Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
July, 2001
Regional Report

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Perennial sweet peas are a great vining plant, but they can quickly become a problem, consuming other plants, if left unchecked in your garden.

Garden Walkabout

I enjoy strolling through the garden early in the morning when it's still cool and the sunlight is gentle. The pastel flowers glow in the soft morning light and I can examine my plantings without squinting (or sweating) during the brighter and hotter times of the day. I linger and feast my eyes on the best floral effects and combinations. I also take note of plants that need to be divided or transplanted this fall and evaluate new plants to see how they are coming along.

Design Alterations

During my little tours, I occasionally notice plantings I could move, remove, or replace for a more pleasing effect. My quiet walkabouts allow me to look at these "problem children" and determine a course of action. Shovel pruning is always an option. That's when I dig up a plant that's growing poorly or just not working and replace it.

Shovel Pruning the Peas

A good example this summer are the perennial sweet peas. They've overrun an entire flower bed including several shrubs and my favorite antique rose. To their credit, the pastel-colored sweet peas are a wonderful complement to the blue flowering Rose of Sharon and they extend the bloom season by months. But the thick vines have gotten out of hand. I started those sweet pea vines from seed many years ago and I just hate to pull them out. So I'll do some selective trimming and to clear some space for other less aggressive plants.

Fall Planting

If I can't control them, I will pull those sweet peas out this fall and replace them with bulbs and perennials. Fall is a good time to plant many perennials, deciduous trees, shrubs, and lawns. Fall temperatures are moderate, rain is more reliable and keeps the soil moist, and plant roots continue growing until the soil almost freezes. This makes the plants ready to burst into growth next spring and that's what I like to see.

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