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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #136 ---I murdered Miss Kim.
August 09, 2013

The downside to having a long weekend is that Friday comes very quickly the following week. The Assistant Gardener has gone shopping to bring me back more of those large brown yard waste bags because my delayed weeding schedule has produced much more vegetation than my compost bins can hold. That forces me to come inside and start to work on “Dallying” because, apparently, it’s already Friday. Some of the weeds I’m pulling have already gone to seed and I don’t want those seeds in my compost. Theoretically a good compost heap will get hot enough to kill them but in my experience that’s only a theory. I killed Miss Kim! She is a “dwarf” Lilac that I planted at the front corner of the house a few year ago. Dwarf is apparently a comparative term. She is smaller than a regular common Lilac but not by much. I had pruned her savagely a few times over the past years and that seemed to encourage her to new and greater endeavours. Nice shrub, wrong place, too big to transplant so murder was the only option. Chopped and bundled all of the branches, sat in the shade and had a bit of lunch and then excavated the root. A large day’s work but you should see the size of the now available garden space and light can come in the front windows again.

Sitting on my potting bench are a few new shrubs that are looking for a home. They are trial shrubs sent to me by the fine folks at Proven Winners. There is a new Hydrangea that should be lovely. Everybody is breeding Hydrangeas these days, they seem to be the “in” shrub and with good reason. They are fairly easy to grow, tolerate a bit of shade and have magnificent flowers mid summer when not much else is putting on a show. One of the early ones was an H. paniculata variety called Pinky Winky. She is the tall one in the picture with the white cone shaped flowers that are slowly turning pink as the summer progresses. I seem to have lost the tag for the large pink flowered H. macrophylla below her but I suspect it is Endless Summer. Miss Kim’s former site should be the perfect spot to try H. paniculata Fire Light, it faces North and gets a fair bit of afternoon sun in mid summer. They also sent me a new “dwarf” Lilac, Sense and Sensibility that I’m a bit reluctant to try in that location. It’s ultimate height is supposed to be under 1 M but having just dug out Miss Kim??? Stay tuned for updates on these new shrubs.

On the way to the back garden to take a picture of some newly bare soil, I stopped by the upper pond. It is filled to overflowing with Water Hyacinths that have covered the surface from the one plant that was put there in late May. Many will be moving to the compost soon. This little Chickadee stopped by, as he regularly does, for a drink from the waterfall. One of the added joys of the ponds is the water they provide for bathing and drinking for a variety of birds. I always seem to notice them when the camera is elsewhere. Today was my lucky day. He is much more interesting than the patch of bare soil that I was planning to show you. The bare soil is about to be planted with a variety of fall producing vegetables such as Peas, Pak choi, Kohl Rabi and the last batch of Carrots. They will be delicious in September as we enjoy dinner on the deck and watch the antics of the birds bathing in our ponds and streams. The Assistant Gardener has returned and my “no bags” excuse to suspend the weeding operation is no longer valid.

Time to answer a few questions. If you have a gardening question just ‘reply’ to this newsletter and send me your query. I try to answer most of the questions and the ones that I answer here are those that I think will have the widest interest. You can also find the latest garden updates on the front page of I try to change it every few days so check back often.

Patricia Asks ? Thanks for your very helpful and interesting newsletter. My question: what growing conditions and soil are best for rhubarb? Do you recommend any specific variety?

Ken Answers! Rhubarb is a great hardy perennial that makes the world's best pie, in my humble opinion. The plant likes to be in full sun and likes a good loam soil with lots of compost added. It can be quite a heavy feeder and will welcome more compost each year. There's not that much difference between varieties except possibly the redness of the stalks.

Bernice Asks? I thoroughly enjoy your newsletters! I read your article about the “Incrediball Hydrangea” and have a hydrangea question. I have a friend with two gloriously healthy Annabelles. They refuse to bloom! The first year I pruned them in the spring as they are supposed to bloom on new wood, right? Well, nothing, so this year and last we didn’t prune and still no flowers! I’m guessing they need fertilizer but what should we feed to them, and is it too late for this summer?

Ken Answers! Non blooming hydrangea Annabelle could be sunlight connected or fertilizer. Pruning them to the ground should be the correct method and in northern climes they often die back to the ground. They prefer morning sun and afternoon shade but the more northerly your garden the more afternoon sun they will need to bloom. Mine grow in rather poor soil with no additional fertilizer and it is possible that yours are too well fed, thus producing great foliage and no blooms. There are never any really simple answers but that's the fun of gardening.

Huberte Asks? I planted " everbearing raspberry cane " about 6 yrs ago. I did not understand it.Reading your explanation on raspberry cane , "the everbearing raspberry" will only produce in the fall. My question is : Is early May to late to prune the canes ? My husband and I spend the winters in Arizona. We live in Moncton ,N.B .This is what I did to my raspberry canes in late October every year: I thinned out the canes; the ones that were still standing, I cut to 4-5 ft. These ones do produce in late July. Presently there are many new canes ,about 6 ft tall. Some are starting to bloom.

Ken Answers! The everbearing Raspberries tend to produce some fruit in the summer and then more in the fall. Pruning out the canes that produced this year and leaving the new canes that developed this summer is the best technique. They probably don't care whether you prune before you leave in the fall or after you get back in the spring, whichever is easier for your schedule.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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