Monday, June 05, 2017

Siberian irises, desparate remedies, and cultivating the art of renunciation

In order not to impact flowering, gardeners are typically advised to transplant Siberian irises in the fall. But what if your Siberian irises have very little impact anyway? What if that dense mat of knotted, fibrous plants is only yielding one or two blooms? Wait to see if more appear? Or plunge in with shovel and knife to carve out new divisions? That was the dilemma yesterday.

I opted for spring transplanting. The week ahead promises to be rainy and cool, so the weather is on my side. After shoveling up a mound, I pulled off groups of two or three outer, younger plants and briefly soaked their roots in water. I added a little composted cow manure and 10-10-10 fertilizer to the soil and poked these divisions back into the ground. Because it takes a year or two for transplanted divisions to flower, I limited myself to a single clump. Now that I see how desperately these irises need to be separated, I know that I have to continue to cycle through the garden clump by clump.

So, in foregoing a strong turn-out of Siberian irises this year and perhaps even next, I am reminded of Thomas Hardy's advice from his lesser novel, Desperate Remedies: “Cultivate the art of renunciation.”  And patience. 

Monday, May 01, 2017

Garden goal roll, 2017

My garden goal roll is more than just a "To Do" list.  Yes, this checklist is very definitely the way that I remember what needs doing when, but it also serves as my electronic diary, where I can record what worked and what didn't.  Sometimes that thing that didn't work is me: my personal rate of success in meeting my tasks is about 40%.  Thankfully, Mother Nature performs to a higher standard.


Dust peonies with copper fungicide to limit blight. Done 4/15/2017. Re-apply in June.

Top-dress spring-flowering bulbs with 3-5-3 when the leaf-tips emerge.  Done 4/5/2017.

Prune and clean up shrubs damaged by winter snows. On-going!

Treat daylilies infected by Aurebasidium microsictum fungus with Daconil (chlorothalonil)  every two weeks. Sprayed 4/18/2017, 5/3/2017, and 5/20/2017 (yellow leaves starting to appear). Replenish the bed with six plantings of Winsome Lady, a fungus-resistant variety from Oakes Dayliles. Planted 4/30/2017. Sprinkled with a little HollyTone to counteract lime leached from house foundation into flower bed.

Shape "New Dawn" rose canes. And figure out a support structure.

Feed evergreens along front of house with Holly-Tone. A little bit applied 4/30/2017.

Dose "New Dawn" rose with 1/2 cup of Epsom salts in 2 cups water. Applied 5/3/2017.

Trim "Major Wheeler" honeysuckle back.

Move sprigs of "Autumn Joy" sedum to front of bed by side of house. Done 4/30/2017.


Plant dahlias. (Along bed at back of house planted 1 x Touche (BBSC) 3.5' salmon/lavender, 2 x Ivanetti (BA) 3.5' purple ball, 2 x Totally Tangerine (AN)3.5' anemone orange, and 2 x Giggles (CO) 3.5' collarette orange/lilac, all from Swan Island 5/20/2017)

Top-dress beds with composted cow manure throughout month.

Review spring bulb performance.  What needs to be replaced or amplified? Add +/- 50 bulbs of tete-a-tete for front beds. Rotate in another batch of 25 "Gladiator" alliums in back bed against house.

Planted 6 Victoria blue salvia along bed at back of house.

Set up front porch and garden table containers.

That stuff that you didn't get to last month?  Do it now.


Planted 3 Cathedral white salvia in bed at back of house.

Edge garden beds.

Mid-June: spray groundcover with horticultural oil to combat scale infestation. Spray again 10 days later. Pachysandra, periwinkle and rhododendron sprayed with Four Seasons horticultural oil 6/10/2017.

Cut out deadwood from and thin spirea hedge.

Yellowing leaves of evening primrose treated with handful of garden iron applied to soil and leaves drenched with Miralcid acid-loving fertilizer 6/9/2017. 
Scratch 1 1/4 cups of RoseTone around the roots of "New Dawn" climbing rose now monthly through the summer; be sure to stop feeding by August 15 in order to prevent developing new growth that will not have time to harden off before fall temperatures drop.

After flowering, shear Amsonia hubrichtii by 1/3 of its height to promote better form. 
When it is 3 feet tall, cut Joe pye weed "Gateway" back to half its height to encourage dense growth.

Stake dahlias when the tubers are planted and again and again as they grow. Stop dahlias by pinching stem back to four pairs of leaves. 
Pinch back shasta daisies to 6". Or just get rid of them?

And stake, stake, stake!


After flowering, prune the "New Dawn" climbing rose. 

Prune back 50-80% of "Major Wheeler" honeysuckle after bloom is over.

Late August/Early September

Separate Siberian irises along bed at back of house as needed. Group at center separated 6/4/2017.

Time to order spring bulbs! 
*   Indoor at least 25 paperwhite narcissus bulbs and 2 amaryllis bulbs
*   Outdoor: 25 Gladiator allium

Transplant peony in shaded old side bed to sunny spot at back of house.

Columbus Day

Plant spring bulbs. 
Dig in bone meal around peonies.

Lightly feed evergreens along front of house with Holly-Tone.

Start forcing paperwhites indoors for Thanksgiving bloom.

Veterans Day

Top-dress beds with composted cow manure.

Late December

Start planning plant purchases for 2018.