A Southern garden thrives in the heat

The right choice of plants is essential when you want them to thrive in a hot Southern summer.

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    Crinums, also known as crinum lilies or spider lilies, are an old favorite in Southern gardens since they are not only attractive but can take the heat.
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    Dazzle is a group of new crape myrtles that are reliably dwarf. This one is Dazzle Me Pink.
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Summertime conjures up thoughts of cookouts, camping, and anything to do with water -- the pool, beach, or lake.

Many people abandoned gardening when spring’s door swung shut. For me, however, gardening remains high on my list of summertime pastimes, despite record heat.

Surprisingly, with no rain and since i prefer to take my watering forays in a hole in the ground and not with a hose in my hands, my garden, Helen's Haven is looking mighty fine. Summer may not be my favorite season to garden in, but I’ve learned how to cope.

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Morning in the garden

As a natural early riser, I welcome morning in the garden. While the temperatures are at their coolest, I can weed, putter, and peek at the flowers.

As the dew dries and sun rises, the wildlife wake from a restful nap. A butterfly comes out from under a leaf, a frog opens one eye, then the other with thoughts of noshing, and a bee, having fallen asleep on a flower head, doesn’t have far to travel to break its fast.

My success for a summer garden lies in the use of plants suitable for my climate.

Since Raleigh, N.C., receives about 44 inches of rain a year, one doesn’t think of it as dry, but, come summer, we can go far too long with no rain at all. It’s during these times when we root for a tropical storm to come our way.

The 3 C's don't mind the heat and lack of rain

Realistically, though, it’s best to plant what will grow without worry of watering.

If you are wondering what will grow in our southern summers, remember the three C's -- crinums, cleomes, and crape myrtles.

My crinums [see first photo above] are cranking up in the worse heat the summer can bring; the cleomes (which are easy to grow from seed) are so prolific, I need to thin weekly. The crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) [see second photo above; click on the arrow at the right base of the first photo] rank at the top of my summer list, with sizes and colors to fit almost any location, offering flowers for about 100 days.

The best part of all? I don’t need to add watering to my list of chores when growing the three C's. They seem to do just fine, as I solider on in the heat to enjoy the summer with family and friends.

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Helen Yoest lives in North Carolina and writes about Gardening With Confidence. She's a garden writer, speaker, and garden coach. She's also a field editor for Better Homes and Gardens and Country Gardens magazines and serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum. You can follow Helen on Twitter and Facebook. To read more by Helen here at Diggin' It, click here.

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