Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ugly Plants: Melt Out in the Summer Heat

Spring 2010 brought plenty of rain and the blue hydrangeas were breathtakingly beautiful again, for the first year in many after a brutal 3-year drought. Gardens were thriving this spring and gardeners walked with a bounce in their steps. 

Just as summer officially began we experienced four weeks & two days with no rain at all, and 90+ degree F. temperatures, followed by a continued heatwave but with afternoon thunderstorms and high humidity. Plants that had been holding on through all these changes finally melted out. YouTube: I Melt With You
One example is the heavily felted leaves of Lambs Ears, Stachys byzantina. Lambs Ears is a plant commonly grown in children's gardens or used for edging, because it is easy to grow and the thick felt like leaves are fun to touch. They are native to the Near East, with arid or Mediterranean-like climates and are best suited to sunny, dry gardens with infertile soils. However, the silvery felt-y leaves trap moisture and humidity, encouraging crown rot in heavy clay soils and in climates with high summer humidity. Excessive moisture can result in root rot during dormant periods and crown meltout during summer months. Formerly about a yard in diameter, my patch of Lambs Ears has melted away this summer. I raked off the dead leaves opening up the branches beneath to air circulation, and I’m wondering whether it might come back from the crown this fall. Maybe not.
I had an amazing 5-foot-diameter stand of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ that recently bit the dust, too, except for a few plants around the outside rim of the clump that are flowering. Just look at this sad picture.

Even the Daylilies look bad, but I know they'll be fine because their fleshy storage roots and crowns will be unaffected.

Actually, there are still a few nice looking plants in the garden. Apparently Autumn Fern is indestructible, along with the Sun Coleus, native Coneflowers and Black-Eyed Susans. How is your garden doing?


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