Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Taking stock: Winners

By any yardstick one cares to use, this year has fallen well shy of the mark for gardeners.  In fact, it has been the most challenging year to be a gardener in Texas that most of us can, or care to, remember.

A lot of good plants were lost during the long, hot, dry summer.  I told you about some of my losses here.  But I don't want to leave you with the impression that the year has been a total wash-out.  Along with the losers, there were plenty of winners.

Nearly all the plants that were lost in my garden had been planted there within the last couple of years and so they had never experienced anything but harsh weather, either hot or cold.  They had never really had a chance to get established.  But most of the plants in my yard have been here a lot longer than two years and are well-established, and, even though they may have suffered, they came through all the trials provided by the weather and they are still standing.

Most of my "winners" will be very familiar to regular readers of the blog.  Here are just a few of them.

Hamelia patens, sometimes called firebush or hummingbird bush, has never been as floriferous as it has this year.  These shrubs never get the water or the care that some other parts of the garden get, but it doesn't faze them.

Anisacanthus wrighiti, flame acanthus, is another that has completely outdone itself in blooming this year.  It started blooming early and has hardly taken a pause all summer and now into the fall.  It just keeps on sending out masses of these little orange, flame-shaped blossoms.  These shrubs, too, get very little care or water, but they seem to thrive on my neglect.

Likewise, all the crape myrtles in the yard, like this oldest and largest of the lot, have bloomed continually since late spring and even now are full of blossoms.

The old-fashioned 4 o'clocks have scarcely been bothered by the severe weather.

In the herb garden, the African blue basil has provided a banquet for bees since the spring and is still going strong.

Much of the spring/summer vegetable garden was a bust, but the green beans were a huge success.  The same was true of the summer squash.  Both the zucchini and the yellow straight-necked squash kept on producing until we were well and truly sick of squash!

I have many different kinds of salvia in the garden and almost all of the plants, like this 'Otahal', have thrived and continue to put out blooms.

On the whole, it's not been the best year for roses, although, except for two yellow Knockouts, they have all survived.  But there's one rose that I always know I can count on, come drought, flood, heat or cold.  It's the 'Caldwell Pink.'  If there's anything that can stop this rose, I haven't met it yet and I hope I never do.

I have often sung the praises of this plant, the yellow cestrum, and no doubt I will again.  It has not been out of bloom since April and the bees and butterflies absolutely love it.

Well, I could go on, but you get the idea.  My garden is really not the vast wasteland that, in my despairing moments, I may give the impression that it is.  In addition to these winners, there are almond verbena, 'Cuban gold' duranta, 'Montrose purple' vitex, oakleaf hydrangea, cannas, Turk's cap, Esperanza, porterweed, buddleias, hibiscus, abelia, potato vine, Texas sage, muscadine, loropetalum, tradescantia, leatherleaf mahonia, just to name a few that have laughed at adversity and kept on growing and producing.  Check back in a couple of days when I do my Bloom Day post and you'll see even more of them!


  1. We have a lot of the same 'survivors' in common. I love the flame acanthus and so do the hummers in my yard. Really thankful for them and the firebush. I saw the 4 o'clock at the nursery the other day and walked on by because I thought it was a water hog...maybe I should give it a go. It was sooo pretty!

  2. Actually, I would say that the 4 o'clocks in my yard have been the opposite of water hogs, Cat. Several of them are in out-of-the-way beds that don't necessarily get watered regularly and even though they wilt badly during the middle of the day, they perk up late in the day and they've never stopped blooming.