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Hot gardeners

July 20, 2009
By H. Jean Shields, Garden Club of Cape Coral

I know there are a lot of "hot" gardeners out there in Lee County, and I am one of them. I am confused if it is even summer yet, with this dry rainy season we are having. I really do wear a hat while gardening, mostly I wear a hat, so I don't think I am suffering from any serious heat stroke.

I do rub in the 30 SPF sun screen, every day, mixed in with some creamy skin stuff. At my age I need all the skin care help I can get. I have always believed in producing a little moisturizing sweat on the brow also.

I am not, however, wanting rivers of sweat dripping down my glasses. I have the tinted glasses in order to see what I am putting in the soil, or what I am pulling out. The glasses are also a shield for ornery horticulture that wants to poke me in the eye.

The only things I have not been bothered with yet are the pesky mosquitoes. In August I withdraw from the outside, a lot, because of the sun, sweat and the pesky mosquitoes. This, however, is NOT August.

I am a dedicated procrastinator, inside and out, and always keep an eye on the calendar watching for the dreaded hot steamy August weather. This year I have been caught with my weeds not pulled, and my pots not watered as I leisurely went about dabbling in my gardening chores, like I had forever to get things done.

It would help if I just had a large garden area and everything was planted nicely in rows according to height and colors and watering needs.

That however has never been my style. Now maybe if I changed from flowers and bushes to vegetables I would be a more organized gardener. Sounds kind of nice but that is not to be. My tomato plants and bell pepper plants are snuggled in between the blue porter weed and some lantana plants. They are doing well.

The lovely coleus which are in pots scattered all over, as are the bold caladiums, are not faring quite as well because I can forget one or two of them easily. They do not forget to dry out. The one good thing about them is that one glance will tell me if they are in need of watering, no guessing and poking my finger into the soil, they look bedraggled without their water. They also bounce right back when they get their water. Once I discovered how quickly they would recover, they were destined to have to show me when they needed a drink.

Now some gardeners will not fool around with the likes of coleus and caladiums, in pots because of the watering needs. I like to mover things around so I keep them in pots. Also as the summer sun moves around my shade and sunspots tend to come and go. Even having the palm trees trimmed leaves me with a summer spot that is all sun. Goodbye my darling impatiens. Hello my melampodiums.

Some things that are quick and early day chores right now are the trimming and shaping of the gardenia bushes. They will have stopped blooming by now so it is a good thing to shape the bush soon so as not to disturb next seasons flowering. I still have some sooty mold on mine so I will discreetly spray with water to wash that off. Hopefully it will wash off and I will not have to use anything but water.

I have a nice large bush with great blooms, however it was planted years ago in a spot that does not get a whole lot of sun, and close to the house so that sometimes even the rain does not cleanse it well.

Poinsettia plants, remember them? Now is the time to give them a pinch back of the tips. I only kept one in a pot this year. It is looking good, setting in semi shade among some other things. They will need another pinch next month, for the last time. Roses should be deadheaded for sure and clean around the base of the plants to make sure any old black spot leaves are taken away. Remember they like at least an inch of rain a week, around the roots.

Geraniums can be pulled back into some partial shade to keep them from getting spindly and soft. Marigolds can be cut back to bloom again. Milkweed may look weird and eaten up by bugs. Well that's OK, just look around and you will see your butterfly's fluttering by. Host plants of fennel and parsley may be looking the worse for wear, that's ok. The future butterflies have been there. Buy more plants, for them, not you. When you want parsley and fennel for yourself grow it inside the Lanai.

The Cape has some well cared for medians, take a cool drive and see them, here and there. Veterans Parkway has some lovely flowering crepe myrtle trees. The multi-trunked trees and an occasional bush are all along the median going west from Del Prado. These trees come in several heights and colors and can be planted at home sites. They will have a spell of no leaves but the multi- trunk habit of these trees is pleasing, without a lot of leaves and flowers.

Frangipanis are in bloom, mostly in yards, all over town. They bloom their hearts out in brilliant yellows, lavenders and several other colors. They will spread out a lot and will also lose their leaves for a bit, after flowering.

There are so many colors of trees, bushes and just flowers all around, enjoy them even if you do not want to go out and dig around in the heat for yourself.

Till we meet again.

H. Jean Shields is past president of Garden Club of Cape Coral



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