How to Achieve “Continuous Bloom”

Dear Garden Problem Lady

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While it is still spring and the start of the gardening year, can you help me achieve what people call “continuous bloom” in our garden? By this I mean no bleak spots that resemble a wasteland by September.

You are on the right track. To achieve continuous blooming it is best to be one season ahead of where you want to end up. There’s time to find perennials that will make your garden glorious in July, August, September and beyond. First decide where they will go in your garden, how small or tall you need them to be, how much sun or shade exists there, and what other flowers go with them. Avoid options too far outside our Zone 7 climate. Plants have optimal planting times – often earlier than bloom time. If local stores can’t carry them yet, specialty nurseries online or by mail order can. To begin research you would normally do in January, try Pam Duthie’s brilliantly illustrated treasure, Continuous Bloom, a Month-to-Month Guide to Nonstop Color in the Perennial Garden (Ball Publishing, 2000). It has photos, ideas and resource lists galore

Pictured is October-blooming, sweet smelling shade-loving Cimicifuga White Pearl, five feet tall.

In March I finally pruned our neglected New Dawn rose, which has climbed happily along the garden fence for years. I chopped off some vigorous shoots that had grown into the neighbor’s yard. I had to remove a side stalk that was too strong to be trained laterally. Now I fear that I either killed so much of the growing part of this old friend, that it could die – or else that I pruned at the wrong time, and killed it that way. I should have asked you before I chopped.

Maybe not. You picked the correct time for rose pruning, early spring before buds have formed. Also you realized that New Dawn will climb where you want it to go only with firm assistance – being tied to strong support and instructed, with ties, on where to climb. Climbing roses have two stalks, called “canes.” Main canes come from the base; lateral canes emerge from main canes. Start by removing dead wood – any that is not green. You can prune lateral canes any time of year to keep the climber in shape.

When, if ever, is the right time to prune a Knock Out rose?

Pruning for Knock Outs is the same as for other roses, early spring when buds begin to form. Knock Outs bloom on new growth. You can cut back by one-third of their height.

During Covid the Capitol Hill Garden Club continues Zoom meetings at 7 pm on the second Tuesday of the month – next is on April 10, 2021. Please contact capitolhillgardenclub.org for details.