The summer garden – what died, survived and adjustments for next summer

It hasn’t been an easy summer, we got some monsoon but not nearly as much as we did last summer. A few things struggled and I wanted to share what I’ve learned and adjustments I will be making next summer!

can’t wait to start planting for fall, I might sneak off to The Home Depot nursery to see what they have and start planting early even though I know its so hot. The local nurseries are still a bit bare so that’s why I mention The Home Depot because they break all the rules and probably have plants out now they shouldn’t or those of us who are too anxious will buy. Ha!

Here are some updates on what happened this summer. I didn’t post much about summer gardening and I wish I could have like everywhere else but summers in Phoenix are not great for gardening here so there’s not much to say other than praying over your plants hoping they survive! So here’s the big end of summer update and hopefully you can learn from my summer garden!

Newly planted trees

  • Fan Tex Ash Tree it’s a smaller deciduous ash (an evergreen but shortly will drop leaves before it pushes out new ones right away), grow to a round canopy, and unlike the other ash I have in the backyard, this variety turns a golden fall color. It has a superior tolerance of heat.
  • Chinese Elm this is our third Chinese Elm, we have two in the backyard. We love it for the speedy growth, and its wide umbrella shaped shade. We planted this on the west side of our yard with plans that it will shade the driveway as the canopy grows. It loves full sun and can withstand the hot Phoenix summers.

Plants that failed

  • The BBQ rosemary I bought which were small and about $5 each if even that grew quickly, and some died that were in the “hot box” as we call it. I pulled them out, wasn’t sad about it because of how cheap they were and I will leave two in the back there and plant annuals like geraniums there for the spring. Summer it might have to be empty.
  • Zinnias did well last summer but completely failed me this summer! There were so many spider mites and bugs on them and they looked sick so I ripped them out. I’m unsure if it’s from bad seeds or what happened. Notes from Google: Zinnias require watering 1–2 times per week. Use a soaker hose to water zinnias—overhead watering is bad for their health. Water zinnias when the top ½-inch (1 cm) of soil is dry to the touch. Water zinnias until the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil are moist. (source)
  • Iceberg roses surrounded by pavement and rocks. Our corner iceberg roses struggled so badly in comparison to the ones that are by our grass. I realized it’s the heat radiating from the rocks and the pavement. I covered some but I am unsure how to proceed going forward if shade cloth will have to be used.
  • New pink lemon tree (almost failed) our second pink lemon tree is in the front and it looked as if it was going to die so I covered it in July and saved it, phew. Next year, I’m covering everything in June!

^^ You can see how in between the salvia died so my tall Lisianthus just stuck out. This will be filled with Vinca’s next summer.

Plants that survived and thrived

  • I bought Lisianthus plugs from Flora Curated in February, a local florist and these blooms just blossomed all summer! I would cut them and bring them in to enjoy for a week! They are gorgeous and look like mini roses. An adjustment I would make for next year is clustering them all together in a different location because I had hoped to have them between other flowers like Blue Victoria salvia but the salvia died so it looked very odd to have the lisianthus spaced so far apart along my walkway since they are quite tall.

Adjustments for the summer

  • Vincas for next summer 100% along the walkway. Seeing my neighbors plants survive it might be the only flower that can survive summer if I want those blooms.
  • New Zinnia seeds, the collected batch I had must not have been healthy or I need to reevaluate my watering schedule.
  • Use shade cloth earlier to cover roses and newly planted bushes and trees like in June instead of end of July. The heat was just too much for these babies and though I hate the look of it, it is what it is!

Diana Elizabeth is at the end of a cold she may have picked up from Vegas. It’s just annoying the evolution of a cold.


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Diana Elizabeth Steffen setting the table for her annual garden party


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Diana Elizabeth is an author, photographer, and obsessive thrift shopper. You can typically find her in the garden wrist deep in dirt, at a local estate sale or planning her next creative themed party. She continues to blog weekly.


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