» Archive for July, 2012

Rhododendron Summer Care

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Thin fruit trees after “June drop” when the trees partially thin themselves. Thin apples to 6 inches apart and peaches to 4 inches apart. Pears don’t need thinning.
    • Garlic should be harvested when the leafy tops turn yellow and fall over; air-dry bulbs, remove tops and store bulbs in a cool place.
    • Birdbaths will attract our feathered friends to your backyard so you can enjoy them close-up. Place them a few feet from a bushy shrub to give the birds protection.
    • Zinnias love the heat and will add a rainbow of color to your garden and the deer don’t like them.
    • Fragrant star jasmine is in full bloom right now. Plant one in a semi-shaded spot where you can enjoy its lovely perfume.

Rhododendron Summer Care

Those lovely rhododendrons and azaleas which gave you such beautiful flowers this spring need some care now. The most important thing that they need is water. They are native to regions such as the foggy lower slopes of the Himalayas or the Smoky Mountains of the eastern U.S., where summer rain falls frequently and copiously. In our dry summer climate, they need special attention.

Rhododendrons have fine roots that grow very close to the soil surface. They can dry out quickly in hot, dry conditions, and will show stress after six weeks of dry weather. They require deep, slow soaking that penetrates through the entire root ball. Avoid shallow and frequent watering, which only encourage root development in the mulch layer. Use a soaker hose or drip system which thoroughly wets the root area.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are setting flower buds now for next spring’s bloom, and they require water to form plump, healthy buds. If neglected in July and August, they may give you a disappointing bloom next spring.

Plants are usually fertilized once in early spring, and again immediately after bloom with a regular fertilizer to keep the leaves a healthy green color. This last application should happen by June 30.

Now is the time to begin fertilizing with 0-10-10 fertilizer. It has no nitrogen in it so it will not stimulate new growth but will help the plants develop flower buds for next year. Apply 0-10-10 once a month in July through October. All fertilizers should be applied when water is available, either through rain or supplementary watering. Never fertilize a dry plant.

Mulch can help retain moisture and keep the roots cooler in hot weather. Be sure to water thoroughly before you apply the mulch. A coarse mulch of wood chips or bark about 2 or 3 inches deep is excellent. Don’t pile it against the trunk or place it too deep over the roots. Roots need air!

When the rhododendron have finished flowering, they should be deadheaded. Carefully remove the flower heads at their bases, taking care not to damage the new growth right next to the flower shoot. Plants that are not deadheaded will put growing and flowering energy into seed production. Young, newly planted or transplanted bushes are especially worth deadheading.

Rhododendrons are surface rooting plants and weeding should be done with care. Never use a hoe or dig with a fork or spade as this will damage the delicate feeding roots that lie near the surface.

Good, basic summer care can make rhododendrons and azaleas year-round assets in your garden.

Shady Oasis

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Pepper plants should be fertilized when the first blossoms open.
    • Shear hedges now to promote lush, dense growth.
    • Feed camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons with an acid plant food now. Remove dead flowers and mulch to keep the soil cool.
    • Plant fresh herbs from young plants. Basil, rosemary, thymes, mints and sages are just a few ideas.
    • Check roses for black spots on the leaves and treat immediately with Neem oil to prevent defoliation.

Create a Shady Oasis

There are many beautiful shrubs, perennials and ferns which you can use to create a shady oasis.

First it’s important to determine how much sun or shade you have. Areas that receive three or four hours of morning sun in the summer and shade the rest of the day will be able to support more flowering plants than fully shaded areas.

Areas that receive morning sun are perfect for rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. They will thrive there and put on a beautiful display of flowers each spring. Japanese maples will also do well and they will add some height and grace to the landscape.

There are many perennials which will bloom beautifully here and come back year after year. Columbines, with their delicate and graceful flowers, are familiar harbingers of spring. Astilbes are truly splendid shade plants with showy, graceful flower plumes and fern-like foliage. Foxgloves are tall, colorful plants for the semi-shady garden.

For deep shade we turn to leaves for most of the color. The Gold-dust plant, Aucuba, is a fine shrub for full shade areas. It fills out to be a round, 5-foot tall shrub and its yellow-spotted leaves will lighten up a dark corner.

The beautiful leaves of hostas, which come in silvery-blue, yellow-green, and all manner of variegation, are treasures of the shade garden. Their colorful leaves are attractive all summer and later in the season they send up spikes of lily-like flowers in white or lavender, which can be quite showy. Some are even fragrant. In general, the blue-leafed hostas require full shade, while the gold, yellow, and white-leafed hostas like morning sun.

Bleeding hearts have a charming beauty with their arching stems of delicate, heart-shaped flowers in spring. They grow best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. Fringed Bleeding Heart, Dicentra eximia, has deeply cut, grey green, fern-like foliage and dainty, light pink, heart-shaped flowers. Its foliage stays green through the summer and the flowers bloom over a long season. A third variety, Western Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa, is native to the redwood region. It is very similar to Dicentra eximia, and is surprisingly drought tolerant during the summer months. Use it in woodland gardens.

The large, Jacob’s ladder is an attractive upright plant with small, nodding lavender-blue flowers atop tall stems. A variegated variety, ‘Touch of Class,’ has bright green leaves that are richly edged with cream. It bears lavender-blue blossoms in spring, and grows 18 inches tall.

Pulmonaria, or Lungwort, is a low-growing perennial with attractive spotted leaves and bell-shaped flowers that turn from pink to blue. They grow best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Ferns are the mainstays of the total shade garden. There are many hardy ferns which are long-lived in our area. Their leaves add texture and variety to the area. Look for sword ferns, giant chain ferns, five-finger ferns, Autumn ferns and Japanese painted ferns.

Look upon a shade area as a chance to create a lush, restful oasis where life can slow down a little while you escape from the heat.

Golden Flowers for Summer

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Fertilize container plants every 10 to 14 days with a liquid fertilizer. Pinch off faded blossoms and they will keep blooming all summer for you.
    • There’s still time to plant summer vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and corn will bear for you if you plant them now.
    • It’s time to set out Brussels sprouts for fall harvest.
    • Attract birds to your garden with a concrete bird bath. They come in many attractive styles and make good gifts.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, which has the natural, bacteria-based spinosad added to the original iron phosphate formula.

Gold in the Garden

To brighten up your flower beds and containers this summer, look to Marigolds, Coreopsis, yarrow and Gazanias to add some splashes of gold to your garden.

Coreopsis are a favorite flower with many gardeners because of their bright, sunny colors and long blooming season. Their drifts of daisy-like flowers light up the garden with bright splashes of gold, rust and soft yellow.

Most coreopsis are perennials with long blooming seasons. Their golden yellow daisy flowers rise on strong stems above their rich green foliage. The variety ‘Early Sunrise’ has double, 2-inch flowers on 2-foot tall plants. They bloom the first year from early summer to fall, attracting butterflies and birds to your garden. Bright and cheery, they make great cut flowers.

Threadleaf, coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’ has dainty, finely-cut foliage and a spreading habit. It is a strong perennial, living for many years with minimal care. It’s pale yellow flowers combine nicely with blue and purple flowers, like Echinacea or Campanula, in the garden or with warm colors. It can also be used along garden walls where it will tumble over the edge. It is the most drought tolerant of the family.

Coreopsis ‘Baby Sun’ is excellent in the flower border, making a thick covering about 16 inches high. The fringed yellow flowers have a striking red eye, and they bloom over a long season, living for many years with little care.

The dwarf coreopsis, ‘Nana’, makes a nice, long-blooming ground cover. It has single, golden yellow flowers and forms a carpet of brilliant yellow from spring through summer. It prefers morning sun and makes an excellent addition to the rock garden.

Marigolds are sunny annuals with yellow, orange or red flowers. There four types of marigolds: French marigolds, triploids hybrids, and single-flowered types with dainty flowers, and African marigolds with large, fluffy flowers. No annual is more cheerful or easier to grow than marigolds. You can use marigolds as border or edging accents or grow entire beds of them. Marigolds also make good potted plants and cut flowers. Plant them in full sun or partial shade.

There are many different types of yarrow, but two are outstanding for their big, yellow flowers. ‘Coronation Gold’ is a hardy perennial that sends up flower stalks to 4 feet tall with golden yellow flower heads. ‘Moonshine’ is a smaller variety, growing to 2 feet tall with buttery yellow flowers. All kinds attract butterflies and insect pollinators.

Gazanias are bright daisy flowers that bloom all summer. They grow as ground covers and flowers come in many colors, but yellows and oranges are predominant. Use them for a bright spot of color or as a ground covering, though they seldom live through the winter in our climate.

Plant some gold in your garden to brighten summer days.