Marianne Binetti: Time to clean up spring foliage
Is your garden looking a bit ragged? The end of June is when most of the foliage from spring-blooming bulbs can be removed to tidy up the beds. Wait until the daffodil, tulip or hyacinth greens have either turned brown or when the clump of leaves pulls away easily from the buried bulbs with just a slight tug.
The dying foliage is sending nourishment to next spring’s flowers.
What else do you need to do in the garden this month? Here’s your to-do list, as well as some tips for keeping fresh-cut flowers alive longer:
• Stake your tomatoes: This is also a good week to stake your tomato plants before the stems become heavy with fruit. Strips of cloth or nylon stockings make great ties for the succulent tomato stems.
• Get trimming: June is also the month to trim evergreen hedges such as boxwood, arborvitae and laurel. When trimming large hedges, be sure you leave the top of the hedge slightly more narrow than the bottom. This shape will allow rain water and sunshine to reach the root zone of the hedge.
• Buy your flowers: You can buy locally-grown blooms at farmers markets, food co-ops or from flower stands along the side of country roads.
• Get reading: A new book by Seattle author Debra Prinzing celebrates the beauty and designs of buying locally grown cut flowers.
“The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers” is a richly photographed book that profiles the flower farmers of our area and interviews studio floral designers and retail flower shops that focus on using local blooms in their designs. You’ll meet a bride who uses fresh dahlias to create contemporary hand-held bouquets in jewel-toned colors – accented with dusty blue succulents. Also profiled is a flower-farming couple who grows the cut tulips and lilac blooms sought after at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. You‘ll also find the story of the tenacious Peterkort family, who has been growing roses in Portland for three generations – and are now the last rose farmers in Oregon.
Designers, gardeners and flower lovers will enjoy the photographs and stories, but everyone will be inspired to support our local flower growers and bring more joy and beauty inside from the garden. I could not finish flipping the pages of this book without running outdoors and collecting a free-form bouquet of everything in bloom from my garden. It took me back to my early days working for a florist and these tips I learned about cut flowers:
Cut early: Cut flowers from your garden in the morning if possible as this is when they will be most full of moisture.
Water treatment: Bring a bucket or vase out into the garden with you so the cut stems can be plunged immediately into water. A plastic wastebasket makes a great receptacle for cut flowers because its sturdy form makes it less likely to tip over when set down amidst the flowers.
Storage: Once indoors allow the cut stems to absorb more water by storing them in a cool, dimly lit room away from sunlight. If you have cut flowers for a special event and want to keep them from fully opening, you can wrap some blooms such as tulips and peonies in plastic bags and store them on their sides without water in your refrigerator.
Vases: Be creative when it comes to choosing vases for your cut flowers. A silver baby cup filled with the short stems of mini-roses or a china teapot holding petunias and marigolds will add more flavor to your flowers than a recycled florist’s vase.
Cut the stems: Recut fleshy stems with a sharp knife at an angle before you add them to the vase. Woody stems like those on lilacs will absorb water faster and last longer if you whittle the stem. This means to scrape the brown bark from the bottom few inches of the cut stem.
Floating flowers: Float short-stemmed flowers such as hellebores, clematis and begonias in bowls of water, or use them to decorate your garden by floating them in your outdoor rain barrel, bird bath or water fountain.
Outside: Enjoy cut flowers outdoors as well as indoors. A bouquet kept in the shade on a patio table or displayed near the front door in a wall hung vase will be a delightful surprise and the cool nights help them last much longer than indoor arrangements.
Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and will answer questions at her website binettigarden.com