Mid-Atlantic

July, 2008
Regional Report

Remove Overgrown Autumn Clematis

In fall, autumn clematis looks like a welcome, fluffy, white cascade when little else is in bloom. Unfortunately, this vigorous vine often overgrows its intended fence, trellis, or arbor. We just filled five large paper bags with autumn clematis vine that reached beyond its fence to cover an azalea, roses and summer phlox. Thought I could hear the azalea breathe a sigh of relief! We carefully but ruthlessly clipped every vine stretching between fence and shrubs and easily lifted off the vining cover.

Pull and Fluff the Mulch

Rainwater rolls off crusty mulch. While you're removing the occasional weed that's pushed through, pull mulch 4 to 5 inches away from all stems, trunks, branches, and crowns of plants. Also fluff mulch by using a cultivator to break up the crust. I like a long-handled tool, such as a triangular hoe or three-pronged cultivator, to carefully avoid damaging plants.

Experiment with Edible Flowers

Anise hyssop, basil, borage, daylilies, dianthus, hibiscus, hollyhocks, lavender, mint, nasturtium, rosemary, sage, and thyme have edible flowers. Sprinkle them on salads, garnish sandwiches and dinner plates, freeze them in ice cubes for a beverage surprise. Remove pistils and stamens; pollen may cause an allergic reaction. Remove the sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies. Only the petals are edible on calendulas, chrysanthemums, lavender, roses, tulips, and yucca. A petal's white base may taste bitter so remove it from chrysanthemums, dianthus, marigolds, and roses.

Prune and Share Herbs

Rosemary, oregano, thyme, tarragon, and basil are thriving in the summer sun and likely outgrowing their designated spots. Feel free to clip back stems. I use bypass hand pruners for rosemary and basil, pruning off each stem separately. As the oregano, thyme, and tarragon cascade or form a blanket, I find long-bladed shears catch and trim handfuls of stems quickly. Gather and share the fragrant, flavorful herbs.

Cut Back Browning Poppies and Bleeding Heart

Early blooming poppies and bleeding heart are dying back, leaves and stems turning yellow, then brown. These perennials have stored food in their roots for next season, so it's fine to cut stems back to 3 or 4 inches. Put dead foliage in the compost pile unless it's diseased or has pests. Plant annual flowers or vegetables to brighten the empty spots and keep weeds from seeding.

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