Monday, June 16, 2008

Ramblings-The Week That WAS and Soon WILL BE!

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

Did you enjoy our ‘dog days’ Monday and Tuesday?

What a week. I am so grateful for this rain as it will keep me inside today. Much to attend to but first I must share……….

Wednesday I spotted my first Monarch. Early? According to a Google Search Monarchs were first spotted this year on May 15th at Kittery Point. Usually with the first blooms of the Cone Flower I notice the Monarch. This day he simply hovered over the Salvia and did check out a peony bloom.

This same day I witnessed a close-up feeding between a Robin and her 2 chicks, spotted a variety of other colorful moths & butterflies (8?) and lost count of the number of song changes and ranges of a boisterous male mockingbird. I recently read that it is the unattached male whose repertoires are the more melodic and uplifting. This makes me wonder, to attract with a serenade a potential mate or a boisterous expression of glee to be without one?

Take time to notice such things while working away. Even on a day like today, take in the crystal pools collecting in the foliage of an Autumn Joy Sedum or lounging in the leaflets of Lupines. Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!

With all the sun we have had this past week and the current gentle rain our gardens are going to pop!

Your gardens will be full if the purchasing activity of the local nurseries and garden centers are an indication. Shelves bare were soon back-filled with the next bevy of blooming beauties. Additions to perennial gardens as well as augmentation with colorful annuals abound. After all what is a garden if it doesn’t have color?

It is tempting to gather all that currently is in bloom. Keep in mind that our gardens can offer interest and color up to the first frost and beyond when we make an effort to do so. Remember the plan. For every plant you purchase that offers an ‘early summer’ or ‘summer’ bloom time, look for a plant that offers ‘late season’ display. You will also see a notation on some plant tags that will say ‘winter interest’.

Come mid-August, September you’ll still want color and these plants may not be available. Think Russian Sage, Black-eyed Susan’s, Joe Pye Weed. Aster, Coneflowers. Moreover, do not dismiss the Montauk Daisy.

Now for current ‘timely tips’;

Roses are coming into their own. Do not be afraid to prune back straggly rogue stems. This will offer a fuller shrub and direct energy to producing blooms.
One of the rose bushes I attend to had aphids. Yuck. Then I noticed Lady Bugs—Yes! I was happy and sad all at once. When you spot aphids, knock them off with a strong spray of water. Most dislodged aphids will not be able to return to the plant, and their honeydew will be washed off as well. Using water sprays early in the day allows plants to dry off rapidly in the sun and be less susceptible to fungal diseases. Other controls are Insecticide soap, or neem oil. At this time of year, I do not use a stronger chemical spray unless forced to by total infestation. I would rather live with aphids than hurt any beneficial insects.

The same landscape that contains ‘aphid bush’ produces many glorious rose bushes. All were fed systemically with an insect and disease control early season and receive a dousing of Messenger every 3 weeks. Since only one bush had signs of aphids, I wonder at the cause. The more stressed a plant, the more susceptible to insects and disease. I feel the lack of water could have been the source of stress. I repositioned a soaker hose to better serve this bush, ever careful not to give way to ‘wet feet’. Most of these roses will produce blooms through out the season.

Last year one garden still had blooms mid-November when I made my last rounds. In addition to good soil and conditions, deadheading is key. Remove faded flowers before they can develop seed. Do not be intimidated by day-to-day maintenance of roses. Cut the dead flowers off the cane just above the first set of five leaflets. The cut should be on a slant, downward to the inside of the shrub. If the cane is week, cut back further to strong wood that can support a new flower. A therapeutic activity that pays for itself by way of fragrance and accomplishment.

Speaking of deadheading, as I was individually removing spent blossoms from a row of Fire Witch Dianthus their heady spice infused scent transported me to a summers eve in Morocco. Not that I have ever been to Morocco but if this North African Kingdom, situated on the Coasts of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, wanted a scent to call it’s own, it would look to the Dianthus. I have the luxury to be able to cut each spent bloom individually for the front garden. This will encourage the dianthus to continuously bloom throughout the season. For the back beds, I simply sheer when all blooms are spent to promote another wave of blooms. Once this perennial tires of blooming, the spiky blue/gray foliate looks great next to the neon succulence of the mounding ‘Neon’ or ‘Brilliance’ Sedum or the dark intensity of the ‘Vera Jameson’ spreading ground covering sedum.

One final note, for the bluest Hydrangea blossoms, use Miracid, or other acid infused plant foods. Be careful if your hydrangeas share a bed with Lilacs as this shrub prefers an alkaline soil. If pink blossoms are your wish, than add lime around your hydrangea. Peegee and climbing hydrangea blossoms cannot be altered. Love ‘em for what they are!

Next outing will feature, whatever the pressing issue of the garden world offers.

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