Category Archives: Summer

Mow-tivation

I was reading with great interest a British study recently that implied the gender roles in the home are being rewritten including three quarters of women happy to tackle the job of mowing the lawn previously considered a task of the man of the household. Meanwhile six in ten men would be willing to make dinner every night and clean up afterwards as well. This survey of 2,000 Brits indicates gender roles have evolved in the home and an understanding that a chore shared is a chore halved. I believe it only makes sense that when it comes to yard work, cooking, cleaning and other household chores that teamwork always beats the culturally assigned gender roles that Mom and Dad demonstrated years ago. In the turf classes I have taught with a show of hands, hands down women believe they could do a much better job of the lawn and landscape then the man in the household. Conversely this study showed one in 5 men felt they could do a better job of cleaning and tasks their fathers would have declined to do. Whether it is weeding, mowing, cooking or vacuuming today’s home and garden inhabitants understand that a partnership beats previously culturally defined roles.

Mow and Behold!

Mow and Behold!

Out in the yard the green green grass of home (Tom Jones 1967 oh this dates me) can become a tiresome chore for household partners when the calendar turns to August. My first word of advice is to raise the deck on the mower. Cutting the grass short in the heat of summer is not a good idea and adds stress to the lawn. Longer grass blades shade the crown of the plant, increase surface area for photosynthesis and reduce weed growth and development comparatively to a scalped or short cut lawn. Irrigate in the morning when watering is most efficient (sun and wind evaporation is less) and avoid irrigating at sundown (to reduce disease stress). August is a great month to plan for rejuvenating your lawn with the coming month of September one of the best months to seed a lawn, feed a lawn and control weeds. Fall is the perfect time for lawn establishment and rejuvenation.
Some are abandoning the typical urban front lawn for alternatives and I say more “flower” to you. Even though our lawns are great for trapping dust particles, cooling the earth and generating oxygen, alternatives are available. Groundcovers and ornamental grasses are easy to grow hardy substitutes for a well groomed lawn.

Calamagrostis Karl Foerster lines a drive

Calamagrostis Karl Foerster lines a drive

Ornamental grasses are spotlighted in the landscape from August to October as they “dance” for our attention as drought tolerant landscape show stoppers. Perennial, deer resistant, drought resistant and hardy easy to grow plants, Ornamental grasses are available in a wide array of cultivars to enjoy. My neighbors looked questioningly as I replaced a large swath of lawn with ornamental Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ grasses at my lakeshore landscape, but now are true believers. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Consider ornamental grasses and move to the head of the “grass” for the “grass” of 2016. Congratulations and enjoy.

July Butterfly

The landscape celebrates July in its own quiet way with fireworks that go KaBloom! Those floriforous fireworks draw a crowd of butterflies and hummingbirds to our warm and colorful plantings. In general bright colors attract butterflies and hummingbirds to our yards. I read a quote that said a flower is simply a leaf mad in love. How true.

Milkweed in bloom at sunset

Milkweed in bloom at sunset

Colorful blooms attract pollinators and nectar lovers to our yards. Natural growing milkweed is a fragrant joy to observe during the months of June and July.

A Lacecap Hydrangea is a great example with the outer ring of showy sterile blooms that attract the attention for the less showy interior blooms. The July landscape should be a playground for butterflies and hummingbirds and it all starts by selecting the right plants to accent your yard, deck and patio. Remember sunny spaces and some water help in attracting these winged performers to put on a show. Often the next question is “Rick what are your favorites to do the job in the month of July?” I’m glad you asked, many different plants will do the job but I especially like these in the month of July.

Asclepias (Butterfly weed)
Agastache

Agastache in bloom. Its sweet licorice aroma and colorful blooms a magnet for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds

Agastache in bloom. Its sweet licorice aroma and colorful blooms a magnet for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds

Allium
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
Baptisia (False Indigo)

Baptisia one of my favorite perennials in the landscape!

Baptisia one of my favorite perennials in the landscape!

Cosmos
Crocosmia
Daylilies
Echinacea (Coneflower)
Heliopsis
Honeysuckle
Hydrangea
Joe Pye Weed
Lantana
Landscape Roses
Lychnis

Bright red roses are a draw for butterflies

Bright red roses are a draw for butterflies

Milkweed
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Nepeta
Petunias and Calibrachoa
Russian Sage
Salvia
Sedum
Tithonia Mexican Sunflower
Tickseed (Coreopsis)
Zinnias

Hibiscus confusion?

Hibiscus confusion? Cue the music and let’s meet the contestants….

Our first featured Hibiscus is from and native to the Eastern US….one native tribe in the US used it to cure inflamed bladders and Thomas Jefferson grew it at Monticello. A shrub like herbaceous perennial and vigorous grower, this Hibiscus is sure to please with dinner plate sized flowers July-September. A very colorful character say hello to Hibiscus Moscheutos.

Hibiscus moscheutos Perennial herbaceous hardy Hibiscus

Hibiscus moscheutos
Perennial herbaceous hardy Hibiscus

Our next featured Hibiscus hails from tropical Asia and China. Not hardy to Michigan winters this hibiscus loves to play in the sun and warm temperatures.

Rosa sinensis....non hardy tropical Hibiscus

Rosa sinensis….non hardy tropical Hibiscus

This plant makes a bold statement when entering a room with stunning flowers….that only last for a day or two. Say hello to Rosa Sinensis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our final featured Hibiscus is ubiquitous and all around town. A slow starter once established blooms beautifully in July and August. Woody and requiring discipline, this Hibiscus goes by different names like Althea, Rose of Sharon or Hibiscus making it’s personality complex. Say hello to Hibiscus syriacus.

Hibiscus syriacus also known as Althea or Rose of Sharon

Hibiscus syriacus also known as Althea or Rose of Sharon

June Blooms

Rhododendrons love the Lake Michigan shoreline area....Well drained soil, slightly acidic and plenty of insulating snow in winter

Rhododendrons love the Lake Michigan shoreline area….Well drained soil, slightly acidic and plenty of insulating snow in winter

Alliums are now done blooming and can be dried for fall arrangements. If you like them plan to buy the bulbs in fall for planting

Alliums are now done blooming and can be dried for fall arrangements. If you like them plan to buy the bulbs in fall for planting

This is Elderflower....very large and generally grows in ditch areas. In bloom in June. Don't mistake it for Giant Hogweed the plant that has been in the news lately.

This is Elderflower….very large and generally grows in ditch areas. In bloom in June. Don’t mistake it for Giant Hogweed the plant that has been in the news lately.

Squash blooms are edible and delicious....might want to consider some Qtip pollination to help Mother Nature along

Squash blooms are edible and delicious….might want to consider some Qtip pollination to help Mother Nature along

Don't forget Crotons are not just a "houseplant"....great for containers on the deck or patio to combine with flowering annuals

Don’t forget Crotons are not just a “houseplant”….great for containers on the deck or patio to combine with flowering annuals

Zip up your Plants

Remember not all fertilizers are created the same. Take the primary nutrient nitrogen needed to green plants and provide growth. You can get nitrogen in less expensive urea forms that are very water soluble and here today gone tomorrow activated by water and temperature. Organic, natural or more expensive advanced synthetic forms of nitrogen are slower release water insoluble fertilizers needing soil bacteria and healthy microbes or biology to make the nutrients available to the plant. In an era of need for instant “grass”-ification, often some sulfur or iron is added to fertilizer mixes to give the quick deep green we desire. The least expensive and most dramatic nitrogen for our plants is atmospheric nitrogen….the kind of green up you see all around you the morning after a nighttime lightning storm. Regardless, nitrogen is just one of 19 elements considered essential for plant growth. Primary nutrients, secondary nutrients and trace nutrients are all needed for healthy plants. Now that June has arrived and plants are actively working, growing, feeding, fruiting and blooming you need to “zip up your plants!” In June don’t forget to feed your plants or as I call it “zip up your plants” as they are actively growing and blooming in one of the best gardening months of the year!
June is an incredible month in Michigan for annual, perennial, herb and landscape plants. With the threat of frost gone and long days the growth and performance of landscape plants in June is phenomenal….this is what we’ve been waiting for! Don’t forget about own-root landscape roses in June. Heavy feeders, with the long light days of June into July these landscape workhorses put on a show!

Vigorous shrub Own Root Roses

Vigorous shrub Own Root Roses

Perennials shine in the month of June and annuals planted back in May come into their own as they establish roots and benefit from the long day length.
Hanging baskets purchased back in May need to be watched in this month. A slow release fertilizer combined with a water soluble fertilizer keeps them fed. Learn to tell from the weight of the basket if they need water. Sunny and windy days can quickly dry out hanging baskets. Even the Boston Ferns hanging from the porch on the north side of the house can quickly dry out on a windy June day. Soil polymers can help with moisture retention.
June is a great month to analyze your landscape as well as other’s landscapes. Make note of what you like and want in your landscape. For example deer resistant and stunning Alliums are in bloom in June. These are hardy bulbs in the onion family that you plant in fall for show stopping interest in May and June.

Allium....plant them in fall for a show in June!

Allium….plant them in fall for a show in June!

Look at other homes in your walks through the neighborhood or visit professionally landscaped gardens to note the changes you want to make this coming fall. By doing this you get a “hedge”-ucation and can zip up your plants and landscape for the following season. Remember June is a kick in the “plants” for all us plant lovers!