This week I am looking back at which flowers did well this past summer and which didn’t. With our hot summer and strict water restrictions many plants didn’t cut it. The first plants I lost were the Calibrachoa or Million Bells. They are usually stunning in containers but this summer they dried up in three weeks. It’s not that I wasn’t watering. They just needed more water than normal. I won’t grow them again. The Dahlias on the other hand had more flowers than ever before. No rain meant flowers lasted longer allowing me to pick many bouquets for the home.
Another flower that didn’t do well were the Nasturtiums. No it wasn’t just your plants. Everyone had issues with this plant. Little did I know but Nasturtiums like cooler weather. Once fall started to approach they finally bloomed.
If you grew roses you know this has been the best year for them in many years. Our climate is usually wet and with that brings fungal diseases on roses. This year they loved our dry hot sunny weather. That’s good as I had lots of blooms.
So let’s talk about drought conditions. What plants worked for you? I hate to waste money on plants that are not tough enough to go a few days without water. After all, trying to hand water a half-acre of garden is impossible in the short time frame we had for watering. You can see driving around Delta that cedars faced a certain death this summer. Please don’t replace them with new cedars. Cedars love a moist soil and they have shallow roots. You need to think of an alternative tree to replace them with.
So which plants did best in my garden without any watering? The hardy cranesbill geraniums were amazing. I have an out-of-the-way area filled with hardy geraniums. They might have had water once during the three months of hot summer weather. They are still blooming. Farmer Jim picked up an abandoned pot behind the shed and held it up. Inside was a geranium blooming happily and it had not been watered all summer. So those plants that are out of sight by my shed will be used in other parts of the garden where other plants may not work so well anymore. As much as I love Hydrangea, they are water hogs. I could move them to an area of heavy shade but I will get less flowers and the shrubs will be leggy. I saw a garden in the summer where the gardener had made water wells around the base of each Hydrangea. It’s not a bad idea. That way the water can be directed right to the plants roots.
How about Potentilla? We have two of these shrubs in the garden. One is by my front door and the other in the side yard. The one in the side yard did not get watered last summer but it bloomed its head off. I think the fact that it has tiny leaves helps it to survive the heat. Plants like Lavender and Rosemary loved the heat. Their tiny leaves reflect sunlight and conserve water making them a good choice for the garden.
Good performing plants like Rudbeckia did well but I noticed that the flowers were a bit smaller than normal. Was it the weather that did this? Could be.
Then there were the annuals I grew from seed. Above is one of the Zinnia ‘Green Envy’ with its spoon-shaped petals.
Now take a look at this flower. This is also Zinnia ‘Green Envy’. I like this one better and this is how it is supposed to look. Seed variability drives me crazy. When we buy something we expect it to look like its photo. This was a fail for me. Mind you, I saved seed from the one I like and will see how it blooms next year. What I did find interesting is when I had the Million Bells dry up I tucked in a few Snapdragon and Heliotrope that I had grown from seed. I found my plants grown from seed were much stronger and adapted better. If you are collecting seed from your garden those plants are used to your microclimate and your garden conditions and they will do better than any plant you buy.
So going forward it looks like we are predicted to have another hot summer in 2016. Have you selected your annuals yet? Will you use different plants? I may stay away from containers next year. They dry out too quickly. If I do plant containers I will use perennial plantings instead. Perennial plants have a deeper root system and require less water. Annuals have shallow root systems so they dry out. quickly.
Of course by the time the seed catalogues come around I may have forgotten all my garden woes of 2015. There are always new plants each year enticing gardeners to try them out, just once. I will be one of those who falls for them every time.