By Madaline Sparks
It’s hard to believe we’re in the last weeks of summer already. How can that be? Summer doesn’t officially end until September 22, though we generally think of Labor Day weekend as the end. I always feel a little anxious about now because the all-too-brief display we’ve worked so hard to achieve starts showing signs of waning. I find myself thinking about which plants to save and bring inside for the winter. I look at drifts of plants that are petered out and think, “If that wasn’t there, everything around it would look much better!”
So… we could throw up our hands and give in to the end of season doldrums (and other tempting diversions that beckon). Or, we can take advantage of this window of opportunity, stay the course and tune up our gardens to generate a satisfying show for a few more months.
Here are some tips that I do when August rolls around and I want to extend the beauty of the garden as long as possible.
The more than adequate rainfall we’ve enjoyed has made almost everything, especially weeds, appear to be on steroids! I know you’re sick of that tedious chore (I know I am), but don’t let those pesky weeds win the war, go to seed and create a nightmare next spring.
One quick fix to rejuvenate the garden is to put a sharp, clean edge on your beds. Even if everything looks wild and overgrown (especially with the plentiful rain we’ve had) rather than the controlled chaos you so carefully tried to cultivate, edging immediately gives a sense of order and clarity like nothing else.
Encourage more flowers.
Deadheading and “dead-stemming” will encourage your blooming annuals and perennials to keep producing. You can get repeat bloom from an entire clump of a pooped-out plant like hardy geraniums by shearing them back to the base. In just a couple of weeks, new fresh foliage and possibly new blooms will emerge. They won’t be as full but it’s worth putting up with a bare spot for a short time to get a beautiful flush of new growth instead of living with an eyesore.
In some cases, a perennial that has insect or fungal damage, more brown foliage than not, or has opened up and is flopping onto a neighboring plant that still looks good, can be cut back all the way or, down to new basal leaves. It will allow the surrounding plants that are at their best this time of year to shine.
Many nurseries and garden centers are now filled with lush pots of zinnias, rudbeckia, dahlias and other late summer annuals in full bloom. If you have holes in the garden or color dead zones, pick up a few of these instant problem solvers and transplant them or just pop the pot into those spots and let the surrounding plants knit around them. If you have your own containers that are looking good, save a few bucks and move a few into your beds for a mini makeover.
You are way ahead of the game if you happen to have a late summer garden that is designed to be its most glorious as we move towards fall. But if your beautiful spring or early summer garden is disappointing you, notice plants that look great in other gardens and think about places to integrate them into your beds and borders. You might even find them on sale at the end of the season. Plant them into the garden in the fall and they’ll be delighting you next year at this time.