May has ended, and in the garden it was a less than a merry month.
It was hot and dry, and watering newly planted plants was the chore of the day.
Is that usual for this time of year?
I pulled last year's records for May 2014. The temperature on Memorial Day was in the 90's and it was dry. It helped to know this as I dragged the water hose around this year. I did that dragging at home and at the Xeriscape Garden at Hilton Head Island Town Hall, where we had planted more than two dozen rare and endangered native plants from Daniel Payne's Coosaw Island Nursery.
It was a six hour job and Daniel Payne and I were grateful for the help of Rosemary Kratz of the Hilton Head Island Garden Council. Rosemary knows more than a thing or two about "natives" and she's a dynamo of energy and smarts. It's remarkable there are few weeds to pull. What there was lots of were blue- flowering Lyre Leaf Sage, which has found a home at the Xeriscape Garden. In a contest between a Lyre Leaf Sage and a weed, the sage wins and that's a blessing.
Spending time with Daniel is a learning experience. I only wish that I were smart enough to instantly pick up on what he is saying. I took copious notes, but still misread his labels. But I did manage to get a clue so I could look up the plant when I got home. I put my nose in Porcher's excellent Wildflowers of the Lowcountry and discovered that the plant labeled Ipomea pandurata is a layman's "Man of the Earth". For heaven's sake, why not just say so?
You can't spend a day with Payne and not catch the native-plant disease. He speaks of stands of plants that he recently discovered in the Lowcontry. His excitement is catching.
He didn't have any trouble selling Rosemary and me four maiden fern, three elephant's foot, three blue-eyed grass, and a Florida sedge. The sedge likes it dry and is an excellent plant for under trees. I fell, too, for the 'Pink Lemonade', a perilla, and a pink flowered Carolina phlox. Payne suggested mixing the phlox and perilla together. We added four Maidenhair ferns to the garden, one of my mother's favorite plants. A slip from her Missouri rock garden has been spreading its delicate fronds in my shade garden for many years.
My gardenia tree has begun to fill the front yard with its ever-so-sweet aroma and my drop-dead-gorgeous hydrangea began to flower for the first time in ten years.
Despite spraying, deer had eaten it almost to the ground each year.
It's two-toned light blue flowers are lacey and in layers. It was purchased from the history making Wayside Garden Nursery 35 years ago.
This spring many gardens you visit will contain the just introduced 'New Guinea' Impatiens, and, rightly so. It's a stunner.
You might want to consider growing it in a pot that you can move around until you find the exact spot where it will be happiest. It is not a full sun plant. It's more of a half day sun plant, and morning sun suits it best. It likes lots of water, though not heavy rain as I discovered when a thunderstorm that knocked off every single flower.
MAKING THE GARDEN GROW
Did you know that less than one percent of the insect pest problems are truly pests?
Most are good bugs ready to take on the bad bugs. A pesticide-free garden will invite your allies to help take care of the bad guys.
I watch dragonflies and lacewings do this job.
For vegetables and fruits, I use a spray mix of garlic and hot peppers that have soaked in water for several days.
All edible plants and herbs are grown together to attract beneficial insects and the mosquito plant keeps outdoor seating areas free of pests.
A SPECIAL SURPRISE
Don't you just love it when you open your mail and find something very special?
My special something was a certificate of adoption from the Coastal Discovery Museum for adopting an endangered sea turtle nest on Hilton Head Island. It was a surprise from long time friend Flora Showalter is in memory of my husband Larry. Larry would have loved it. So do I.
Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of coastal Lowcountry gardening.