Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
August, 2006
Regional Report

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Lupines are easy to start from seed collected from your favorite plants. Or let the plants do the work for you and just transplant the seedlings.

Making More of a Good Thing

The arrival of spring is an exciting time for gardeners (ok, sometimes frenetic) because it's a time for starting anew -- new gardens, new plants, new hopes and dreams. Then the summer rolls along and we slide into maintenance mode, which, frankly, can be boring. We feel let down, not energized. But our gardens hold lots of opportunities for nurturing new things to life all summer long, we don't have to wait until next year to feel the spring high again. There's propagation potential everywhere you look, and it might even help ease the spring planting frenzy to get a head start now.

Collect Perennial Seeds
Some early-blooming perennials, such as lupines, columbines, and delphiniums, have finished their first flush of blooms and are forming seedpods. This is a good time to think about propagating your favorites. Instead of deadheading all flowers, leave some to form seedpods, and when they turn dark and dry, shake each pod into a paper bag and label it. You can plant the seeds in an empty garden bed now, and then transplant them to their permanent (as if there is such a thing!) location in spring. Or store the seed until late winter and sow it indoors.

For biennials, such as hollyhocks and foxgloves, sowing the seeds outdoors now will assure that they are mature enough to bloom next year.

Collect Annual Seeds
Many annuals will do you the favor of self-sowing in your gardens, but you can help them along and choose where to feature them. Snapdragons and pansies come up every year at the edge of my patio, and if I transplant them in summer, they will freely seed into a new area. You can also collect seed from larkspur, cleome, Verbena bonariensis ,nicotiana, cosmos, gloriosa daisy, and (Rudbeckia hirta, among others.

Relocate Seedlings
The foliage of Oriental poppies is dying back after flowering, but before you lose track of them, check around the clumps and you may find new seedlings that you can transplant to new locations. Like most perennials, they are most showy when planted in drifts, so move several seedlings from the same plant to the same garden bed.

Take Advantage of Wild Visitors
Tall, white wild asters and Queen Anne's lace have self-seeded into the midst of other perennials, and while I appreciate their efforts, I'd like them better elsewhere. I'll remove the flower stalks and transplant them to a place that will showcase their graceful flowers next summer.

Try Stem Layering
Propagate your favorite roses, spireas, forsythias, and other shrubs with flexible branches by bending a branch along the ground and removing the leaves around a node that touches the soil. Loosen the soil in that spot and add some peat moss. Cut a tiny slit in the stem just below the node and insert a toothpick to keep it open. Dust the opening with rooting hormone powder, then lay the wound onto the soil and top it with more peat moss and soil mixture. Hold the stem down with a rock, and keep the soil moist. When roots have formed around the wound, cut the stem from the mother plant and move it to a garden bed where it has room to grow for a year or two until it's big enough to live amongst more established plantings.

Plan for Dividing Perennials
If you have many daylilies that are due for dividing in the fall, make note of the flower colors now while they are in bloom, so you know where to show them off to best advantage. Mark each plant with a stake designating the color or make a diagram with the locations of the plants and their colors specified.

These ideas are not meant to make the gardener who's earned some down time feel like a slouch. But if you need an excuse not to do the dinner dishes, better get to work!

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