A July Yard

“Summer arrived in Narrow Creek, and my word, it was hot!” This is the first sentence of Chapter 9 in my debut novel Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, but Narrow Creek could be Rocky Mount right now. My word, it’s hot here in eastern North Carolina.


So hot my three squash plants gave up the ghost. I picked a total of two mature squash before the leaves turned brown and the plants shriveled. I’ve gone to Plan B, though, replacing a vegetable with a flower. So far, my zinnias seem undaunted by the hot, dry weather.


I love zinnias. They’re old-fashioned flowers that remind me of my Grandma Hinton. I’m sure she always grew hers from seed, whereas I shop Lowe’s or Allen’s Nursery for already blooming plants.

My brick back porch gets the afternoon sun, which creates desert-heat conditions for flowers. I’ve learned over the years what holds up in this location during the high temps of July and August.

Portulaca is a favorite. Sometimes called the sun rose, this flower blooms only with daylight. The brighter the day, the brighter the bloom. I have two matching urns of portulaca right outside my kitchen door. From inside the house (where it’s air-conditioned), I enjoy watching the plant unfold its flowers each sunny morning.


Begonias also survive the extreme heat on my porch, and like the portulaca, can handle a weekend without water if I’m away and it doesn’t rain. I just have to make sure I buy the variety that likes full rather than partial sun. I’ve mixed in some deer antlers, a bird house (uninhabited) and an old bird nest to add some variety to this baker’s rack of begonias.

baker's rack

I’m a big fan of the hearty begonia and usually plant a pink variety to circle the large forsythia bush in my front yard. This year, however, I decided to gamble with vinca, another heat and drought tolerant flower. So far, so good. The bright pink cheers me up during these coronavirus days, and so far, the deer and rabbits haven’t shown any interest in having a vinca course for dinner.

circle flowers

The cute little bunny in my yard, I learned, prefers the tender new leaves of a flowering quince my daughter gave me last year. I’ve got it caged now, but it’s been a little like closing the barn door after the horse is gone. It doesn’t look so bad in this picture, but believe me, it was considerably bushier before Baby Bunny pruned it.

the cage

Yes, I’m talking about you, you sneaky rabbit. I thought you were cute until you went on the attack.

guilty bunny

“Brilliant zinnias, marigolds, and petunias caught my eye along with Miss Josie’s flourishing vegetable garden,” Dee Ann says later in Chapter 9. I don’t have any marigolds this year, my petunias died a month ago, and three hills of struggling cucumber plants and three cherry tomato plants hardly constitute a garden.

But Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder is fiction. I don’t think I’m faring too badly with a real yard being baked by a hot July sun.

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