A GROWING CONCERN: Get twice the bang from your early blooms

IF WE TRULY are the spot to go for fabulous flowers, prolific perennials and beautiful bi-annuals, let us not waste any time learning how to grow, care and maintain them.

Not only will they bedazzle all who see them, but they will last well into October and November.

First up, prepare to butcher down to the ground your early-blooming perennials such as coral bells, delphinium, lupine, columbine, rockcress, snow on the mountain — most anything that blooms in June or before (except peonies). Maybe not butcher, more like ravage, or in correct horticultural terms, strip them down.

These perennials that bloom in June or before need, and in many cases require, certain amounts of daylight or temperatures in order to bloom.

Our months of March, April and May very much mimic our November, October and September for these factors of light and temperatures.

Then, too, never forget all living things exist to reproduce, and in essence, this will be our overriding theme of the day.

The columbine and lupine are just now finishing with their blooming bonanza. You must cut away all the flowers and must do this before all color in the old flowers have turned to brown or the petals have fallen away. However, if you only cut away all fading flowers and then “strip” away all old foliage, leaving small, quarter- or nickel-sized leaves unravaged, a spectacular event will happen. With our mild nights, plants will re-bloom again, and far better than they just have.

Now you must cultivate up the ground right after the strip-down and add a new dose of nutrients — preferably a 50/50 mix of blood meal, bone meal and then water in extremely well, if you wish this trick to succeed.

A new coating of compost over the cultivated in fertilizer around these perennials would be ideal.

Realize that, for a week or so, those small leaves, hidden below the old foliage, will burn out and the plant will generally look horrible — to the extent that you will think Andrew May must have lost his mind.

Fear not, this is the normal process to new vibrant foliage that will emerge in the following two or three weeks.

Next up are your annuals, those super-flowering bedding plants.

Coming home after a few weeks away, the very first task I did after unpacking was to visit the three gardens I had planted just prior to leaving.

One of the reasons I needed to get to them soon was to pinch out the old original flowers they came with.

We all buy that pack or pot with the flowers on them.

Well, right now, that first original marigold, dahlia or zinnia flower is dead and rotting away, buried deep in what is now the center of the plant, because it has so vigorously grown up and around that first bloom.

Be aware that if you do not go out on the search-and-destroy mission to remove all those original blooms, they will be the source of early demise for your annuals.

The rot will spread throughout the plant and the old blooms will harden off the planting, causing far less future bud development.

This is a must for all gardeners.

As for bi-annuals like pansies, violas, snapdragons or Dusty Miller’s, right about now or a week or so ago, you need scissors to cut them off.

Cut off all blooms, all buds and half the leaves. After this, cultivate, fertilize and compost and get ready for breathtaking flowers at the end of July and until December and beyond.

And finally … Water, water, water, water, water. Thoroughly saturate them 6 to 8 inches deep, and measure that to be sure.

Your plants will do far better if their roots go deep to follow the moisture.

And remember, stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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