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Did Summer Kill Some Plants?
By Urban Harvest

 

This summer was not as hot as last year’s drought, but no doubt the heat took its toll on your plants and trees. It looks like fall’s cooler weather is coming in fits and starts and the chance of rain is looking more promising. It's time to take an assessment and see what changes you might want to make during the fall gardening season.

Take a look around your garden. Make a list of plants you lost during the summer and of those that underperformed. These are the plants that you will want to replace with selections that are hardier or better adapted to our year-round growing conditions.

Underperformance can be assessed in several ways:
-- If a plant did not produce the desired look or effect, it underperformed.
-- If it required too many inputs, such as too frequent watering or spraying, it underperformed.
-- Drought stress and insect infestations are signals that a certain plant might not be the best selection for your landscape.

Fall is the best time to plant trees, shrubs, and many perennials and bulbs. Local garden clubs 70th Annual Bulb and Plant Mart and Master Gardener associations have responded to this by hosting major plant sales in the fall months. Citrus and fruit trees provide not only shade but once mature, fruit in abundance. The Urban Harvest's annual fruit tree sale is January 19th, so mark your calendars.

The plants that are available at these sales are grown by local wholesale nurseries and sometimes by members of the sponsoring organization. They are carefully selected for their suitability to the Upper Gulf Coast. Many have been chosen because they have shown themselves to be exceptional performers in members' gardens or in demonstration gardens across the area.

The Pagoda Flower Clerodendron (Clerodendron buchananii var. fallax) is a large multi-stemmed, perennial with tropical-looking leaves that are 10 to 12-inches long. It produces huge showy clusters of orange-red flowers that are held above the foliage practically all summer and fall — the hummingbirds love it. Pagoda Flower is root hardy and fast growing. It will average 3 to 5-feet each growing season. This shade lover prefers warm and humid conditions and will do best in enriched, moist, well-drained soil.

Fragrance is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Dwarf Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata 'Min-A-Min'). A heavenly orange-blossom fragrance drifts from clusters of beautiful white flowers that are produced in heavy flushes from spring to fall. This dwarf variety has glossy, rich green foliage reminiscent of a miniature citrus. It forms a compact, rounded 3-foot bush that is wonderful in the landscape and is a spectacular container plant. Dwarf Orange Jasmine is root hardy in the Houston area. It grows in full sun or light shade in a moist, well-drained bed.

Another beautiful root hardy shrub for both the garden and containers is Dwarf Fairy Duster (Calliandra emarginata). Growing to about 2 to 3-feet tall, Dwarf Fairy Duster is covered with hot pink "powderpuff" flowers practically non-stop from spring to fall. This shrub is simply spectacular in bloom. It has a very tropical look, but it is very tough. It will do well in full sun or in light shade. Hummingbirds and butterflies just love it. Calliandras are known for having very low amounts of airborne pollen.

These plants will be joined at the fall sale events by dozens of colorful selections such as Blue Ribbon Bush, Gold Cestrum, Pink Mist Cuphea, and Chocolate Vine. In addition to great plants be sure to take advantage of the free classes and demonstrations that will be featured during the events or at sale preview presentations.

Watch the Chronicle garden calendar for a schedule of the sales or see individual Web sites of organizations such as the Sugar Land Garden Club and the Garden Club of Houston, or Master Gardener associations in Harris, Galveston, Brazos & Jefferson counties.

This article is provided by Urban Harvest, Inc. To learn about gardening classes, farmers markets, school and community gardens and more go to www.urbanharvest.org or call 713-880-5540 for more information. This article was written by Angela Chandler who is a freelance garden writer and speaker and Heidi Sheesley who is the owner of TreeSearch Farms Inc., a wholesale grower of perennials, natives and unique plants.