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Gardening With Soul

Warm Weather Friends Can Carry You
by Teresa Watkins
July 8, 2001

Sunny days are here for the duration of the summer, and as much as we Floridians love our sunshine, it also makes taking care of our yards a little more stressful. Beautiful flowers that looked so great in the garden center, seem to wilt easily under the duress of the afternoon heat. Our petunias look haggard and lifeless. The lisianthus bends in subtle submission to the sun. You easily tire of hand-watering your annuals and they still look they don't get enough water? 
Choosing some drought tolerant shrubs and perennials as the major portion of your color instead of annuals will create a more attractive look for your garden and less dollars and maintenance for you.
Let me give you my favorite runners for marathon summers. Starting in the background, using ornamental shrubs that are a little taller will ensure that you have a green or flowery frame to your garden bed. Plumbago, with its light hues of blues and white will conspire with pink pentas to create a cooler baby-theme palette. Loropetalums with their burgandy leaves and hot pink flowers seem to thrive under our sun. Pair them with thryallis and you have a hot pink and yellow flower arrangement that will look lovely on any picnic table. Deep shades of purple magically appear each day with Mexican ruellia on tall thin stems. Mix them with African Irises and your back drop is complete.
In front of these you can plant medium or low growing perennials. To continue the theme of soft pastel shades, you may use society garlic with its herbed scented leaves and lavender flowers. Sprinkling some white yarrows and gauras (whirling butterflies) will lend a cottage air. Soft, pink daylilies will carry on and bloom all summer long, not minding the temperatures at all. 
If your garden colors run with the warm hues, then gazanias and gaillardias are brilliant in tones of burgandy, orange and yellows. You can find daylilies as well that will keep the Southwestern theme alive. Melampodiums make a sturdy ground cover with yellow flowers that bloom prolifically. Coreopsis is another perennial that is underused in this part of the country. Coreopsis comes in yellows and whites and are quite drought tolerant once established.
That is the key, establishing your plants and flowers first before making them struggle through the hot summers. Depending on the size of the root system, it could take anywhere from one month to six months to ensure the flower that consistant water is available for the plant to adapt. After that time, the plant will be able to reside in your garden with just rainfall and an occasional watering from you.
Most of these plants I have described will also do well in container gardens for patios and apartment balconies as well, if there is enough sunlight. Make sure to use plenty of organic material in the soil and provide watering, sometimes as much as once every two days. Containers, especially clay pots, will dry up in one day with evaporation and extreme temperatures. 
Having warm weather friends that thrive all year long in our tropical zone makes gardening a lot more enjoyable and less expensive in the long run. Choosing the right plant and the right location, or creating the right environment for that flower will do more for your yard than anything else you could do in the way of landscaping. 

Email: twatkins@mail.ifas.ufl.edu
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