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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taking stock

Now that we are well into October, it's time to take stock of things in the garden and see what's been lost during this interminable summer.  To that end, I took a stroll through the yard to list the plants that have died due to the heat and drought. Some of them were a surprise.

Wax Myrtle:  I lost both a standard southern wax myrtle and a dwarf wax myrtle. Truthfully, the standard was not a great surprise.  It just never looked that healthy after I planted it last year and it never thrived.  The dwarf, on the other hand, seemed fine, and then I went to water it one day and found it turning brown.  A few days later it was dead.  Its mate, on the opposite side of the bed, is still with me, though it has lost a couple of limbs, too.

'Spring Bouquet' Viburnum:  Two of these that had been planted last year in spring on the advice of my friends at Arbor Gate didn't make it through the summer. Like the standard wax myrtle, they just never seemed to thrive, and since both were planted in the same bed, I'm highly suspicious of the soil there.  I'm working on improving the quality of that soil and I hope that the next thing I plant there will fare better.

'Radsunny' Yellow Knockout Rose:  Two of these perished which was a bit of a surprise.  The other Knockouts in the garden held up well and continued to bloom throughout the harsh season, but all of the 'Radsunny' bushes suffered more than their pink or red cousins.

Buddleia:  A pink buddleia that I planted two years ago and moved to a new bed last winter perished within the last month.  It had bloomed well through much of the season but then it collapsed and died within a week to ten days.  The accumulated stress was finally too much.

Gerbera Daisies:  The coral gerberas that I planted in spring have all succumbed within the last month, after barely hanging on all summer.  My other gerberas (red and yellow) are fine, but they have been in the ground for years and are better established.

Blueberry:  The 'Tifblue' blueberry that I planted last winter has died.  Two other blueberries that I planted at the same time have suffered terribly and lost limbs, but they are hanging on and seem to be rallying now.  I'm trying to give them a little extra TLC.  Same for my old blueberry bush that has been in the ground for over 20 years.  It has suffered this summer as never before, losing a few limbs to the drought, but it survives and looks as though it is going to make it.

Autumn sage:  Surprisingly, several autumn sage plants around the yard have died back to the roots.  They may just be resting and waiting for a more propitious time to send out new growth.  It's really hard to kill these plants.

Cuphea 'Cigar Plant':  When we went out of town for several days in June, I left instructions about watering plants in the yard, but somehow my poor 'Cigar Plant' that was absolutely full of blooms got overlooked.  By the time I got home, it was too late for it.

Hydrangea:  The old hydrangea that I had dug from my Aunt Marcelle's garden in Mississippi and brought back to Texas a couple of years ago was unable to make it through the summer.  This may be my saddest loss.

Herbs:  In the herb garden, the fennel, lemon balm, one of my rue plants, and the Mexican oregano(!) have all died.   They suffered from being in an area that, at some point, when I was doing triage on the yard and trying to reduce my use of water, just didn't get watered for long periods of time.  A month of above 100 degree days in August was more than they could stand.

In addition to these plants that have gone on to that Great Garden in the Sky where there's always plenty of rain, other plants have suffered mightily.

One of my brugmansias has not bloomed at all, its growth is stunted, and it has lost most of its leaves.  My other brugmansia has bloomed, but its blooms are just about half the size that they normally are.

My coral honeysuckle vine died back to its roots but it is now putting out new growth from the roots and the lower parts of the vine.

Many other plants have simply "hunkered down," not really growing, not blooming, just hanging on and waiting for rain.  The banana trees are about two-thirds their normal height and show no signs of blooming.  My butterfly gingers have not bloomed at all and I don't expect them to.  A couple of the split-leaf philodendrons have as many brown as green leaves.

Reading this, you might think that my garden is a complete brown disaster area, but, in fact, there are many plants that have survived and thrived in spite of everything that Nature and an inexpert gardener could throw at them.  Next time, I'll tell you about some of them.


  1. I'm sorry you had so many losses. My Southern Wax Myrle evidently loves where I planted it. It's looking very healthy. My main losses were several Dwarf Burford Holly. They were irrigated, so it wasn't the drought, it had to have been the 100+ temps that did them in. The ones that aren't actually dead aren't looking that great either.

  2. It is depressing to have lost all these plants. I didn't even realize how many there were until I started listing them, Jayne. Still, there have been a lot of winners, too, so I need to try to focus on the positive and remember the lessons I have learned from this year of drought.

  3. It's sad to lose so many plants after all the hard work you've put into them. BUT, look what opportunities you have for new plants next year!