Are you busy ordering up this year’s plants for the garden? If so, consider some of these long-blooming perennials that look great long past summer’s dog days.
- Hollyhock mallow ‘Mystic Merlin’ (Malva sylvestris ‘Mystic Merlin) offers up 2-inch blooms in shades of purple, mauve, and blue from early July until frost. Unlike traditional hollyhocks that bloom on a stalk, ‘Mystic Merlin’ produces flowers atop bushy foliage that can grow 4 feet tall. Zones 4 to 8.
- Blanket flower ‘Fanfare’ (Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’) is no ordinary blanket flower. Each flower petal on this compact plant flares out like a miniature trumpet in hues of red, orange, and yellow. Blooms last from late spring through fall. Grows 18 to 24 inches tall. Zones 3 to 9.
- Yellow corydalis (Corydalis lutea) really pulls its weight in shade gardens. Lacy foliage is topped by dainty golden flowers. Blooms from late spring through fall. Grows about 15 inches tall. Zones 5 to 7.
- Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (Geranium ‘Rozanne’) was named Perennial Plant of the Year in 2008. Violet-blue blooms top masses of finely textured foliage and last from early summer to frost. Grows 16 inches tall. Shear back in mid summer to increase bloom. Zones 4 to 8.
Q: Is it true that I should cut the roots of plants before I plant them, especially if they’re rootbound?
A: Good question. This one gets debated a lot. You know you’ve got a rootbound plant when you tip it out of its container and matted roots are more prevalent than soil. Wrapped in a tight ball, the roots usually circle the bottom of the plant because they’ve had no place else to go and the soil around them has broken down. It is best to separate the roots as best you can before planting, and that probably means cutting out some of the most matted parts.
Being rootbound puts a lot of stress on growing plants because they lack the nutrients they need to thrive. If you don’t try to correct the situation at planting time, those plants are likely to be stunted. They may even fail to grow much at all or even die. The debate comes in over whether to slice the roots on the sides of container-grown plants whether they are rootbound or not. Studies have indicated that the practice doesn’t help but many gardeners think it does. So you might want to try experimenting with that yourself.
How to get a repeat performance out of tulips is always a hot topic in the spring. The truth is, most hybrid tulips just don’t come back year after year the way we’d like them to. That’s why some gardeners treat tulips as annuals, planting them in the fall and digging them up and tossing them into the compost pile once the blooms fade.Read More»
This time of year, many homeowners and county forestry departments move quickly to remove dead, dying, and diseased trees. Years ago it was common practice to pull stumps, but now grinding is a more popular strategy.
Grinding is nice because the stump is gone and the surrounding area goes unscathed for the most part. The only problem is that if the stump is not fully removed, there can be a lot of dead wood left in the ground. As it decays, microbes in the soil will multiply rapidly to feed on the decaying matter. This increase in microbes causes more and more nitrogen to be used up, temporarily depriving grass and other plants of the nutrients they need. Keep an eye on this and fertilize if need be.
If a stump is not ground out deeply enough, you can hasten the decomposition process by removing as much of the bark, grindings, and sawdust as possible. You can also try adding additional nitrogen to the area, which will help speed up decomposition and reduce the amount of yellowing and stunted growth on surrounding plants. Even with added nitrogen, though, it is unlikely that grass will grow well in that spot for several years.
As you can see by the title this column is all about shearing and how taking time to do it will keep garden plants from doing a face plant in late summer. But first, I want to send out a little public service announcement. As you may know, when shopping for perennials you want to look for plants marked as being hardy in our unbelievably cold Zone 4 (-30 degrees F) climate. Otherwise, you can’t count on seeing them the following year.
Some gardeners are willing to take a chance on a Zone 5 plant they really love like Japanese maple, say, or butterfly bush, figuring if it dies it dies but if it lives — great! But you shouldn’t have to take a risk if you don’t want to, and that’s exactly what’s happening when we buy plants with misleading tags. Truthfully, no season goes by that I don’t see some mislabeled plants at garden centers, even really good ones. But this year I’ve been hearing from many gardeners that there are a LOT of mislabeled plants out on shelves, particularly at big-box stores where plants are often shipped in from the South.Read More»