Cynthia Meredith has been gardening with herbs, reading about herbs, and discussing herb gardening in Texas for more than 20 years. She has owned The Herb Cottage (www.theherbcottage.com) for over 10 years, selling herb plants to people all over our state.
We seem to be over the hump here in south-central Texas for summer heat. The temperatures have remained in the high 80s for the last week or so, just reaching into the low 90s by late afternoon for just a short time. The night temperatures have dropped, too. Plants are less stressed, flowers are beginning to bloom again and herbs in gardens and pots are putting on new growth, looking decidedly perkier than they did just a few weeks ago. What a difference cooler weather makes!
I believe the cooler weather has a large impact on the gardener, too. I've felt very energetic clearing weedy beds in the vegetable garden and completely clearing my herb bed for new fall planting. I pulled out a lot of soapwort—a useful herb, but also a spreader like a healthy mint plant. I took out a very tired looking rose that never did well in the spot it was planted and I dug out garlic chives that had seeded themselves in the crack between the bricks and cement pathway. I divided the chives, trimmed the roots and potted them up for sales.
I plan to direct seed parsley, cilantro, chervil and perhaps some nasturtiums and calendula for salads. I'll hold off a bit to plant the rest of the salad greens, as it remains pretty hot here for lettuce.
We still have not had any rain, but other parts of the central and south-central areas of Texas have had rain. My friend in Bastrop, Wee Peeple Doll Maker, Kandra, put this picture in her latest newsletter:
She says that after just two little rains the flowers are blooming and, as you can see, the bees and butterflies are enjoying the treats, too.
This morning I discovered this little passion flower, Passiflora foetida, blooming from its hanging pot. P. foetida is a small flowered passion flower with fuzzy bracts surrounding the flower bud. The "foetida- fedid" species name comes from the fairly unpleasant odor coming from the crushed stem. The fruit is small and ripens to a reddish orange. Good to eat, but tiny, more like a little berry.
I've seen Gulf Fritillary butterflies around the pot, too, as it lays its eggs on the passion flower leaves so that the larva can have something to eat when they hatch.
Another plant blooming in the garden attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds is the esperanza (Tecoma stans). I have both the standard yellow variety, which is not blooming yet, and the orange variety, which is equally as attractive and drought-tolerant as the yellow variety.
A small milkweed, Asclepius curassavica, is also blooming because it is finally getting water. Of course the butterflies love this one. It is both a host and a nectar plant for butterflies.
I hope you've enjoyed the little bits of color I found today in the gardens. Hopefully as the weather stays cooler we get a little rain every now and then and our herbs will grow lush and full of flavor for our winter meals, herb vinegars and to attract more butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to the garden.
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
— Marcus Tullius Cicero