Coastal and Tropical South

July, 2011
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Improved Purple Wave Petunia
Lots of people want the latest because they assume it will be the greatest. Me, I am always skeptical since too often a "new and improved' product is no better, and usually more expensive, than the original. So I planted the Improved Purple Wave without expectations -- but it has paid off big time. The flowers are silkier and more colorful even in blasting sun, there are more of them on each crawling stem, and each stem crawls farther. Even overhead watering, necessary in such dry weather to keep the dust off and deter pests a little bit, has not fazed them. I cannot wait to see how this plant responds to a thunderstorm, as I am sure it will bounce back from a pelting rainstorm just as strong as ever.

Clever Gardening Technique

Summer Shrub Care
If a young or previously damaged shrub begins to drop leaves and even twigs suddenly in summer, suspect dehydration, but check the bark at its base to be sure it is not delayed winter damage. Splits are seen there in summer, but were actually caused by sudden temperature swings last winter. That is the purpose of those white fabric bags with drawstrings at the top and bottom that you see at the garden center. Use them to provide cover in winter or make protectors of your own out of recycled materials like plastic tubes and window screen. We think of such devices as made for places further north, but for many young shrubs, it is the roller coaster of our weather that causes tissues to swell, collapse, and eventually crack.

To help the same young shrub cope with prolonged drought, set up temporary shade to its west and a simple reservoir next to it. That way, the root zone can stay consistently hydrated even if the top dries out. Use a gallon jug or a big can to create a constant supply of water. Punch holes around the base, but not in the bottom of the container. Fill the reservoir and sink it into the mulch beside the vulnerable shrub. Check it daily and refill as needed until rainfall returns.

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