Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dalias - Best For Late Summer Color

By Kent Higgins

Dahlias give a wonderful display of late summer color in the landscape. These plants are warm weather lovers and are killed with the first frost. Prepare the soil well and plant the tubers deep when the soil is warm. The soil is normally prepared well in advance of planting time.

I once heard at a garden club meeting to use old cow manure," and put it deep in the hole with a layer of top soil over the manure. One lady asked the embarrassing question of... how old a cow?" That was the end of that meeting!

In selecting tubers for planting. make certain that a portion of the old stem is present otherwise, no plant; The bud from which growth is made is found only in this stem tissue. Dig the planting hole (soil preparation hole usually three times as deep) about six inches deep, and place the tuber with the stem or bud, if advanced, pointing up.

At this time, drive in a heavy stake for the varieties that need support, and most dahlias do. By putting the stakes in place at the time of planting, the danger of damaging roots later is eliminated. Fill the soil in over the tuber for about three inches and firm down. Water thoroughly, making sure that the tuber is well covered with soil. As the plant grows, gradually fill in around it until the soil is level. Water with caution to prevent rotting of tubers as the plant does not require an abundance of water until it is at least half grown. As most plants, though, it will require thorough soaking during its height of bloom, which is usually late summer.

Another summer flowering plant that gives much in return and can be planted this month is the garden canna. The rhizomes should have four eyes for best results, and if sprouted in trays of wet sand in a protected place, usually get a better start. The rhizome proper should be covered about four inches deep. These plants are heavy feeders and require lots of water during the season. Many colors of blooms are available... red, pink, white, yellow and orange. The foliage is also wonderful for arranging, with or without flowers. Many gardeners grow the bronze leaf variety for foliage only.

There are many summer flowering bulbs and lily flowers that need to be started in May, and some of the favorites are tigridias or shell flowers, anemones, ranunculus, tuberous begonias, Nerine lilies, hemerocallis, agapanthus and gloxinias. Some of these require very special care. They can not be grown in a landscape that "thrives on neglect." The secret of success with summer flowering bulbs is to plant when the soil has warmed, water well and feed lightly, mulch instead of cultivate and lift the storage roots after frost, and store for next season. Which is different than the green peace lily flowers that turn from white indoors.

Annuals: The seeds for annuals should be in the soil during May. This wonderful group of plants is one of our most valuable sources of color. Coming from seeds and returning of seeds in one season is the story of the plants in this group. Use annuals as ground cover for overplanting spring bulb locations, as borders in shrub plantings, as masses of color for accent purposes, and in many other ways around the garden. They are easy to grow and give color all summer.

Most of them can be used for cut flowers in the house. The list is long and tempting. Try a dozen" zinnia, petunia. alyssum. phlox, celosia, ageratum, snapdragon. sweet pea, salvia, periwinkle, larkspur and marigold. just look at the new varieties of the above list of old favorites.

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