Spring is history for this year, enter summer miserables
Posted: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 8:00 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams
Spring, which started here in January this year, is winding down. Though astronomical spring won’t go out until June 20, for all practical purposes it is already gone.
So, we’re facing another stinking summer. Don’t they all stink in this latitude, with stifling temperatures and overwhelming humidity? We just have to make the best of it or travel to the north woods of Maine.
Our efforts can be confined to early and late in the day. Mostly early, since even late day can be oppressive. If you are an early riser, long summer days mean you can get in some work before it’s off to work or some other digression.
Fortunately, much of our toughest gardening is behind us until fall. Weeds have, hopefully, been suppressed to large extent by the burgeoning overstory of your desirable plants.
Late winter and early spring activities such as spreading compost and mulch and planting have ebbed.
Containerized shrubs, trees and perennials can, of course, be planted any time, but conscientious watering is ever more essential as the season progresses.
A one-gallon azalea, for instance, can shrivel before your very eyes on a 95-degree day without water.
Spring annuals (i.e. pansies, violas, snapdragons) are pretty well strung out by now, and summer replacements are in order.
For shade, my three favorite annuals are impatiens, impatiens and impatiens, in that order, with wax begonias following.
Sun annuals are more prolific, and there are plenty of most any color to do you a job. However, to hold up in heat and drought, it is hard to beat vinca.
Celosias are good for vertical emphasis, as is the much maligned “red sage,” now available in other colors. Our red border could hardly do without it to follow maroon pansies.
Don’t feel your annual plantings have to be confined to dwarf types. I hate to have to crawl around on hands and knees to look at some gardens.
That mentioned red sage usually is seen at about a foot tall. But if the variety Bonfire is utilized it will flower at up to three feet, and go from strength to strength right up until frost if deadheaded. It is the one used toward the back of our red border. Red sage will flower in considerable, but not smothering, shade.
Blue flowers are rare, but there are some ersatz blues. Ageratum is not blue, but perhaps mauve. People call it blue, and it will pass for it.
Ageratum is a fine contrast to both other cool colors and hot ones as well, blending with such diversity as pale yellow, pink or red.
Most ageratums are dwarf plants, but there are one or two varieties that reach two feet or more. These are excellent for backing or lording over, say, yellow marigolds, purple petunias or purple foliage plants such as wandering Jew.
I generally prefer bedding to be in one color, but the cheeriness of a mixed planting once in a while can’t be scorned. Impatiens, with their fluorescent colors, seem to work in mixes and, in sun, portulaca or moss rose, does the same.
Deadheading of gone-over annual or perennial flowers is important. Re-bloom is thwarted when seeds form and some herbaceous plants will stop flowering after the first flush of bloom. By shearing the old flowers off before seed is set, more bloom can usually be expected.
Some shrubs respond also. Summer spireas, such as Anthony Waterer or Shibori, which have already produced a good bloom, need those old flowers sheared off. They will then re-bloom.
A long season will provide for three flushes, right up until October. Early summer fertilization also helps to encourage re-bloom.
Roses, particularly, are heavy feeders and every time old flowers are deadheaded is the time to fertilize again to strengthen plants for more bloom.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 6.5.12
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path