Henri Matisse said, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” At this time of year, it’s easy to get so caught up in our lives that we forget to stop and look at the garden and what it has to offer, so this week I thought I’d post some flower pictures from around the virtual garden. I encourage you to stop and spend a few minutes enjoying your own garden, or that of a friend – the summer goes by so quickly…
The dog days of summer are upon us and it’s time to check in with our chlorophylled friends to see how they are doing. If there hasn’t been any rain of significance, our plants would probably love some help, since in the heat, the moisture in their leaves evaporates and the roots can’t take in water to replace it if the soil is dry.
Sometimes it seems like there has been a lot of rain, but when you actually check, only the very surface of the soil has any moisture to it. This won’t do the plants any good. Even if the top inch of soil is wet they will need additional water, because if their roots can only get water at the surface, that’s where they will develop, and the result will be a plant that is unstable and can’t fend for itself when the surface is dry but there is adequate ground water. Ideally, plants need about an inch of water a week, which equates to a deep watering.
“How on earth do I know if there has been an inch of water?” you ask. That’s a good question, especially since knowing how much watering to do is part learned, and part instinct. I usually recommend that people get a rain gauge, a container that collects the rain and is marked in inches so you can see how much has fallen. (For an example, click here) They are inexpensive, and take most of the guesswork out of rainfall amounts. You can also dig down between the plants and see how the soil feels 6 or more inches below the surface, but a rain gauge is much easier!
Plants will often survive a drought, but they won’t thrive. So making sure that they have adequate moisture is an important way to protect your investment and to make sure that you garden continues to look its best. And if the plants are new, water is absolutely critical to their continued existence because they haven’t developed a deep root system yet.
Leonardo da Vinci got it right when he said, “Water is the driving force in Nature.” Happy watering!
Montauk Daisy, or Nipponanthemum nipponicum, is a wonderful plant that flowers in October and November, when most everything else has started to wind down for the season. It has large, daisy-like flowers on dark green, waxy foliage and can be three feet tall by three feet wide. If you have the space, I recommend giving it a try. If you have one already, then you know that it can get quite leggy …
Because of that, this blog post is a reminder that legginess can be avoided if Montauk Daisies are pruned at this time of year. Do it this weekend, if you can. Don’t wait much longer, or it won’t have time to recover and produce flowers in the fall. Cut each stem back by about half, and then watch as it thickens up and forms a more civilized clump which will look a lot better come October. You’ll be glad you took the time to do it.
Some of us are old enough to remember pinking shears, scissors that cut in a zig-zag line. I remember my mother having a pair, although I don’t remember her using them, or just what they were for. Maybe they helped keep cloth from fraying? Anyway, their use isn’t important to this blog entry, although I’d be interested to know if anyone out there can enlighten me. But Dianthus, the plant commonly known as Pinks, (Carnations are also Dianthus) have petals that look like they have been cut by pinking shears, thus the name. They have a sweet scent and come in all shades of… well… pink, from deep red to so pale they are almost white.
The name Dianthus comes from the Greek meaning “Zeus Flower”, and in the language of flowers symbolizes boldness. Varieties include some that form mats no higher than 4 inches tall, to others that reach 18 inches. Carnations grow even taller. Some are Annuals, some are Perennials, and some, like Sweet William, (which is also of the same family) is a biennial. They love sun and are deer resistant. Modern varieties will bloom for weeks, but the foliage is lovely to look at even when there are no flowers, especially those with blue green leaves. (which is most of them.) Deadheading, alas, is imperative to keep their blooms coming.
There is a Dianthus for everyone and I urge you to give them a try if like old fashioned favorites. To see pictures of some of the possibilities, click here.