A GROWING CONCERN: Late spring tips for the best blooming garden

WOW, IT WAS actually a little chilly earlier this week. But as the sun came out and temperatures rose, work outside in the garden was pleasant!

May just keeps rolling on with Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer happening this weekend.

With barbecues being cleaned, the boat and kayaks cleaned, life jackets out and ready, and your garden in full swing, outdoor living begins here in earnest this coming month.

Because the good times are ready to roll, I wanted to let all my fellow gardeners know how I roll out in the yard, and thus share with you some of my best gardening tricks of late spring.

1. Pinch and double pinch.

I know so many people who really adore autumn flowering perennials, but really do not like the tall, dropped over and ugly fall mums, fall asters and late blooming sedum.

Well, worry not!

There is a simple trick that not only cures all the above listed ills, but greatly improves their flower power — pinch and then double pinch.

Right now (even if they are 12 inches tall) go out and pinch back (cut down and prune) your fall mums, sedums and asters to a height of 4 to 6 inches.

This pinch will do two things: First, it will drastically decrease their height. Pinching these plants reduces their length by 50 percent or more so no more tall spindly, drooped-over plants. Second, it will increase the amount of flower buds by 200 percent or more (actually much more).

And if before July 4, you cut them back again to a height of 6 to 8 inches, you will more than double the flower again (yes, really).

The double pinch turns them into a thick pin cushion of flowers on a beautifully mounded plant

It is a win-win.

2. Deal with your dahlias.

First and foremost, go get dahlias if you do not have any, because they will be the most amazing and acclaimed plant in your yard come September and October. Second, pinch them, thin and cage them up.

By pinching, again you thicken up the plant and more than double the flower power over its season.

To pinch, just take out the tip or top inch of the dahlias individual plant stocks.

Next, thin the multitude of stalks coming out of the ground to 5, 6 or 7 shoots.

This keeps the plant from becoming herbaceous and forces blooms.

Do this all season long as new shoots emerge every week.

Finally, and while they are still small, get a tomato cage (they come in nifty colors) and put the cage over the dahlias or come late summer, their sheer size will collapse them into themselves.

Please, everyone get some dahlias!

3. Butcher your early perennials.

Here is my best advice to you and a trick that only works in a few places around the world.

Your perennials, such as asters, daisies, lupins, delphiniums, columbine and campanula will bloom again in the fall if, and only if, you cut those plants down to just a few inches high right as they finish blooming.

Once cut, strip away all leaves larger than a quarter.

Yes, you heard me right.

They will bloom again this year even better than they did now!

Please try this trick at home, then send me some photos come September.

4. De-anther your lilies.

Lilies are another gorgeous plant here on the Peninsula and with early Asiatic, good season Orientals and late season trumpet lilies, they will bloom here in the Olympics from late May until September/October.

But the flowers, alas, only persist for a few short days and are stained very soon after opening by the pollen inside their blooms on the stamens.

Fear not, because a simple trick solves both problems. By reaching into the flower as soon as the bloom opens and pulling out the elongated orange stamens, the flower will last twice as long and look three times better.

Got it?

Last longer, better — so how can you not perform this trick?

There you go, great late spring tricks that greatly improve your yard’s appearance for months to come.

So clip this out and put it on the refrigerator, keeping the tricks going until the Fourth of July.

Now everyone go out and enjoy the backyard grilling, beach, your family and friends, and let the summer begin, because it only comes around once a year.

And … stay well!


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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