Fall is in the air and it is time to hand out awards for the best of the summer garden performances.
The sunshine put on a big show this summer with home gardeners reporting bumper crops of tomatoes, peppers, figs, eggplants and other warmth-loving crops.
Heat-loving annual flowers, such as sunflowers, geraniums, petunias and zinnias, also had great performance, but only if you remembered to fertilize and water, water, water.
Hanging baskets of fuchsias suffered this summer in many gardens because of not enough water. On warm days, container gardens stuffed full of plants required watering both morning and evening.
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If your baskets look sad and dreary with crispy leaves and few blooms now, this is the time to dump them into the compost pile and start fresh with the new season.
Best Plant in a Starring Role Over a Hot Summer
One plant that did well as hanging basket in the hot sun is called Scaevola or Fan Flower. The best variety is named Whirlwind from Proven Winners.
The thick succulent leaves help this draping bloomer with blue, fan-shaped flowers survive full sun, hot days and gardeners that forget to water.
It is an annual, so it will not survive the winter, but if you have plants or hanging baskets that failed in the heat this summer, remember the name Scaevola Whirlwind fan flower when shopping for plants next spring.
The forgiving nature of the fan flower means that when you see it wilt you can revive it with water, so forgetful gardeners get a second chance.
Fan flower earns a round applause — grow it and you’ll be a fan as well.
Best Supporting Role for Container Gardens in the Sun
Self-watering containers — buy them now at bargain prices. Gardeners can now leave home for a long weekend and come back to find their potted flowers and veggies did just fine while they were gone.
September is the month to order self-watering containers as summer ends and these popular pots go on sale. Their light weight means they are easy to move and ship right to your door.
Look for pots made to last with no wooden parts that can rot or ceramic parts that will crack.
There are several choices in self-watering containers, but the ones that work the best and store the most water are larger containers with deep reservoirs.
Although originally designed for growing vegetables in raised beds, the newest version of self-watering containers have plenty of style and are sold online by Gardeners Supply (www.gardenersupply.com.)
These containers have a updated contemporary design, and one that works especially well is made from galvanized metal (weather proof!) and uses cotton batting wicks to draw water up into the potting soil – but only when the plants are dry.
Gardeners Supply also offers a more classic container style that is tall and narrow and includes the self-watering design. The columnar shape with various color options is a perfect form for flanking a front door or dressing up a formal area of the garden.
After a hot, dry summer these containers win the award for supporting the blooming stars of the garden.
Best Costume Design for a Patio Performance
Cushions, pillows and rugs dress up your outdoor space — and don’t need water.
So let’s be practical. Not everyone can keep hanging baskets and potted plants watered and looking good especially during a dry summer. Perhaps the best investment for pretty patios are colorful cushions, umbrellas and outdoor rugs.
You can warm up your outdoor space with hot orange and bright yellow fabrics or cool it down with aqua blue and soft greens, go tropical with hot pinks and bold prints or add drama with black and white geometrics. For a classic look, pick cushions and rugs with wide navy and white stripes.
A patio just doesn’t look dressed without some outdoor fabric.
September is the month to invest in bargain outdoor furniture and update those colorful cushions and accents — just be sure you store your patio wardrobe out of the elements as soon as the rains arrive.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.
Win plants and prizes at the Bloomin’ Bingo benefit for Thurston County master gardeners from 7-9 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. SE in Lacey. Marianne Binetti will be the master of ceremonies, so you’ll learn garden tips as you gamble. More info is available at www.mgftc.org. Space is limited.