Deadheading all perennials is important, including roses. You can leave the lovely astilbe blooms on the plant since they aren’t going to bloom a second time. Also the dried blooms add to your garden.
Now is the time to sow some perennial seeds in some partially shady spot in your garden. Be sure the soil is loose and rich and I always put my little “nurseries” near the water spigot so I would be reminded to keep the soil moist all summer. Once you have planted the seeds according to directions on the package, put the package on a little stick to remind you what is going to come up. Then I would scatter some straw over the seeded area. I always started many different flowering plants in my little nursery, including some stems from flowering shrubs and even some rose stems under fruit jars. I used the same area for starting perennials year after year, often adding some rotted manure and a bit of sand each summer.
If you have a Bleeding Heart or Oriental poppy and want to propagate it, this is the time for that. Dig down until you find the fleshy root and cut a long root into inch long pieces. Plant the pieces where you have started your nursery. Keep the area moist and soon you will find tiny leaves shooting up. These little plants will be ready to transplant to a permanent place next spring.
There is some confusion regarding the clematis so here are some facts. First, they like well-drained soil with plenty of lime. Therefore, they won’t grow where you have a lot of oak leaves because of the acid. It is essential that they have shaded roots and partial shade is all right for the plant. A neat trick is to plant a couple of hostas beside each clematis to shade the roots. Or you can build bricks up about a foot all around the plant for shade. They must always be protected from winter winds by thick mulch and a thick layer of rotted manure is good for them. Most varieties bloom profusely in June and July and then sparsely the rest of the summer. Now, concerning the most asked question, most varieties should be treated as a perennial and cut back to the ground each spring or you can prune the vine to keep it in shape and cut back every three years to strengthen the plant. There are many varieties and colors and you need to study the tags that come with each plant. No matter what variety and which pruning method is recommended, you need the dead blooms cut and keep the plant moist all summer.
A good way to keep fresh cut flowers is to add a lemon-lime carbonated drink to the water in the vase. The pop contains citric acid to help prevent bacterial growth and the sugar provides the sugar that the flower loses. Dilute with about half water. It does work.
Plan to discontinue fertilizing your trees, shrubs and all perennials about the first week in August. You don’t want them to start any new growth when they are getting ready for fall and winter.
To answer an often-asked question, I learned most of what I know about perennials and shrubs from books and gardening magazines. However, I learned much from my grandmother. Ma didn’t have a great variety of perennials, as I was able to grow, because they weren’t available to her. There were no gardening magazines and few books and those were not available to Ma. Ma’s knowledge came from her mother-in-law and from exchanging ideas with neighbors and her beloved sister in Texas. I often think how wonderful it would have been for her if she had been able to buy plants as I have. The first time she saw my collection of tall garden phlox in a great variety of colors, she was simply thrilled. She also loved my hybrid tea roses, which she had never grown. When she was a very old woman, it had been many years since she had lived at the old place and had grown her flowers, but she never lost her love for beautiful flowers, even if they weren’t hers.
My memories of my sweet Ma are as bright and clear today as if it were yesterday. I am ever grateful for the love of beautiful flowers that she instilled in me.
Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions, comments or just to tell me about yourself. I get calls from several states since this column runs in two weekly papers.