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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for May

With many businesses and stores in our world closed for business, this means that many are working at home. We now have more time to spend in our gardens. If you planted a garden which includes pansies and spring bulbs, these flowers are on the wane. But the dianthus will usually be lush until the end of June when the heat brutally knocks them for a loop. So May becomes the transition month, leaving spring and going into summer. In Alabama many nurseries and big box stores are open for business where there is a treasure trove of plants and flowers, just waiting to find a home in your beds. Recently I purchased some large geraniums for my pot garden along with petunias, dusty miller and snap dragons which are now in full bloom. Within just a couple of weeks, all are established and making a spectacular show. The color scheme is mostly pink, some red, then gray dusty miller, and white petunias. With the snaps bringing up the rear in pale yellow, I must add this is a sight to see. So cheerful, like a fanciful spot of paradise. As a backdrop, red knock-out roses are banked up against a black privacy fence. With water and a bi-monthly feeding of fertilizer, these pots of flowers should last through July. And the best attribute of the pot garden is that I do not have to get on my hands and knees to weed, because there are not weeds.

Pinching Back, Disbudding and Deadheading

Someone asked me recently whether flowers like to be pinched back or cut. Many do and thrive better with this technique. For instance, pansies love for their flowers to be cut and this does encourage more blooms. Pinching encourages more compact, less leggy and bushier appearance. It has a multiplying affect as where the stem is pinched, two branches will grow. Besides pansies, here is a list of a variety of flowers which benefit from pinching.

1. Artemisia, also known as wormwoods

2. Asters

3. Chrysanthemums

4. Helianthus or sunflowers

5. Lobelia

6. Monarda or bee balm

7. Phlox paniculata or summer phlox

8. Salvias

9. Sedum or stonecrops

Another technique that aids flowers to produce bigger blooms is disbudding. When you observe on the flower one bud is larger that the other, pinch back the smaller one and leave only the largest. Peach growers must perform this disbudding in the early spring so their crops of peaches are full size and not the size of plums. Roses and peonies benefit greatly from this disbudding, but do not use this technique on spike-blooming flowers such as delphiniums and lobelias.

Deadheading is another useful technique to encourage more blooms and aids in the appearance of the plant. Although a gruesome name, it merely means to pinch back any bloom heads that are dead or spent. Many flowers do not drop their dead blooms, and seeing brown, dead flowers when other parts of the flower has new blooms is unsightly. Deadheading extends the bloom season, makes the beds more attractive and many times, will keep the plant from going to seed. Flowers that need this attention would be marigolds, daylilies, and bearded iris. If the plants comes into bloom much at the same time, then just sheer the tops of and voila ... a second flush of bloom.

Plant of the Month

Baptisia is a member of the pea family, which also goes by the name of false indigo or wild indigo. These are handsome perennials which can be gown with success in our Zone 8. They sport varied colored blooms such a yellow, blue, cream and white, which have a lupine type bloom. They branch profusely with rounded gray green leaves in clusters of threes, grow to 2-5 feet in height, and bloom through the fall...Their requirements are full sun to light shade, well drained soil but the taller ones need staking. They are also drought resistant. If you get these started in your garden, they will perform for many years to come.



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