Southern Gardening - Potpourri for June

 

Although gas prices have become a topic of discussion with their ever-increasing prices, June could bring a surge in travel. For gardeners, this is a great opportunity to view botanical gardens or other plantings around our state or out of state. If you are in Fairhope, just look around the downtown area to be amazed at their municipal plantings. From hanging baskets to bedding plants, the color combinations and variety of flowers cannot be matched. The extensive rose garden near the municipal pier showcases hundreds of roses, which gives off a lovely fragrance. Make a record of the good ideas with either a pen and notebook or, better yet, the camera on your cell phone since a picture is worth a thousand words. I have done this over the years and have drawn good ideas for my personal garden. Other garden venues, which are within easy driving reach of this area, would be the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the Athens Georgia Botanical Gardens, and Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile.

What to do now in the garden? First of all, eradicate all weeds in the beds. Pulling these out can be onerous, but still needs to be done. If there are areas that have not been planted and are simply weedy patches, carefully use RoundUp or glyphosate to spray the area and wait about a week to ten days before over planting or sowing seed. When using this chemical, always wear gloves and garden goggles. June should see all the daffodil and tulip leaves turning yellow or brown. It is now time to clip them off and leave daffodils in the ground. In the south, tulips need to be dug up and saved for planting next year. Place them in a brown paper bag, lightly dust with Sevin to prevent mite or bug infestation and place them on a shelf in a dry shed or garage for future use. I have found that the blooms are not as large, but great for cut flowers. The month of June is ideal for planting caladium bulbs. Caladiums are finicky about soil temperatures. Even if you plant them early such as in March, unless the soil reaches about 60 degrees, no way are they shooting up out of the ground. Of course they require lots of water to get them up out of the ground, so you risk bulb rot if they are planted too early. Usually I plant all one variety for a uniform appearance, but I have an area that has an open spot in between white impatiens, so I am trying a mix of different varieties. Before the era of the landscape begonias, begonias had to be in the ground around March 15th to thrive. But now, most begonias can be planted in the heat of the summer and should thrive with proper watering and Osmocote or other time-release fertilizers. Never sprinkle commercial fertilizer on begonia leaves as they will surely die. If this type is all you have, immediately shake any fertilizer off the leaves, and water the leaves and plants well. The advantages of the large begonias are that they shade out weeds, drop their dead heads, and bloom continuously through frost. What a great bang for the buck. June is also the perfect month to sow zinnias, cleome, and cosmos. In fact these can be sown anytime, and you could pull out one crop in July or August, and sow another crop for fall.

PLANT OF THE MONTH: CROCUS SATIVUS

Common Name for Saffron Crocus or Autumn Crocus

This species of flowering plant is in the iris family, iridaceae and its claim to fame is the production of Saffron. The thin filaments or stigmas inside of the crocus bloom head are harvested and dried for mostly culinary uses, but also used as dyes. The corms must be planted in summer 4-6 inches deep or 3 months before frost. They are hardy in our Zone 8 and require soil with a pH of 5.8 to 7.8, which is neutral to alkaline as acid pH is less than 6.5. Soil must not be a heavy clay, such as we are cursed with in the Montgomery area, but well drained. Also, saffron requires at least 8 inches deep of good soil. Please note that the corms are poisonous. While the saffron corms or bulbs cost about $1.00 per bulb, the filaments sell on the open market for between $1,500 and $5,000 per pound. In areas of the south where the summers are dry, they can be grown as perennials, and left in the ground. Note that it is necessary to dig them up and remove to another area once every 4-5 years.

 

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