July is a great month to experiment with plant material. With balmy gardening weather and post spring specials on plants at the garden center, you can afford to try some new plants with little to lose. There is still plenty of growing season ahead in July so flowering annuals can be planted to supplement your spring plantings with an experimental twist! How many times have I found new plants that I have grown to love by experimenting outside of the traditional spring planting season. As an example years ago I became enamored with a couple of flowering annuals, Verbena bonariensis and Gomphrena, leftovers of spring no one wanted.
In the busy spring season without knowledge of these plants, shoppers left them behind for more traditional choices like Begonias. Now discounted from spring pricing I took the “what do I have to lose approach”. I had everything to gain. Variety is the spice of life and adding new plants to your “hort”-folio is an investment in your personal garden prowess as well as enjoyment. Both of these flowering annuals became favorites of mine and have since added to the diversity of my plantings. They bloomed beautifully causing people walking by on the sidewalk to ring the doorbell to ask, “what is that plant?” I would make plant converts one by one and their legend grew. To a degree this is what happens today on sites like Pinterest where education of new varieties provides the spice of experimental interest for our landscapes.
With our busy lifestyles I believe your landscape should work as hard as you do. I also believe that mono-cultures are not a good idea in the landscape and that as in life, diversity is better. Each plant has its season in the sun when it takes center stage. Within a diverse group problems do not spread like wildfire and the diversity presents continual visual interest as each plant plays its role. You learn this by extending your reach, experimenting with plant material. The lazy hazy days of summer afford you this opportunity.
I had a teacher who always said, “If you haven’t killed any plants you’re not trying hard enough.” How true. In July without the fear of frost we can try all kinds of plant material including those that provide a tropical feel in the landscape. From Herbs to Hibiscus, Morning glories to Monarda, try your hand at something new in your landscape this month….you’ll be glad you did.
Photographed Allium christophii today. I love how Alliums confidently stand up in the landscape in June. Certainly not shy they stand out. Deer resistant and showy they take an “altitudinous” position in the garden.
Rick Vuyst’s favorite “3 to 4 season” plants
With our busy lifestyles I believe your landscape should work as hard as you do. I also believe that mono-cultures are not a good idea in the landscape and that as in life, diversity is better. Each plant has its season in the sun when it takes center stage. Within a diverse group problems do not spread like wildfire and the diversity presents continual visual interest as each plant plays its role. All these things said there are some plants that step up and deliver a long season, in some cases, multiple seasons of interest in the landscape. A good landscape uses approximately 30% of its foundation in evergreens providing the gravitas and back drop of interest. In some cases the evergreens can serve as a focal point for 4 seasons of interest such as a Weeping Spruce or a conifer that looks like an evergreen but is deciduous with fall color like a Weeping Larch. Broadleaf evergreens can serve this role too with Rhododendrons and Holly as examples providing year long interest. Aside from the understood importance and foundation provided by conifers and broadleaf evergreens, other plants can provide workhorse interest in the landscape, many with a key blooming season as well as great fall color or colorful season long foliage and stems. Also remember well placed splashes or pockets of Annuals, Herbs and Bulbs add to the show to make your landscape a headliner. Here is my list (53 suggestions) for some landscape hardy favorites that come back and perform year after year as I call it the “gift that keeps giving”. Hardy to our hardiness zones in Michigan these plants are listed as “Woody” landscape plants (W) or Herbaceous “Perennial plants” noted with a (P).
Achillea Yarrow P
Allium/Mountain Garlic P
Azalea Deciduous Northern Lights W
Chamaecyparis Gold Mop Cypress W
Coneflower Echinacea P
Dogwood Red or Gold Twig W
Hydrangea Oakleaf W
Hydrangea Panicle (Quickfire, Limelight, etc) W
Hydrangea serrata Tuff Stuff W
Hypericum St Johns Wort W
Japanese Maple W
Lambs Ear Stachys P
Nishiki Willow W
Ornamental Grasses P
Own root Landscape Roses W
Paperbark Maple W
Perovskia Russian Sage P
Physocarpus Ninebark W
Rosa Rugosa W
Sambucus Elderberry W
Succulents (such as Sedums) P
Sweet Autumn Clematis W
Sweet Woodruff P
Syringa Landscape Lilacs/rebloomers W
Tri Color Beech W
Weigela Wine and Roses or My Monet W
Yucca Golden Sword P
You work “Yard” for the money. Thinking of how to stretch your dollar in the garden? To have green thumbs not by the amount of currency handled but rather results in your landscape? Look no further than the months of September and October for help.
You can use your Dis-“clover” card or your “Grass”-ter card or even maybe your Hosta la Visa card with confidence in the fall for a number of reasons. Discounts on plant material are usually readily available. The weather is cooler and rain generally plentiful making it good weather for both you and the new fledgling sprouts.
Weed control is more effective in fall. Plants root readily in warm soil in fall as the plants put more energy into establishment instead of top growth like they do in the spring. The reasons are numerous why fall is for planting. Bulbs can be planted, lawns established and repaired, landscapes planted or rejuvenated and even annuals like Pansies or Ornamental Kale can be planted.
Plants established in fall have a jump start on their counterparts planted in spring and you look like a neighborhood genius.
Start to prepare your tropical deck foliage plants for cabin fever and the move inside. Soon tropical breezes will turn into whatever winter pleases. Your tropicals or houseplants should be inside and behind glass by then. I’m referring to plants like Hibiscus, Mandevilla, Crotons, Boston Ferns, Palms, Ficus and the like. It’s a good idea to bathe the plants before bringing them inside. Maybe some fresh sterilized potting soil is in order or systemic insect granules to keep the bugs at bay. Make sure soil is not saturated so we don’t create a fungus gnat issue in the home. Without the long warm days of sunshine and breezes the plant will need much less water in the months ahead.
Fall is the time to invest in bulb planting. With a good well drained soil and proper depth it is as easy as dig drop done. And oh “deer” if Bambi is a problem in your neighborhood not to worry. Bulbs like Dutch Iris, Alliums, Daffodils, Fritillaria will do just fine.
If you want to plant Tulips or Crocus you will need to have the repellant handy next spring. I successfully had a great batch of yellow tulips this spring and protected them with Milorganite and a repellant. They were beautiful and the deer were “deerly” departed to another area in the neighborhood.
Make your effort and your money count by actively gardening in the fall. You work “yard” for the money and next spring you’ll be glad you did.
Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what their word of advice would be for someone new to gardening and just starting out. Many offered some well rooted advice to mulch or water or be open to change. Having a vision, a good foundation of organic soil and to start small were other popular words of well grounded wisdom. One of my Facebook friends suggested that frozen berries in wine was a good pain reliever.
Another suggested buying Motrin along with a lot of plants. Those who had thrown in the “trowel” suggested the new gardener give up before their backs and hips, have a drink and hire someone to do it for them. I liked the fact some felt variety was important and that gardening is good therapy.
In the spirit of turnabout is fair play, I asked myself the question. If left with suggesting one thing, I would recommend that a “smarty plants” invests time in their garden in September and October. Along with great deals on plants, the fall climate is perfect for plant establishment. In fall the soil cools down after a hot summer but is still warm and rainfall is more plentiful. Plants put in the ground focus on root establishment instead of top growth. Plants put in the ground in fall are well rooted and take off quicker in spring. This applies to woody landscape plants, trees, perennials, bulbs and even annuals like pansies. Frost tolerant pansies provide color in fall and then overwinter under the snow to outperform spring planted pansies the following spring.
The weather in fall is enjoyable for yard work, even mundane work such as the lawn. Feeding your lawn in fall is important to develop a thick well rooted lawn. Grass seed grows well in the fall for patching or starting a new lawn, September is arguably the best month of the year to start a lawn in Michigan. And when it comes to weeds, well “weed” need to talk. Perennial weeds send their food reserves to the roots in fall just like the trees. If you apply weed killer you’re getting good translocation of the herbicide into the roots instead of just top kill. Also many annual weeds like Henbit germinate in the fall to become rampant and blooming in the spring. Fall applications of weed control keep these weeds from becoming a problem in spring.
If you “plant”-asize about gorgeous flowers in spring, September is the perfect month to plant flowering bulbs. It can be as easy as dig, drop, done. Bulb selections go way beyond tulips with many of the “minor bulbs” like Scilla, Fritillaria and Alliums or Dutch Iris to name a few. Planted in a well drained soil these miracle orbs will pop up and surprise you next spring.
September planted Mums provide brilliant fall color. Mum-Ma-Mia! Hardy Mums and Asters can be displayed in pots for fall color and then if planted in the ground before winter with a light mulch covering should come back next year.
Be a “smarty plants” and make a date with your yard and garden this September.