The Weekly Gardener 1


It's Cold and It's Wet...

Under the Rain


I don't think spring bulbs like my garden very much, because every fall I plant a fair share of them, but not many show up in the garden the next year. Some springs they perform better, but this year was certainly not one of them. I blame myself, I should have given the plants some organic fertilizer earlier in the season.

I have some alliums sprinkled among the other perennials, and they did their duty, reluctantly, while the rest of the foliage went berserk, as it always does when it rains a lot in spring. I went out into the garden after a few stormy days to find a "Land Before Times" landscape, complete with broken branches and an overgrown mix of garden plants and weeds competing for territory.

The smooth blue asters I started last year are now three foot tall, I guess I should have paid attention to the mature plant height as described on the seed packet, huh!

The garden really needs some fertilizer to encourage the plants to bloom, but I worry a bit, as I look at the mighty foliage, that if the plants receive any more food they are going to swallow me alive. I already can't tell heads from tails in the jumbled mess.

My beloved purple clematis bloomed right on time, taking the rain in stride, unlike its neighbors in the flower bed. I can't say that I blame them for holding off on me. It's cold, it's wet, we had another freeze warning. Ech! I wouldn't bloom either.

Because of this aberrant weather phenomenon the tomatoes, which usually pick up speed at this time of year, seem to have taken a breather too. They don't show signs of frost damage, but they aren't growing either. Everything else in the vegetable garden displays healthy growth, but it's still to early for flowers.



Lily of the Valley

Every year when I enjoy the abundant bloom and fragrance of this Miss Kim lilac I count myself lucky for my tendency to procrastinate. I put off pulling what looked like a dead shrub for an entire summer and fall, only to be surprised with verdant branches the following spring.

Lilacs are great plants for cold climates and alkaline soils, but they don't like shade or having their feet wet.

A lilac bush flowers on old wood, so if you must prune it, keep in mind that you may lose bloom for up to three years. It seems that they also bloom less if they are fertilized excessively. I have to admit the thought of feeding trees and shrubs never occurred to me. Maybe I should reevaluate that, at least for the little apple tree, which skipped blooming this year.

I don't have much to say about lilacs, they seem to be the ultimate 'plant it and forget it' shrub, and, as long as they have enough sunshine, they'll take care of themselves.

I will add one thing: they are prone to powdery mildew. It doesn't affect the plant, but it looks bad, especially in August. I've been trying to get rid of this pest for years, but every summer it comes back, stubbornly, despite my efforts. It seems that the spores overwinter in the ground and pick up where they left off the following year.

As with all things, persistence is key, and I'm treating again this year, if need be. Eventually one side will have to give in, and I sure hope it's the mildew.