As usual Summer is completely unpredictable here in the Baltimore Washington area. After that gray, gloomy June early July looked a lot more like Summer with 5 days of pretty hot weather but since then it has been a fairly cool Summer. We have even been treated to 2 stretches of spectacular low humidity weather. What does all this mean for our landscapes? In the long term – very little. We are getting decent amounts of rain so the water table is getting replenished. In the short term however we are going through our usual plethora of fungal diseases (lawns look terrible) that brings with them rotten annuals and tomatoes and, in overcrowded landscapes, lots of inner die back in plant material due to fungal induced rot.
As far as annuals go in this area, it is really a guessing game in the Spring each year as to what to plant. As everyone knows by now we really didn’t have the luxury of our old standby Impatiens this year due to the emergence of Downy mildew so everyone searched for suitable replacements. I think a lot of us found out New Guinea Impatiens, while not affected by Downy mildew, do not perform as well as their cousins in shade. Caladium will probably be seeing a lot more use as this is a reliable performer in shade. Petunias, for the most part, did poorly this year and my testing of them in deeper and deeper shade did not turn out well. Petunias will take some shade but basically need a lot of sun and dry weather to shine. I used Torenia in total shade (but lots of light) and it did well.
I do a little vegetable gardening at my home by incorporating tomatoes into a flower bed that gets 5 hours of sun each day. I bought 6 different plants this year of which only 2 were tomatoes I have grown in the past. They have not performed all that well and it’s hard to tell why. Is it our partly cloudy Summer? Does it have anything to do with the bee colony collapse that is going on around us? I can say for sure that partly cloudy has a lot to do with tomatoes as the plants do best when it is hot and dry between rains and the fruits need sun to set the sugar content of the tomato as it finishes its’ ripening process. The bee theory I will leave to the experts.
Now for what we are reaping due to our Summer weather. Crepe Myrtles are blooming like crazy. Growth in general has been off the charts. We are spending a lot of time pruning. Ferns and Hosta have both done well. Joe Pye Weed has long been a favorite and it has not disappointed this year. It is in full bloom and does an amazing job of attracting interesting insects such as Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. Dahlias should perform well here in late Summer as they just love cooler nights. I’ll report back on Dahlias though. Hydrangea was doing very well until the Japanese beetles showed up. Oh well it’s Summer.