Slow going but I think we both need to remember that we're making a difference at our places:) All my best. Chris

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    1. Thank you Chris, you're so right on this. It's hot, the plants are wilting and I have too much time to think about what's not working.

      We can garden most of the winter and that's when we get a lot done.

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  8. I especially like the garden featured first in this post-the one nearest the front door. I think you've chosen well and if it needs a little tweaking, that's okay and even expected. I think in general, your gardens look good, but I understand the frustration of the garden space not quite performing as you wanted it to. Interesting about your Russian Sage. I'm thinking about using some in a full sun spot (it's a plant I haven't grown before because of lack of room for it). I love it out in the world when I see it, but I also have access to a bunch of plumbago from a friend. Hmmm. What do you think is the problem?

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    1. Thank you Tina, tweaking is important as I learn more and more about gardening in my area. This year of blogging has meant a big step forward in knowledge too.

      Plumbago looks amazing all over my neighborhood right now, full sun or part shade it blooms all summer in large mounds. Often dismissed as "overused", it works very well in my garden so I will add more. It's very drought tolerant compared to some of the salvias.

      The Russian Sage looks pretty good in the back yard but it's only been out there a year. It's been a repeat bloomer here with spring and fall blooms. We are on rock and caliche here so sometimes a plant runs up against rock and needs to be moved or replaced.

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  9. I have a couple of those areas in my garden as well, Shirley, places I keep reworking but that still need something more. I don't mind reworking them either. That's part of the fun -- the striving for success. But oh, those pesky oak sprouts. THEY always want to grow, don't they?

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  10. I think your garden looks beautiful Shirley. And my oh my your wagon wheel garden has taken off! I know how you feel about losing plants - TOUGH! But isn't great what gardening teaches us. To be flexible - I am such a planner and my plants need to agree with my plan...stay put and not ever die! HAAAAaaaaaaaaaaa! yeah right. But when my plans do not work out, usually the next thing works even better and looks even prettier. So CHEERS to that Shirley! I am looking forward to fall too.

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  11. Now that's exactly the best way to describe my garden too ... sleep, creep, leap! So much sleeps during our dry and creep along slowly, then so much leaps when the wet arrives. Gardens are all about evolution and development and you've highlight that brilliantly with this post. We all have to re-think and re-work lots of spots around the garden, but that's what keeps gardening so interesting and challenging. It will be fascinating to see how your garden develops over the next year.

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