Marianne Binetti

Cheer up landscape with fancy foliage

The start of the summer season might mean your landscaping is looking a bit dull.

With the end of the spring rhododendron and azalea season, it may be time to add more flash and foliage to the garden.

Summer-long color from fancy foliage is an easy way to add more drama without more drinking. Barberries, Sambucus and golden-tipped evergreen shrubs are just a few of the choice plants that are anything but green. Scan the local nurseries for other trees and shrubs with dramatic and different foliage.

In the vegetable garden right now, be sure to provide plant supports for climbing and vining plants before they need it. You can make a sturdy tee pee from long lengths of rebar that can provide room for tall beans and peas.

Here are a few questions from readers.

Q: After rhododendrons bloom must I remove all the faded flowers? J. Email

A: No. it will not harm a rhododendron to let it go natural and leave the blooms. Snapping off the faded blooms will tidy up the shrub. If you break off the new growth candles, or leaf shoots, that pop up on the sides of the spent flower trusses, you will be pruning at the same time and creating a more compact and shrubby rhododendron.

Removing spent flowers will force the rhodies to put more energy into root and leaf production so many gardeners pamper their rhododendrons by deadheading when they are young and the flowers are easily reached. A light bamboo rake can be used to claw off the highest blooms and new growth candles from taller shrubs.

Q: I had some lovely leafy Swiss chard growing in my garden and was harvesting a few leaves at a time. Then a few weeks ago all my Swiss chard plants grew very tall and started to bloom and now the leaves do not taste the same. What happened? L.P., Olympia

A: Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, kale and chard will bolt or go to seed when the weather turns warm or if they are fed with a rose and flower type food that is high in potassium and phosphorous.

Most vegetables prefer a fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen. Fertilizers made for flowers and roses have less nitrogen. You can replant your leaf crops in early fall when the nights begin to grow cool and enjoy a second harvest. Or, grow Swiss chard in a cool and partly-shaded location as part of your landscape. You can grow it either in the center of mixed containers or as a border next to the lawn.

Q: We have a rose plant with lovely yellow blooms but a new shoot has appeared that is longer and stronger than the other branches. I think our rose plant is trying to change into a climbing rose and I would like to let this shoot continue to grow and train it over a trellis. My wife insists I cut it out. We would like your opinion. B.N., Email

A: Cut it out. Your yellow rose is experiencing a hostile takeover by a runner or sucker that is originating from the root stock. All hybrid roses are grafted to hardy roots from a wild rose to make them more cold hardy and it is this wild rose from below that is making its move to dominate the yellow rose top graft.

To keep this wild branch from coming back, dig down until you see where the sucker meets the root stalks and pull or tear it away so that you remove more of the eye, or point of growth.

Q: When and how do I prune lavender? S., email

A: Pruning after blooming is the general rule of green thumb, and so when your lavender plants have finished flowering you can use scissors or clippers to shape the soft new growth into tidy mounds.

Using scissors will help prevent cutting into woody old growth on the plants. Pruning lavender is a lovely, fragrant experience and because the scent of lavender is calming, be warned that you might find yourself taking a nap in the garden halfway through the job. When you wake up, collect the pruning crumbs, stuff them into a cloth bag, and place with your sheets and pillowcases.