By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Petunia was complaining to Bunkey about how boring the flowerbeds were looking. 

The mums hadn’t started blooming, the phlox were done, some of the lilies hadn’t had their spent blooms cut off and the only thing showing much color were the annuals scattered here and there. She was right, he decided, it did look not only boring but messy. How are yours looking?

If your flowers are looking a bit dull, messy and tired, this is the perfect time to do something about it. Is that phlox taking over it’s corner? Or maybe you decide you just aren’t in love with it anymore. 

Dig it out, thin it out, move it to a better spot or just get it out of the garden altogether. Maybe another gardening friend would like a clump for their garden. If you have a wildflower garden, put a chunk in that. Bunkey’s neighbor down the street did that and there are now bits of the phlox popping up in small clumps all over it. Looks quite striking.

Now about those irises that have just outgrown their spots. The garden police won’t come after you if you just thin them and put the rest in the trash. Now is the time to move them around to improve the color combinations. They do better and bloom larger if they are thinned about every 3 to 5 years.

If you are lacking color, hie thee to the nearest nursery. They have blooming perennials now. Spring is a nice time to plant as the temperatures are usually cooler but in fall, the perennials are in full bloom. You can see which plant it the best color for your taste. And as they are fully grown, you can see how tall and generally, how wide they are. 

Do pay attention to the labels on the pot. If it says “easy to grow” it may mean the stinker grows like Topsy and out grows its spot in 2 years. Ask questions. The people who grow these plants know their bad habits if they have any. Some, like the purple cone flower loves family so much she throws her seeds all over the garden and soon you have dozens of her babies popping up in the middle of an iris clump, under a lily, in the grass; she is not a good neighbor.

If your soil is not the best, when you plant a new plant, you may need to amend the soil for best results. Bags of garden soil and compost are usually cheaper this time of year. Mix them half and half in the planting hole, pop in the new plant and water well.

Do water at least an inch a week in the garden, on the lawn and around your mature trees. 

The hot dry winds can wreak havoc on any growing tree or plant if we don’t get rain each week. Yes, big trees need to be watered too. Hot dry winds pull moisture from the leaves, the more leaves the more moisture loss. The roots of a tree are only about 18 inches deep and a third wider than the drip line so don’t just water around the trunk.

Don’t be in a hurry to dead head annuals you like. Let a few of them go to seed. You will get free plants next summer. If you don’t particularly like that idea, deadhead like mad as this will keep the annuals in full bloom till frost. Do deadhead perennials as leaving seed heads reduce the flowers next year. The plant wants to set seeds, you want flowers. You are bigger, deadhead! Plant now, enjoy now and next year.