Steele: Summer evenings in the garden
One of my favourite pastimes on a summer evening is puttering about in my flower gardens.
The air is a pleasant temperature after the heat of the day, all the fascinating insects and birds that hang out in my garden are still busily feeding and the sunsets are often spectacular.
I mostly spend my time cutting off finished blooms (deadheading).
There are generally some weeds to pull as well.
My weeding is minimized because the ground is covered with mulch.
As a child I disliked the chore of weeding in our family’s 1/2 acre of gardens but now I find it very meditative.
Over the years I have learned which perennials will bloom again if they are deadheaded, so there is an incentive to do this task.
It’s enjoyable to be with each plant and see how it is doing.
Repeat bloomers are the backbone of the garden, giving a long season of colour.
Many repeat bloomers have small side shoot buds hidden in leaves on the stem below the dead flower.
I always check where to cut to avoid losing the next flush of flowers. Salvia varieties and Jupiter’s Beard (Centanthus ruber) are examples of this type of growth.
With daisies like corepsis, echinacea, gaillardia and rudbeckia it is easy to cut the stem immediately above where the next flower stem arises. These are all good cut flowers.
Years ago I discovered grape pruners. They are my tool of choice for deadheading individual flowers or cutting a bouquet. They are small, light weight and very sharp.
The threadleaf coreopsis varieties like ‘Zagreb’ are much simpler to deadhead.
They have a mass of tiny daisies above a mound of fine foliage.
After about a month, when the flowers are finished, it is time to shear about one inch off the whole top of the plant.
New buds will be just below the cut. This action can be repeated several times a season from June to October.
To do this type of shearing I have always used an old pair of wooden handled grass edge clippers inherited 40 years ago from the owners of our first house.
Just recently, I treated myself to a new light weight pair, with a rubber shock absorber and longer handles so I can often work from a standing position.
Last month, at the unH2O Gardens, we drastically sheared back the Walker’s low nepeta that had bloomed since April.
It’s an example of a perennial that sends up new growth from the base to give another flush of bloom in late summer.
Most of the yarrow varieties will also bloom again late in August if cut back.
If lavender is deadheaded it usually blooms again in late summer. If your plant needs shaping, this is a good time to do it. Branches can be cut back by up to 1/3.
This Sunday is the deadline for the early bird draw for OXA’s Xeriscape Garden Contest. Final deadline is Aug. 31 when all entries go into a draw for $500.
See OXA’s website (below) for details.
Gwen Steele is executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Learn more about Gardening with Nature and plants for the Okanagan on the website at: www.okanaganxeriscape.org.