We are two-thirds of the way through summer, maybe in late September cooler nights and maybe mornings will begin to creep into our area. Our community received rain last weekend and perked everything up.
Weeds are growing magnificently; towers of morning glory vines twirl around each other and reach up to larger plants for support, they can totally smother out the support plant.
Goldenrod is growing tall, preparing for fall bloom. Autumn ageratum, Eupatorium rugosum, the fall-flowering, blue floss-flower grows along fields, ditches and dry roadside banks and produces clusters of pretty blue flowers scattered over the tops of the perennial plants.
Many fence rows are topped by an annual vine that produces pretty flowers, small bright red trumpets that are loved by hummingbirds. The vines have recently started blooming and are already setting seed. They produce a prodigious amount of seed always insuring there will be an abundant crop of the vines next year. Cardinal vines are friendly to other pollinators also.
This is a good time of the season to take cuttings from shrubs to root. Hydrangeas are beautiful shrubs that usually root easily.
Don’t expect every cutting to survive. Cut a four-inch stem at the tip of growth, remove all lower leaves, cut the growing tip off the cutting, leaving about a three-inch cutting with two to three leaves at the top. Dip cutting base in rooting hormone if desired, place in damp soil, keep damp and shaded for a month, then check to see if cuttings are starting to grow.
If able gently spray cuttings often with mist from your hose. Nurseries build spray houses where plants are misted at timed intervals through the day.
Many shrubs can be reproduced this way: Bride’s wreath, azaleas, camellias, deutzia, gardenias, roses, boxwoods, aucuba, jacobina, hibiscus and many more cuttings taken now will root from the semi-soft or semi-green wood on shrubs at this stage of their growth. If the cutting has large leaves that will lose a lot of water, cut the leaves in half to decrease the demand on the cutting.
Check on Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus; they have sat unnoticed all spring and summer, now they will begin to prepare to bloom when winter days will be at their shortest. Add fresh soil to replace what may have washed out through summer, begin to feed every two weeks to make a strong plant.
In October, you can switch to a bloom buster formula with a high middle number, phosphorus, which boosts flowering in mature plants and root growth in seedlings and transplants.
The Garden Center will be holding a Christmas Flower Show in early December, if you have plants that look good at that time, you might want to keep the flower show in mind and keep the plants well groomed, fed and watered. More information closer to the date.
Keep blooming flowers deadheaded to keep new blooms coming as the plant will know it has not made seed yet and will keep trying.
After perennial flowers complete their bloom cycle; trim away dead or woody stems and maybe a light trim all over, feed and let it recover from the energy-loss used to flower, so it will be ready next year to bloom again.
Summer phlox, Phlox paniculata, is beautiful with their tall stems of foliage topped by large clusters of small flowers that almost form a sphere there are so many flowers. Butterflies, moths and hummingbirds like phlox due to the many nectar-producing flowers so close together.
Phlox are perennial, long-lived and have few pests. They may develop mildew in hot dry weather, especially if they are not getting good air flow. A baking soda and water spray will kill mildew if noticed in early stages. They slowly spread over time, but they are not invasive.
A lilac-purple color is very common and white is available. Different colors can be ordered from nurseries, but I have never had any luck with the blue or pink ones, they just died off the second year.
This year I cut one bed back to three feet or below, about June, to see if they would flower as well as the ones not pruned. The cut ones have bloomed as well as the uncut area and have not blown over in wind or rain.
I also whacked back swamp flower, Helianthus gigantea, as they will grow to 12 feet or over and fall over on lower plants, smothering them while waiting for their bloom time to arrive. The swamp sunflower is already head-high again so the pruning just seemed to stimulate them.
These plants can be invasive and spread by aggressive under-ground stolens, so never plant them near flower beds or anywhere they can’t be controlled. They are great for naturalizing in a spot away from your gardens, but where their bright yellow daisy-like flowers can be enjoyed.
I am out of space and want to share a photo of phlox. See you next week.
Susan Grooms is a Lowndes County resident.