Thursday, July 23, 2015

Garden Foliage: July

With summer proceeding apace, I have been wanting to take a quick look at some of the different ways foliage is designed for surviving drought and high temperatures.  This post is necessarily greatly simplified, but here are a few things I am noticing in the garden.

Narrow leaves:

Many of the plants have needle-like leaves or slightly wider, giving almost the texture of conifers in some cases.
The tiny leaves of Lavendula stoechas "Madrid"...
...Rosemarinus "Tuscan Blue"...
...or Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita).
In Tetraneuris acaulis they become more grass-like... also in Salvia reptans...
...and a little wider still in Gaura lindheimeri...
...or, at the other extreme, the nearly thread-like leaves of desert shrub Senna nemophylla.

Leathery leaves:

Many leaves are tough and leathery.  Some are small, like Eremophila maculata "Valentine"...
...slightly larger in Eremophila "Outback Sunrise"
Penstemon parryi's are much larger, but undeniably leathery...
...while the leaves of Leucophyllum frutescens "Compacta" are merely stiff - for all the curlycues!
Lagerstroemia "Rhapsody in Pink" has leathery leaves though they're not overly thick.  In fact, they make a nice foil to all the needly leaves nearby!

Grey and furry leaves:

In addition to the silky foliage of Convolvulus cneorum, which I featured in the Monday Vase, there are Lavendula "Goodwin's Creek Gray"...
...and Salvia officinalis.   The relatively wide leaves of S. officinalis tend to collect the dust that is always blowing around, but today's photo shows it nice and clean.  The entire garden got a good hosing off last night in quick pursuit of a sudden showing of aphids - not a problem on this sage, but a good shower didn't hurt!
Also silver though not furry is Artemisia "Powis Castle".  I suppose the near-white foliage reflects light and heat?  It is certainly proving well-adapted thus far!

Small, sparse leaves:

Although Russelia equisetiformis is referred to as nearly leafless, to me the tiny leaves themselves are part of its charm...
...and there is also, of course the wild Palo Verde I am following for the tree watching meme.  Its foliage is an excellent example of the small, sparse look!


Lastly, the succulents, with which I have fared badly as summer continues.  I think my error was in assuming they would be tougher than the other plants.  Apparently, not all of them.  No doubt a good Agave would be thriving at present, but I haven't put in many spiny things out of deference to those walking through this rather small space.  Perhaps I will weaken eventually and simply allow pedestrians to enter at their own risk!  At any rate, Sedeveria "Sorrento" continues to hold it own, its leaves rather greener than earlier in the year...
...and - so far an extremely resilient plant and one which demonstrates several of these features - is Euphorbia trinculli "Firesticks".  Narrow, sparse, and succulent!  Every so often I stop and remind myself how much it's grown since planting last spring...
Linking late - but had to get a few more photos this morning - with Christina and Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day...
Weather Diary: Slightly cloudy; High yesterday: 102 F (39 C)/Low: 79 F (26 C)  Actually it's been quite nice in its way, with a cool breeze blowing and only 99 F so far today...


  1. You can't help but marvel at the ways plants have adapted themselves, not least your tree with its green bark. I love Artemisia 'Powis Castle' and it's high time I gave it another go.

    1. Artemisias are lovely plants! I tried growing 'Silver Brocade' (if my memory is correct!) in the Midwest, but it inevitably melted in the combined heat and humidity there and I never attempted others. Now I get to try again ;-) Your slope surely provides the 'sharp drainage' so often called for...?!

  2. Great post with lots of information about how plants deal with drought and heat; our summers must be very similar with your temperatures perhaps even higher than here; what is the humidity like? I'm realizing that that makes a huge difference to plant survival. The silver look of A. Powys Castle is created, like other silver plants by tiny hairs that reflect the light and hide the green leaf. If you really soak it with water it is green under the hairs. Thanks for joining GBFD this month with a post that really complements mine!

    1. I think you are very right about humidity! It seems to be as much a determining factor as the heat itself. One author explains that the summer here can best be treated as two separate seasons so far as the garden is concerned: the first in May and June, when there is no rain at all (during this time maximum temperatures in our locale generally stay above 43 C for extended periods and can be expected to reach 46 C from time to time), the second in July and August, when the so-called monsoon rains occur. This period is much easier for the plants as the moisture, including humidity, gives them a break despite continued heat. I can say that I'm seeing precisely this in the garden now... I also found that during the driest period a quick hose-down at dusk left the plants much happier next day, producing better results in some cases than a prolonged watering. (Zero supplemental water is not an option here, where even native cactus may require some irrigation in cultivation.) So far as I can tell, the benefits came largely from the rise in humidity around the plants, as well as limiting spider mites, which was the original purpose. The other major factor is shade. I am hoping to combine the best of both shade and increased humidity as I establish some taller woody plants in the beds :)
      I'm afraid this reply may be both too long and too brief! I'm learning and thinking a lot about this subject at the moment. It's all the more intriguing as my earlier garden was in a high-humidity region. I suffered, but the plants didn't - except from fungal diseases, which made rose-growing difficult!

  3. I am also aware of how fast the summer is proceeding and my foliage is looking rather weary for lack of rain (although we are due some today). Again I am loving the soft, silky foliage of your Convolvulus.

    1. There's nothing like some rain on a parched garden - hope yours comes through! Isn't the Convolvulus a beauty! I've learned a little more about it: it's a native of the Mediterranean coast, which is probably why it stands our often salty soils so well. I suppose it's too tender for your climate (said to survive down to -12.2 C); if not, it might prove a good possibility for a seaside garden... ;-)

  4. A surprising number of succulents actually like a bit of shade and some, like the Aeoniums, go dormant in summer so they don't look their best right now but their foliage will bulk up and open out again once the rains and cooler weather returns. There are some "soft" agaves you may want to try, like Agave attenuata (aka foxtail agave, which likes a bit of shade) and its offspring, which includes the more sun-tolerant Agave 'Blue Flame'. You'll need to check their cold tolerance, though.

    1. Great advice on the succulents, Kris! It looks like both the agaves you list might do OK here, and I'd love to try A. attenuata, but I think I should wait till I can get a bit more shade in. That's proving to be the big lesson of my first summer of desert gardening... You can guess what I'll be planting this fall; I already have one tree on order ;-)

  5. We think it is hot here in the UK if it reaches 28c. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live and garden in those temperatures. Is this your first year in this garden?

    1. I have just read 'About your garden' which answers my question.

  6. Such a lovely set of foliage shots all doing so well in the hot sunny conditions. I love the artemesia and rosemary - such tough plants that thrive no matter what the conditions