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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #173 ---The Iris are magnificent
June 06, 2014

The faster I work the farther behind I seem to become. I think I have all of the Annual Flowers planted in spots where they should thrive. There are always a few that I’m experimenting with to see how much sun or shade they will tolerate. The vegetable garden is another story. All of the seeded items such as Squash and Beans are in the ground but a lot of the transplants are still in their cell paks in the cold frame. I was faced with a terrible dilemma. Do I stay home and plant vegetables and paint the bathroom reno or do I go up to the cottage that the English children and Granddaughters are enjoying? I can see the lake from the table that I’m writing on. Will go back home tonight and give the Iris their second dose of Nematodes and water all of those plants in the cold frame and then tomorrow I may get a few of them planted. The tall bearded Iris are now revealing their magnificent blooms and a new variety opens every day. I expect the garden to look quite different when we get home tonight than it did even three days ago. I’m always asked which is my favourite Iris and it’s the one that opened for the first time that day. 48 Weeks of watering, dividing, nematoding and weeding all seems so worth it when the Iris are in full bloom. Getting up close to appreciate their colours and patterns also allows you to breathe in their delightful sweet fragrance. For the next several days the garden will be filled with tall straight stalks supporting four perfect blooms but probably not next Wednesday, the day of the local Iris show when I need to defend my Best of Show Iris trophy. These Iris filled days are the best weeks of my gardening year.

Last time I was in the basement I happened to notice that there is still a bucket of Gladiolus corms sitting there reminding me that they would rather be in the soil. I’ll add that to the list. I did manage to get the few Dahlias, that were growing out of their pots, into the ground before we left. Last year they grew wonderfully but flopped and fell down from the weight of their large flowers. One of my gardening friends had hers standing up straight and strong so I enquired about her success as I couldn’t see any supports. She shared her simple secret. Put a Tomato cage around them when you plant them and they grow up through them and are supported by them without the cage being visible. Mine will get their cages as soon as possible next week although I have grand illusions about creating some bigger supports by cutting a few lengths of the stiff wire fencing and making large circles with it. The Tomato cages sound a lot easier in this rather hectic year.

The remaining Grape vine is loaded with developing fruit and the rabbit is slowly devouring my peas as they dare to poke above the ground. Such are the vagaries of trying to work with Mother Nature. In among the Iris we do allow a few Peonies to show off their large colourful blooms. While we walk around admiring all of these blooms we make sure that all of the Tulips get deadheaded so they will spend their energy regenerating their bulbs rather than developing seeds. I added more soil to the Potato pot so as to keep most of the stems covered. Just two or three flushes of leaves are left above the increasing soil level. Hidden away in little corners of the garden are some momentary gems that almost get forgotten about until they suddenly show up and reveal themselves. My little clump of Showy Lady slipper Orchids Cypripedium reginae burst into bloom this week, just off the corner of the deck. They aren’t huge and showy but they are fascinating and a delight because you have to be paying attention when wandering the garden to notice them. They were given to me by a neighbour a couple of years ago. He is now gone but his little clump of Orchids continues to thrive and increase. They are a bit fussy about their soil and other conditions but once they find their happy place they thrive and multiply.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Mary Asks? I've got a precious bay laurel (in a pot - and precious because it was brought back from the seaside of Slovenia in 1982) that gets hit with scale every year - this year was especially bad. So every year I'd pinch/cut off all the leaves and it would resurrect beautifully. Not so this year. It's been outside in its pot for about the last month and there's not a single sign of any life, although the branches that are left are still "green" when snapped off. What do you think? I hate to toss it.

Ken Answers! It doesn’t sound hopeful but put it in a shady warm spot and ignore it except for an occasional bit of water. It won’t take up much room and it might eventually wake up. Nothing to lose by waiting.

Pat Contributes! Hi, I am one of your (maybe only!?) Southern readers and just wanted to add something to the "for what it's worth" department. I have some very old hydrangeas, as many of us do down here, and they routinely lose a branches here and there and have to have dead wood pruned. That said, don't get carried away. A wise and very old neighbor once told me that wherever you cut a flower this year, you will not get one next year. I am wondering if that is part of the problem for the lady who wrote you in this issue #172 about having more leaves and fewer flowers last year??

Ken Answers! Thanks Pat. Although many things are different in your part of the world, figuring out how to keep Hydrangeas blooming seems to be a universal problem. I did go out and find the leaf stitcher on mine after telling you I had never seen the problem,

Ann Asks? I came home after a lovely weekend visiting my family in Georgia to find that my overzealous friend had used ORTHO WEED-B-GON on the weeds in my lawn. Several shrubs-Hazelnut, Rose of Sharon, blueberries, Mock Orange- and my columnar apple tree and peach tree as well as perennials in flower beds appear to be dying. Can anything be done to save them? I was told to wait a month before planting anything. May I say---I am heartsick!

Ken Answers! I’ll bet your friend is feeling a bit badly as well. The facetious answer is to move to Canada where all of those chemicals are banned thus preventing the problem. Spraying 2,4,D and similar chemicals requires a very careful look at the drift from the sprayer. Large droplet size and spraying on a calm day is absolutely necessary. Most of the plants that you have mentioned have a reasonable chance of some slow recovery if they just had a moderate exposure to some spray drift. Prune them back and water them well so they have plenty of clean liquid to work with. There is very little residual in the soil as these are mostly contact sprays, so you shouldn’t have to wait to plant new things but waiting to see if there is some recovery is probably advisable.

Heather Asks? Just a question about the hardy fig.? I bought one from Richters a few years ago and have kept it in a pot, thinking it was not hardy enough to survive our winters.? I believe it is a "Chicago" and supposed to be the hardiest variety you can find.? Do you think I can put it in the ground?? What exposure?? How will I protect it over winter?? Any help would be appreciated.

Ken Answers! Go to my friend Steve Biggs’ web site and learn all you want to know about growing figs in our part of the world. Mine from last year is slowly growing from the roots. The above ground parts are quite dead.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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