This photo isn’t from my garden, but you know it was hot when you see damage like this. I spotted these burnt dwarf spruce at a local business, 2 weeks after the heat wave in June. We also saw this type of damage in our Douglas-fir forests for miles between Corvallis and the coast. If these were your plants, would you wait to see if they grow out of it next spring? Or, would you just remove them?
Yes, there are tons and tons of weeds out in the deer garden. That’s Himalayan blackberry off to the left and horsetail everywhere else. Maintenance is not a priority in this part of the yard and it waits until I have finished working in the more important areas next to the house. Remember that blue plant on the bottom. We will come back to it.
The New Zealand Daisy Bush is pretty when it is in full bloom. I can’t remember whether it is fragrant or not. I don’t think it is. Here is a close-up of the flowers and the evergreen leaves.
Here it is again, on September 26th. Yup, the same weeds are still there and no I still haven’t gotten around to yanking them out. Think of them as a green (or brown) mulch.
I didn’t water the daisy bush once during the summer and it still did fine. The deer didn’t bother it either. However, see all of that brown?
That’s not heat damage, those are dead flowers. They don’t fall off and they make the plant look ugly until the new growth covers them up in the following spring. That makes for a very long season of ugly. I am starting to think I might cut the bush down and get rid of it. It just looks messy. But, next year, I want to shear it back hard right after blooming, get rid of all the dead flowers at once, and see if it will grow back cleaner, more quickly. We will see if I actually remember to do so or even have time to do it.
Circling back to that blue plant from above…
Love this plant. It is common rue (Ruta graveolens). Simple, easy to care for, I didn’t water this plant either and the deer don’t eat it. Nice clean leaves and it stays compact. I prune it back hard every year or two and it comes back like this. A+.
This next plant, however, was a major disappointment.
Syrian acanthus (Acanthus syriacus). It is supposed to be drought tolerant, and it is…, in a way. I watered this plant four or five times during the summer and it still died back. Basically, the plant IS still alive, but it’s gone summer dormant. It does this to a lesser degree almost every summer. I just don’t water it enough and I’m never going to. The roots are perfectly fine and it will return next spring completely unharmed, but so far I am not enamored with it. I might give it a year or two more to see if my opinion changes, but it will probably get tossed at some point. Verdict: labeled drought tolerant, but not in my garden.
Compare that “drought tolerant” plant, to this one, the Chinese mint shrub (Elsholtzia stauntonii).
Brand new this year. It started as a little 6 inch plant from Dancing Oaks Nursery and grew into this 2 foot blooming shrub just a few months later.
This one was labeled drought tolerant, and though it did wilt a few times, it immediately came back and looked fine after I watered it. So, same conditions as the Syrian acanthus as above, but much better results. No deer have munched it either. I think this one is a keeper.
This next area of the deer garden also had several plants that did well.
On the right, the upright spiky thing is rosemary. In the middle, is a California tree poppy that is overwhelming my Chilean sea holly (strappy leaves, bottom center), and on the far left is a Chilean cheese ball tree. All of these sailed through the drought and none have ever even been nibbled by deer. Let’s take a closer look at three of them.
I think it is impossible to take a bad photo of the flowers of California tree poppy (Romneya coulteri). The flowers are 6 inches across and lightly scented. Blooms July until frost. This plant is huge. About 7 feet tall.
Unfortunately, the plant has gotten too big for this area. It’s a huge sprawly thing. I’ve tried moving chunks of it to other parts of the garden with no success. I am going to try again this fall. You have to excavate deep to get the roots, and even then they hate being transplanted. The flowers, though, are just so ethereal. Check out the detail of the golden yellow anthers that surround the stigma in the center of each flower.
I mainly want to move the poppy because of my poor Chilean sea holly (Eryngium paniculatum) that is drowning underneath it.
Next year, I am going to be more judicious in cutting the poppy back harder throughout the growing season so that it isn’t quite so gigantic.
And what about those Chilean cheese balls?!?!?!
Well, not quite. The more common name is orange ball tree (Buddleia globosa), but they do look somewhat like cheese balls too. I just thought orange ball tree sounds so underwhelming. This is a large, drought tolerant, evergreen shrub that flowers in June. Sort of a one-hit wonder, it blooms once and then fades into the background. I was a little surprised to see many brown and greenish yellow leaves on it this year caused by the heat and drought. Normally, this is a much greener plant.
But, all the new leaves are looking fine. I ended up only watering it once or twice this summer.
Still a few more plants in the deer garden that I want to highlight next time. The real heat and drought tolerant winners for me out of this post were the rue, the Chinese mint shrub, the California tree poppy, and the Chilean sea holly.