Thursday, October 13, 2011

Summer survivors

As we all know, it was a tough year for gardens in the southwest. Garden bloggers wrote repeatedly about the need to rethink the garden. In that vein, this post is dedicated to noting the plants in my garden that did pretty well this summer, despite the record-breaking heat and drought.

Spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ellisiana),
 Lindheimer's muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri
and silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea).
These were watered occasionally late in the summer.

I had originally thought to do a post on the casualties of the drought, complete with teenage moaning and woe-is-me-ing. I have actually spent a good bit of the summer in this mode, despite the fact that I haven’t been a teenager in many years. Many, many years.

But as a mom, I have learned to embrace the power of a positive attitude. I can carry that into the garden, I can. Even though I lost so many plants, so many . . . little . . . plants . . .  No, stop.

Onward with positivity.

Meteorologists say this drought could continue for years, so rethinking the garden is not just an idle exercise. Frankly, I wasted quite a bit of money this year on new plants that did not survive. I also wasted quite a lot of well water trying to keep said plants alive.

Anacacho orchid tree (Bauhinia lunarioides).
This did receive some supplemental water late
in the summer, but I think it might have survived
I need to be smarter and more disciplined about plant choices.  To me, gardening in its highest, most successful form involves choosing plants appropriate for the site and climate. I thought I was doing that, but as Dylan sings, “for the times they are a-changin'.”

P.S. I would really love to see other Texas gardeners’ survivor lists, so that we could compare notes and maybe come up with new plant options. If you have such a list, add your list or post a link in my comments. Thanks!

No supplemental water at all! On the left, purple sage (Leucophyllum frutescens), 
and on the right, the indomitable century plant (Agave americana - I think - it was a pass-along plant).

Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) in the back. In front is a black dalea (Dalea frutescens) -
a native wildflower. The sages show heat stress, but bounce right back with water.
The dalea just got a little thin. 

Newly planted, regularly watered, but showed little sign 
of heat stress. This is yellow bells or esperanza 
(Tecoma stans).  It will get much larger and have showy 
yellow blooms - I can't wait!
That's right - Texas lantana 
(Lantana urticoides). 
It did receive occasional water 
late in the summer.
This trailing lantana (Lantana motevidensis 'Alba') was transplanted at the beginning of this horrendous summer, and soldiered through.
(Yes, I watered it - but plenty of things I watered did not survive!)

This is not prepossessing, I realize. This Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) was purchased this spring at Peckerwood Gardens and planted upon my return home. It sat all summer with occasional watering and did fine. I was so proud! But when I went out to take a picture for this post, after 2.8" of rain last weekend - wahh! The top appears to be gone, but it has new growth at the bottom. I read that it requires good drainage - perhaps it got too much water.

Oh yes, my friends, the flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii)  is a keeper . . .
The Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens)
is not blooming now (old picture),
but it did survive all summer
with only roof run-off.  The new one planted
 out front did not survive.
. . . as is the pavonia (Pavonia 
lasiopetala) a.k.a. rock rose.
This was the only plant that
bloomed all summer, 
off and on.


  1. You have a lot of good plants there that survived.
    Are they all out in the deer area? I 'rescued' some pieces of spineless prickly pear from my neighbor...along with some agaves she was clearing out. The deer eat all the new growth on the prickly pear. And, this morning, I found the one agave that was looking good has been chewed on and all the outside 'leaves' are broken. I think it was stomped on. The center's it'll stay.
    I'm definitely going to get a flame acanthus. Looks like it's a tough one.
    Rethinking the garden is certainly going on here.
    By the way...I understand the's been going on here for months.

  2. Good list. And it's good to see you're in the yellow now. Hopefully the fall rains will continue for a while.

  3. I've been whining like a teenager too, and for a while, seeing the trees dying around Austin, I sank into black despair. But like you I'm trying to think positively now. I lost some plants this summer even though I have a pretty xeric garden. But most of it survived, thanks to the irrigation. You're obviously having to be much more sparing with your water. As may we all by next summer. As for this fall, I'm only planting what I believe to be very xeric: Texas nolina, Texas mountain laurel, evergreen sumac, golden thryallis, fall aster. Next spring I'll add some yellow bells too.

  4. Oh my goodness. As I was reading this post the song you wrote about (The Times They Are A'changin) played on the radio. This must mean something... Well anyway, I vote for native plants, they are the easiest to keep alive!

  5. @Linda - None of my yard is fenced, but we do have a dog who scares them off a little. The prickly pear is right by the front door, so they haven't eaten any. Those agaves send lots of suckers, so beware!

    @HG - More rain!

    @Pam - Thanks for plant ideas. I've got the first two and last, but not the sumac or thryallis. I plan to add a firebush - it was blooming madly at my M-I-L's this summer.

    @linniew - Woowoo stuff - you have the ouija board, right? ! Even the natives have bit the dust here this summer. We're having to think desert!

  6. Texas pistache was my best looking plant all summer. The tiny leaves faded a bit after we hit 110, but not many dropped, and it revived fast once we got a quarter inch of rain. The Salvia greggii in the same bed were a misery to behold. Volunteer loquats thrived on 3 partial waterings with buckets of dish water. Ditto for winter honeysuckle. Mexican honeysuckle (not a honeysuckle) is slower to wilt than most of my zeric perennials and offered the occasional flower for hummers. Pavonia, catmint and shaded blue mist flower did well on little water. I lost the blue mist flower in the sun. Ruellia amaze with how quickly they can go from collapse to bloom as soon as it rains. Turk's caps have revived and are blooming, but next year I will just water a few of my many (they got water every other week this year), and see what happens.

  7. I love our pavonias. so purdy.