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With careful planning, you can keep color in garden until first frost

Sun., Aug. 15, 2010

In spring and early summer, gardeners enjoy a profusion of bloom throughout their landscapes. By midsummer, however, the irises, poppies, daisies, lupines and peonies are but a sweet memory.

Unless you’ve done some careful planning, chances are the color in your garden is slowly fading away.

What’s a gardener to do? Master Gardener and local flower guru Maralee Karwoski knows what it takes to extend the bloom through the whole season.

“I give myself little ‘time-outs’ in the garden,” she explains. “I actually sit out in different areas of my landscape with my laptop and take notes. This really helps me take a critical look and see the spots where some mid- or late-season color could perk things up.”

Karwoski finds computer logs and a digital camera to be ideal tools for planning the colors in her garden. She prints photos of her flower beds and brings them along to garden centers so she can make good choices.

Keeping a garden journal is another way to keep track of what’s happening in your garden throughout the season.

Perennials are the most economical solution because they come up year after year. While Karwoski notes that many of them are only in bloom for a couple of weeks, some plants bloom for a long time.

“The geranium ‘Rozanne’ is just like the Energizer Bunny of perennials: she blooms from May until frost,” Karwoski says.

Her other favorites include the upright sedums, ornamental oreganos, helenium (sneezeweed) and reblooming daylilies (Hemerocallis) like ‘Happy Returns,’ ‘Rosy Returns,’ ‘Pardon Me’ and ‘Purple d’Oro.’

In addition to choosing long-blooming perennials, plants that have eye-catching foliage will provide color and interest in the landscape.

“Euphorbia ‘Bonfire’ is a great one,” Karwoski suggests. “The chartreuse blooms open in spring but the leaves stay purple, red, orange and chartreuse all summer. Then they turn a stunning red, yellow and peach in the fall.

“Some of the other late-season queens in my landscape include Agastache (Hummingbird Mint), Asters, Cimicifuga (Bugbane), Joe Pye Weed, Liatris (Gay Feather), Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan), Japanese Anemone and Caryopteris (Bluebeard),” she says.

Growing annuals – plants that only live for one growing season – is another way to extend the bloom. Plants like Calibrachoa (Million Bells), Browallia (Amethyst Flower), zinnia, coleus, verbena and lantana will bloom from now until the end of the season.

One of Karwoski ‘s favorites is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’).

“Although it’s grown as an annual in Spokane, it’s one of the best bargains around,” she says. “Plant them in pots and wait for the show in late summer and early fall when they throw out their fancy, feathery seedheads.”

Karwoski also recommends tropical plants like Canna lilies and Kangaroo Apple (Solanum laciniatum).

Whether you grow annuals or perennials, one last trick to keep in mind is to remove spent flowers on a regular basis if you have the time. This can prolong the bloom time by helping a plant use its energy on putting out more flowers rather than ripening the seeds in the old flowers.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at inthegarden@live.com. Visit her blog at susansinthegarden.blogspot.com for more gardening information and tips.


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