Show Your Gardening Talent
How about entering a garden contest in your area? Many communities and even garden centers encourage beautiful landscapes by holding contests for a wide range of plantings -- from windowboxes to streetscapes to urban gardens to container gardens to suburban yardscapes. Keep your eye open for information in newspaper ads and chatter among local gardeners. Besides winning a prize, here's an opportunity to meet the like-minded.
Even if you carefully placed mulch 3 inches from the plant's base last month, it's likely to be against plant stems, branches, and trunks by now. Plants grow and mulch gets mussed. Pull the mulch away so it's not touching perennials, shrubs, or trees. That will also encourage spreaders like dianthus and astilbe to expand their reach beneath trees and shrubs.
Install Soaker Hoses
Before summer heat and drought set in, install soaker hoses (hoses that ooze water droplets) to irrigate shrubs and perennial beds. Plants need water at the roots, which absorb moisture and nutrients. Watering devices that spray water into the air? Well, they water the air -- wasting water and your $. Cover soaker hoses with soil and/or mulch for best results.
Stifle the impulse to buy multiples of new-to-market, hyped perennial cultivars. Design-wise, it's usually best to cluster three or five of the same type of perennials for an attractive drift. But expensive, new, hyped perennial cultivars are a gamble. Last season's latest coneflowers -- Echinachea purpurea 'Sundown' and 'Mango Meadowbrite' ($20 per plant) -- looked exquisite in August, but none survived the winter in my Philadelphia gardens.
The South African purple pineapple lily (Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy') from Plant Delights in Raleigh, NC, is back with four tall, handsome purple spikes. So I'm adding more of those ($15 each). This dramatic accent plant is recommended for zones 6b to 9. Come late fall I'll be sure to protect them for the winter.