A summer survivor…

As our hot summer wears on many plants in my garden are looking quite peaked and forlorn.  Although it has been a cooler week here; in the nineties rather than the days of 105-108 degrees we’ve had for a few weeks, it is still a challenge to keep things going with our 2 days per week and limited hours of the day watering restrictions.  We continue to bucket bath and shower water to many of the more thirsty plants and are in the process of removing several areas of lawn in favor of more drought tolerant shrub plantings.  The later will not happen over night–we have had the lawn chemically killed but now must double dig those areas to make them ready for fall planting.  My long term goal is to have fewer garden areas which need intensive maintenance and significant water to keep them going.

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This interesting plant has proven to be a summer survivor–Talinum paniculatum ‘Limon’, commonly called Jewels of Opar ‘Limon’.

I added this succulent subshrub in the purslane family to my garden from a 4″ pot about 3 years ago.  It was another impulse buy but I am a sucker for plants with lime green foliage. A plant would have to have well documented zombie apocalypse characteristics for me to pass on those bright and happy leaves! Even after a bit of research I was still unsure of its sun tolerance so I stuck it in a pot of mixed annuals and perennials near the edge of my back patio.  The original plant was not cold hardy and was lost during the first crisp snap of that fall but every year since I have had many seedlings appear in the beds closest to the original pot’s location.  Based upon that I suppose ‘Limon’ could be a blessing or a curse (especially in those areas without cold to knock it back naturally) but I have found the unwanted seedlings easy to pull and really enjoy seeing where it will show up next!

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The bright chartreuse foliage really pops in beds of mixed perennials and annuals whose leaves are more mid green.  The wee pink flowers appear as a gauzy cloud hovering above the foliage and are followed by tiny magenta seedpods.  It is very free flowering with new stems appearing frequently.  At any point most stems will have buds, flowers and seed pods in an airy jumble. Literature suggests this plant could get quite large but my foliage rarely exceeds 12″ and the slender flower wands extend its height to about 24″-30″. The first seedlings emerge very late in June but as the plants continually produce seed pods I then have new seedlings until the first frost.

In my garden the foliage is a magnet for a small white butterfly.  The dancing moms will pass by many other species to lay their eggs on the Talinum.  The quickly emerging and ravenous lime green caterpillars are almost invisible on the foliage and can decimate the plant in a day. Below you can see the tiny black eggs laid by the butterfly.  Unfortunately or thankfully, depending on your perspective, I had no caterpillars to photograph for you at this moment! When an individual plant gets too chewed down I harvest the flower wands to add to bouquets and just pull up the plant as I know there will be more to come. After all–we all have to eat!

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All in all, the Talinum seedlings are a welcome sight each year.  They provide exuberantly colored foliage and sweet little flowers, both filling in bare spots in the bed.  Though they are not totally without maintenance, the little they require is worth the reward!

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