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    Sept. 30: The Nashville Herb Society presents Through the Garden Gate: A Glimpse of Edwardian England, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Cheekwood Botanic Hall. Celebrate the gardens, foods and flowers that delighted Downton Abby family and friends at the turn of the 20th century. The event begins with a hearty Edwardian breakfast, followed by three speakers: Marta McDowell on Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life; Geraldine A. Laufer on Tussie Mussie – Victorian art of expressing yourself in the language of flowers; and Terry White, The English Garden event florist . Registration includes breakfast, box lunch in the garden with music, English tea and cookies. To learn more or to register, visit www.herbsocietynashvlle.org.

    Tips & tasks – September

    Cut the dead tops of coneflowers, but leave enough for goldfinches to enjoy the seeds.

    Plant cool-weather vegetables for a fall crop: spinach, mustard and turnip greens, radishes, leaf lettuce.

    Start a new lawn of cool-season grass, such as fescue, or refurbish or repair establish lawns.

    Don’t let the soil of newly planted grass dry out. New grass needs about an inch of water per week.

    It’s still warm, so continue to water and weed garden beds as needed.

    Remove dead foliage, spent flowers and other garden debris; replenish mulch as needed.

    Continue to harvest produce, which may be getting a boost now from slightly cooler weather. Keep watering sage, rosemary and other perennial herbs so they’ll be in good shape to get through winter.

    Prepare to bring houseplants back indoors: remove dead leaves, scrub soil from the sides of the pots, treat for insects. Bring tropical plants in before nighttime temperatures dip to 55 degrees.

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Keep ‘Annabelle’ standing

QUESTION: What is the best way to secure Annabelle hydrangeas to keep the beautiful blooms from breaking in the wind and rain? And why do these beautiful flowers do so poorly when they’re cut for an arrangement? – Debbie

‘Annabelle’ is among the stars of summer.

It’s true. The big, heavy bloom heads of Annabelle hydrangeas make an impressive statement in the summer, but whip them around with a strong wind or pelt them with heavy rain and they can flop over like big, wet rags. Sometimes the stems break, and that spells the beginning of the end for the lovely white flowers.

The best way to keep them standing is to prop them up. Judith King, who writes a Web site devoted to hydrangeas, has several suggestions. She says you can plant them next to a decorative fence, plant three Annabelle shrubs together so they prop each other up, or, early in the spring, surround each plant with a short wire cage. As they leaf out and grow, the foliage hides the cage, and all you see is your tall, lovely hydrangeas, happily standing.

One cultural practice to consider: Some gardeners cut the stems of Annabelles close to the ground in the fall. Since these hydrangeas bloom on new growth, they’ll grow and bloom just fine next summer, but the stems will not have had a chance to thicken. If you leave the stems 18 to 24 inches tall, those stouter stems will help support the newer branches and blooms next year. 

As for why the flowers sometimes do poorly after they’re cut (they sometimes wilt within an hour or two), Judith King says this seems to be caused by a sticky substance that clogs up the stem. Try this:

When you go out to cut hydrangeas, take a container of water and put the stem in water immediately after you cut it. Back indoors, boil more water and pour it into another container. Cut the hydrangea stems to the desired length, then stand the stems in the hot water for 30 seconds. Immediately put them into room temperature water in an arrangement. King says it works like a charm.

Got moles? They’re all over – or under — my kitchen garden. My next plan of attack will be a castor oil recipe that’s supposed to encourage them to move on. Read about it over at Turning Toward the Sun: A Garden Journal.

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2 Responses

  1. I’m glad I didn’t read your post on using the Annabelle hydrangea blooms as cut flowers before I cut one. I planted an Annabelle shrub just about 6 weeks ago. My dog, looking for a cool spot, began digging right next to the newly planted shrub–we have since fenced off the area!–and dislodged one of the lower branches that had a bloom on it. I clipped the end and immediately stuck it in a vase. Nearly 2 weeks later, it is still blooming! It’s probably beginner’s luck, and I daren’t try it ever again…

  2. They don’t always wilt when you cut them – but sometimes they do, and this technique is supposed to help avoid that possibility. You can also try it to rejuvenate a cut bloom that has wilted. Good luck with the new shrub!

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