Cape May Garden Survivors 2016

Cape May, NJ -   There’s no doubt about it: Sedum – that favorite nectar source of so many butterflies -  is saving our garden during this very dry early September.

It’s never very rainy at this time of year, but even so, we’ve had only about two thirds of our average rainfall since August 1. Even tropical storm Hermine brushed by us, leaving us with a measly one eighth inch of rain. One eighth inch?  Hermine. Come on, now.

At the same time, the days have been hot, so hot.
Cape May temperatures averaged four degrees warmer than usual last month. (National Weather Service stats)

Garden Partner is hand watering his veggies and some of my perennials, but the ground is greedy for more water. There’s no way to soak everything.

So what’s the good news? We’re getting a true test of drought tolerance and, despite the weather, some late blooming perennials are doing just fine.

Like Calamint (above) a newbie plant, settling in for its first growing season in the garden. (Sharing space with blue Catmint, which blooms more heavily in the spring.)

I’m amazed at how Calamint’s delicate white flowers keep bringing in the bees. Got this idea from Thomas Rainer, author of Planting in a Post-Wild World, who grows Calamint in his own Virginia garden.  Even Garden Partner is impressed. We need more of this stuff.

Eupatorium Hyssopifolium, a garden veteran, has been reseeding itself in select locations over the last few years.

This year, this long lost cousin of Joe Pye Weed looks better than ever with its tall, billowy white blooms in the dry heat of late summer.

This Eupatorium, unlike others in the same family,  survives on precious little water. But it is a choosy plant. It won’t grow well in our heavy clay backyard. Nope. Only up front, where the soil’s a little lighter.

One perennial that prefers our clay backyard is the Amsonia Hubrichtii,  a shock of glowing, bright green surrounded by the fading glory of the Culver’s Root and Rudbeckia.

Amsonia blooms in the spring, but its lime green foliage looks as fresh now as it did three months ago. No extra watering, trust me. If this is not drought tolerance, I don’t know what is. Unless we’re talking Sedum.

Sedum is ubiquitous in Cape May. Everyone, even people who don’t know anything about gardening, plants it.  Just give it some sunshine and well drained soil and it thrives.

This year, patches of Sedum in various shades of pink are brightening up our garden despite the weather.

While all of our Sedum get visited very heavily by butterflies,  a patch of pale pink Sedum up front, that started with a seedling from local wildlife gardener Pat Sutton’s garden, is drawing in the Buckeyes right now.

So, yes, we’ve had plants not only surviving but thriving despite the heat and dryness.

Unfortunately, if this weather is the new normal, we all need to rethink what we’re putting into our gardens.


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About Jane Kashlak

Jane Kashlak - a journalist, gardener and Cape Island resident - is writing a book.