Pacific Northwest

July, 2003
Regional Report

Create a Topiary

You can create an almost instant topiary by making or purchasing a wire frame, then molding chicken wire around it to form whatever shape you desire. Fill the form with sphagnum moss, then stuff rooted plants through the wire and into the moss. Any plant with small leaves and a trailing habit can be used for the topiary, including English ivy, creeping fig, lamium, wooly thyme, and kenilworth ivy.

Frequent feeding and pinching will encourage new growth, and daily watering may be necessary during hot weather. Whether small or large, whimsical or formal, topiaries are popular focal points in the garden.

Deadhead Roses

When removing spent roses, cut back to a five-leaf leaflet, and at a place on the stem where the cane is about as big around as a pencil. There's a bud in the leaf axil, just at the point where the leaf meets the stem, and only the 5-leaf forms carry the buds that will generate new flowers. When properly cut you can count on repeat flowers about 6 weeks after you prune off the first roses.

Plant Begonias

Transplant sprouted tuberous begonias into single pots or hanging baskets, covering with about 2 inches of potting soil. Begonias prefer filtered sunlight or light shade. To cover all the bases, place them where they'll receive morning sunlight and afternoon shade. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and feed every two weeks with a half-strength solution of liquid fertilizer. No pinching or pruning is necessary; faded blooms will fall away on their own. In the autumn, when foliage yellows and stems shrivel, withhold water, then dig the tubers and store in a cool, dark location.

Give Summer-Blooming Bulbs Good Aftercare

As the blooms fade on summer-flowering bulbs, cut the flower stalks off to prevent seed formation, but allow the foliage to remain. The health of this year's foliage will determine the amount of carbohydrates that will be stored in the bulb. These stored reserves, in turn, determine the strength of the blooms for next year. Some gardeners attempt to hide the foliage by gathering the leaves into bundles and either braiding or tying them in a knot. This reduces exposure to sunlight and interrupts the transfer of energy from the leaves to the bulbs. It's better to make bulb foliage less noticeable by interplanting with perennial and annual flowers. Plants such as candytuft and phlox can provide a colorful screen to mask fading bulb foliage.

Fertilize Perennials

Flowers need loving care to provide continuous blooms throughout the season. To encourage sturdy, vigorous plants, fertilize by side-dressing with compost or feeding with diluted fish emulsion in midsummer. Pinch plants back when they are 5 to 6 inches tall to encourage compact, bushy growth and a large quantity of flowers. Provide adequate moisture by watering deeply once each week. To ensure continuous bloom, regularly remove spent flowers.

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