» Archive for July, 2016

Lovely Lavenders

Friday, July 1st, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Spray roses every two weeks with Neem oil to keep leaves free of black spot and mildew.
    • When fuchsia blooms fade remove the whole flower stem to prevent it from developing seed pods which reduces continued blooming.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.
    • Stake or cage tomato plants before they get any larger.
    • Red, white and blue petunias, verbena or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.

Lovely Lavenders

Lavenders are a favorite group of ornamental herbs native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. They are sun loving plants that thrive in hot weather and grow well in California. Their gray or gray-green, aromatic foliage contrasts nicely with the lavender or purple flowers.

Known and admired for their fragrance, lavenders are used in dried or fresh bouquets, potpourri, lavender wands, oil and perfume. Most lavenders dry beautifully for bouquets and attract bees and butterflies. They make fine landscape plants in perennial gardens or mixed with other Mediterranean plants like rockroses, sunroses, catmint, rosemary and germander.

English lavender is the best known for the fragrance of its flowers. Its oil is used in perfume, potpourri and soaps and aromatherapists use it for its healing qualities. It is also good for flavoring ice cream, jams, and pastries. The whole bush is fragrant and it make an attractive 3 to 4-foot shrub.

Cultivars come in a wider range of colors than other lavenders: white, pink, the familiar blue ‘Munstead’, and the darker purple ‘Hidcote’. They are particularly suited to small flower beds and containers, growing to about 18 inches tall.

When French lavender growers crossed English lavender with the longer-stemmed spike lavender, they created hybrids which were larger and produced more oil. These are known as lavandins and they now dominate the world’s lavender oil industry. They also are the best plants for lavender wands because of their long stems. ‘Provence’, ‘Grosso’, and ‘Fred Boutin’ are three fine varieties.

The Spanish lavenders are the show-stoppers in the garden. They are the first to bloom in the spring and their flower petals look like “rabbit’s ears” rising above the large, dark purple spikes. New cultivars, like ‘Bandera Purple’, have mauve-lilac spikes. They make small evergreen shrubs about 30 inches tall and grow very well in containers. Cut off faded flowers to keep new blooms coming.

French lavenders are evergreen shrubs to 30 inches tall and 6 feet wide. They have condensed spikes of purple flowers that bloom for many months. Their leaves are indented and green or gray depending on variety. Plants are hardy to about 20°F.

By planting several varieties you can give your garden months of delightful flowers. The Spanish lavenders are the first to bloom, followed by the English lavenders. The lavandins, ‘Provence’ and ‘Grosso’, bloom last.

Give lavenders an open exposure with as much sunlight as possible to promote flowers. They require well-drained soil and hate wet feet in the winter. In the summer, established plants need little water. Water plants deeply but infrequently, when the soil is almost dry.

Lavenders in the ground require no fertilizing, but container plants should be given a light feeding in the spring. They grow best in gravelly soils with low fertility. Excess nitrogen encourages soft, succulent growth that is low in oils.

Lavenders are also impressively deer resistant; snails leave them alone, and bees and butterflies love them. Plant lavenders in pots or in the landscape, and then relax and enjoy that fragrance!

Clematis: Queen of the Vines

Friday, July 1st, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years’ bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.
    • Petunias, in bright pink, red and purple, will add beauty and color to sunny borders all through the summer.
    • 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.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out.

Clematis: Queen of the Vines

Clematis are the aristocrats of the flowering vines. With over 300 species and many hybrids, this group of mostly woody, climbing vines has a lot to offer the gardener.

Their flowers span the color spectrum. The large-flowered cultivars range in color from rich reds, purples, and blues to pale pink and white. The smaller flowered “montana” varieties cover themselves with masses of pink or white fragrant blooms early in the season. And the evergreen clematis, with its profusion of starry-white blooms, carries a heavy fragrance.

There is a clematis to enhance any garden, no matter how large or small. Some varieties, if left to wander, will easily grow to 30 feet, while others mature at 6 to 8 feet. Many hybrid varieties mature at 8 to 12 feet, and are stunning on a fan trellis.

Clematis do not climb by tendrils, but instead by gently twining their leaf petioles around nearby supports, including plant stems, branches, wires, small poles and themselves. They do not cling to walls and, without support, will ramble until they find something suitable to climb on. In the wild, clematis are often found growing at the woods’ edge, where their tops can reach full sun and their roots remain in the shade.

Selecting the right place for clematis is important for its success. Clematis thrive where the vines receive sun for at least six hours a day with cool, moist soil for the roots. Morning sun is preferable. Plant vines in the shade of a small shrub or plant a groundcover or perennial over the root area to shade the soil.

Clematis can be planted deep and actually benefit from having the crown buried up to four inches below the surface of the soil. This helps the plant recover if the top of the plant is damaged, by sending up shoots from dormant buds below the soil.

Begin feeding clematis in early spring, as soon as the new shoots start to grow. A generous mulch of garden compost mixed with well-rotted manure is a good recipe. You can substitute a rose fertilizer for the manure if you prefer.

Keep the mulch away from the stems. During the summer months, fertilize with a liquid fertilizer twice a month until mid-August. After that, the plants need time to slow down and harden off for the winter.

Pruning clematis vines is somewhat complicated. Keep track of the names of the varieties you plant so that you can ask for help at your local nursery. Proper pruning will create masses of flowers that cover the plants at bloom time. Improper pruning will delay flowering, and no pruning will leave you with a tangled mass of stems but plenty of flowers.

The first spring after planting, all clematis should be cut back just as you see leaf buds developing. Cut above two sets of buds on each stem. This will thicken the stems and encourage proper root development.

Clematis will reward you with an abundance of beautiful blossoms for many years. To see a clematis in full bloom is to understand why it is often called “the queen of the flowering vines.”