Keeping your cool … Making late summer gardens seem cooler

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer … like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot.”
— Natalie Babbit

Two-toned. Among other green and white variegated plants, “Angyo Star” tree ivy adds a fresh, cool quality to gardens.

As we swelter through another summer, it would be comforting to think that the hottest temperatures are behind us; but in Texas, the seasonal wheel turns slowly and is reluctant to give up its storied heat and humidity. As we wait, however, holding tightly to the promise of autumn’s chill, there are ways to make late summer gardens seem cooler.

Chilly reception. Summer gardens welcome white coneflower for its tall, snowy-white blooms.

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“Thinking cool” starts with water. Whether it’s the mirror-like water in pools, the cascading water in fountains, or the babbling water in backyard streams, water rejuvenates and refreshes. For a quick cool down install a tabletop fountain on a patio, or create an above-ground water garden in a half barrel. Add goldfish, water plants, and a recirculating pump to complete the oasis.

Bowling over. Create a simple birdbath by filling a terra cotta saucer with cool, fresh water.
Chilling out. Turn the temperature down a notch by adding burbling water to a frosty-looking jar.

Birdbaths, too, revitalize gardens and the birds that visit. Position a pretty basin on a pedestal, or offer clean, fresh water in terra cotta or ceramic saucers strategically placed within view.

White water. As if the stream wasn’t refreshing enough, this gardener planted dusty miller and added a white garden totem.
Go fish. A luscious low fountain surrounded by shade-loving plants creates a picturesque oasis.

The color white is a psychological “cooler,” so fill summer gardens with white blooming selections and plants with green and white variegated foliage. Heat-loving, white-flowering plants include balloon flower, coneflower, geranium, hibiscus, lantana, moss rose, nicotiana, pentas, periwinkle, summer phlox, and zinnia. In shady areas fill beds, borders, hanging baskets, and containers with white impatiens. The snow-like blooms persist until frost. Other shade plants with cooling power include white blooming begonia and variegated green and white coleus. Subdue the sensation of heat in herb gardens by planting variegated peppermint, pineapple mint, and tricolor sage.

Snow fresh. Like a late summer snowfall, sweet autumn clematis covers arbors, trellises, and fences with white blooms.
Star struck. “White shooting stars,” one of nicotiana’s common names, describes the plant’s flower clusters.
Snow on a stick. Clouds of white flowers crown the tall stems of summer phlox.

Extend the cool down into evening with moonvine (Ipomoea alba) and angel’s trumpet (Datura). As the name implies, four o’clock opens its blooms in late afternoon. For the frostiest effect, plant Mirabilis jalapa `Alba’.

Companion planting. Make the most of shady spots by planting white bloomers, plants with variegated foliage, and ferns.

Ferns, too, suggest cool tranquility. Select moist, shady spots in the garden or let ferns sink their moisture-loving roots in micro-environments in pots, tubs, and hanging baskets. Japanese painted fern is a low-growing beauty with silvery fronds. Maidenhair fern’s delicate foliage complements hostas.

Theme garden. White flowering plants, white furnishings, and white lattice quell summer heat.
Classic cool. Green and white cushions are the perfect summer companion to white wicker furniture. All that’s missing is the cold lemonade!

Garden furnishings visually cool landscapes, as well. White wicker furniture invites a refreshing respite. Lightly-hued garden umbrellas promise a shady retreat. A white picket fence or arbor implies freshness.

White on white. White blooming zinnias grow through a white picket fence for a streetside cool down.

In Texas, there’s more than one way to make the seasonal wheel turn faster. So think water, white blooming plants, variegated foliage, and white garden furnishings.

With all that “coolness” can autumn’s chill be far behind!

Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
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