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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Trees and shrubs cry out for water

By Annie Calovich
The Wichita Eagle

Watching the trees, ground covers and shrubs along the side of my neighbor’s house wilt and start to brown lit a fire under me last weekend, causing the hoses to start a 24-hour-marathon trickle at various shrubs and trees.

The pitiful shape of the neighbor’s plants cried for similar attention. Off went the hose across the driveway. I actually see these particular plants much more than the neighbor ever does.

With another week of 100-plus days comes more of a sad realization that this summer is playing another verse of last summer, and trees and shrubs that were hit hard then and survived are getting hammered again and may not survive this round without intervention. I’m even looking at the big trees in the park: What will become of them?

To reiterate: Have a long probe — I use a plant stake — and drive it into the ground around your trees and shrubs to be sure they’re watered 12 to 18 inches down. Even old trees that have survived years and years need water. Old Ma Nature ain’t providin’ it — at least not beyond a sudden teasing sprinkle.

• • • 

It looks like we’ve solved the Mystery of the Black Hibiscus. Several readers kindly sent in guesses as to the identity of the red-flowered, dark-leafed hibiscus in Lisa Folds’ yard. Was it hardy? Was it tropical? It certainly wasn’t the Red Luna listed on the plant tag that came with the plant, Lisa had determined.

Sleuths offered guesses ranging from Kopper King to Coppertone to Red Shield to Fireball. But Lisa found one that appeared to be sure-fire.

“This spring I saw the purple-leafed hibiscus at Home Depot named Midnight Marvel hibiscus,” Mark Stoskopf e-mailed me last Saturday morning. “I googled to make sure it was hardy here (thank goodness for smartphones), and it has been a great addition to the garden. It is hardy to zone 4, and, this morning, two big, bright red flowers opened.”

Regina Coffee sent in the same suggestion.

“I absolutely think that is it!” Folds e-mailed me. Later, she said: “I looked it up online, and it said its foliage turns orange in the fall!”

Now that’s exciting.

“Wow! Your readers are awesome,” Folds said, passing along her thanks to all you Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys out there. I couldn’t agree more.

A couple more hibiscus notes:

• I referred to a dwarf rose of Sharon last week as Miss Kim, finding it odd that it would share the name of a dwarf lilac. Turns out the name is actually Li’l Kim.

• Larry Smith wrote in that he has a red tropical hibiscus that was started by his mother at least 30 years ago. It survives and thrives in a pot about 20 inches wide and 18 inches deep. Smith eases it indoors and back outdoors during a period of time in the fall and spring.

• • • 

When we go into a drought like this, people’s thoughts rightly turn to native plants. So it’s good timing that Benjamin Vogt is going to be in town from Nebraska next week to give a talk. Vogt is a poet and author who has planted his yard in mainly native plants. He’s written a book about it, poetically titled “Sleep, Creep, Leap.” He’s also a fellow coneflower fan and an organic gardener.

Vogt will be speaking at a meeting of the Wichita Organic Garden Club at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Botanica, 701 N. Amidon. It is free and open to the public.

You can read about Vogt’s garden and see beautiful photos of it on his blog, The Deep Middle (deepmiddle.blogspot.com).

• • • 

One line on Vogt’s blog jumped out at me: “I detest mowing, especially detest hearing/smelling my neighbors mow and blow.”

I’ve been seeing and hearing lawn-mowing companies out doing their weekly duty, noisily mowing lawns that, to my eye, don’t need it. The grass often is mainly dormant. Dormant or not, it is being cut short and left exposed to the hot sun.

Paul White of P&P Seed & Bait will give a workshop on how to renovate your lawn from 10 a.m. to noon July 28 at the Northeast Senior Center, 2121 E. 21st St. The cost is $25, which includes a $15 gift certificate to P&P.

White said something that also jumped out at me: “Fescue is a cool-season grass. There’s nothing cool about the season we’re having. It’s gone to sleep. It’s characteristic of the grass.”

Indeed. And we have to look for the silver lining of the cloud that isn’t even bothering to shade us: There may be no need to mow right now.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com.

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