Summer showtime Refreshers: Paying attention to the needs of your late-season garden and choosing late-blooming plants will pay off handsomely.

August 09, 1998|By Ann Egerton | Ann Egerton,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Maintaining a garden after the fun of planting is over is a bit like building a marriage after the wedding. Both require hard work, commitment and some tedium to make a success. But the payoff makes the drudgery worth it.

The mid-Atlantic garden in late summer can get quite tired and bedraggled looking. However, there are several steps that you can take to perk up your garden. Attentive weeding, watering, fertilizing and the addition of some late-blooming plants can do wonders.

Deadheading - the removal of dead blossoms - will stimulate the production of new blooms in annuals and in many perennials, and of course makes the garden tidier looking. Mulching will help keep the weeds down and will keep the roots cool in the summer heat.

Fertilizing both your annuals and perennials can make a big difference. Peters Plant Food and Miracle-Gro are easy, effective, water-soluble fertilizers. A general rule, say experts at Valley View Farms, is that container gardens need fertilizing almost every time they're watered; annuals need fertilizing nearly once a week, and perennials need it once in late summer. The only exceptions are the bloom-again day lilies, such as 'Stella de Oro' (yellow-orange), 'Happy Returns' (yellow) and 'Pardon Me' (red with a green throat). They need more frequent fertilizing than other perennials.

Many perennials bloom for only a brief period each year, but a number of perennials, if deadheaded and occasionally fertilized, will bloom all summer. Reliably long-blooming perennials make a surprisingly long list, points out professional gardener Debbie Herman, and include Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower, which also has white cultivars), Gaillardia puchella (blanketflower), Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower), Verbena (especially 'Homestead Purple') and two Coreopsis varieties, 'Flying Saucers' and 'Moonbeam.' Salvia farinacea (purple salvia) blooms from early summer to fall, as do Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage) and Chrysanthemum x superbum (Shasta daisy) .

Be sure to consider the size of your garden and habits of its plants. Heliopsis (yellow) and Perovskia (blue) can grow more than 5 feet tall and, like Lythrum salicaria, which is more than 4 feet tall, can be invasive. Lythrum's flower is a column of attractive bright pink or purple flowers, but be sure to get one of the seed-sterile cultivars so that it won't spread.

Several varieties of Phlox paniculata (summer phlox) bloom for a long time, but many are susceptible to mold; consult reputable garden centers. Phlox - which is white, red, magenta, lavender, salmon or pink - is an elegant and fragrant addition to the garden.

Some other perennials and shrubs that add a late-blooming punch to the garden are Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (plumbago), which is low-growing and electric blue, and Eupatorium coelestinum (hardy ageratum), which is taller than the annual ageratum and can be invasive, as can Rudbeckia fulgida (black-eyed Susan). Sedum spectabile, such as 'Autumn Joy,' is a succulent and has clusters of pink or rose flowers. Anemone x hybrida (Japanese anemone) looks like a pink or white peony. Hibiscus 'Lady Maryland' is a bright-pink member of the rose mallow family. The Hosta plantageanea and its doubled cultivar, 'Aphrodite,' have white flowers that bloom in August.

Late-blooming shrubs include Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush), which is either pink or white and needs partial shade, Hydrangea paniculata ('Pee Gee'), which has white flowers, and Caryopteris, which has clusters of small sky-blue flowers.

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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