‘In The Garden’ — Pruning Asters And Other Fall Flowers
By JOYCE ARLEEN CORSON
The hot days of July and August can take a toll on perennials that need to survive not only cold spring weather but the warmer months without rain. This is the ultimate challenge for the seasoned gardener.
It is important to have rotating crops of flowers to have your landscape look the best at all times. Consider container gardens as a crop and move them around to fill blank spaces. Or have a cover of lilies ready when cherry bells fade.
If you missed the July 4 deadline for pruning fall flowering perennials such as chrysanthemums, aster, yarrow and some wild flowers such as chicory, goldenrod and cosmos, make a note in your diary for next year. Prune them to half size except for chrysanthemums, some recommend the lawn mower! Actually it isn’t fair to be so severe to the “mums,” they can’t help it they are green all summer. I always remind myself, green is a color too!
If you have falling fall flowers, there are a couple remedies. Place a cage around the stems as they grow, braid stalks for strength or use a variety of stakes to hold tall, lanky, yet beautiful blossoms secure. I take advantage of the squirrels that plant nuts that grow into dwarf trees. Removing all but the top leaves, use a colorful ribbon to support a tall plant.
A vertical wall can create an interest, as well as Anna Bell hydrangeas who bloom until frost!
Fall flowers are so eager to show off they grow twice as fast as necessary to keep up with all the petunias, begonias and impatiens that don’t know when to turn it off. The shorter days and less sunlight lower in the sky will make it impossible for the early birds to survive unless their masters plan for an adequate water supply to the roots.
Some other situations perennial autumn flowers face are the weight of extra moisture collecting in their growing blossoms, causing them to fall over and become coated with mulch or soil. The rain and sprinkling systems can wash soil from the roots too, affecting their ability to remain strong and straight. Checking roots periodically, making sure they are “hilled up” or covered, is important.
In some cases the fall blooming hostas, such as H Plantaginea, August lily, lancefolia and red September need constant protection from too much water on the leaves that cause weaker petioles ending in long leaves to touch the ground. This is a perfect route for slugs and night crawling critters to have a feast from the salad bowl.
Slugs especially like the lighter weight hosta leaves. I remember feeding the snails in my fish bowl lettuce. Now I know why the thicker leaved hosta out survive the hosta with considerable white. Some with thick leaves that are variegated and stand tall like Krossa Regal have a better chance against slugs.
Too much iron in hard water can cause a rusty stain on leaves. A minimum of 20 minutes watering is recommended, depending on rainfall. Lake and rain water are the safest to use as a mist. Watering early in the day gives the leaves a chance to dry off.
Corson is a graduate of Adams Central High School, Manchester University and Ball State University. She and her husband, Ron, were married and enjoyed many years of traveling before they settled at Lake Papakeechie to raise their family. Soon after moving to the Syracuse area, Corson joined the Syracuse/Wawasee Garden Club and then became a Kosciusko County Master Gardener in 2002, the same year she retired from teaching.
“Early on my interest in gardening came from a lineage of farmers and their wives, including three generations of generosity, giving me an enormous collection of heritage trees, shrubs and flowers. History and traveling has given me special interest in native flowers, hosta, the art of bonsai and many plants that have been naturalized.”
Individuals who wish to contact Corson for further information or questions may email her at [email protected]