Heat and drought have stressed the garden, and it’s a short list of plants that are showing no effects from the hard conditions. Petunias, verbenas and calibrachoas look good, and self-sown ‘Purple Queen’ cleome are starting to bloom where their seed fell last summer. And, surprisingly, some little Nonstop Mocca White tuberous begonias think this is a fine season for growing. Now, here’s my confession: I bought these plants in May and they’ve stayed in their small pots since then, waiting patiently for better accommodations. They’ve soldiered on, managing to keep up appearances all this time. I was attracted to their green-brown foliage with prominent chartreuse veins, and double white flowers with butter-yellow hearts.
This week, I began emptying containers with exhausted plants, and looked around for substitutions — and there were the little Nonstop Mocca White begonias. I also had a cell pack of Wizard Jade coleus sitting about. (See how I just slipped that in? More plants desperately needing a pot to call their own.) Both are 14 inches (36 cm) tall and they’re now sharing new spacious quarters in a deluxe terracotta container. I suppose all’s well that ends well, but this isn’t a conscientious example of installing plants promptly and in good growing conditions. The begonias and coleus have shown their ability to perform well in heat and humidity, along with the abuse of constrained root expansion. They’ve earned some tender loving care for the rest of the season.
I’m beginning a triage campaign, cutting back perennials that have peaked early or simply withered in the heat, and emptying containers of annuals that have failed to perform well. This makes spaces that can be filled with autumn plants soon to be found in garden centres, once the days return to more reasonable temperatures. If we could get the cool nights back, that would go a long way toward helping plants develop resilience and set new flower buds.