By the third week of June your beans should be up, your peas in flower and your corn plants emerging from the soil. Haven’t yet planted a vegetable garden? There is still time to put seeds of beans, carrots, cabbage and squash into the soil. Take a shortcut and buy plants already started in four inch pots or gallon-sized containers from the nursery and you’ll still have all summer to watch them grow. Almost any vegetable can be grown in a pot, but squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs are the easiest if your “farmland” is nothing more than a deck or patio.
This is also the week when your fading tulip, daffodil and other spring bulbs can have their foliage removed and suddenly you’ll find more room in the garden for brightly blooming annuals. The test to make sure that the bulb foliage is ready to rip is to give the yellowing leaves a gentle tug. If the foliage pulls away easily, it is time to clean up. Letting the leaves of spring bulbs ripen slowly in the garden will help the bulb to make blooms for next year.
Q. I have a hardy fuchsia plant that usually survives the winter. This year I still see brown dead sticks coming out of the ground an no new leaves. Is it dead? R.T., Tacoma
A. My sympathies, I think it has passed into compost. But plants that I pronounce dead sometimes have a habit of proving me wrong. Fuchsias and clematis are notorious for pulling a Lazarus and coming back from the dead after all hope has passed. For this reason I suggest you leave the fuchsia roots in the ground but cut back all the brown dead stems and see what pops up.
Q. We have a huge, beautiful rhododendron and each year by wife insists that I get on a ladder and remove all the faded blooms. Is this really necessary? I notice nobody removes the faded rhodie flowers on the plants that grow in the wild. You give plenty of lazy gardening tips in your column – I hate to climb on that ladder. Help me out here. Anon, E-mail.
A. Step away from that ladder – but don’t head for the lounge chair just yet. Rhododendrons will rebloom and grow just fine even if you aren’t deadheading like a rock band. However, removing the faded blooms will help the shrub to pump our more new growth. You did mention that this rhodie was huge. You may want to keep it smaller and for this you need a light rake. With feet firmly on the ground use the rake to claw off not only the dead blooms but the new growth candles or leaf shoots that sprout after a rhododendron flowers. Pruning rhododendrons and azaleas after blooming will keep the plants more compact but not sacrifice next year’s flowers. Now with all the time you save, get out into the yard and pull a few weeds. A slow and gentle bend, stretch and weed can be just like Yoga – without the gym fee or funny clothes.
Q. Is it too late to prune my roses? They are in beautiful bloom right now but I see some dead branches and some of my shrub roses have grown too big for their space. P.P., Renton
A. Grab the clippers and get snippy with your roses all summer long. Anytime of year is a good time to remove the three D’s – dead, damaged and diseased branches. You can also prune roses by harvesting the budded, blooming or faded flowers. Follow the stem down to where it joins a main branch and snip. You can remove up to one third of a rose bush now and it won’t feel a thing. June is a good month to fertilize all roses as they finish their first bloom cycle and get ready to perform an encore.
Q. Please suggest an evergreen shrub for a narrow spot near our front door. It would be nice if it would grow up but not out. The spot is about four feet wide. This area gets half a day of morning sun and the soil looks pretty good. Thank you so much for this column. F.P., Sumner
A. If you’re looking for shrubs as tall and lean as a runway model than check out the great figures on evergreens like the Gold Irish yew, the Emerald Green Arborvitae and the ‘Hertzi columnar juniper. If you enjoy great figures with wider hips than the conical shaped Dwarf Alberta Spruce is your gal. For a more delicate, lacy look there are Heavenly Bamboos (Nandinas that don‘t spread, not true bamboos) that may have multiple trunks but keep an upright and slender form. For something more interesting and more unusual search out the native plant called Redvein Enkianthus with spectacular fall leaf color and dangling bell-shaped blooms in the spring. The enkianthus can grow into a more tree-like form and take some pruning. Such a lovely shrubs with such an ugly name. One way to remember how to pronounce “Enkianthus” is to quickly slug together the phrase “icky ants on us” but write down the proper spelling before you visit the nursery. Enkianthus is a woodland plant that does best when shaded from the hot afternoon sun but loves our naturally acid soil and wet winters.
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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.
For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.
Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.