Irene Virag's Garden Party

I'm Irene Virag -- a writer, a gardener, a cancer survivor. I think ideas are like plants. They need nurturing to grow. And gardeners share both. So welcome to my blog. It’s all about what’s happening in my garden and beyond.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Some Like It Hot

I was out and about the other day in the 100-degree heat and I could feel my own temperature rising. And it had nothing to do with the fact that I was driving my beat-up un-airconditioned black Honda CRX. It had to do with the sprinklers I saw on lawn after lawn, some of them watering the driveway or the sidewalk, even the street.

Come on guys. When the globe is warming and the world around us is wilting, why is a green lawn still a badge of honor? It's time to give the lawn a break. Let it rest. Let it turn a nice shade of beige. It's called going dormant and it's what turf grass does naturally when the growing gets tough. You're better off letting the lawn nap a while than giving it a spritz now and then to perk it up. Believe it. Besides, a splash from the hose or a spray from the sprinkler won't be enough to keep the green green grass of home very green -- nature will take care of that when things cool down. But in the meantime, it will do wonders for the weeds. And what good is that?

So here's my word for the day -- Xeriscape. It's derived from the Greek word Xeros, meaning dry, and it's pronounced as if the first letter were a "z." The idea of xeriscaping, which started as a water conservation measure in Colorado in the early 1980s, is to garden with plants that get along with little more moisture than what comes from the heavens.

There are more of them out there than you might think. Some annuals and perennials you may be familiar with like nasturtiums and hens-and-chicks and black-eyed Susans and Echinacea purpurea (both shown above in my garden) and Gaillardia and yarrow. And some you may not know like gomphrena and tithonia and melampodium and Echinops and Agastache -- my favorite variety is Tutti-Fruitti -- and Acanthus and sea holly and Russain sage.

Of course, all plants need to be watered until they're safely established in their new digs. With perennials and trees and shrubs that could take a year or two. The results are worth the wait.

I'm making my wish list now. It's later than you think. Next month we'll be heading into prime perennial planting season. We need all the water we can save.


Blogger fisherman mike said...

Since I do not allways get to read your column, im glad to see you now have this blog. Thankyou for all your great advise.

8/06/2006 5:05 AM  
Anonymous hugh said...

Yes, it's great Irene created this forum for all garden enthusiasts to share. I'm looking forward to reading everybody's comments and exchanging information.

8/06/2006 8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So many of the gorgeous gardens around LI are created and tended by paid gardeners. We can't afford that. That's why I so appreciate your columns. Plus, I've learned that gardening is a great way to de-stress.

8/06/2006 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Irene,
I loved your article today.
The lillies really are putting on quite a show, I only wish it would never end
Thought you might enjoy this poem
I wrote.
Ken Eisenpresser
Old Brookville NY

There’s a riot in the backyard-
Of Lilies:
Yellow, pink and white.
Like giggling, silly school girls at the prom, dressed by Mom to pop in a crowd.
No, really more like sophisticated ladies at a ball, wearing satin and silk gorgeous dresses.

Laughing and prattling to eachother
Their music is a fragrance that fills the yard
With visions of ice cream cones
In a Myriad of Pastels.

They are calling to me
My brain explodes with the heady aroma…

But alas I must be off to work.

8/06/2006 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way I see it is all the people from "up island" loved what they saw out here when they came to visit and decided to move, build, whatever and proceeded to try to make their place like where they came from by getting rid of ancient trees, and going for that manicured look. We were from there also, moved 18 yrs. ago to an old farmhouse with loads of trees, most 125-150 yrs. old and the only watering our "grass" (read: clover, crabgrass and some REAL grass gets) is when it rains. Everyone thinks our place is beautiful! Love that country look and we are trying our darndest to keep it that way.

8/06/2006 2:32 PM  
Anonymous jackson said...

I agree wholeheartedly with annonymous about preserving ancient trees and letting nature tend nature.

8/06/2006 5:34 PM  
Blogger Elise said...

I agree! There is too much interference with nature. I look forward to checking in here often to read from Irene's Garden and Beyond blog. This is a bright spot on the web.

8/06/2006 8:42 PM  
Anonymous red rose said...

I love the poem from anonymous. I'd love to read it again but, but alas I must be off to work.

8/07/2006 5:34 AM  
Blogger kitkat said...

You're right, as usual, Irene. Our gardens are a great place to start showing more love for our planet -- and our children's planet.

8/08/2006 3:00 PM  
Blogger leo stimmler said...

I love reading Irene's column. I need help. Some snapdragons look great but others have no blossoms and look like an insect hit them. However, I can't see any insects. I wonder if I should have put some fertilizer down when I planted them on Mother's Day. How are other readers of Irene's column doing with their snapdragons? Should I pinch the dead blossoms?

8/10/2006 3:32 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

I am thrilled with this blog. I had the pleasure of growing up and going to school in Connecticut with Irene. When she writes she makes you feel like she is personally addressing you. I think that is what makes her such a gifted writer. Her writing draws you in comfortably and you become part of her world that she so generously shares with us all. I have tried everything from coyote urine to Irish Spring, trying to deter those darling deer that come to my yard every evening for a buffet. Since it would be impossible to fence in my home which is surrounded by woods on three sides, early next spring I plan to start using Deer-Off! I can only pray that it works. Thanks for the tip! How did your journey into the wonderful world of clematis work out for you? They are my favorite vines. I am growing 8 clematis right now with more on order.


8/10/2006 6:53 AM  
Blogger leo stimmler said...

Susan, you put it so eloquently about Irene's writing. Thanks
Garden City Leo

8/12/2006 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Janet said...

Leo, my snapdragons fried in the heat wave. I pulled them out and they're in the compost pile. I've found they don't usually make it through the summer. I guess they don't like the heat. Anyone else have any tips for us snapdragon fans?

8/15/2006 4:17 AM  
Anonymous Serena said...

I've been fighting with my lawn, hoping to keep it green, so the article "Some Like It Hot" really gave me permission to let it 'go dormant', what a relief...

8/17/2006 2:25 PM  
Anonymous liz the happy new gardener said...

So, I planted some tomatoe plants this year. There's lots of fruits on them but they're all green :(. What's happening????

8/17/2006 2:41 PM  
Anonymous Ed the Newguy said...

Thanks for relieving me of the guilt of not watering my lawn every day. It is now a straw colored brown. I'll let the fall weather do its thing.
PS Loved the Sunday story about the Hummingbirds.

8/20/2006 7:57 AM  
Blogger leo stimmler said...

I took some of my wilting snapdragons to Hicks Nursery on Jericho Turnpike in Westbury and their garden expert, Mark Luftig, said they had been hit with a fungus. He suggested a fungacide and said not to use a lawn sprinkler when I water them as that only helps the fungus to spread. Instead, I should use a garden hose and hold it near the base of the plant.

8/20/2006 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an (almost) former Long Islander, I'm glad I'll be able to reference your site - your gardening information is great - and I always learn something new!

8/20/2006 4:10 PM  
Anonymous red rose said...

I'm glad to see Irene included a plant profiles section. The website is beautiful.

8/21/2006 7:33 AM  

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