The Summer Garden

The pale pinks, blues, and soft yellows of spring have given way to bold reds, oranges and golds as the weather and the garden finally heat up this year. Everything has definitely benefited from the return of sunshine and warm weather. My veggie garden is finally starting to really grow, and I’m seeing little baby cucumbers on my still very small plants. Petite though they are, I know they will be full and growing in no time!

Blooming now: Daylilies, right on time. Steadfast and stalwart, nigh un-killable, these plants come in the full rainbow of colors, except for true blue. They will range in size from tiny 2 1/2″ flowers on ‘Eenie Weenie’ and ‘Happy Returns’, to nearly 7″ across on the All-America hybrids like ‘Persian Market’ and ‘Leeba Orange Crush’. With enough varieties, the careful gardener can have nearly constant bloom from June through October, thanks to reblooming varieties like ‘Stella d’Oro’ and ‘Plum Perfect.’ Also Echinacea, or purple coneflower (which aren’t just purple anymore!) are starting to come to blossom. A little bit late this year, but they do not disappoint. ‘Ruby Star’ and ‘Prairie Splendor’ are tall and richly colored pinks, while ‘Coconut Lime’, a new introduction from White Flower Farms, blooms nearly white with a pouf of tiny green petals at the flower center. It is a unique look for this old favorite.

Rudbeckia and Shasta daisies of all heights are starting to open up. There is a unique yellow variety of daisy called ‘Broadway Lights’ that gives some nice variety to the white flowers with yellow centers that we are used to. Roses are in full bloom, some for the second time this season. If the Japanese Beetles are kept away, we can enjoy the blossoms right through fall.

Hydrangea are just starting to show their color, be it blue, pink, or white. Some early flowering varieties of panicle hydrangea are ‘Little Lamb’, a smaller variety that flowers quite heavily, and ‘Unique’, which has white blossoms that very quickly turn pink. Mophead hydrangeas like the ‘Endless Summer’ line are starting to show color as well. Their blossom color is highly dependent on the acidity of the soil; if it is acidic, they will be blue, alkaline, they will bloom pink. I have noticed that this year, even though Maine has generally naturally acidic soil, they are blooming pink. I think the rains of spring have washed certain critical nutrients from the soil. A good boost of organic fertilizer early next spring should be just the thing to bring them back to blue.

Now is the time to cut back perennials like baptisia, mountain bluet, veronica, and garden sage, to encourage a re-bloom later this year. Don’t be afraid to cut right back to the ground; there should be new rosette of foliage ready to take the place of the older stems. Hosta can and should be deadheaded at this point as well; it will help keep them looking nicer through the rest of the year. There is still plenty of bloom time left for long-season perennials, so keeping the faded flowers clipped and the plants well tended will be worth the rewards we get later this season.

Fertilizing at this time of the season can be tricky… annuals still need their regular feedings, but try to avoid applying any slow release fertilizers with a higher nitrogen component after this week. If plants put on new growth too late into the season, it could be damaged in an early frost (not that I want to even think about frost yet!). If your Rose of Sharon is yellowing or hydrangeas need a little pick-me-up, a water soluble fertilizer is just the thing. It won’t encourage too much new growth, but will provide the greening power they need.