Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grateful Dead(heading) by KCB

As KCB has been known to say, "Too much ‘KCB’ is never too much" so by popular demand we are reprinting a post from KCB that originally ran on July 27, 2008. Every gardening year is different yet in many cases the timing of the forest (aka "big picture") stays largely the same. So we thought this post would be quite appropriate or perhaps even "timeless".

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 proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

The mantra of many a Maine Gardener is “I want a garden that is colorful throughout the summer”, “ with minimal maintenance” is often tacked on to the end.

Other than a select group of annuals, creating such a landscape involves a plan with a variety of shrubs and perennials that bloom at different intervals. Pockets or expanses of color and texture throughout the growing season are possible by carefully choosing plants based on their bloom time.

Yet, even a plan once implemented needs assistance along the way. We can coax some perennials to extend their blooming time or put forth a new flush of blooms later in the season. This even includes some flowering shrubs.

How? By Deadheading; the removal of brown and withered flowers

Have you ever given thought at to the primary purpose of a plants life? Yes, to offer beauty, fragrance, and often sustenance for humans or wildlife. However, no one really told that to the annuals or perennials. They feel they were put on this earth to reproduce. They exert their energies to producing seeds and once accomplished they can rest. What we must do is to take away the spent blooms before they go to seed. This way the poor plant feels that it has not performed and will have to start all over. Oh, don’t you feel like the big meanie!! Not really. This is what the plant wants to do. We just make it work a little harder.

Removing spent blooms from most plants is easy; as to where to cut is obvious. Other plants make it more of a challenge thus requiring some patience and at times skill.

A few perennials that fall into the latter category are Dianthus (cheddar or maiden pinks. Fire Witch is an excellent choice), Campanula (Bell Flowers), Balloon Flowers as these take a precise cut or pinch so not to disturb a tender bud directly attached to the spent bloom. On occasion, I have been known to shear Dianthus and have severely cut Campanula to be rewarded with a flush of new blooms later in the season.

Many of the varieties of Shasta Daisies will continue to put forth new blooms, simply cut back to the point in the stem until a leaf and a tiny bud are visible. The subsequent blooms will be on a shorter stem. Vertical and height variety serve to add to a garden’s interest.

Veronica (spiked Speedwell) also enjoys resurgence for several weeks if consistent removal of the seed spikes is performed.

Some perennials are a lot more forgiving and allow for severe cut back. Nepeta can and will flourish if sheared about this time of the year. I know there are many other long blooming perennials yet I will list some of those I can keep going once the blooms begin:

Sweet William
Coreopsis (tickseed)
Scabiosa (Pin Cushion Flower)
Spider Wort
Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)—profuse blooming
Echinacea (Cone Flower)
Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)

Deadheading the annual Cosmos will keep the delicate blooms coming until the first frost. I love the airiness of the plant and is often included in the perennial gardens I install.

Shrubs can also be coaxed to offer another bloom. I will not include the new hydrangea varieties but those whose unexpected flowering is worth the effort. Weigelia and Spirea will put forth new blooms if the spent flowers are removed once they begin to turn brown. This may seem like a daunting task yet for some of the more compact varieties, the flurry of color can be very satisfying.

Oh, I almost forgot roses! Some of ‘my roses’ will bloom until November. At least one bush was still flowering when I made my last visit. With Roses, I stop my pruning the second week of September, as I do want those puppies to be ready for the long winter’s nap. But for now, prune away…………

Or as the Grateful Dead would say ‘Keep on Truckin’……………….’

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
KCB can also be found at www.finishingtouchesgardendesign.com/

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