Barking back at the dog days


“Hot time, summer in the city ... “

-- John Sebastian

“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.”


-- Nat King Cole

The calendar indicates that we are entering the “dog days of

summer” ... although the anticipated warm and clear days have been

inconsistent. There is, however, plenty to do for avid gardeners, as


well as those of us not quite so committed. Our gardening list

includes watering our trees and shrubs as deeply and infrequently as

possible and fastening all plants that require staking in preparation

of the Santa Ana winds.

Spent flowers and seedpods should be removed and tall fescue lawns

cut taller than in spring. Vegetables, lawns and flowers should be

fertilized with regular, mild feedings. And pests, such as weeds,

insects, and diseases should be dealt with responsibly.


After the rush of spring blooms, it is difficult to maintain color

from shrubs, which often become quite drab by midsummer. Enter the

bedding plant, the savior for those of us who enjoy the “idea” of

flowers and enjoy a splash of color in the garden. From a practical

point of view (which means not overburdening ourselves with

uncongenial work), bedding plants are easy to buy, easy to grow and

are the easiest way to a colorful garden.

By designing your garden with flowers of colors that please you,


your garden will be appealing and renewed. Keep your flowerbeds and

containers well filled and neat by removing spent or dead flowers and

foliage, and your entire garden will appear as trim and well tended

as Catharine.

Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis, has lovely blue or white spiky

flowers and grows in full sun. Fairly drought resistant, it requires

well draining soil. With a maximum growth to 1 1/2 feet, this sage

should be cut back after blooming and fertilized regularly. The

flowers are fragrant in cut arrangements, and the leaves can be used

for seasoning.

An all-purpose summer annual, Sweet alyssum, Lobularia maritima,

displays colorful white, pink or purple flowers in borders, rock

gardens, hanging baskets and anywhere else there is at least a little

sunlight. Reaching one foot in height, the flowers will bloom all

year from self-sown seeds in Laguna.

Cosmos, Cosmos bipinnatus, is one my favorite plants for the

summer. Planted in full sunlight, it blooms in white, pink, rose,

lavender and crimson. Varieties vary in height from two feet up to

eight feet in height.

Mounding into your garden, Dwarf Cup Flower, Nierembergia

hippomanica violacea, has saucerlike blue flowers. It requires sun

and good soil, with average water. Less than a foot tall,

Nierembergia is a great border or container flower.

Lisianthus, Eustoma grandiflorum, is a terrific cut flower.

Originally introduced from Japan, the tulip-shaped flowers are

available in purplish blue, pink or white. They will bloom all summer

if old blooms are cut off when spent.

With the perspective of a life-long resident, the summer traffic

really seems out of control this year ... more so than ever. Is it

the new signal, the reopening of the festivals or just that Laguna

has evolved into one of the most popular destinations in California?

Whatever the reason, my personal observation is that those of us

who live in town are as eclectic, passionate, and crazy about Laguna

as any preceding generation. And that the traffic is just a minor

irritation of the crazy days of summer. See you next time.

* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery,

1540 S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist,

Catharine Cooper, and has three cats. He can be reached at (949)

497-2438, or e-mail to