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Garden journal entry


October 12, 2017. All our local nurseries specialize in tempting their customers with tropical fare and flare. It's so hot and humid nearly all of the year that those extravagant beauties from frost-free climates do great around here – except in years where the annual cold snap in January sends the thermometer to just slightly lower temperatures than usual (say, below 25F) for a little longer than usual (more than a few overnight hours). We had one of those more severe cold snaps this past winter (our first since moving to Houston), and sure enough, the lemon tree we had planted last year was toast (as were nearly all lemon trees in the general area), and many other of the flamboyant tropicals we had added suffered severe dieback – although most came back from the roots, they never reached the state of splendor displayed on the nursery tables last year that had prompted us to buy them in the first place.
So the overwhelming emphasis on tropicals (in which I count any plant rated no hardier than USDA zone 9 – our official zone here is 8b) is a mixed blessing at best. But it does provide an opportunity to get familiar with a whole host of plants I'd never before encountered. Two of those are shown here, in an interesting combination: the large-leaved plumeria, which we bought as a rooted stick in early spring, and the fine-textured duranta, purchased a little later in spring for its enchanting strands of deep purple-blue flowers. As hardiness goes, the plumeria is hopeless: it's hardy to only zone 10, so it will bite the dust in the first frost. I had hoped to see its elegant white flowers this year, but no such luck. Still, I'm happy to have had it in the garden this year: the large leaves held on fat fleshy stems make quite a statement, and I love the way the new leaves unfurl. Maybe I'll even try to make my own cutting in early winter, to keep a piece alive indoors, protected from the cold. The duranta stands a better chance of survival: it is hardy to zone 9, which means it can survive mild winters in our area. I'm hoping for a string of those, which might allow our specimen to grow into the small tree form that it can attain with time. I have no idea how likely it is for that scenario to play out. As with so many aspects of gardening in new circumstances, learning will come from experience – doing and observing in our own garden. No matter how much guidance I seek from local gardening sites or nursery personnel, I don't really believe it until I see for myself.

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Last modified: September 09, 2009
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