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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #225--- There is purple eveerywhere in the garden this week.
July 10, 2015

The Martagons were open last week and this week many other Lilies started to pop open in various locations. These gorgeous purple and white Lilies are part of large group that has developed in just a few years from the 3 bulbs that I originally planted. They attract only a few of the dreaded Red Lily Beetles certainly not enough to ever consider removing them from my collection. They are much easier to photograph and enjoy as they are almost a meter (3') tall with upfacing blooms that grab your attention as you walk by. They are an Asiatic hybrid called Cappuccino which leaves me wondering why a purple Lily is named after a brown coloured drink? The front face of the berm is finally weeded again and covered in my favourite coconut hull mulch. One of the big local nurseries had a sale this week and I just happened to wander by and find a half dozen Heuchera to add to the 4 or 5 that are already brightening up that berm. The multi coloured foliage of Heuchera provide season long interest and they are quite happy in some shade. They have been one of the plant breeders favourite subjects for a few years, leaving us with too many choices, some of which are barely distinguishable from each other. Now I have to go out and plant them.

Staying with the purple theme we move to the veggie garden and enjoy Graffiti this wonderful coloured Cauliflower. One of the real delights of this vegetable is its ability to retain its colour when cooked. I have steamed it and chopped it into stir fries and the intense purple colour brightens up the dinner plate at a time of year when the garden is producing mostly green vegetables. I make great tasting Cauliflower by wrapping a whole head in aluminum foil with a generous coating of butter and several sprigs Rosemary and Oregano or whatever herbs might wander into the kitchen that night. This tightly wrapped package goes on the barbecue for about 30 minutes and comes out soft and flavourful.

Why is this beautiful white Tuberous Begonia in a hanging basket? I bought the tuber this spring and the package indicated that it was a pendulous type. It’s gorgeous but has exhibited no pendulous tendencies to this point and it’s difficult to see how those thick stems could ever happily start bending over. I’ll have to make sure and identify it when it goes for its long winter’s nap this year. I started some seed of Tuberous Begonias that a friend brought back from Blackmore and Langdon in England and they are starting to flower with some amazing blooms. I hope I started them soon enough that they can grow storable tubers by the end of the season. By the end of July some of my Tuberous Begonias may start to show the white dots that signal the invasion of powdery mildew. Out will come that magic but simple spray of 1 part milk, yes that’s milk of any fat content, and 9 parts water. Spray the plants at first sign of Mildew and repeat after a rainfall. It works amazingly well.

If you are looking for a short holiday consider spending a day in Buffalo N.Y. Garden Walk Buffalo is one of the biggest and best garden tours I have ever seen and the best part, it’s free. July 25 and 26 are the dates and it truly is an event not to be missed if you like seeing what other gardeners are doing in spaces both large and small.

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.

Brenda Asks? I have severl coleus plants in planters and the leaves of one particular kind look like lace curtains. Any idea what could be eating them, could it be earwigs? They seem to be in abundance this year. Any other ideas? My Zinnia leaves look the same. Also, I have a spotted lungwort that ends up being covered in powdery mildew every year. It is under a Catelpa tree in the shade. I was thinking of moving it further away from the tree. If I do dig it up is it OK to plant something else there or will the spores that are in the soil transfer to the new plant? Would I be better to throw the lungwort away and if I do how do I dispose of it?

Ken Answers! I suspect slugs are doing the lacework, earwigs would be lower on my suspect list. You would probably see earwigs but the slimy slugs work mostly while you are sleeping. I sprinkle a commercial slug bait under some of my susceptible plants. The Pulmonaria, Lungwort, will probably get the mildew wherever you put it but it will take longer to show up in a sunny location. There are lots of plants, try Hosta, that will perform well under that Catalpa and are not susceptible to powdery mildew.

Ann Asks? Do you have any advice for dealing with clematis wilt? My entire plant (Jackmanii) is affected. I live near Jamestown NY and we, like you, have had an unusually wet and soggy spring and early summer. Should I just cut the entire plant down to the ground and hope for the best next year?

Ken Answers! Clematis wilt is an ugly thing. There is nothing you can do for it this year. Cut the plant to the ground and it will usually come up again next spring. it has happened to me on a Jackmanii and it has successfully returned, sometimes this year but certainly next spring.

Joan Ask? I enjoy your articles. Thanks for taking time out of your busy life to share your experiences & knowledge with us. I purchased some irises last year from an iris grower. This is the second time that I have purchased irises. Another friend bought irises from the same gentleman. Neither of us are having luck getting the irises to bloom. They are in a sunny location, well-drained and part of the rhizome is exposed.

Ken Answers! Iris are usually fool proof but they may not bloom the first year after you plant them. For the last few years we have been advising people to bury the rhizomes about an inch under the soil to help prevent frost heaving in the first winter. They will grow back towards the surface. I always use a starter fertilizer such as 10 52 10 on freshly planted Iris and many of them bloom the first year. They do like full sun and they really don’t do well with any other perennials competing to closely with them.

Carol Asks? Ken, snails must have some value for a garden but, I haven't figured out what it is. All they do is poke holes in my lovely hostas, etc. Why do we have snails? Is it wise to try to reduce their number - with a squish?

Ken Answers! Why do we have mosquitoes??? Snails fit into the grand scheme somewhere and if we eliminate them, then whatever survives by eating them may also disappear. Whatever that is can come and dine in my garden as often as it wants to. I use a commercial slug bait to try and reduce their numbers and damage.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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