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  • March garden tips & tasks

    If your fescue lawn looks a little skimpy, overseed early this month. Fescue grows best when the weather is still cool.

    Clip dead stems from perennial herbs – thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary. Pruning encourages vigorous new growth.

    Prune nandinas, flowering quince and other airy shrubs by reaching in and removing about a third of the branches at ground level.

    Remove mulch or leaves that may be covering perennials in garden beds.

    Prepare a new garden bed: Have the soil tested (check with your county’s Extension service). Remove grass and dig or till soil 8 to 10 inches deep and mix with soil amendments and organic matter to improve drainage.

    Add fertilizer lightly to perennials as soon as you see new growth. Too much fertilizer may result in lanky growth.

    Herb transplants that don’t mind cool weather -- parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano – can go in the ground now.

    When you cut daffodils to bring inside, cut the stems at an angle and place them in water right away. Change the water in the vase daily to keep them fresh longer.

    Save the date - Middle Tennessee garden events

    The Perennial Plant Society's annual Plant Sale will be April 8, opening at 9 a.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale offers newly released and hard-to-find perennials from top local nurseries -- more than 450 varieties of perennials, vines, grasses, shrubs and annuals. The event supports local scholarships for Tennessee horticulture students and monthly gardening programs, open to the public, at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. For information visit www.ppsmtn.org.

    The Herb Society of Nashville's annual Herb Sale will be April 29, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale will offer heirloom vegetables, rare varieties of perennial and annual herbs, handmade pottery herb markers and more. To learn more, visit herbsocietynashville.org.

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All leaves, no flowers

QUESTION: I have five plants that I’ve been told are ‘Mini Penny’ hydrangeas. Last year they had lots of white blooms. This year they are growing very well with lots of green leaves etc, but only very few (3) blooms. I have fertilized with an acid balanced Miracle Grow fertilizer as well as a root stimulator. Can you suggest any reason for the lack of blooms this year? – George Carr

First, let’s consider the hydrangea variety that goes by the name ‘Mini Penny.’ A Web search shows that it’s one of the French hydrangeas, a compact, slow-growing mophead variety that blooms pink if the soil is alkaline, or powder blue in acid soil. You say yours had white blooms, so perhaps it’s something else.

Still, we can talk in general about why hydrangeas don’t bloom. The hydrangea expert Judith King, who runs the Web site hydrangeashydrangeas.com (I referred to this site a couple of weeks ago, writing about ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas), says there are three common reasons why mopheads fail to bloom. 1) If a late spring freeze kills the developing buds, which grow on last year’s stems; 2) If you pruned the shrub too late last year, cutting off the stems that held this year’s buds; 3) If you have a variety that is not suited for this area.

This year, a late spring freeze is probably not the problem. It was cool in late spring, but we didn’t get a freeze, and I’ve seen some gorgeous hydrangeas blooming in gardens around town.

Did you prune? Buds for the following year start forming on French hydrangeas in the summer, so if you pruned the shrub in late summer or fall, you may have cut off all but a few (3) buds.

The third reason – the plant is not suited for the area – can’t be considered until you know what variety you have.

One more note about fertilizer: King advises using a balanced product such as10-10-10, applying it once or twice during the summer. Use caution and follow the package directions, because too much fertilizer can damage the shrubs. It’s also best to fertilize before August, she says, so that any new growth has a chance to harden before winter. Remember, too, that too much nitrogen can cause a plant to grow lots of greenery, but does little to aid in flowering.



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