Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Staying in the Shade

When it is 78 degrees at 8:00 AM, I know it is going to be a day to stay in the shade.  Lately, many days have been much too hot for any heavy outdoor labor.  The usual temperature peak at mid-day on these June days has been in the 90's. 

"Tough as Nails" - Walking Iris,  Neomarica longifolia, gracilis, and caerulea along with Artemisia 'Powis Castle',  Red Firespike,  Odontonema strictum and Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica
Combined with a lack of rainfall, the heat can really take a toll on the garden.  I have no irrigation in the back garden.  When the rain barrels are dry, it's just me and the hose.  I try to stick to the twice a week watering schedule for sprinkler systems that my county has enacted even though I'm watering by hand.

"Tough as Nails" - Bromeliads, Purple Heart, Tradescantia pallida, Lotus Begonia, Begonia nelumbiifolia
"Thirsty" - Caladiums
Growing plants that are "tough as nails" in this central Florida heat-filled summer is key to having a garden at all.    Placed in high shifting shade beneath the oaks certain plants are very drought tolerant.  More thirsty plants are gathered together in spots where they can be more easily watered without having to water the entire garden.

"Tough as Nails" - Gulf Fritillary butterfly on Purple Heart
Gulf Fritillaries are loving the heat and flitting around everywhere.  I notice them landing in the drops of water that collect in the creases of foliage around the garden.  Several birdbaths are located among the plantings and I have to fill them daily.  All types of wildlife are as thirsty as the plants.  I find birds, butterflies, insects, and squirrels drinking from these miniture oases.

"Tough as Nails" - Forsythia Sage, Salvia madrensis, Flowering Maple, Abutilon, Starburst Clerodendrum, Clerodendrum quadriloculare
"Thirsty"- Coleus and Caladiums
What a difference a shade tree makes for the garden.  My temperature gauge is located on the oak tree well shaded by leafy branches.  There isn't a thermometer in the sunny garden area so I can't prove my claim that there is at least a 10-15 degree difference in the two places.  I still maintain it is true though.

"Tough as Nails" - Crossandra 'Orange Marmalade'
Drought tolerant doesn't mean there are no flowers.  Many plants flower well through the summer doldrums. 

"Tough as Nails" - Bromeliads, African Iris, Dietes iridioides, Azaleas, Liriope
Placing the thirstiest plant varieties all together and near a water source makes watering a more efficient effort.  When we have as little as half an inch of rain both of my rain barrels will be full.  This precious supply can easily be hauled by watering can to the spots of  "thirsty" plants while the "tough as nails" plants are able to survive without supplemental water.

"Tough as Nails" - Shrimp Plant, Justicia brandegeana 'Fruit Cocktail'
Florida is a place where drought conditions can be experienced for a few months and then torrential rains can come the next few months.  Summer brings blistering heat and oppressive humidity and winter brings periods of freezing temperatures.  Our gardens have to be able to take it all in stride. 

It would be a boring garden that had one plant that could take all the extremes.  My goal is to have a mixture of plants for all the seasons of my Florida garden.  That's the unique thing about gardening here in the "Sunshine State" - four gardening seasons.  It's challenging, but I'm going to keep trying to pull off a year-round garden.

Wherever you garden, what are your favorite "tough as nails" plants in your garden?


  1. Oh, my, the shade is where I *should* have stayed today! Son #2 and I worked at Six Acres today in that Blazing Sun where rainwater has not fallen in months...well maybe a tenth of an inch or so. It feels like the Sahara. What a brutal day!!! Ugh. Anyway, know what you mean about that wonderful shade. What a different world a couple of steps means...that 10 or 15 degrees makes a HUGE difference. Tree canopy is a wonderful thing...wish I had appreciated it more in my previous gardens.

    That is a gorgeous photo of the Gulf Fritillary, by the way. I am always on a quest for those "tough as nails" plants too...things that can take flood or drought, heat or cold, and lots of bugs. I don't water as often as most....two to four times per month. The St. Augustine lawn always shows the stress quicker and worse than the plants. The dry, crispy spots in the lawn tell me when to turn on the irrigation. Please, please, come, rain!!!

  2. HiKay...These days we really appreciate our "tough as nails" plants. The way our weather is these days we're going to have to stick with cold-hardy and drought-tolerant plants. Your garden looks like it's holding up well with lots of pretty color. I hope it rains soon!

  3. Kay,
    Oh, I so wish it wasn't already this hot overnight. But it is what it is and it will be for the next several months. I suppose we better get used to it.

    I also see some "tough as nails" azaleas and a camellia peeping around the edges of your photos. You've made some fabulous points here with great plant selections. I totally agree with the degree difference in the shade. And I'm so grateful for the shady gardens. With a blessed breeze it is easily 10-15 degrees the nicer in the shdae. I'm working on that garden for every season as well. Getting there with cold hardy and drought tolerant alike... my tough as nails plants that I'd add to your list would be purple muhly grass, beach sunflower, bulbine, flax lily, aztec grasses, holly ferns, lantana... to name a few.

  4. I certainly agree about the difference in temp under the shade canopy. It must be at least 15 degrees cooler under my oaks. Wish I had a nice big tree in my front yard also.

    My shrimp plants are amazing. They bloomed through the winter. Cut them back early spring because they had gotten so big. Now they are covered with blooms again. Great plant!!

    Great pic of the Gulf Fritillary. I tried to get a pic of an Eastern Black Swallowtail Monday. He just wouldn't co-operate! Time for a better camera.

  5. Floridagirl - Good for you being slow to water. The shade is going to be the place for me from now until summer is over I'm sure. I only do what has to be done in the sunny area 1st thing in the morning.

    Susan - I have never paid as much attention to the weather as I have since I began gardening. I'm always looking for rain.

    Meems - You're right about the azaleas and camellias. I should have mentioned them. They are very important to my garden. I appreciate your list of other tough plants too. I am hoping my holly ferns grow and prove tough, but right now the new ones are struggling a bit with the heat and lack of water. The two I have that are established from last year are doing great.

    Enjoy your shade and the breezes there.

    Siesta Sister - I'm loving my shrimp plants and have rooted some to put in other areas of my garden. I am always chasing butterflies and hummingbirds for pictures. It's challenging but when I get that one good one it's worth it. I'm sure my neighbors wonder why I'm always outside with the camera.

  6. Your shade area looks so nice and peaceful! I hope I can have more shade in my back yard, so that I can have a place to enjoy in the summer, together with all those shade loving plants!

    We finally got some rain these two days, not a lot, but better than nothing.

    I have been having issues with commenting any blog that has embeded comment (comments section is on the same page as the post) section like yours . Finally I found using Google Chrome solved the issue. Weird.

  7. We finally received some rain late last nite.Yea! I love the coolness that our oaks provide.The temperature difference is amazing.

  8. NanaK: Just want to try if I can leave a comment here using IE. If I make it, the it means Blogger fixed the issues!


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