February 2018

Time for the garden’s grading period. What’s a pass? What’s a fail?

Sunshine Blue caryopteris is not the bright yellow with blue flowers it's supposed to be because it is in too much shade. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Taking the time to walk the yard gives us the opportunity to make sure that our plants are thriving and not just surviving. October is a great time for this task because there is still time to take corrective action.

Here are some things to look for:

As trees and shrubs mature, they create more shade than originally in the area where you planted the roses, daisies and other sun-loving plants. If the full sun plants are languishing, move them to a better spot and replace with more shade-tolerant perennials or shrubs, such as hosta or hydrangea.

Are there plants that seem to attract insects or disease? For instance, I used to grow false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), but it was so full of aphids year after year, I pulled it out. Another false sunflower, ‘Sunshine Daydream’ (H. x multiflorus) from Plants Nouveau is thriving despite benign neglect. It has no bug or insect damage and at 6-feet tall, is still in full bloom with rich, yellow double flowers. I must say, though, that the flowers remind me more of a mum than the daisy like blooms on other varieties.

Do the azaleas, rhododendrons and hollies look sparse or weak? These acid loving plants will struggle in Indiana’s alkaline soil without amendments or special fertilizers. Holly-Tone from Espoma is an excellent product for these and other shrubs that prefer a more acidic soil.

Have some shrubs been pruned badly with all of the growth at the top and nothing at the base? Shrubs should be pruned so that the top is slightly more narrow than the base. Wide tops shade the bottom of the shrub, which reduces leave growth. Pull out and replace poorly pruned shrubs.

Have plants outgrown their space? If shrubs or trees are crowding out their neighbors, consider moving them. Perennials can be divided.

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