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Summer Solutions for Your Garden

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June temperatures are approaching too-hot-to-bother for many gardening enthusiasts. But consider investigating those areas of the yard or garden that aren’t performing well. Vines, ground covers, and ornamental grasses could be the perfect summer solutions for your garden.

Vines need support but are fast growing. You can choose between two characteristics: twining or clinging. Twining types wrap around a structure or support. Clinging types grow roots along their stem which firmly attach to vertical surfaces such as concrete walls, wooden fencing, or metal buildings. Vines are fairly little trouble to grow but heavy on controlling by regular pruning and edging or training via weaving within a trellis. Louisiana native vines: Lonicera sempervirens (Louisiana honeysuckle), Clematis crispa (curly clematis), Passiflora incarnata (maypop or passion flower).

Ground covers are low-growing perennial evergreens that retain foliage year-’round. They are commonly used in shady areas where turfgrass cannot grow. Other uses include erosion control, hiding tree roots that are difficult to mow, and foot traffic barriers. Note shade and moisture levels of the growing area, then decide on the variety of height, texture, and color. Remember the old saying: first year they sleep, second they creep, third they leap. Patience is key. Consider adding natives along with familiar economical liriope and monkey grass. Louisiana natives: Rivina humilis (pigeon berry), Scuttelaria ovata (heartleaf skullcap), Viola primulifolia (primrose violet).

Ornamental grasses are herbaceous perennials that die back to the soil in winter growing back from root-stock in spring and should not be confused with their aggressive cousins Crab, Torpedo or Johnson grass. They are virtually disease resistant and drought tolerant once established. Most have strong vertical, fountain-like forms with flowery plumes and seedheads in a variety of colors and textures providing visual interest in late summer through late fall and food sources for migratory birds. Louisiana natives: varieties of Panicum virgatum (gunsmoke switchgrass), Andropogon gerardii  (blackhawks big bluestem), Muhlenbergia capillaris (pink muhly grass).

Ground covers planted in shade, ornamental grasses and some vines can be started in June or July provided they receive deep weekly watering if it hasn’t rained in 7 to 10 days. Enjoy the shade and happy growing! 

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