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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 – August

    Water lawns and garden beds early in the morning to allow foliage plenty of time to dry before nightfall.

    Container gardens will benefit from a light application of all-purpose fertilizer.

    If petunias have grown long and shaggy, cut them back and give them a dose of fertilizer. They should bloom again quickly.

    If squirrels and birds go after your ripe tomatoes, pick them while they are still green and allow them to turn red indoors. For best quality, don’t store fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator.

    Make sure spring-planted trees and shrubs get plenty of water during hot weather.

    Keep cutting the spent flowers of annuals so they will continue to bloom into the fall.

    To conserve soil moisture during hot weather, replenish mulch in annual and perennial beds as necessary.

    Begin planning a fall garden. Spinach, lettuces, radishes and other fall crops will mature when the weather turns cool.

    Begin clean-up of summer vegetable beds. Remove any decayed or dying foliage to prevent diseases from taking hold.

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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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