Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Preparing the Garden for Summer

Ornamental Onion, or Allium, is ideal for any garden --
undemanding, hardy and comes in a variety of sizes and colors. 

This time of year a fair amount of my free time is spent working outside.  Our gardens, both in the city and by the beach, become outdoor rooms, frequently used for socializing, entertaining and easy living.  So designing these spaces artfully is as important to me as accessorizing my living room; and by the beach particularly, when all the doors are wide open, the two need to seamlessly and harmoniously blend together. Thus, I need to constantly re-tool and update the composition of my gardens as the season progresses.

In New York City, our springtime plants --  tulips, narcissus, squills, helleborus, etc.  -- have ended their flowering cycles. Time to re-tool! Caring for these plants, at this point, is as important as when the bulbs were first planted in the fall.

Narcissus (daffodils) are known to be fairly fool-proof plants -- they don't get eaten by squirrels, they produce large amounts of flowers year after year, and there isn't much to be done to them.  Well, with one exception -- once the flowering has finished on these hearty plants and the leaves look droopy and yellowed, they should be carefully clumped and knotted (see simple instructions below).  This serves two purposes.  One: it allows the energy from the plant to refocus back into the bulb in the ground; two:  it allows other plants in the garden to use the space for their own flowering and propagation.

Here is how it is done:

Simply take all the leaves from one post-flowered bulb in one hand (above) and fold over:

Once folded (above), use the top portion to form a knot around the fold (below).  

For my modest garden in the city, it took less than an hour to perform this task.  In another month, I won't even be able to see any evidence of these bulbs.  But, if you don't have the time or stamina to clump and knot these leaves, when planting your bulbs in the fall, consider placing them close to large leafy annuals and perennials that mature in early summer.  Interplant them with  your Ornamental ginger or hosta.  The large leaves of these summer plants will hide those of the spring bulbs. 

Some other things to remember when gardening: 

Shrubs which flower in the spring should also be pruned in the early summer. Pruning your shrubs promotes vigour and keeps plants within manageable sizes. 

Fertilize your plants, in the late spring/early summer, and try to use organic natural products, especially if children use the garden.  Your plants will flower longer and look healthier all summer. 

Over time,  bulbs, such as narcissus, that self-propagate new albeit smaller bulbs, can be dug up, divided and replanted. In general, plants that bloom in the spring should be divided in the fall (when they are dormant) and fall bloomers in the spring.  More on that later. 

If you happen to pass a yard sale of someone who maintains a respectable garden, stop by! Strike up a conversation and be sure to compliment the garden. You will learn valuable tips about what grows well in your area, where the best places to shop are located and you may even walk away with a few clippings. Gardeners inevitably love to talk about their gardens and always enjoy praise for all their hard work! 

Our daughter enjoying the freshly flowering phlox.
With any luck,  she will grow to share our dedication to the garden, to design and to good food.

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