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Whistling Gardener Blog

Succeeding with flowering cabbage and kale - by the Whistling Gardener

This is the time of year when we start selling so called “flowering” cabbage and kale as container plants for the fall and winter. When grown properly they can be very effective as winter interest annuals that will survive most northwest winters just fine.

Okay folks, here is a topic that finds gardeners either wildly enthusiastic about or totally repugnant. This is the time of year when we start selling so called “flowering” cabbage and kale as container plants for the fall and winter. When grown properly they can be very effective as winter interest annuals that will survive most northwest winters just fine. Combine them with other hardy perennials like violas, dusty miller, ornamental grasses or trailing vinca and you can have a wowzer of a container for the winter. So why is there such disdain from gardeners for these colorful plants? Here are some thoughts.

"First Week of August Pep Talk" - from the Whistling Gardener

This is it folks, the final lap of the summer gardening season when all our hard work should come to a crescendo in the form of a giant horticultural orgasm.

This is it folks, the final lap of the summer gardening season when all our hard work should come to a crescendo in the form of a giant horticultural orgasm.

August is high summer for us in the northwest and perennials should be at the height of their glory, ornamental grasses in a state of perfection, roses resplendent with color and annuals still lush and inviting.

While spring is a beautiful time of the year, summer has so much more to offer in terms of color, form and texture. The choices are almost endless and with a little planning and some consistent maintenance this seasonal climax can happen in our gardens year after year. I know, I make it sound so easy don't I?

In praise of the sun loving Sneezeweed

But as I perused our benches this morning I couldn’t help but notice the Heleniums or Sneezeweed with their festive colors of gold and red and rust and orange. They seem like very happy flowers to me, sort of like sunflowers but smaller and they are sturdier than Gallardia or Blanket flower.

As our gardens move toward their summer climax there are so many perennials in bloom that it is really hard for me to zero in on any one group of plants. Crocosmia and Penstemon and Daisies and Hyssop and Salvias to name just a few are all coming into their glory.

But as I perused our benches this morning I couldn’t help but notice the Heleniums or Sneezeweed with their festive colors of gold and red and rust and orange. They seem like very happy flowers to me, sort of like sunflowers but smaller and they are sturdier than Gallardia or Blanket flower. And there are enough variations of them that you can have some blooming now all the way into the fall.

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Heavenly hydrangeas for the hot sun

Steve Smith, the Whistling Gardener, talks about sun loving hydrangeas that are easy to grow and in stock now.

Okay, maybe “hot” sun is a bit of a stretch for the northwest but it is very much true that there are forms of hydrangeas that grow just fine in our full sun gardens and when they come into bloom they remind me of puffy clouds hence the “heavenly” part. They fall into three categories.

By far the largest group is the PeeGee hydrangea which sports a cone shaped flower (or panicle as we call it in our trade) for several months in the summer starting as early as June. They usually start out white and mature to various shades of pink. There seems to be no end to the new introductions that can vary in their height and to a lesser extent degree of “pinkness”.

What you need to know about proper watering from the Whistling Gardener

Most gardeners water too often and not deep enough. Stick your finger into the soil two inches down (if it will go that far) and see if there is any moisture. If there is then DON’T WATER YET. Wait a few more days.

Yes, I know, this column could turn out to be a real snoozer but it’s so darn important that I need you to pay attention and read it all. It could mean the difference between life and death of your plants. Let me get straight to the facts.

1. Most gardeners water too often and not deep enough. Stick your finger into the soil two inches down (if it will go that far) and see if there is any moisture. If there is then DON’T WATER YET. Wait a few more days. If it is dry then apply some water slowly so it has a chance to soak in. Here in lies the crux of the problem. Water doesn’t soak into glacial till which is what most of us have.

Soaker hose watering and how to keep plants hydrated, from the Whistling Gardener

Soaker hose watering will be the hot topic for this week after this extremely hot and humid weekend. Even if we get the cooling and possible showers they are predicting it will still be necessary to get some additional water on our gardens

"Wow, what a corker this weekend was."

I am pretty sure that I spent 90% of my weekend on the end of a hose. Of course when you are responsible for 15,000 plants it's no surprise that watering is top priority. But even in my garden I had a hose running somewhere the entire weekend. My goal was to build up a reserve of moisture in the soil to keep my plants hydrated through the next several days.

Just in case you haven't put a shovel in the soil recently, our gardens are bone dry once you dig beyond 6 inches.

Soaker hose watering will be the hot topic for this week after this extremely hot and humid weekend. Even if we get the cooling and possible showers they are predicting it will still be necessary to get some additional water on our gardens.

A few words of wisdom for the last week of June from the Whistling Gardener

As we wrap up June and move into July I can tell you unequivocally that you can continue to plant just about anything all the way through the summer and into the fall.

As we wrap up June and move into July several thoughts come to mind. First and foremost is the perennial question about planting and I can tell you unequivocally that you can continue to plant just about anything all the way through the summer and into the fall.

You can even plant corn as long as you do it in the next couple of weeks. Forget “knee high by the fourth of July." A short season corn will still ripen for us in late September if it is planted by the first week of July.

The one single trick to successful planting this time of year is to plant properly into well prepared soil and “water-in” plants correctly. This “watering-in” step is where most home owners screw up.

The season has just begun

The Whistling Gardener talks about some of his favorite perennials coming into bloom this month. Any planting you do this month is going to grow and bloom and be wonderful for 90-100 days.

I find it interesting that every year about this time I start to panic and find myself feeling like I have run out of time to plant any more flowers or veggies or whatever. “What’s the point?” I say to myself, by the time they get established the season will be over.

Then I stop and do the math and realize that first of all, it isn’t even summer yet (Friday the 21st is the official first day of summer, the longest day of the year for us) and as we all know summer doesn’t really start until July 5th in the northwest (after we get soaked watching fireworks on the 4th) and finally, the truth is that the months of August and September are when we usually get our best summer weather.

So, if you add that all up it means that any planting I do this month is going to grow and bloom and be wonderful for 90-100 days and that is plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. So get planting!

Time to get "Crabby"

Breeders have done wonders with flowering crabapples so that nowadays there are many varieties to choose from that have nice form, attractive leaves, beautiful flowers and best of all, disease resistance.

Spring in the northwest is often described by what flowering trees happen to be in bloom. For example, “Cherry blossom time” is a familiar term used here as well as all the way on the other coast at our nation’s capitol. We think of Dogwoods as always blooming around Mother’s Day (although the Korean Dogwoods usually bloom around Father’s Day). The ubiquitous purple-leafed flowering plums are always the first trees to bloom in spring, coloring up in early to mid March in a cloud of pink that reminds me of a giant mass of cotton candy. Blooming simultaneously with the cherries are the flowering pears and the Magnolias (often called Tulip Trees). But now that the cherries are about finished (except for a couple varieties) and before the dogwoods open up there are the underutilized crabapples and oh can they be beautiful.

Historically, crabapples have had their issues, the same kind of issues the we find on our fruiting apple trees, namely, diseases like scab and mildew and often as not by the end of summer they could be almost completely defoliated (just like scarlet hawthorns but that is a topic for another column). Over time breeders have done wonders with flowering crabapples so that nowadays there are many varieties to choose from that have nice form, attractive leaves, beautiful flowers (most with fragrance) and best of all, disease resistance.

The Whistling Gardener: "Good Monday Morning"

What a fabulous weekend. Hope you all made time to work in the yard, getting the lawn mowed and the weeds pulled and the beds prepped to plant all the summer jewels that await you at the garden center.

What a fabulous weekend. Hope you all made time to work in the yard, getting the lawn mowed and the weeds pulled and the beds prepped to plant all the summer jewels that await you at the garden center. This is the month to turn our yards into gardens and summer retreats. Be it flowers or veggies or berries or fruit trees or major landscaping projects, this is the month to get with the program. Call in sick if you need to but find time to whip things into shape.

The Whistling Gardener's Column - Cannas, Bananas and Palms Oh My!

Now that it is almost June it is time to watch out for the bold foliaged, outrageous textured and just plain out-of-context plants that make people’s heads spin and do a double take when they see them.

Now that it is almost June it is time to watch out for the drama queens of the garden. These are the bold foliaged, outrageous textured and just plain out-of-context plants that make people’s heads spin and do a double take when they see them in a northwest garden. They are a big part of creating drama and excitement in our gardens and in my book are indispensable in my summer designs. They are the “thrillers” in the “thriller, filler and spiller combinations” that make any arrangement successful.

There is no fun in playing it safe when it comes to garden design. Pushing the envelope and moving out of our comfort zones is what keeps me interested in gardening. And when it comes to plants, anytime I can find a plant that is so totally different I simply have to find a way to use it in my garden. If it is a hardy plant I will usually work it into one of my beds and if it is tender then it goes into a container that can be moved into a protected area for winter or just tossed out at the end of the season.

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