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“For Everything There is A Season”

Our Nepeta (catmint) has been the star of our June garden – how can I get it to keep blooming longer and longer?

For everything there is a season, as the Scribe said. Gardeners, the gods of gardens, sometimes can tweak bloom time – controlling water and exposure to sun – applying phosphorus fertilizer to force blooms – somewhat influencing botanical genetics. Tricks include pinching back spring buds to make more buds; picking zinnias and dahlia flowers to get more flowers; and snipping off spent roses and cutting back their stems to above the next five-leaf stem. In general, try to keep your Nepeta and other perennials from going to seed by cutting them back. But you do need to allow the Nepeta plants to survive until frost to feed their perennial roots for next year.

I’ve had trouble getting some climbing vines to climb, or to climb where they should – and also a different problem – how to stop a powerful climber such as climbing hydrangea from destroying the bricks on our house. Are there any rules for plants that climb?

All climbers need help! Some (morning glory, honeysuckle) vine or twist around and around a nearby string or stem. Some do not vine (hydrangea, ivy) but cling to rough surfaces via fine hair roots that form along the stems. Some (clematis, sweet pea) put out tiny curving tendrils that grip and hold whatever is near. Against a fence or house you must provide a trellis-like barrier to prevent the tiny roots of hydrangea from destroying brick or wood. Heavy or destructive vines (wisteria, hydrangea) need the additional support of a trellis or pergola, or they will fall down. In addition, to grow flat against a surface, each rose cane or early clematis shoot must be guided in the right direction with twine or even small hooks. As they grow, vines will proliferate, needing more guidance or even pruning.

Can I still use a bag of powdered garden lime that turned solid over the winter?

Yes, for plants that crave less acid soil just carve off small pieces. Then cut them up finer to sprinkle on top of soil around the plants, or dissolve them in water. Individual plants need only a teaspoon.

We have a slight incline in our backyard and are looking for something – a shrub? – that will hold its shape and look good. A lively color would also be nice. Any suggestions?

Try “Little Princess”, Spirea Japonica, a deciduous, perennial shrub that likes sun or part shade. Two to three feet tall, it forms a compact mound of charming rose-pink flowers that will bloom from June on.

The Capitol Hill Garden Club is on summer break; programs will resume in the fall. For more information visit the club website: capitolhillgardenclub.org.

Feeling beset by gardening problems? Send them to the Problem Lady c/o the Editor, Hill Garden News. Your problems might even prove instructive to others and help them feel superior to you.  Complete anonymity is assured.  

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