Perennials cause the most trouble in July
by Ronella Stagner, Gardening Columnist
Jul 29, 2009 | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
July is the month when you realize that you have some perennials in your mixed garden that just aren’t worth the trouble. That has been my experience many times. One either needs more water than the rest or maybe even less water or requires too much attention in some way. That’s when I shut both eyes and pull it up for the compost heap. A little drastic? Maybe, but I prefer to have fewer perennials that are a pleasure and less trouble than to have too many that are too much work.

A good basic selection of perennials that are easy to live with would include some lilies, many daylilies, Tall Phlox in many colors with different blooming times, Veronica, Russian Sage and several of those, Autumn Joy sedum, and several Tea Roses. Always keep in mind that you need to separate the Russian Sage and the sedum because they like dry soil and need never be watered. Just plant them at the end or side of a bed. From that basic, easy to grow group, you can add Dianthus Pinks, Rudbeckia (Coneflower), Salvia and different colors of Yarrow and others. To add to any mixed garden, try some of the different grasses and there are many on the market now. These plants would give you color all summer and any other perennials could be added to make a “cottage garden”.

Now is a good time to get additional Oriental Poppies and Bleeding Hearts. Though the foliage has vanished, dig down until you find the fleshy roots. Cut a section of root into inch long pieces and plant them where the soil is a rich loam with a little sand. Keep the area fairly moist this summer and lightly covered with straw, and soon tiny leaves will shoot up. By next spring, these little plants will be ready to move to a permanent place. Every gardener should have a “nursery” and this would be an ideal place to start these little plants. Isn’t this an easy way to get more plants? A little section of your garden, near a water supply, is a good place for a nursery. That’s where you can start new perennials from seeds and this is a good time to start them. You can also start new plants by layering which is a very old way. Being a devotee of Western lore, I always love to read about the pioneer women who went by covered wagon across the United States carrying cuttings of fruit trees, vines and roses. They kept them moist by wetting them down at every watering hole.

It’s super important to keep azaleas and rhododendrons well watered during July and August because their roots are so shallow. They stand less chance of getting through the winter if they are not kept moist during these hot months.

You can always learn something new. Did you know that to finish ripening a tomato indoors, place it with the stem side up and a good place to set the tomato to ripen is in an egg carton. Never place them in a sunny window.

If you have more than two inches of mulch around your perennials, you might need to use a little lime around plants, working it into the soil. Mulch, being slightly acid, may be too much acid for most perennials and can retard growth. Just don’t add lime to your acid-lovers.

The roots of Clematis vines should be kept in shade. You may want to plant Hostas around them or you can build a box of bricks about a foot high to give them shade.

Are the leaves at the bottom of your tomato plants turning yellow? Add a tablespoon or two of Epsom salts per each plant. Put it next to the root and dig it in just a tiny bit. It adds magnesium and works wonders. It will keep the plant bearing longer.

Deadheading all perennials is very important. That includes roses and daylilies. About the only perennial that can do well with leaving the flower on the plant all summer is the Astilbe. The dried flower is attractive. Since it won’t bloom again this year, it won’t hurt the plant to leave the bloom as is.

Have you been disappointed with a clematis? Here are some facts that might help. First, they like well-drained soil with plenty of lime. They won’t grow where you have lots of oak leaves on the soil because of the acid. They need shaded roots as in the above suggestion and also the plant likes partial shade. Cultivation must be shallow, if at all. They need thick mulch in winter. Most varieties are treated as perennials and cut back to the ground each spring unless great masses of flowers are desired. In that case, cut them back every three years to strengthen. They require little more care.

(You can reach me at 270-522-3632 or write Ronella Stagner, 137 Main, Cadiz, KY 42211.)
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