In the Garden:
Upper South
July, 2004
Regional Report

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A mass planting of long-blooming anise hyssop makes a strong statement at the entrance to a garden.

Midsummer Scorecard

With gardening, it's easy to keep your head down and shoulder to the wheel from sometime in March until at least October. Hopefully, you find some time to at least sit in the garden and enjoy it's pleasures and bounty. At those times, I find that it's also useful to stop and really look. Even better is to keep notes as to what worked, what didn't, when something came into bloom, and when it stopped blooming. If you haven't done this already, now is a good time to stop and make some notes. Here are some observations from my own gardens.

Anise Hyssop
Although I've grown anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) for years, this is the first time I've really stopped and fully appreciated it. A prairie plant hardy to -20 degrees F, with anise-scented foliage, it forms bushy growth to 3 feet tall. It tolerates any well-drained soil in full sun and is relatively drought resistant. Plants bear fat spikes of lavender flowers for months on end, right up to frost. That is its great selling point. Anise hyssop, when grown in a mass, really makes a spectacular statement. In addition, the flowers are attractive to butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

The only flaw to anise hyssop is that it does reseed rather efficiently, to put it gently. If cut down in the fall, this is a minimal problem. I tend to leave mine uncut to provide winter interest in the garden. The choice is yours. 'Blue Fortune' is an especially good cultivar.

Verbena
Although all verbenas are nice, the one that I'm particularly fond of is Verbena bonariensis. It can reach 4 to 5 feet tall with airy spikes of tiny purple flowers. Usually sold as an annual (it is a short-lived perennial to 10 degrees F), it also readily reseeds. Prick out and move the seedlings when young as they do not transplant well when they exceed only a few inches tall. One of the most stunning plantings I've ever seen was a 50-foot walkway edged in this verbena. It's also a great blending plant interspersed with other flowers. Plants continue to bloom until frost.

It's Plastic
Not being able to have a vegetable garden last summer was one of the most depressing episodes in my life. This year I was determined to have one but knew that time constraints were not going away. So I covered the vegetable area with 3-foot-wide strips of black plastic "mulch." This may not be the best method of weed control, environmentally or aesthetically, but it sure works. I have an abundance of vegetables and a dirth of weeds. Plus, the black plastic warms the soil and keeps it moist during any but the most severe drought.

One trick I learned from a friend was to attach 1-inch-wide plastic surveyor's tape to the pins that anchor the plastic; this will let me know where the pins are when I'm ready to dismantle the garden in the fall.

Other Observations
Crocosmia 'George Davidson' is a lovely shade of golden-orange and, so far, is only about 2 feet tall, just like the label said. No staking is required as with taller cultivars.

Lots of new purple coneflower varieties are being developed. The one called 'Fragrant Angel' is white with a delicious fragrance. Could it replace Shasta daisies in the border?

Sometimes being late is a good thing. I didn't get the eggplant transplants set out until well into June and seem to have missed the flea beetle massacre that usually occurs when they're planted out earlier.


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