A GROWING CONCERN: Turn up the flower power

LAST WEEK’S FIREWORKS should have bedazzled us with their colorful displays.

It is already July, our independence from spring is history and gardens are leaping forward bursting with growth and blooms.

It is precisely this rush of growth that causes me great concern — for in my rather lengthy soliloquy on insects, I have let June pass by as your annual flowers and perennials have progressed or, perhaps, digressed.

As you learned, my nickname is “the flower guy,” and it has always been my claim to fame — I can make plants bloom like crazy and arrange flowers in displays that cannot be ignored.

So when I visited a client in Agnew and saw flowers near their turning point, an alarm went off.

It is now (this week) that is a critical juncture and determines how your baskets, containers, flower beds, perennials, roses and cut flowers will look and perform for the rest of the season.


First, let’s get to your fuchsias, the world’s best natural hummingbird feeder.

Fuchsias are a temperamental plant if you want them to stay in peak bloom for months to come. A key to this is pulling off the seed pods at the base of the old, dropped down blossoms.

It also really helps to do this trick before they get big and purple. But you must always be pinching various tips so the entire plant gets this treatment every 4 to 6 weeks.

Then, as you are watering, remove old, dead and dying leaves that are beginning to look yellow and full of black spots.

Now to all your summer annuals.

It is vital that you look for the first, original flower or flower spike, and as soon as it fades, you must cut it way back, even if they are small buds and have side branches.

Dahlias, roses

I love dahlias, but they can quickly go to heck in a hand basket. If you do not remove the old spent flowers, fallen petals will rot all over your plant.

The same goes for your roses. You must deadhead and prune deep!

Old petals and blooms destroy the plant’s appearance.

Leaving dead dahlias and roses will cost you hundreds of future blooms.

In fact, now, and by now I mean that you should have really been doing this for weeks, you positively must stay up on removing all old flower blossoms.

You want blossoms until November, so not only keep them off, but also pinch back a few leaf sets here and there.

Do this now and every week. Don’t stop with pinching and deadheading either.

On each watering, I always select big old leaves to strip away.

This brings in light and air movement, which are both natural controls against insects.

Big, old leaves drain energy and use more from the plant than they put back in. Clear the way for new leaves.

Repeat performance

And remember our area’s greatest advantage as your delphiniums, lupine, coral bells, campanula, perennial alyssum, asters, thyme and other early perennial finish their blooms.

Cut them way back.

Take away all old flowers, and then cut off all leaves greater than 30 percent of mature size.

Next, cultivate up the soil, add some compost and fertilizer or new dirt.

Water the plants, then mulch lightly and water well for a few weeks.

These plants will re-bloom on the North Olympic Peninsula in September and October better than they did before.

How do you think I got to be known as “the flower guy”?


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 [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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