» Archive for August, 2015

Oh, Deer!

Friday, August 28th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Chrysanthemums give the brightest colors for fall. Choose them in bloom now at your nursery.
    • Take house plants outside and wash down dusty leaves. Let them dry in the shade before bringing them back inside.
    • Divide Astilbe and Oriental poppies now. Replant healthy roots and add some bonemeal in the bottom of the hole when you replant.
    • Trim foliage on grape vines to allow more sun to reach the fruit and ripen the grapes.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of coddling moths, which make wormy apples.

Oh, Deer!

Deer are extremely adaptable, beautiful creatures whose habitat is rapidly changing. As forests are cut and houses are built, deer populations have expanded with few predators to deter them. Deer normally graze on grasses and “browse” on leaves, twigs and small branches of trees and shrubs. When desperate for food, however, they will eat almost any plant.

There are three main approaches to gardening in deer areas: fences, repellents, and deer-resistant plants. Fences are the most effective if they are sturdily built and 7 feet tall.

Chemical repellents range from lion scent to rotten eggs to foul tasting concoctions. These are sprayed on new foliage or used to saturate cotton balls and give off an unpleasant odor. Liquid Fence Deer & Rabbit Repellent has a strong odor and has proven to be very effective, environmentally safe and biodegradable.

Simple repellents such as bars of soap or human hair hung in an area, hot sauce or blood meal are effective on a limited basis. Changing repellents frequently may offer the best control. However, a starving deer will simply ignore all repellents.

Gardeners and biologists alike have been observing and ranking deer plant preferences for many years. Numerous lists have been compiled of “deer resistant” plants. However, deer tastes vary from herd to herd and few plants can be called “deer proof”. Resistant plants will only succeed if there is something else for the deer to eat. Deer damage is always worst near the end of summer.

Some plants have strong smells that deter deer from eating them. Deer rely on their sense of smell to determine what is safe and desirable to eat. Strong odors confuse them, so they are more likely to go looking for food elsewhere. Included in this group are herbs like rosemary, sage and lavenders. Escallonia, Russian sage, junipers, and calycanthus also have scented leaves and are avoided by deer.

Other plants have sticky or fuzzy foliage that deer don’t like. They also seem to leave gray-leaved plants alone. Lamb’s ear, santolina, germander, snow-in-summer and Crown pink (Lychnis coronaria) and very deer resistant. Rockroses, sunroses, Pacific wax myrtle, and yarrows are reasonably safe bets.

Prickly foliage is usually a deterrent. Barberry, Oregon grape, holly and grevillea are almost never eaten. Then there are the odd ones like Japanese boxwood and daylilies, which for some reason they don’t like.

So take a look around your neighborhood to see what your local herd has left alone, and then try some new ones. But remember, the deer don’t read the deer-resistant plant lists!

The Beauty of Grasses

Friday, August 28th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall vegetables can be planted now for a fall harvest of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard and lettuce.
    • First-year fruit trees need to be well-watered through the dry weather. If they are neglected the first year, they may never be strong, productive trees.
    • Japanese maples may be pruned now in order to shape them.
    • Divide Oriental poppies and bearded iris now. Add some bone meal in the bottom of the hole when you replant them.
    • Plant beets now for fall harvest. They will have a deeper red color than beets planted for spring harvest, and tend to have higher sugar levels too.

The Beauty of Grasses

Ornamental grasses are an essential companion for perennials. Their linear leaves and various growth habits provide striking contrast to the shapes of most perennials. They add beauty and texture to almost any landscape, and provide such valuable traits as reliability, long season of interest and a tolerance of a wide range of environments.

With their foliage so different from leafy shrubs, grasses make a striking contrast to shrubs and most perennials. In the fall, when most of them bloom, their graceful plumes or feathery flowers are very attractive. The contrast of textures and shapes is one of the most appealing aspects of gardening with ornamental grasses.

One of the most attractive grasses is Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster,’ is known as feather reed grass and is valued for its early bloom, vertical lines and ability to grow in heavy soils. It makes a clump of narrow, stiff, rich green leaves that grow 3′ tall and 2′ wide. Flower stalks rise to 6 feet with feathery plumes that turn golden in summer.

Ribbon Grass, Phalaris arundinacea, has showy green-and-white striped foliage on a spreading plant that reaches 30 inches tall. It can be very invasive so it is best grown in a container. It likes partial shade and can be grown in dry or moist soil. It has showy flowers that are pale pink and bloom in June and July.

Japanese Blood Grass, Imperata rubra, is a unusual and dramatic grass, slowly forming a low clump of red-tipped leaves that glow in the sun. It grows 12-18” tall and rarely flowers but its red foliage becomes more intense over the summer and fall.

Northern Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, is a clumping grass that is treasured for its showy, drooping flowers and rich, bamboo-like foliage. It is effective in mass plantings as well as a good choice for shady, damp conditions, though it will also grow in full sun. The flowers are very attractive throughout their various stages, and they make excellent cut or dried flowers.

Muhlenbergia capillaris, known as Pink Muhly grass, is a clumping grass to 3 feet tall with vibrant pink, airy flowers on 4-foot stems. It is very attractive massed for late season color.

Maiden grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus,’ is an elegant grass with a vase-like form to 6 feet tall. It blooms in late summer with striking plumes of white flowers, and turns golden bronze after first frost. Use as a screening or background plant.

Blue Fescue, Festuca glauca, grass has been used for decades as an attractive border plant for edging driveways and walks. Its blue foliage grows to 10 inches tall with flower spikes rising to 18 inches. It grows well in full or partial sun with average watering.

Mexican Feather Grass, Stipa tenuissima, is a great plant for mass planting, as it waves gracefully in light breezes. It blooms in the summer with feathery flowers that turn a golden brown, rising above the 24-inch, green foliage.

Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola,’ is a gorgeous grass for shady sites. Its bright yellow foliage with thin green stripes gives the effect of a tiny bamboo, without the invasive qualities. It makes a graceful, colorful groundcover for the shady bed.

Deer avoid most ornamental grasses so you can add year-round interest to your landscape with these attractive plants.

August Bloomers

Friday, August 28th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Cool season vegetables should be planted right away to insure good crops this fall. Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and kale can be planted now.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with a “bloom” fertilizer to encourage flowers for next spring.
    • When perennials have finished blooming, cut them back by about one third, or to a flush of basal growth, to promote repeat bloom on coreopsis, lavender, penstemon, phlox, salvia, scabiosa and Shasta daisy.
    • Plant snapdragons and stock now for for cool season color this fall and winter.
    • Sow these vegetable seeds directly in the soil: carrots, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach and root vegetables. Keep the surface of the soil moist until the seedlings are established.

Look What’s Blooming in August

In the months of May and June our gardens are bursting with colorful perennials. There’s no end to the variety of flowers that are blooming in early summer. But by mid-summer, the garden may start to look a bit “over the hill.”

There’s really no reason why your flower beds shouldn’t look wonderful all summer. Except that most gardeners do most of their planting in the springtime and end up choosing plants that are in bloom at that time. August is a month for “late bloomers.”

Bursting onto the scene are the sky-blue, spherical flower heads of Lily-of-the-Nile, or Agapanthus. This handsome landscape plant, known for its light blue or white flowers, now comes in a rich dark blue as well.

A nice complement to the upright stalks of Agapanthus is Gaura, nicknamed ‘Whirling Butterflies.’ This wispy plant sends up slender spikes of starry white or pink blooms in a vase-shaped fountain. The white form reaches four feet tall while ‘Siskyou Pink’ only gets two feet tall.

Hummingbirds will be attracted by the bright red blossoms of ‘Lucifer’ Crocosmia, or Montbretia. It forms clumps of sword-shaped leaves with sprays of flowers on 3 foot stems. This is a striking improvement over the traditional orange flowers.

‘Goldsturm’ Rudbeckia is a golden yellow, black-eyed Susan on a truly perennial plant. It makes clumps of 2-foot stems that are covered with daisies for many weeks, and it comes back year after year. It is a great companion plant for ornamental grasses. Try it with Mexican Feather Grass, Stipa tenuisima.

Gerbera daisies are grown for their bright and cheerful daisy-like flowers. They are native to South Africa and come in many colors including pink, yellow, salmon, orange, red and white, with flowers up to 5 inches across.
Gladiolus, with their tall spikes of flowers in almost every color, make wonderful cut flowers. Plant the bulbs in the back of the perennial border as they grow 3- to 4-feet tall.

Asters come into their own in late summer and fall. Michaelmas daisies are the old-fashioned asters that cover themselves with blue, purple, red or pink flowers and attract butterflies to your garden.

Butterflies will also enjoy the airy purple blooms of Verbena bonariensis. It makes a dramatic statement with its slender, willowy stems that stand up to 6 feet tall and do not need staking.

With their large, ball-shaped flower heads, hydrangeas flaunt an old-fashioned charm that is hard to resist. Their clear blues, vibrant pinks, and frosty whites add a coolness to the shady garden on hot summer days.

Don’t let your flower garden slip into the summer doldrums. Plant some lovely “late bloomers” now.