When drought plants don’t do enough, add garden art, 9-10-15

We’re seeing air ferns again, including these that are being sold as “hair ferns” at Magnolia Gift and Garden.Contributed Photo

We sometimes use the term “garden art” as a euphemism for the collection of ceramic critters. Over time, there are so many animals that if a bigfoot decided to stand in the bushes, he would remain undetected.

Nothing against a limited lawn menageries. I have two ceramic frogs and a concrete bunny.

I like to think of the garden as the biggest room in the house.

My mom has long used her yard for an expression of her eclectic self. Whimsical pink plastic flamingos, a May pole, wind chimes and windsocks. Her yard is large and each “room” has its own decor.

My dad and stepmom like figurines that double as solar walkway lighting. If you take a yard tour at night, your path is lit by nocturnal, glowing fairies.


If this was a normal year we would be yanking out plants that didn’t make it and planting new things — perennials in particular.

Adding new plants in the fall is great for trees and bushes which can benefit from the winter rains for root establishment.

Alas, we don’t know if this winter, next spring and summer will be another dreadful drought year.

I know I’m not the only one who is holding back on purchases.

Jerry at Mendon’s Nursery in Paradise said sales have been in a slump the past two years.

He has received calls from people who bought trees five or 10 years ago. The homeowners stopped watering the lawn and the trees became stressed. These are lovely red maples and other trees worth keeping, Jerry said with regret.

Trees show stress first at the spot furthest from where water is taken up at the roots, he noted. That’s why many trees are brown at the very top.

Stressed trees will also drop leaves earlier, Jerry said.

Hopefully, there will be enough winter rain to help these trees limp along. In the meantime, people should be watering their trees now, Jerry said.


Trish Howard, of Magnolia Gift and Garden, said some bright and beautiful containers can make a dry corner look more inviting.

She was also eager to plug her nursery’s garden art event, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

You can find directions online.

Trish agreed with Jerry that people are being more careful about the new plants they buy.

The hard part is that people still want cheerful, bright colors in the places where they spend the most time outdoors.

In some ways, drought gardening can be like counting calories.

If you really, really want a hot fudge sundae, you need to eat vegetables the rest of the day.

If you really, really want thirsty plants, put them on full display and leave it at just a few.

Garden art is another way to add a focal point to a corner of the yard.

At the Magnolia Nursery Saturday, vendors will include a glass blower, mosaic art and metal art.

Trish’s husband has learned to make bee homes for native pollinators. Unlike the social bees that thrive in hives, solitary bees make their homes in old logs. In this case the “old log” is a piece of wood with many holes drilled in the side.

While talking about bright, glazed pots, Trish and I talked about the merits of different types of containers.

Terra cotta, the plain, inexpensive orange style, absorb water. This might actually be preferred for plants such as cactus. Also, if you are artsy yourself, these are easy to paint.

Yet, for other plants, such as ferns, the terra cotta will rob the plant of needed water.

Plastic is light and won’t shatter if dropped. Yet, these will become brittle after a few years and may leave your yard with plastic confetti.

The beautifully glazed, big, heavy pots look like a million bucks. However, you better know where you want these to live because you’ll need to invite the rugby team for a barbecue to move them across the yard.

While talking about plants, we had quite the lively discussion about containers. Each container has its pros and cons.

The website hgtvgardens.com has some good videos on different types ofcontainers, and their use in garden design.

Here’s one example of a cool trick:

Add empty 2-liter bottles to a very large container to fill up space. Then add enough soil so your plants have room to grow.

You could also add a false bottom to the very large pot and hide inside when undesirables knock on your door.

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