The end of May is time to check the roses for aphids, plant more vegetables seeds and transplants, and continue to add annuals, perennials and shrubs to the landscape.
If you have not yet fertilized or reseeded your lawn, this is your last chance before the soil begins to dry out with warmer weather. If you want to improve the look of your lawn without fertilizing or adding new seed, you can fool the eye by edging the lawn with a sharp half moon spade or a power edger. A clean edge makes the entire landscape look tidy.
Then make sure your mower blades are very sharp. When a ho-hum lawn is cut with a sharp mower, the clean cut leaves the grass blades green and crisp. A dull mower will tear the blades, and the lawn will appear more ragged with a browning of the grass tips.
Q. I took a start of a hollyhock from my grandmother’s garden last fall, and it is not blooming, but the hollyhock in my grandmother’s garden are blooming now. I did plant the young plant in full sun and I have good soil. What did I do wrong? G.B., Sumner
A. Your only fault is impatience. Hollyhock, althea and foxgloves are all biennial perennial plants, which means it takes them two years to grow to flowering size. This year, your hollyhock will grow short and chubby. Next summer it will send up dramatic spikes of bloom. Meanwhile, pluck off any low growing leaves that have brown spots. This will help prevent Hollyhock rust disease, a common problem in rainy Western Washington.
Q. How long can my Japanese maple live in a pot? How long can my hosta live in a pot? T.P., email
A. Plants can be pot-bound for many years, and the exact amount of time depends on the size of the container, type of plant and care the potted plant receives. Plants in pots need more water in the summer and some fertilizer every spring.
In a large container the size of half a whiskey barrel, a Japanese maple may thrive for 10 years or more without repotting. A fresh layer of compost over the top of the soil each June will keep the soil cool in the summer. Hosta can adapt to crowded roots in a container for many years as well. Extra water in the summer keeps any potted plant happy. On my patio I am told just when it is time to repot hosta, trees and shrubs that I have in pots: Either the plant begins to decline in health with roots protruding from the drainage holes or I wake up one day to find the pot split in half and the happy hosta stretching out with relief. Best to move plants to larger pots before they explode.
Q. My husband insists we landscape our new home with edible plants. Fine for the backyard, but what do you suggest for the front and more formal areas of a landscape? T., Renton
A. Edible landscape is the topic of a seminar I will be giving this June (details at binettigarden.com), but some of the easiest and healthiest plants to grow in our climate are blueberries.
There are dwarf blueberries such as “Top Hat” that do well in containers, blueberries with attractive foliage called “Bountiful Blue” and blueberries to use as living screens and hedges. Blueberries love our native acid soil, and unlike most berries, can adapt to shaded areas.
Native plants such as Oregon Grape Mahonia, evergreen huckleberry, Kinnikinick and salal are other evergreens with edible berries and attractive foliage than can be used for landscaping. You may not find the berries of all these native plants so tasty yourself, but plant them to feed the birds and to help our native pollinators survive.
You can line beds with the feathery foliage of carrots and lettuce, decorate with great balls of cabbage and spikes of tall artichoke and fill containers with the colorful leaves of Rainbow Swiss Chard and edible herbs. Any landscape can become beautiful to look at and good enough to eat.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.