Just One Good Thing
Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora)
My friend Mary Anne Pickens and I were exchanging e-mails last week about how frustrating gardening gets in the hottest and driest part of our summer. Mary Anne lives on a historic family farm property near Columbus and allowed that as bad as it is there was 'one really nice thing in her garden'. It is sweet autumn clematis, (Clematis terniflora) Its lacey white flowers were blooming vigorously and adding an fabulous fragrance in spite of weeks without water and really hot days and nights.
Philippine Lily (Lilium formosanum philippense)
That put my mind into action. About two weeks ago we had a hundred or more Philippine Lilies (Lilium formosanum) in full bloom in the College Station garden. During the early morning and late evening hours the big white trumpets towered over most everything else in the garden and added a sweet fragrance that was really nice. Still blooming nicely is a large clump of Rudbeckia x 'Herbstsonne' with its bright yellow daisy-like flowers in clusters on 5' stems. Twined among its stems is a vigorous plant of coral vine (Antigonon leptopus), a perennial vine that clambers over anything in its reach and has heart shaped coral or white flowers for several months in late summer and fall.
White Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus)
While in San Antonio this past weekend attending the Texas Nursery and Landscape Expo I decided to make a pass by the Shultze House Garden, a favorite site where Bexar County Master Gardeners have developed a gem of a garden surrounding a late 1800s house. It was showing some stress from many rainless weeks and days over 100 degrees. But it had 'one really nice thing'. The white form of coral vine (Antigonon leptopus 'alba') could not have been more exquisite. There is a gracefulness to this vine that is almost unsurpassed. It was thriving and putting on quite a performance in spite of the stresses of our summer. Coral vine is perennial in most of Zones 8 and 9, returning from a sweet potato 'like underground root. A native to Mexico, it is also sometimes called 'Heavenly Vine'. In my youth my Aunt Edna had moved to a new house in Yoakum, TX that had a long porch that faced West. She had a wooden trellis built that dropped from the ceiling about 4' and planted 'Heavenly Vine' in several locations. The difference in the temperature on that porch with the added shade of the vine made a big impression on me. I was a little intimidated by all the honey bees that were attracted to the flowers but the beauty of the streams of coral pink flowers and the shade of the vine made me realize what a difference well placed vines and other plants can make in the comfort and attractiveness of our homes and landscapes.
Hardy Hibiscus 'Lady Baltimore'
The past month has provided me with new appreciation for another summer favorite. Hibiscus moscheutos x 'Lady Baltimore' has literally stopped traffic in my College Station neighborhood. Cynthia Mueller rooted one for me a number of years ago and several of my neighbors asked for cuttings. She rooted several more and I gave two plants to Martha and Gerald Still and Mike and Lou Anne Workman. In the past few years my original plant has continued to bloom but is being crowded by Asian jasmine groundcover and nandinas. While this 'struggle' was going on with my plant the Stills and Workmans are in heavy competition for the showiest specimens. When I mentioned that I would like to publish a picture of her 'Lady Baltimore', Martha immediately responded that she had counted thirty blooms on hers that day. The Workmans are fertilizing and watering theirs but it appears that Martha is clearly is winning the contest. There are many other 'hardy hibiscus' like 'Moy Grande' (very large, rosy red) and 'Lord Baltimore', (very dark red). They all are related to our native mallows that grow in ditches and wet spots in coastal areas of Texas and the South. I like to use them behind low evergreen hedges or walls where the relatively coarse look of the plant is softened. The top parts freeze back in winter but the roots are hardy throughout Texas and the South.
Take time to visit gardens and notice the 'one really good thing' in your own place. We are approaching our fall season which is my favorite time. The first good rains and cooler temperatures revitalize our gardens and spirits. The days are already shorter and better times are just ahead.