Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August Calendar

              The past two months have been virtually bone-dry.  The last week in July had a few old-fashioned gray and rainy days, but not often enough to mitigate the damage.  The most drought-resistant strongest flowers in our perennial border are my least favorite  -- Monarda and Filipendula. 
Monarda and Filipendula: Evicted
We’ve removed them all, I hope, and now I’m stepping back to look at how the garden is planned, and the lessons to be learned from bad times:
 1.    Group your plants according to their moisture needs.  Don’t mix drought-resistant plants with those happy to have their feet wet, no matter how artistic the combination.
2.    Keep plants that require watering close to the house where it is easier to give them what they need.  Plants further towards the perimeters and slightly out of sight can be left on their own with hope for the best.
3.    Be careful of knee-jerk reactions to a drought.  If you plant only dry-soil plants, chances are next year will bring steady rains.

Pumpkin Patch on Chestnut Street, Village of Rhinebeck
We are making some changes, moving our ever-thirsty hydrangeas, the temperamental Nikko Blues, to a cluster close to the house.  This way a single sprinkler will cover them, rather than the laborious coiling and uncoiling of multiple hoses and their connectors.  The picture below is a hot weather whimsy, a pumpkin patch happily sprawing along the front yard of an elegant Victorian village house.

Week One

August is a peak month for garden lilies, but they will need staking if they are to look their best. Now is the time to select yours for fall planting.
Examine your borders and pay the price for the penalty for not thinning early in the season. Phlox in particular suffered from mildew this summer.     
Cut off the browned foliage of bleeding hearts.                                                                                       
Ferns will also begin to brown out abou tnow. You can leave them alone, or if the aesthetics bother you, trim off the dieback. 
Rudbeckia and Helenium: Survivors

Make note of which plants survived the drought and add them to your plans next year.                         

Replenish mulch. It will decompose in the heat of August.                                                                    
Keep a watchful eye on containers. By now they will have filled up with roots and will require a more frequent watering schedule than when the roots were surrounded by an ample amount of moist soil.                                        
 Evaluate the shade in your borders. Branches may have grown and are now shading beds that used to be in full sun. The reverse is also true. If you have taken down tress your formerly shaded plants may now by frying.                                       

Week Two

Bearded Iris. Order Now.

Order iris, poppies, and peonies for late summer planting.                                               
This is the last moment to fertilize perennials, lawns and woody plants. If you do this any later, new growth won't survive the autumn chill ahead. 

Week Three

Garden sales should be underway by now. Take advantage of the opportunity to buy container-grown plants, as they will continue to drop in price. 
If you are gardening on a rooftop, think about installing a simple irrigation system. One or two days away will result in the loss of almost everything.   
Sweet Autumn Clematis Running Riot 

Agressive vines will have made a spectacle of themselves by now. Thin excessive growth on autumn clematis, trumpet vines and wisteria.                                                                                  

Week Four

Begin harvesting raspberries. Cut back old canes after blooming, but leave the new. Next year's crop will come from this year's new canes. Mine are so out-of-control it would take concrete posts and suspension cables to hold them in place. 
Every group of plants will present some candidates with damaged foliage this summer. Try and sort out insect damage from fungus, scorching, or mildew and treat accordingly.  
Lantana on a NYC Terrace

Terrace and roof gardens will need some fillers now as summer annuals begin to peter out. Look for annual asters and mums in garden centers. Add new geraniums as the old will likely suffer in the August heat. Lantana will hold up nicely until first frost.                                                                                 

Once again, note which plants have performed poorly and ruthlessly eliminate them. Life is short. 

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