Perfect timing

Extended periods with minimal rainfall are typical of our summers, so there is no reason to whine when hostas that were foolishly planted in too much sun turn crispy along the edges. Though I could hardly care, the lawn begins to brown with clover and crabgrass gaining greater prominence. And then, rain comes, and again and again, and what was beginning to be a dreary looking August garden springs to life.

I haven’t a clue where the Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis, above) got its name, but there’s no doubt that it is quite sensitive to changes in soil moisture. These are volunteers in this garden, spread through shaded areas and even into part sun, where occasionally they must be weeded out. Usually, they’re welcomed, but the ones in a bit too much sun are very obvious, where they quickly turn to brown whenever soils become dry.

This has been an iffy year for toad lilies in the garden, though I hope all is salvaged by flowers that are just beginning on the early ‘Samurai’ (Tricyrtis formosana ‘Samurai’, above). I expect the best is yet to come, but two freezes in mid May damaged new spring growth, and there was further injury in a hot, dry period in July. This has stunted growth, so several are not as tall as usual, but I don’t figure this will be a problem for flowering. At least, I hope not.

Several new toad lily varieties have been added in recent weeks. This is what happens when it rains. I get enthused and lose sight that yes, it’s August, and I’m quite neglectful with follow up care, like watering, if it turns dry again. Of course, toad lilies are not the only plants that will soon go into the ground. Several new ferns are on the way to add to what’s becoming a fair collection (Victoria Lady fern, Athyrium filix-femina ‘Victoriae’, above), and I hope that at this time next year I’m not bemoaning what an idiot I was to plant treasures in the heat of summer.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. NJUrbanForest says:

    Great article! It’s my understanding that Sensitive Fern got its name from the fern withering at first frost.

    1. Dave says:

      Yes, and it also withers in drought. I cut back a vigorous clump that browned in part sun, and after a rainy week it’s back, as full as ever.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        Sensitivity may be a survival technique. Some chaparral plants wilt or even defoliate if they get too dry through summer, particularly if they get warm. The California buckeye is actually ‘twice deciduous’, since it defoliates through summer, refoliates in autumn, and then defoliates again or winter. It is sensitive,but remarkably resilient.

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