Summer in the flower garden


Standing by a spectacular bed of lilies near his front door, a friend said “This year my garden is finally everything I want it to be.”

What an enviable satisfaction! Most of us have not achieved it, but still, we find pleasure among our imperfect but glorious plantings of Shasta daisies, honeysuckle, hydrangeas, snapdragons, crocosmia and whatever else is blooming now.

The glory of summer is here, and birds, bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are celebrating along with us. In every garden, there’s a party going on from dawn to dusk.

As the hosts of these garden parties, we can pour ourselves a glass of whatever pairs well with flowers, and sit down and enjoy the revelry.

But while we’re doing that, most of us are inevitably thinking about what we might do differently or better next year, so that we too, can say what my friend said.

Here are some ideas:

  • Shearing off the top third of some perennials in early June is a simple way to keep them from getting so tall they need to be staked up so they don’t fall over. This encourages them to send up many side branches, making them shorter and bushier, and bonus! – producing more flowers, just a bit later than they otherwise would. Here’s a list of plants that would benefit from this. There are some on this list that I will add to my June pruning next year, and probably other candidates not on the list.

With annuals, the more common way to get full, bushy plants and lots of flowers is to pinch out the tops of individual plants when they’re young to promote the growth of side branches.

  • Don’t over-fertilize. Too much fertilizer has made my Japanese anemones – a plant that does not lend itself to shearing – so tall that there is no option of staking. Save 98 percent of that manure for the vegetable garden.
  • Stake or provide other supports to plants that need them before they fall over. There is an endless quest for supports that are both effective and invisible. Wire tomato cages can be cut down and used to corral some plants, like Cupid’s Dart or yarrow. The green bamboo stakes sold in garden stores and departments, along with green twine, can blend in pretty well too. Old rusty chicken wire is even better.

These underwire bras for plants need to be installed early, and they often look dorky until plants grow into them. If you have a solution to this problem, the world wants to hear about it.

  • Snip off faded flowers. (Many people call this deadheading – an unpleasant term, if you ask me.) This is super effective at promoting more flowers and lengthening the time most flowers bloom. It takes patience, though, and we all have finite amounts of that.
  • While you’re sipping that beverage, sit down and look at your flowers as if you are looking at a painting. What do you think of your living composition? Do the forms, colors and textures provide the contrasts and/or harmony that satisfies you?

These questions should be asked and answered without triggering feelings of failure or inadequacy; they are merely fodder for thought about our own evolution as gardeners, our shifting tastes, and the growing habits of our plants.

Another question we all should ask ourselves is whether we’re overcommitted, and endlessly frustrated because we can’t keep up. Most of us work, have family obligations and other commitments. We may want to simplify our gardens.

Or, given that the average American spends two hours and six minutes per day on social media, we may want to reconsider how we spend our time.

If the average American spent two hours and six minutes per day gardening, in summer our communities would be idylls of beauty and fragrance, and more of us would be able to say our gardens are everything we want them to be.

Jill Severn writes from her home in Olympia, where she grows vegetables, flowers, and a small flock of chickens. She loves conversation among gardeners. Start one by emailing her at  jill@theJOLTnews.com 


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  • Terrilovesanimals

    Thank you! And I agree! It is so much nicer to get out and enjoy the flowers and other plants than sitting at a computer or iPad on social media. Caring for them is quite fun!

    Wednesday, July 19, 2023 Report this