Summer Thoughts from Karen Brown

Summer in the garden is a wonderful time, when the "have to" tasks give way to time to catch up with the "want to" tasks, and time to enjoy what you've created and smell the roses. In my travels around the area, I see a lot of lovely yards and gardens.

In your garden, keep snipping off spent blooms from annuals and perennials to keep things looking tidy, and also to encourage more bloom to form. If the plants are getting leggy, trim them back to a healthy leaf node, which encourages branching and new growth. Poor, thin growth can indicate lack of sunshine, lack of fertilizer, or sometimes just old age. You can't do much about the latter, but you can at least try feeding and watering to improve the vigor.

Summer is a good time to do some pruning on established shrubs and trees, too. Fruit trees pruned in summer rather than winter are less likely to develop undesirable multiple sprouts from the top of the tree, which are often unfruitful. Even though it is harder to see the form of the woody branches now, it is well worth trying to accomplish, at least part of, the necessary shaping. Wait until right after harvest if you have a crop coming on.

Shrubs have finished their initial spurt of vigorous growth now, so take a critical look at the shape, and remove growth that doesn't contribute to the form you desire. Hedges in particular can get a little crazy with the spring growth and be in need of shaping now. This "haircut" will last much longer than earlier trims. Remember though, that early blooming shrubs such as rhododendron may have already formed their buds for next spring's blooms, and heavy pruning will diminish spring bloom the following year. Ideally, any severe pruning should have been done immediately following the blooming period.

Many of our blooming landscape plants put on their best show in the spring, but there are also many that perform in late summer and into fall. If you need to add some of those to your garden, take note of what especially catches your eye during the next couple of months and seek them out as started plants, without bloom yet, next spring. We tend to choose things that show color for instant gratification, and unless you shop all year around, you'll be overlooking some very nice choices. Keep attractive foliage in mind as well.

Happy gardening!

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