Posts by Everyday Gardeners
When it’s 103 degrees F in the shade, water in the landscape looks mighty inviting! That’s the situation I found myself in last week in Milwaukee while visiting the Boerner (pronounced BURN-er) Botanical Gardens. Lucky for me, the garden has a state-of-the-art rainwater harvesting and recycling system that doubles as a beautiful landscape water feature and serves as a cooling respite on a hot summer day. The system harvests rain from the parking lot and the roof of the visitor center, diverting it to the stream you see above. The water flows into a reservoir with two submersible pumps. One recirculates the water through a sediment trap; the other through the riparian wetland. The plants in the stream help filter the water, gulping extra minerals, reducing the iron content of the water enough to prevent staining of limestone sculptures in the garden. The system can capture 35,000 gallons of water at a time, saving up to 2.5 million gallons of irrigation water per year.
Des Moines is suffering under one of the worst droughts in decades. My garden has received less than 1/2 inch of rain in the past month. That, coupled with days on end of temperatures exceeding 100 degrees F has created extreme stress on plants. I seldom water established plantings, but this year I’ve resorted to rescue watering for most of the plants in my yard. I’m not trying to keep everything in photo-shoot-ready condition. I’m simply trying to make certain the plants will survive.
Perennials, trees, and shrubs planted within the past two or three years are most vulnerable, but many well-established plants are also showing signs of drought stress. The shrub pictured below is growing on the south side of a parking garage. Reflected heat off the concrete wall creates a desertlike microclimate in this spot. The shrub should have been watered long ago. At this stage, it likely will suffer dieback of the growing tips. But if it gets water right away, it likely will resprout from the base.
Because water is in short supply during a drought, it’s important to water efficiently. Sprinklers can spread water over large areas, but they lose some water to evaporation as they sprinkle. And usually they also over spray onto sidewalks and driveways, where the water will simply run off. If you don’t have large expanses to water, consider using soaker hoses that ooze water the full length of the hose. For trees and shrubs, you can fashion a drip watering system by drilling a few holes into the bottom of a five-gallon bucket, filling it with water, and placing it near a tree to slowly distribute the water to the root zone. For large, well-established trees use several of the bucket to deliver more water.
What drought-defying tricks do you use in your garden?
The long days of summer are great for getting outdoors and enjoying nature. Most mornings I take time to survey my garden, perhaps doing a little watering, weeding, or capturing Japanese beetles. Last week while friends and family suffered through heat and humidity here in Des Moines, I was enjoying the beauty and comfortable coolness of Door County, WI, as a guest of the Door County Visitor Bureau.
With more than 300 miles of shoreline, Door County provides easy access to water-related fun. A group of us kayaked with a guide from Bay Shore Outdoor Store putting in at Garret Bay and paddling around the cliffs of Door Bluff Headlands County Park. The trip back through whitecaps proved a thrilling experience! Cana Island Lighthouse, one of the most accessible of the dozen or so lighthouses in the county, provides a bird’s-eye view of the Lake Michigan side of peninsula. Also on the quieter eastern shore (that is, fewer shops and tourists) is The Ridges Sanctuary, which provides guided wildflower walks showcasing the amazing diversity of flora native to the alternating swales and sand dune ridges found in the park. Just down the coast is Whitefish Dunes State Park, home to the threatened dune thistle, and a lovely sandy beach.
Outdoor activities in Door County include cultural events as well as natural ones. The American Folklore Theatre performs under the stars at Peninsula State Park. And the Peninsula Players Theatre is a state-of-the-art, open-air performing venue with a green roof.
After days full of outdoor adventure, I rested up in well-appointed suites at the Ashbrooke Hotel in Egg Harbor, and at the Eagle Harbor Inn in Ephraim. There’s nothing like a soak in the jacuzzi to wash away the grime of the day and soothe overexerted muscles!
‘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.
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!
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.