First of all, HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY to all of our readers. We do have so much to be thankful for in this wonderful country of ours. So, be proud to be an American.
July can be a brutal month for the garden with intense heat and in many years, drought. For those of us who have sprinkler systems, we are basically in control of our flower beds and can make the needed adjustments of the time and amount of watering. This means that we are aware if some areas get too much water or some areas of the beds do not get enough. I almost lost some newly planted purple verbena in the front of a bed which would have enough water for an established plant but not enough for it. I saved it in the nick of time with extra water which shows we need to be aware of our plants. For those who do not have a central sprinkling system, timers with shut off valves can serve the purpose with just a little more work.
There are many plants which do not do well unless planted at certain times, but there are other warm weather annuals that can be planted through out the summer growing season. I like to start many flowers from seed and seed the beds weeks apart to have young plants coming along. Zinnias, cleome and cosmos are my three favorites for this technique. Or just sow the seed, let these grow and bloom, then, pull them out and start all over. I have even planted a new crop in mid to late August for dazzling October blooms. As I have warned often in the past, after sowing the seed, do not mulch as the seed will have a difficult time germinating. Just last week, after having killed the weeds with round-up, I needed an instant bed of blooming flowers. My choice was 6" pots of peach dragon wing begonias which has made a spectacular splash against gray granite blocks. These landscape begonias can be planted all summer also. My only task with this bed beside water, is to prune them back in late July. They will get so top heavy by then if one does not cut them back, they will just flop over. This bed will be beautiful until a hard freeze.
Recently I came across a listing of good gardening books and guides which I shall share. I have most of these books for reference and they are outstanding. I will divide them into categories.
General Gardening: American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants by Brickell and Zuk.
Roses: Antique Roses of the South by William C. Welch.
Herbs: Landscaping with Herbs by Jim Wilson.
Shrubs: Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs by Michael A. Dirr. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael Dirr.
Garden Design: Color in your Garden by Penelope Hobhouse.
Daffodils: Daffodils for American Gardens by Brent and Becky Heath.
Perennials: Designing with Perennials by Pamela J. Harper
PLANT OF THE MONTH--HIBISCUS MOSCHEUTOS
These hibiscus actually look unreal due to the size of their flowers. Large dinner plate size blooms in dazzling white, pink, wine and red with contrasting throats can truly be called Southern Exotic. They are deciduous, like moist soils, and bloom from late spring until late summer. These are hardy perennials and keep returning year after year. Another Southern exotic is the Confederate rose mallow (Hibiscus mutabilis) which has double peony-like blooms with flowers that change from pure white in the morning, to pink and then red as the day progresses.