When summer and fall collide — beauty (You can grow that!)

purple mexican sage, yellow thryallis, yellow allamanda, blue to purple plumbago, blue birdbath, single bloom of belinda's dream rose bush

This is the time I wait for all year – when summer’s crazy blooms overlap with fall’s first show-offs. (I take pictures so I can fondly remember this come January.)

All of the plants in this corner of my garden (OK — pretty much all of my plants!) are tough guys that do well in full sun, somewhat sandy soil, and no fertilizer — except for the roses. I amend my sand with compost, and this is the oldest part of my garden, so the dirt has had a good 12 years of cow manure, kitchen scraps and dead leaves from the neighbor’s oak tree. My backyard faces east, but that same neighbor’s oak tree blocks the sun all morning in this spot. The plants appreciate it! They take a big, hot hit all afternoon.

In the background, from left to right, the plants are: yellow thryallis, huge purple salvia (I wish I knew the variety because it grows much bigger than I expected and is a bit of a pain!), pale blue flowers behind are plumbago trained to grow up the fence, double pink Knock Out roses, more thryallis (small yellow blooms), allamanda (large yellow blooms), Belinda’s Dream rose (a single bloom in the photo — a dream of an easy rose bush!)

Behind the birdbath is purpleĀ Mexican sage, and the little yellow/orange flowers in the foreground are orange cosmos. I’ve also got some pink confetti lantana to the right, and oh! There’s some pretty pink, well-behaved salvia coccinea to the left.

My “fall” bloomer is the Mexican sage, which has actually been blooming for months. This outburst, however, is particularly outrageous.

purple flowers, mounding shrub, mexican sage, lance-shaped green leaves, silvery stems

I love Mexican sage! The blooms have a woolly, velvety texture and such a beautiful lavender color. Even my husband notices them (which is saying something.) The first hummingbird I ever spotted in my garden was drawn to this plant.

Mexican sage is easy to grow. Don’t be afraid to whack back the leggy stems as the blooms fade. New stems will quickly replace the old. If you water it well after first planting (to establish the roots) it’s very drought-tolerant. Mine always dies back in the winter and faithfully reappears in the spring.

small, pale pink flowers, yellow stamens, jatropha, pink princess, jatropha integerima

My little pink jatropha is no show-stopper — yet. Jatropha Integerima ‘Pink Princess’ gets knocked back every winter and is slow to come back, unlike her livelier, scarlet cousin, spicy Jatropha. I’ve got several of the red variety and they’re huge. Small trees! This one’s only about 3 feet tall, though it’s a couple years old. Hmmm, that could be because I didn’t get the roots well-established. The reds grow fine in fairly sandy soil and take lots of sun. While the red Jatropha bloom year-round, this is the first big flush of flowers I’ve seen from Princess.

yellow chinese hat plant, small cup and saucer shaped bloom, bright yellow, dark green leaves, oval, pointed

Always my first sign of fall — Chinese hat plant’s first bloom! This one is teeny tiny (compare it to the wine-bottle opening to the left.) The blooms get larger and create a bright, frothy display. The yellow Chinese hat is less common than the pale orange-colored variety, but they all do well here. The wonderful plant vendor from whom I bought this (er, its mother — this one I started from a cutting) told me to cut it back by a third in August and fertilize for best bloomage.

small oval green leaves, tree 6 feet tall, mooring

The little tree in the foreground is Moringa oleifera — the most nutritious tree on the planet! (To the right is the little pink jatropha and the bright red blooms below left are red firespike.)

A gardening reader gave me this little guy as a rooted cutting two or three years ago. It stayed in its too-small grow pot way too long — I didn’t know where to plant it! I finally found a spot last spring, and look how fast it has grown! Everything about moringa is nutritious; it’s hailed as a miracle plant. The leaves are loaded with vitamins; the seed pods (which give it its nickname, drumstick tree) are used in stews and are rich in vitamin C; and the roots taste like horseradish. Part of the reason for its “miracle” label is it grows SO easily in harsh conditions (i.e., my garden, India, South Africa and eastern Asian.)

I’m fully enjoying my summer/fall garden. And judging from the buds, there’s only more good to come.