Monday, August 04, 2008

Hot Enough For Ya

Today's temps might reach 109. What the heck? Hardly livable conditions, I tell ya. And it doesn't help matters when some wisecracker asks if it's "hot enough for ya." Anybody ever answer, "why no, it's not. I'm Satan, I need 130, 135, minimum"? Come on. We all know it's hot, we all know the heat is relentless. We don't need to be assaulted with silly questions.

What we need is a diversion. That's it, something to take our minds off the baking heat. Something that gives us the illusion that it's cooler than it really is. Let's talk about shade-loving natives.

Take a walk along creeks or shady natural areas (they are still around, I promise) and you'll find abundant waterwise, colorful, low-maintenance plant life. Golden Groundsel (Senecio obovatus) -- one of our favorites -- is a low-growing perennial with dark green foliage and delicate yellow blooms. It's a challenge to find in retail nurseries but a worthwhile treasure hunt. Petal Pusher's Garden Emporium in Cedar Hill grows it onsite. I think they have a 3-tray maximum limit on this plant.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioensis) has a thin, strappy leaf and blue-to-purple bloom. Its foliage looks sort-of like a small iris. Sort of. Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum, formerly Eupatorium coelestinum) is another great blue-blooming plant for shade. One word of caution, however. If your planting areas already over-planted, or if you like a more structured look, you won't like the Mistflower. It tends to ramble -- which is great for me, but not for everyone. Lyre Leaf Sage (which I've mentioned in previous posts) also has a blue bloom, and some cultivars have maroon-to-dark purple foliage.

Scarlet Sage, or Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea) is a terrific red-blooming plant. Technically it's categorized as an annual for our area. It will, however, readily re-seed itself. Simply gorgeous plant, Scarlet Sage works well in sun or shade. Magic Lily (Lycoris radiata) also has a red bloom, and like Golden Groundsel, is sometimes difficult to find in retail nurseries. On occasion I have found it in 1-gallon at a wholesale nursery, or just the bulb through a wholesale grower.

Of course, you can't go wrong with Crinum Lily (Crinum americanum) or Texas Spider Lily (Hymenocallis liriosme). Tropical-looking strappy leaves with lightly fragrant white blooms. Perfect for sun or shade.

There are many more species of native plants growing in our local natural areas. You just have to get out and take a look. Take inspiration from nature before you landscape your home. You will discover plants that really work in our area. Besides, you'll finally get that exercise you've been talking about.

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