In the Garden:
Southern Coasts
August, 2004
Regional Report

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These lantana berries are poisonous so better cut them off.

Refresh to Rebloom

In case you hadn't noticed, some of your plants look downright ratty, but you can fix that and bring on a whole new season of flowers this fall.

Off With Their Heads
The long, hot, steamy, wet then dry summer can take its toll on the best plant. Impatiens, zinnias, black-eyed Susans, hostas, lantanas, hydrangeas, and crape myrtles and many other annuals, perennials, flowering shrubs, and trees can be groomed right now to great effect. Depending on what you're trimming, use hedge shears or even a string trimmer (for beds of impatiens), hand pruners or a pair of scissors (for cutting down flower stalks on hostas and crape myrtles). Cut the old flowers off hydrangeas and shape them up, but don't cut into the brown wood of the stem; that's the start of next year's flowers. Not only do some plants stop blooming if not cut back, their berries present a poisoning hazard, such as lantana and castor beans.

Mulch More
Summer stress is sometimes outdone by fall challenges like hurricanes or very hot days and nights. Shrubs that wilt each afternoon, trees going into fall color too early, flowers that just don't open -- all can be the result of water stress. Too much now, too little then, and soon the plants are in stress. You can't change the weather, but you can replenish mulch around plants now. Dig in whatever material has begun to decompose around them, and add a fresh 1-inch layer of ground bark, pinestraw, or your own favorite organic mulch.

Fall Feeding?
There are good reasons to fertilize and equally good reasons not to. In our region some plants grow well beyond August, using whatever nutrition is available. But others have specific needs for root building formulas, such as a "winterizer" or 0-20-20. Use it on lawns that have been less than lovely this year, trees and shrubs planted within the last year, and those that haven't performed. Give them the nutrients they need so they'll be ready to take off in the next season.


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