The third week of July is when perennial gardeners can cut back early blooming Shasta daisies, delphiniums and other plants to renew them for a second flush of flowers later in the season.
Garden cleanup begins this month for many plants as flowers fade and new growth begins to block pathways or shade neighboring plants. Keep a pair of kitchen scissors handy to use when deadheading flowers and getting snippy with overly ambitions growers.
Q. Help! We are having a small wedding here in August and my garden beds need some color. What plants can I buy now that will be blooming in the heat of summer? I do not need more shrubs, so no hydrangeas. I do not want to buy containers and potting soil so don’t suggest I put things in pots. I want to add flowers to the empty spaces in my beds. The color does not matter, but most of my open areas are in the sun. P.K., Kent
A. Help is on the way. Dig in some compost and loosen the soil to a depth of twelve inches. Now add dahlias for bright blooms that continue late in the summer.
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You can find annual dahlias in flower now more easily than the dahlia tubers that are planted in early summer. The annual dahlias are shorter but just as colorful. Some nurseries will also have sunflowers and chrysanthemums that are potted in plastic containers at the nursery but can be transplanted out of their pots and transferred to your garden bed. Just avoid buying root bound annual plants in small containers as these will be difficult to transplant.
To make the transplant operation less painful do the dirty deed in the evening before a cloudy day and keep the soil moist as the plant recovers. Remove spent flowers and fertilize regularly to keep the flowers coming all summer. May the happy couple bloom and grow.
Q. My fuchsia basket has stopped blooming. Please advise me. P.C., Olympia
A. My best guess given this limited information is that your fuchsia basket became too hot or you allowed the soil to dry out. Fuchsia baskets are shade loving containers that also require a lot of water.
You must also remove the spend blossoms and the berry or green knob right behind the dangling blossoms to keep your fuchsias from going to seed. Give your fuchsia basket a new lease on a more colorful life by placing it in a shaded location and cutting back the bloomless branches by one half. Fertilize at least every week with a liquid plant food and you should have new growth soon followed by buds and blooms.
Q. This year we took a trip to Europe. I observed a very exotic looking and tall flower in the back of garden beds that I have found out is called “spider flower.” Can we grow it here and what does it need to do well? T.G. email
A. Yes, spider flower or Cleome hassleriana does well in sunny gardens in Western Washington although it does prefer a hot and dry summer. It comes in pink and white and grows 4-to-6 feet tall with unusual, long, protruding petals that give it the spider name.
This annual is most often grown from seed started in the spring, but local nurseries will carry young plants as well. In dry areas the spider flower will self seed, sometimes a bit too enthusiastically. You can use the height of the plants to create garden walls and act as background plants for roses and other summer blooming flowers.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her through her website at binettigarden.com or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022.