Stillwater News Press

Garden

July 13, 2014

In the Garden 07-13-14

Will plants cook this summer?

“Where’s the relief?” That is what I’ve been thinking all week in the garden. I water, wondering if the mist is going to cool or cook the plants. I assumed the last thing anyone would consider this week is planting — anything! Yet, I, myself, transplanted some leggy zinnia, a bronze sedge from the clearance rack and a rogue young fruit tree. (With mindful watering, it can be successful.)

The most common dilemma in July is finding some color to fill in where the early petunias or impatiens are petering out. It’s pretty early to find mums on sale and much of what is on the nurseries’ shelves is yesterday’s leftovers. Here are a few ideas to carry your plantings over into fall.

Bursts of color don’t have to come from flowers. Bright foliage catches the eye often requiring less care. Coleus, Perilla, Dusty Miller and Irisene are easy to grow and fill in the voids with variegated yellows and lime greens, gray or hot pink. Pinch the tops back to keep the plants from becoming leggy. This will also help draw the primary components of the planting back together.

Tropicals are another way to color the bare spots. Annual hibiscuses blend well in mixed planters. The bold, trumpet-shaped red and orange flowers rise above the pot’s fillers and spillers to create a striking display.

Red Riding Hood Mandevilla is another free-flowering tropical for large containers. It is diminutive in every way from its well-known cousin M. ‘Alice Dupont’ but has become the standard of its genus. The dark, glossy leaves and deep rose flowers are each only two to three inches long.

Use this plant climbing a small trellis or allow it to twine between the other plants and drape over the container’s edge.

Sometimes the smaller flowered accents like alyssum and lobelia are the first to succumb to the brutal heat summers bring. Take this opportunity to sprinkle a few seeds in the top of the soil.

My ‘Profusion’ zinnia has dropped the seed of its first flowers and, two-inch seedlings are taking off near their mother. Marigolds and Celosia are also easy to sprout and begin flowering within weeks of germination. Seed planted now will bloom throughout September and October.

Whatever you do, if you plant in this heat, transplant or seed in the evening as it begins to cool down and be on hand to offer a little relief the first couple of days. A simple umbrella or midday shower will help your new additions adapt to their surroundings.

LeeAnn Barton has worked with nurseries for more than 20 years. She digs in the dirt in Stillwater. Direct questions to her by emailing leeannbarton@sbcglobal.net.

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