Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

June 2012

‘Tis the season for spectacular light displays in the nighttime skies from exploding fireworks. You can mimic these explosions of color in your garden by growing plants bursting with color-infused foliage and blooms. Several heat-loving annuals and perennial flowers are  named for 4th of July fireworks. One of my favorites is ‘Fireworks’ fountaingrass, a new purple pennisetum with pink striped foliage. It makes a perfect partner for the hot pink flowers of ‘Fireworks’ globe amaranth. Other color-laden plants exploding in the summer garden include ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod and ‘Carolina Fireworks’ lantana. All of these beauties put on their peak display during the sun-soaked heat of summer.

The pink-and-purple striped foliage of 'Fireworks' fountaingrass combines well with chartreuse, pink, and purple plants in the garden. Feathery seedheads add lovely texture.

'Fireworks' globe amaranth develops hot pink tufts of bloom on tall stems that waft in the breeze. Flowers retain their color when dried, too.

'Fireworks' goldenrod bears arching wands of pure yellow blooms in late summer.

'Carolina Fireworks' lantana combines sizzling orange and yellow hues on a mounding plant that thrives in the heat of summer gardens.

During a recent trip to the Charlotte area, I visited Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden for the first time. I was greatly impressed by the garden’s plan and structure. It’s a relatively young public garden, first opening in 1999. The master plan includes additional gardens, so it will just get better and better. And although the plants are still “teenagers”, the garden looks full and lush, with an amazing variety of greenery and color. As you can see below, the garden includes everything from Abelia to Zenobia!

Colorful beds of annual flowers with whimsical "paint cans" spilling color welcome guests as they approach the main entrance of the visitor pavillion.

The Canal Garden, looking back towards the main building, provides formal structure, color from annual flowers, and the cooling effect of water.

The conservatory contains an impressive orchid collection, some of which are displayed here on a rock wall.

'Edward Goucher' glossy abelia blooms all summer with pink bell-shape flowers. It is hardy in Zones 6 through 9.

Dusty zenobia bears clusters of white bell-shape blooms on shrubs with silvery gray foliage. It is hardy in Zones 5 through 9.

Just received word that the Summer 2011 issue of Country Gardens won a Silver Award for Achievement for the 2012 Garden Writers Association Media Awards program (Overall Product, Magazines with 100,000 or more circulation). But wait. Also, CG contributor and friend Rob Cardillo won the Silver Award for Photography for our feature on Tovah Martin’s spectacular garden that ran in the Spring 2011 issue of Country Gardens!


We wanted to take a moment to thank all of our friends and contributors who help make each and every issue of Country Gardens possible: art director Nick Crow and administrative assistant Heather Knowles and illustrator Helen Smythe…Laurie Black, Stephanie Brandenburg, Scott Calhoun, Kate Carter Frederick, Andrea Caughey, Ruth Rogers Clausen, Kindra Clineff, Ed Gohlich, Adam Levine, Karin Lidbeck-Brent, Julie Martens, Tovah Martin, Lee May, Penelope O’Sullivan, Marty Ross, Karen Weir-Jimerson, Lauren Spring-Ogden, Debra Prinzing, Anne Raver, Irene Virag, Marty Wingate, Sue Whitney, and Helen Yoest. We sure do appreciate all the sweat and hard work that each of you brings to America’s favorite garden magazine.

It was a hot, sunny weekend and Sunday was particularly breezy here in Des Moines. While the breeze was nice for me to keep that warm air moving, it was really tough on plants — especially containers, which seemed to dry out immediately after watering them.

If watering is the toughest part of keeping your containers looking good, try these tips:

  • Mulch. Adding an inch or two of mulch (such as shredded bark or cocoa hulls) over the top of the potting mix will help conserve moisture.
  • Don’t Overplant. It’s easy to pack your container garden full of little plants — but keep in mind that as the plants grow, they need more moisture. The fewer plants you have (or the bigger the pot), the less often you’ll need to water.
  • Choose the Right Plants. Varieties, such as angelonia, lantana, euphorbia, and cosmos hold up to heat and drought better than calibrachoa, petunia, lobelia, bacopa, and impatiens.
  • Provide Shade. If your containers sit in the blazing sun and they’re not too heavy to move, getting them out of direct light during the hottest part of the day will help keep the plants cooler and moister.
  • Soak Your Pots. If the potting mix does completely dry out, soak it in a tub of water to help rehydrate it. Most mixes hold water well when they’re moist, but have a hard time soaking up moisture if they dry out. If you water and the mix is too dry, the water will run right down the sides of the pot and out the holes instead of being absorbed.
  • Cut Back on the Fertilizer. If the weather forecasts an especially hot week, withholding the fertilizer that week can actually help your plants. Fertilizer pushes lots of growth; the more plants grow, the more water they need. Letting them slow down during hot spells means they’ll use less water.


Roses are one of the favorite foods of Japanese beetles. When one starts to feed, it releases a pheromone that attracts more beetles. Early control is essential to prevent a full-force invasion.

Japanese beetles are back in central Iowa, several weeks ahead of schedule. This morning while photographing in the garden, I noticed (and killed!) half a dozen of the pests on a rose bush, one of their favorite plants. Among the 300 or so other plants that attract them are grapes, hollyhocks, hibiscus, crabapples, and lindens.

Adult beetles usually don’t emerge until late June, but as with everything else garden related this year, they’re well ahead of schedule. Normally the adults feed for several weeks before laying eggs in the ground. We can hope that their early emergence also will result in their early departure! But this means it’s time to start my daily morning rounds of the garden with a bucket of soapy water. I find that’s the simplest and most effective way of controlling them. I hold the bucket under the flower/plant on which they’re feeding, give the bloom a little tap, and the beetles drop into the sudsy solution to their demise.

Avoid the temptation to purchase a Japanese beetle pheromone trap to control the pests. These devices do indeed lure and trap hundreds of the critters, but they also attract many more that never make it into the trap. Instead, the extra beetles feed on the plants in your garden, causing even more damage than had you done nothing.

Japanese beetle trap.

It’s Winefest here in Central Iowa and last Saturday I conducted a workshop on “How to Grow a Basil Banquet” at the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchens in Des Moines. Attendees got to sniff and taste some 16 different varieties of basil—including lemon, Thai, African blue, variegated, cinnamon, purple, Greek, holy, and sweet—and my colleague Maggie Myers demonstrated three basil dishes, which were paired with wines for the guests to sample and enjoy. The highlight of my weekend was a delightful Friday evening spent with cookbook author, winemaker, cooking class teacher, and PBS television chef Joanne Weir. She was in town to help kick off Winefest Des Moines’ weeklong extravaganza. That’s us, above, taking a break in between my session and hers (“Food + Wine = Divine: Celebrate Wine Country Cooking and Pairing with Joanne Weir”). Check out her most recent book, an all-in-one reference guide called Tequila: A Guide to Types, Flights, Cocktails and Bites (Ten Speed Press, 2009).

© Copyright , Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved Privacy Policy Data Policy Terms of Service AdChoices