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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    Aug. 18: Perennial Plant Society meeting at Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall. Speaker is Shera Owen, topic is “People, Plants and their Stories.” Refreshments at 6:30 p.m., meeting at 7 p.m. open to the public. To learn more: http://www.ppsmt.org

    Sept. 6: The Nashville African Violet Club will meet at 2 p.m. at Grace United Methodist Church, 2905 N. Mt. Juliet Rd, Mount Juliet, TN 37122.  For more information, contact Julie at  Julie.mavity@gmail.com or call 615-364-8459.

    Sept. 12 & 13: The Tennessee Gesneriad Society will have a flower show and sale at Cheekwood in Botanic Hall. The event will be open to the public Sept. 12, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and Sept. 13 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. To learn more, contact Julie at Julie.mavity@gmail.com or call 615-364-8459.

    Sept. 19: The Herb Society of Nashville's annual Herb Day, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Speakers include floral designer Ralph Null, landscape architect and designer Todd Breyer, and chef and caterer Emily Frith. There will also be a variety of vendors, and The Boomerangs will provide entertainment throughout the day. Admission is $42 per person until Aug. 31; $47 beginning Sept. 1, and includes all workshops, entertainment, and lunch. Advance registration is required. Register at http://herbsocietynashville.org, and visit the Herb Society’s Facebook page for updates.

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Dig and divide Daisies, Susans

When is the best time to divide and replant black-eyed Susans and Shasta daisies, in the fall or spring?
black eyed susans

If Shasta daisies and black-eyed Susans are crowding out other plants in a perennial bed, you can dig and divide them in the fall to rejuvenate them.

Both have a tendency to grow thin at the center of a clump of plants, and especially for black-eyed Susans, garden author Troy Marden, in his Southern Gardener’s Handbook, suggests digging vigorous plants from the edges of the clump and transplanting them back to the middle, so that the clump remains full.

Editors of the Southern Living Garden Book suggest this method for digging and dividing perennials: use a shovel or spading fork to cut into the soil 6 – 12 inches beyond the plant’s perimeter, then dig under the roots and lift the clump out of the ground. Tease some of the soil from the root ball, then pull the clump apart, or cut it into sections using clippers or a sharp-bladed shovel. Trim damaged roots, stems or leaves, then replant the divisions.

If you’re moving divisions to a new bed, it’s best to have the bed prepared before you dig them up. Both plants thrive in full sun in well-drained soil that is kept evenly moist. Black-eyed Susans are especially durable once they are established.

Prune roses for better blooms

We have a rose bush that is out of control and really needs pruning. Can it be done now? Or is it better to wait until next spring?

Yellow rose

Rose experts say that roses can be pruned anytime they are actively growing. Start by trimming out the older wood first, along with any dead or dying canes. You may also want to remove canes in the center of the bush to provide better air flow, any canes that cross and rub each other, or any twiggy growth that might be tempting to spider mites.

The Nashville Rose Society provides general pruning guidelines: each pruning cut should be made about ¼-inch above an outward-facing bud eye (where the leaf is attached to the stem). Use sharp bypass pruning shears, which will make a clean cut without crushing the stem.

An added tip: remove the spent blooms of roses regularly to encourage the plant to bloom more.

Serious rose growers may do a more severe type of pruning in the fall to winterize bush roses. Nashville Rose Society also provides general guidelines for this process: Stop fertilizing roses early in August to allow the plant to slow down producing new growth, then in early October, stop cutting off the dead flowers. In late November or early December, cut the canes back to 2 to 3 feet and place a mound of mulch around the bush.

Next spring, once the weather begins to warm up, move the mulch away from the roses and prune to about 12 inches to get new growth.

In Saturday’s Tennessean

land trust signThe Ernest and Berdelle Campbell Land Trust Garden is a quarter-acre oasis in Nashville’s tightly-packed Germantown neighborhood. “This will always be green space,” Berdelle Campbell says. Read about the garden and Berdelle’s agreement with The Land Trust for Tennessee in Saturday’s Tennessean, and find more here about my visit with Berdelle, and more photos from the garden.

Free daylilies!

A Middle Tennessee reader emailed last week to say that she has a back yard full of daylilies that she can no longer take care of, and she is trying to find a home for them. “There is a huge assortment in lots of different colors and types, mostly full size but some miniatures,” she wrote. “My grandmother and mom collected them over the year and I don’t really know any of their names.”

If you are looking for daylilies, are willing to take a chance on sizes and colors, and can dig them up yourself, she is willing to donate. Interested? Email me at gloria@gloriaballard.com and I will put you in touch.

Fortunately, the best time to dig and divide daylilies is coming up. I wrote about how to do that task here.

Pruning oakleaf hydrangea

Our oak leaf hydrangea bloomed beautifully this year, and the flowers have turned pink or brown but they’re still on the plant. The shrub is huge and needs to be cut back. Is it too late to prune it now? I want to make sure it blooms again next year.

oakleaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifoliaLandscape designer and plantsman Troy Marden, in his book Southern Gardener’s Handbook, says that pruning oak leaf hydrangea can be “tricky.” It blooms on old wood, and next year’s buds may already have begun to develop. If you prune it now, mid-August, you likely will be cutting off some of next year’s flowers. Best to prune the plant shortly after the flowers have turned from white to beige, he suggests.

There’s no reason you can’t remove any dead branches or stems now, though. Use sharp pruning shears, and cut dead twigs and stems off close to the branches. In fact, hydrangea experts note that dead stems should be removed every year.

Shortly after the shrub blooms next spring, consider removing about a third of the older living stems at ground level, which should revitalize the plant.

The heat’s on: August garden tips & tasks

Gardeners in Middle Tennessee (where The Garden Bench calls home) know that August can be brutal, and some days it’s best to stay inside. Here’s a tip: Get out early – before 7 a.m. if you can – and get those necessary tasks done. Then enjoy the rest of the day indoors, and remember that cooler days will be here soon.

Early in the month

RudbeckiaKeep deadheading daisies, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and other summer-flowering perennials.

Many things stop blooming when it’s 90 degrees and above. As things cool down slightly, flowers in the beds and vegetables in the kitchen garden should be blooming again. Provide ample water if it doesn’t rain.

Continue to watch for Japanese beetles. Pick off any you find on your roses or other prized plants, and plunk them into a bowl of soapy water.

Save your prized tomatoes from the birds. Pick them before they are fully red and let them ripen indoors.

If petunias are looking scrappy, cut them back and provide a light dose of fertilizer. They should soon re-bloom.

Continue to harvest and use basil frequently to keep the plant from setting seed too early.

Mid-August

vegetable gardenBegin cleaning up vegetable beds. Remove dead or dying foliage and any rotting vegetables. A tidy garden bed means fewer places for destructive insects to overwinter.

Watch for spider mites on roses, which thrive in hot, dry weather and can quickly defoliate a rosebush. A strong spray of water on the undersides of the leaves every two or three days for a week should help keep them under control.

If you saved your potted amaryllis bulb from last winter and it has spent the summer outdoors, move it to a cool, dark place and let it dry out. Amaryllis needs a dormant period before it blooms again next winter.

There’s no need to water your lawn every day. Experts advise deep watering every few days rather than a shallow sprinkling every day.

Try to keep ahead of the weeds. But if you can’t, at least snip or pinch off the tops to keep them from flowering and setting seed.

Later in the month

Parsley curledLate summer is a good time to thin iris beds. Cut back the foliage, dig up the rhizomes and brush off as much dirt as you can. Discard any roots that are rotting or soft, then replant the rhizomes.

Avoid planting new trees and shrubs in the hottest part of summer. Be sure that trees, shrubs and perennials planted this spring are receiving enough water during long hot spells.

Some summer herbs can be frozen to use later. Try freezing fresh sprigs of parsley, oregano, sage, tarragon and dill. Rinse the herbs and pat them dry, then place them in separate freezer bags or containers with tight-fitting lids. Use them within four months.

Begin gathering seeds of annuals or vegetables to plant next year. Dry seeds thoroughly and store them in a place that’s cool and dry. Be sure to label them before you put them away.

Plant a cool season kitchen garden late this month — spinach, greens, kale, lettuces and other favorites. Keep beds or containers watered as seeds sprout, and watch for late-summer insect pests.

Watermelon: Don’t harvest too early

QUESTION: How can you tell when a watermelon is ready to harvest?

WatermelonIt’s tempting to cut that beautiful watermelon from the vine as soon as it looks like it’s big enough, but size is not the only clue to ripeness. Before you cut the melon from the vine, turn it over and note the color of the ground spot – where the melon rests on the ground. The spot should be creamy yellow. If it’s white, the watermelon is not ripe enough to cut.

A tendril grows at the end of the watermelon. If it’s still green, wait a few more days before you harvest. If it is half-dead, it’s likely the melon is ripe. The age-old method of giving the fruit a thump may also work; a ripe watermelon sounds hollow when you thump it.

Cantaloupes and other small melons don’t have the tendril or a significant soil spot, like watermelons, but there are other clues to gauge its ripeness. Cantaloupes develop a golden color under the netted rinds when the melon is ripe. They also soften at the end opposite the stem when they ripen, which you can feel if you press gently. Ripe cantaloupes also have a sweet fragrance, and the melon will separate easily from the vine.

 

 

Plan to divide crowded daylilies this fall

The daylilies in our garden beds are beginning to crowd out other plants. Can they be separated and thinned out?

DayliliesExperts at the National Arboretum and the American Hemerocallis Society Society suggest thinning clumps of daylilies every five years or so. Repeat blooming varieties (such as ‘Stella de Oro,’ ‘Happy Returns’ and others) tend to form larger clumps, and may need to be divided more often. Early spring and fall are good times to take care of this task.

When the time comes to divide the clumps, use a garden fork to loosen the soil and pry the clump of roots out of the ground. Divide it by pushing two garden forks back to back down into the center of the clump, then push the handles apart to separate the roots.

To replant the divisions, dig a wide, shallow hole and place the rootball into the hole. Backfill with soil and tamp it into place, then cover the soil with an inch of mulch. Water thoroughly. You can cut the foliage back to about 12 inches.

(Stella de Oro? Stella d’Oro? You may see it spelled either way. I use the same spelling as the American Hemerocallis Society, which provides loads of information about daylilies at its website.

July garden tips & tasks

Summer is in full swing. Here’s how to enjoy the garden and it’s July bounty:

Early in the month

Geraniums

Cut geraniums and other summer annuals to encourage them to grow fuller.

In the kitchen garden, pick zucchini, summer squash and cucumbers while they are still small and tender.

Plant a second crop of those summer vegetables that grow quickly: bush beans, squash and cucumbers are easy favorites.

Watch for Japanese beetles. Experts don’t recommend Japanese beetle traps, which may attract more beetles to your landscape than would normally visit. Pluck them off the plants and drop them into a pan of soapy water.

If summer annuals such as coleus or geraniums are getting leggy, cut them back to encourage them to grow bushier. As a bonus, root the cuttings in water to have even more plants.

Before you leave for vacation, arrange for someone to water annual, vegetable and perennial beds and container gardens while you’re away. Make it easy for them: set up sprinklers in strategic places and hire a neighborhood youngster to turn on the faucet if it doesn’t rain.

Mid-July

Zinnias

Cut zinnias often. The more you cut, the more they bloom.

Bearded irises can be divided every three to five to years; mid-July is a good time to do it.

Lawn growth may slow down in the heat, but you may still have to mow. When you do, only cut about a third of the lawn’s height.

Cut chrysanthemums back in order to delay flowering until fall.

Herbs, annuals and perennials growing in containers need water every day when it’s hot. Don’t let them droop.

Keep cutting summer flowers such as zinnias and cosmos often; the more you cut, the better they bloom.

Later in the month

Tomatoes

Keep the soil evenly moist for tomatoes.

It’s hot, so get out early in the day to work in the garden. Drink plenty of water, wear a hat and use sunscreen.

Keep the soil around tomato plants evenly moist. Inconsistent watering can cause tomatoes to develop cracks.

Some summer flowers that grow tall may need staking to keep them from toppling in a heavy rainfall.

Continue to deadhead plants – cut off the spent flowers – to extend the blooming period.

Don’t forget about shrubs and trees planted this spring; they need an extra dose of attention in this heat. Give them a slow drink from a dripping water hose once or twice a week. A layer of mulch around newly planted threes and shrubs helps keep the soil moist longer.

Check the mulch in perennial and annual beds. Add more if it’s beginning to look thin. A good layer of mulch will help keep soil moist longer in the summer heat.

Enjoying a bit of Tranquility: Franklin’s Cornelia Holland nurtures the shade garden

Cornelia Holland, Photo courtesy University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

Cornelia Holland, Photo courtesy University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

she calls Tranquility at her home. She has donated plants to the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville to establish Tranquility – The Cornelia B. Holland Hosta Grden at the University of Tennessee Gardens. Read the story in Saturday’s Tennessean.

 

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