Native species can take our summer heat

Some cool plants

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We're lucky to be in the Augusta area because, although the winter is seldom harsh (thank goodness), we have four seasons. Each presents a challenge to gardeners, but probably none more than summer, especially late summer.

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When summer's most intense heat hits and just keeping plants alive is a challenge, color and texture combinations such as this one in Crystal Eskola's yard can be a breath of freshness. She cycles most of her plants on a seasonal basis.   Sandy Hodson/Staff
Sandy Hodson/Staff
When summer's most intense heat hits and just keeping plants alive is a challenge, color and texture combinations such as this one in Crystal Eskola's yard can be a breath of freshness. She cycles most of her plants on a seasonal basis.

The real test for a gardener is keeping the place looking good through every season.

I have spring and fall down, and the giant camellias in the front yard provide endless winter blooms, but summer is tough at our place. So I was anxious to see how Crystal Eskola does it.

We visited Crystal, who graciously has opened her gardens to us in each of the four seasons, on a steamy night earlier this month.

Crystal has made peace with the brutal heat. Her back and front yards are a haven of lush greenery with blasts of colorful blooms.

Before you even step onto the Eskolas' property you are treated to a mosaic of flowers backed by a peaceful backdrop of large shrubs and trees.

Crystal, whose gardening thrill is native and unusual plants, said she discovered a new nursery in Atlanta while on a business trip. It's called the Garden Hood, and while it's small, it has plants she said she has never seen elsewhere.

She found several cool plants to bring home, including a perennial begonia that has huge, light-green leaves and now makes its home in a bed of shade lovers. She also found miniature Iron Weed that now stands tall -- in a short way -- with the other batches of tall Iron Weed.

There's nothing like ferns to make even the hottest day seem a little lighter. Crystal has several varieties weaving throughout her gardens and even between the cracks of the front porch steps.

She has a native orchid that's putting on a delicate show right now. And her tall and miniature Iron Weed plants are also blooming in a lovely deep blue.

Crystal and other volunteers have been taking cuttings from native plants to her yard to propagate plants for the Augusta Canal's 12 miles of paths.

They have been working fast because Crystal intends to take a chain saw to several trees that are blocking sunlight from a luster leaf holly and other underlying plants.

As beautiful as her gardens are, they are always in a state of change, much like nature itself.

The rock borders are going to become rock piles.

Storm-damaged shrubs will be replaced with a large metal container of bamboo that will shield the view of the fence and provide a protective border for the snake area Crystal wants to provide.

And there's always another nook or corner that needs a redo, in Crystal's mind.

But they are on the list for fall, when it's cooler.




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