Friday, July 26, 2013

Southwestern Gardens Get Their "Second Wind" in the Autumn

Flourishing tomatoes
Yes, friends, it is the moment we in the Southwest have been waiting for: Autumn! Since moving here five years ago, I have come to look forward to the cooler days of autumn more than any other time of year. A cool breeze is carried on the morning air and everything in the garden is given fresh new life. All those plants that had been languishing in the heat seem to perform on queue and seemingly overnight colour abounds. During the spring I planted several tomato plants and my yield was well below average. After consulting with friends in the SW Garden Forum, this is not unusual. When planting tomatoes here in the spring, they must bloom, set fruit and mature before the temperatures soar into the upper 90s and dreaded 100s. You can increase your chance of success by planting cherry tomatoes and yellow pears. The 'Sweet 100' tomatoes supposedly do well here throughout the summer as well. Not in my garden, I am sad to say. I have mentioned before that growing tomatoes here is an art form I have yet to perfect. As the days of summer started coming to an end, I was told DON'T remove your tomato plants. Trim them back a bit, fertilize them and you will reap the benefits of a second harvest. Well, I have done just that. I trimmed dead vines, picked off a few tomato horn worms (cheeky buggers), added some epsom salts and fertilizer made especially for tomatoes and now I will wait. The foliage is taking on a lovely bright green and the thumbnail size flowers are making a welcome appearance. Time will tell if the delicious fruit will follow.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thryallis - a Shower of Gold

Thryallis is not a plant in my repository of childhood memories. Grandmother didn’t have it in her garden, and I never saw it or was aware of it until a few years back when I saw it growing in a botanical garden. It struck my fancy then, and I looked until I found one for my garden.

Thryallis (Galphimia glauca), native from Mexico to Guatemala, grows as an evergreen shrub in the tropics where it attains a height of about 9 feet tall and wide. In my Zone 8B garden it often gets killed back to the ground by winter’s freezing temperatures and must produce new stems every year. Consequently, it tops out at about 6 feet and is mostly a fall bloomer. In the tropics and areas without freezing temperatures, some bloom can be expected at all times.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to Save a Tender Perennial Indoors

Focus your eyes on your summer garden or patio and you will likely be able to find a plant that has been purchased as an annual when it is really a perennial in its growing zone. Garden centers and nurseries bring in exotic flora to tempt and delight us with new and more amazing color, scent and form. This excellent marketing approach is difficult to resist after a winter spent inside, chafing to grow spectacular flowers, fruits and vegetables. Many gardeners chose plants that will not survive their winter temperatures as annuals, but some of these tender flora can be saved over the winter, indoors. The result is money saved, a vigorous plant with a developed root system and the satisfaction of caring for a difficult specimen.