For all the words I have uttered about what a cool spring we had, these words have morphed into, what a hot humid summer we are living through. The Montgomery Water Works is pleased to send enormous bills to further support my declaration of this long hot summer.
I had to replant vinca which usually do not thrive in the shade, but there they thrive, getting only about 3-4 hours of direct sunlight. Vinca can be planted now and through mid August, but start to flagged in September when the nights get cooler. I am just happy at this point to have some color to fill in where other annuals have succumbed to the heat. Also I found Dragon Wing begonias which can be planted anytime even up to frost. These work horses will take a light freeze and go on blooming their heads off. I have some in large pots in my back yard, and I trimmed them back about a fourth. Pruning helps to take off some of the heavy blooms and thus prevents them from flopping over next month. I re-fertilized with Osmocote only, which is time released and therefore, does not burn the leaves, You may want to just apply some milder fertilizer such as liquid Miracle Gro or Peters liquid as this will give them a new lease on life. Note, it usually is not a good idea to apply a commercial grade fertilizer in this heat, since the heat has stressed your flowers, unless you can really water the fertilizer in or risk scalding the roots, and thus, death would be imminent.
One of the most successful plants I started from seed this spring was basil. It is so simply to grow and all varieties were just as easy. After germination, the seedlings were transferred to 4"x4" pots which I saved from my trash heap last year. Some remained in pots, others went into the flower beds. Water and mostly sunny beds have yielded a bumper crop. My mission was to make Pesto, and share with friends. The interesting historical fact of basil was that it was associated with royalty. It is legend that only Kings with golden sickles were allowed to cut the fragrant herb. I received a different recipe for Pesto last fall, and plan to use it this year. Not only does it have the usual cast of ingredients such as garlic and olive oil, but butter is added to the recipe. The butter gives Pesot such a smooth and velvety texture. Another simple way to keep basil for 6 months is to stuff washed and well dried leaves into a jar, then cover the leaves with olive or any other type of oil. Tightly cap the jar, and refrigerate. Another use besides using directly in recipes, is to put the freshly dried leave into vinegars. What an excellent addition to any salad dressing or for use over tomatoes and mozzarella cheese for a much loved caprese salad.
PLANT OF THE MONTH--SCABIOSA (DIPSACACEA)
The pincushion plant is a perennial that all gardeners should grow. Lavender to soft blue flowers bloom all summer with very little care. thee need a sunny location with some afternoon shade, in well drained soil, and will also thrive in the type of alkaline soil such as what we deal with in Montgomery. If you cut off the dead blooms, they bloom more. They make the best statement if planted in clumps of three or four. They reseed in fall and the crowns(roots of the plant) can be divided in the spring only. If you are striving for beds that are easier to maintain, combine the scabiosa with Stella d'Oro daylilies, phlox, monarda (bee balm), all types of yarrow, and cone flower. The most reliable varieties are: (1) scabiosa caucasia, the pinchushion plant as stated above and these can come back for generations, (2) Scabiosa columbaria comes in white (Alba), blue (Blue Perfection), and deep lavender-blue (Fama). (3) scaciosa ochroleuca is yellow, with lacy soft yellow bloom heads and grow to 2' to 3' tall. This variety is not as long lived.