Gardening hasn’t been quite so much fun these last three months. In February, when I am planning my garden, somehow I forget the humidity, the mosquitoes, the gnats, the HOT that is summer in the suburbs. This year, the heat settled into the garden in June and stayed.
White is so welcome in the summer garden. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my all-time favorite flowers for summertime sun is annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus) or Madagascar periwinkle. It thrives on neglect, even keeping good green foliage without benefit of rain or irrigation. It keeps on blooming, without any deadheading, and it puts on this marvelous display next to the asphalt street and concrete driveway. It may be a common bedding plant but there is a reason plants become common. They work without fuss or sweat from the gardener. As an added bonus, the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly you can see here, also enjoys these summer flowers.
Phlox ‘David’ is a large headed white phlox that is said to be mildew resistant. In my garden, it is mildew-proof, almost unheard of in the old summer phlox perennials. It blooms repeatedly, especially if I don’t deadhead it. New flower buds form right under the old blossoms that shrivel and drop. It has been slow to expand its clump so I bought more this past spring.
Starflower (Pentas lanceolata) are also welcome in white. You can buy these as annual bedding plants in the spring. Although they come in hot colors and soothing pinks, which I also like, the white is most welcome in August. If you manage to deadhead the spent flowers, they will quickly blossom again. If you stay in the air-conditioning and let them fend for themselves, they will also bloom again. They will just be a little slower to re-establish their show.
Another garden commoner, this one for the shade, is impatiens or Busy Lizzie. This is the workhorse of the summer shade garden, no matter the color. I prefer a bed of the low white I can see from my kitchen window. The bed is cooling to the eye in the day and glows in the moonlight.
Don’t forget foliage when planning a white summer garden. These white-leaved caladiums are another shade lover for the searing summer garden.
Whites in the garden soothe and cool, especially if you view them from an indoor window. With the right choices, you can be a happy gardener in the summer heat.
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By Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
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