Brutal is how I would describe the last 30 days. Plants, animals and humans gasp for breath during hot, densely humid days and nights while suffering from a lack of water. The local water company instituted voluntary lawn-watering restrictions.
Even in droughts, the Midwest has enough water to make watering restrictions voluntary.
Here in Indianapolis, like many other cities in the country, we set heat records throughout July — the driest and longest string of 90-degree days since 1936. Altogether, about six weeks of misery.
My friend over at May Dreams Gardens (originator of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day) likes to tumble down rabbit holes and I asked her to check out what happened in 1936, since that was the year that held all these weather records until 2011. The next day, the newspaper told me that 1936 was the Dust Bowl and I immediately thought of Red Dirt Ramblings in Oklahoma, where record breaking temperatures and drought are much worse than in Indiana.
Besides the weather, my garden has been plagued by the infamous sunflower head-cutting weevil. This insect nearly decapitates the heads of many plants in the daisy-aster family, including coneflowers, sunflowers and false sunflowers, leaving the flowers attached only by a sliver of plant fiber.
I must say that the 24 roses I got to trial this summer are holding their own in these trying times even for established plants. Several are blooming and they seem to be miniatures, rather than full-blown roses. Their next challenge will be transplanting (if their luck continues), then winter.
The lack of rain has reduced the number of flowers on plants, but right now, ‘Sunshine Daydream,’ the false sunflowers (Helianthus x multiflorus) from Plants Nouveau is nearly 6 feet tall, but is amazingly disease and insect free and hardly shows any stress from the weather. It did lose a few heads to that sunflower head-cutting weevil, though.
We’ve had a couple of decent rains, which always revive the rain lily (Zephyranthese). I got from another Master Gardener from a clump that has been in his family for more than 100 years. Quite a prize.
The goldenrod (Solidago shortii) is about ready to bloom and the rains renewed the coneflowers (Echinacea), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and flowering tobacco (Nicotiana). The hydrangeas (H. paniculata) seem happy, too.
Sometimes the best part about gardening are the surprises. Whole Life Gardening suggested replacing ‘Gold Flame’ honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrottii) with ‘Serotina,’ (L. perichymenum) because of the latter’s resistance to powdery mildew. The blooms are quite similar, including fragrance.
The powdery mildew was so bad on ‘Gold Flame’ the year before last that the leaves looked white and I swore I was going to tear it out. But last year, I treated it several times beginning early in the season with Safer fungicide. The mildew was greatly reduced. This year, despite all the rain this spring and hot temperatures that has fed powdery mildew on dozens of other plants, there’s none on ‘Gold Flame.’
‘Serotina’ also came through summer without any disease and only minor insect damage, even thought it is still in the gallon pot I bought it in early this summer. By the way, ‘Gold Flame’ and ‘Serotina’ are not invasive honeysuckle species.
Oh, yes, ‘Serotina’s surprise. It’s the berries. Beautiful, fat, red berries that seem to get redder as they age.
Despite the much needed, slow, soil-drenching rain, last night’s storm was deadly a couple of miles south of here, where a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair. As of this writing, five people were killed and at least 40 were injured. The fair was closed on Sunday and was expected to reopen Monday.
The weather the last week or so has been decent and with more time at home since I resigned from the garden center, I’ve been able to catch up on weeding, tending plants and mowing the sedge, er lawn.