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GARDENING

TRIED AND TRUE

These Resiliet Plants Tolerate Everything: Freezing, Flooding and Searing Heat
Story And Photos By Joshua Kornegay

Perfect storms don’t just happen at sea. Between floods, deep-freezes and hotter than usual high temperatures it’s been a challenging year for our gardens. Some plants survived, but still others have thrived. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the resilience of a large number of perennials that have rebounded with great vigor after these extreme weather events. I will highlight here a few from our gardens that really impressed me.

The plants in our 80-foot east garden in the Heights suffered temperatures in the low 20s this past winter. Even though the plants had no covering and weren’t protected from the freeze, we were able to cut the caesalpinia pulcherrima (known as “Pride of Barbados”) down to the ground in March and the plant’s famous two-toned orange bloom clusters have rebounded without any help.

Thryallis plants are native to Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia and have long been categorized as tropicals. I personally feel that’s a misnomer as we’ve experienced six- to seven-foot tall rounded shrubs with those happy, golden spikes all summer long and now into fall. This plant has not lost any size since last winter, just some defoliation.

Another plant that rebounded well after being razed to the frozen ground last winter is the Big Hit™ Pink Hardy Hibiscus. We’re enjoying a beautiful eight-foot mound of huge, pink flowers from this disease resistant plant that’s a hybrid between American and Asian species.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, the obviously un-killable “Black and Blue” salvia should do well in just about any garden. This drought tolerant plant attracts birds, butterflies and hummingbirds, and is a heavy bloomer with cycles in early summer, mid summer and late summer.

We almost gave up on our Cestrum aurantiacum (Butterscotch Cestrum). After losing every leaf last winter, it was given up for dead and was scheduled for removal. However, as the weeks went by, it surprised us all with new growth, blooms and all of the bees and butterflies that naturally follow. This one borders on the miraculous: the plant was never covered, cut back or fertilized and it has remained in almost constant bloom since April. She’s a keeper!

It wasn’t necessarily a surprise that the Peruvian rock rose (pavonia peruviana) did so well. This hardy shrub has never needed any care whatsoever and loves the searing heat from July through October. It’s safe to say that it obviously can handle freezing temperatures as well.

    Two other survivors from last winter’s record-breaking freezes include the “Mystic Spires” salvia, with its eight-inch purple bloom spikes, and the “Cherry Chief” salvia microphylla. Both of these plants offer heavy bloom cycles and are nectar-rich.

    I’m still amazed at how well these plants have fared. Be sure to keep some of these winners in mind for future gardens. Remember, work less, enjoy more!

Joshua’s Native Plants & Garden Antiques, Inc. can be found at 502 West 18th Street, 713-862-7444, www.joshuasnativeplants.net .

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