New England

May, 2008
Regional Report

Shorten Tall Perennials

Pinch back phlox, asters, bee balm, and Russian sage for shorter and fuller plants. Extend the bloom time by pinching half of them because the pinched ones will bloom after the unpinched ones.

Keeping Tulips Blooming

Many hybrid tulip bulbs propagate themselves by splitting into many smaller bulbs after blooming. The mother bulbs will usually not bloom again and the babies are too small to bloom yet, so these tulips are best treated as annuals. Don't put up with waiting for the foliage to die, dig them up and toss them. "Perennial" tulips -- Darwin tulips and Emperor tulips -- on the other hand, don't split so they will bloom for a number of years. Give them a dose of bulb fertilizer after blooming and cut off the flower stalks. Leave the foliage intact until it dies.

Foil Lily Leaf Beetles

If you're seeing red over those devastating red beetles on your lilies, it's time to get your squishing fingers loosened up. Check boths sides of the leaves and down inside the center whorl of leaves. Also check the undersides of leaves for tiny orange eggs. The larvae have orange, brown, or greenish yellow bodies that are sometimes hidden under their excrement. The botanical insecticide, Neem, is reported to kill the larvae and repel the adults. For best control, spray every 5 to 7 days after the eggs hatch. Some people also report success with spraying a lightweight dormant oil on the foliage to kill the eggs and larvae.

Make a Nursery Bed

If you like to rescue forlorn plants and nurse them back to health, or start perennials from seed that need a couple of years to reach good size, you need a nursery bed. This is an area where you can pamper plants until they are ready to join the perennial or shrub border. A section of the vegetable garden is a good spot since the soil tends to be in good shape, and you can easily keep a close eye on the plants. With a nursery bed, you'll also have a place to keep those bargain sale plants until your new beds are dug!

Remove Tree Suckers and Weeds

Clear grass and weeds from root zone areas around tree trunks, and remove any suckers growing from the base of the trees. Spread compost, and top with 3 to 4 inches of bark mulch. Keep mulch an inch or two away from the trunks.

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