Tags: annuals, daylilies, flower gardening, flowers
August can be a tough month in the flower garden. Generally it’s hot and dry. Even the annual flowers that are supposed to bloom like the Energizer Bunny are tired and moody. I pulled some muscles in my back (foolishly moving big stones as if I were 25instead of 65) so the weeds in my garden got ahead of me, too. But now I am back at it, and trying to perk up my gardens.
The front walkway at my house is flanked by 2 flower beds, each just over 2 feet wide and about 8 feet long. In the spring I had Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis sylvatica) and pansies providing color and verve, along with daffodils and crocus. But all those are long gone – or dormant.
I planted a variety of annuals along the walkway including nicotiana, verbena, salvia, cosmos and a lovely plant called Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) that I grow for the rich purple and silver foliage. The verbenas were a fancy new variety but they have proved too tasty to some ambitious insect. The nicotiana (also called tobacco plant) is still blooming quite nicely in lime green and a brownish red. The cosmos are in bud, but currently flowerless. Annual poppies have come and gone. My salvias are showing just a few deep blue/purple blossoms.
The problem now is that most garden centers do not have a wide variety of blooming flowers for sale. Geraniums are still for sale in fire engine red, pink and white. And some places have expensive hanging planters, but my budget for $25 planters has run its course. So what can I do?
Daylilies, one of mid-summer’s heroines, are in their glory now. I could dig up a clump from elsewhere on the property and move it to the front walkway. Or I could visit a garden center and buy a potted daylily in bloom and move it into an empty spot left when I pulled weeds and the dozens of annual poppies that show up each year.
I realize that the common orange daylily has prejudiced some gardeners against the breed. They are so common that they are considered trite. We like the new, the different, and once I suppose the orange daylily fit that description. Another problem is that orange daylilies have roots that spread, and a small clump turns into a big clump in just a year or two. And they are hard to dig up. Not only that, even a small scrap of root will generate a new plant.
Not so the fancier daylilies. They are “clumpers” that stay in one place. They are easier to dig and move, and can provide color for a few weeks each summer. There are early bloomers, mid-season bloomers, and some that bloom well into the fall. Colors? Clear yellow, rich yellow, various shades of pink, red and even lavender are available. Tall ones with scapes (flower stems) over five feet are available, as are tiny ones with scapes barely 18 inches.
If you want to dig up or divide a daylily, you will need to dig from at least 4 places – thrust a drain spade or transplant spade into the soil at a 45 degree angle on each side, each time trying to get under the center of the clump and tip the spade back to lift it a little. A big clump will give you a good workout. You can divide the clump by slicing through the root mass with a spade or a machete. Even a long serrated knife will do the job. Cutting is much easier than trying to tease apart the roots with a pair of garden forks, which is recommended by some garden authorities. Yes, you may damage a few bits of root when cutting them, but daylilies are invincible.
Daylily blossoms only last a day (hence the name), but most scapes have 6 or more buds that bloom in sequence. I pick scapes with flowers in bloom and put them in a vase. The buds open in sequence for a week or so. So don’t hesitate to use them in a vase. By the way, golden rod is a wildflower (a.k.a weed) that is starting to bloom and does well in a vase. It is unjustly accused of causing hay fever – the real culprit is ragweed (with inconspicuous green flowers), which blooms at the same time.
Other flowers in bloom for me right now in other places on my property include cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and its cousin great blue lobelia (Lobelia syphilitica) that is showing nice blue spikes. The first needs a moist, sunny site, while the later does fine in hot, dry places (or any sunny spot, really). Black-eyed Susan is in full glory, too. Bee balm (Monarda spp.) is finishing up, and obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) is just starting to open. Later the fall-bloomers will be along, so I have plenty to look forward to.
So what did I do? I didn’t move a daylily, I dug some annuals that were growing in moist, rich soil and moved them up to the front walkway where the soil is drier. I used my CobraHead weeder to get under a short zinnia (Profusion series) and a big, juicy marigold. They reminded me that I need to water the plants in afternoon sun along the walkway daily – and I’ll give them (and all my potted plants) some liquid fish fertilizer for a mid-summer boost.
You can reach Henry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746. His new book is Organic Gardening (not just) in the Northeast, a Hands-On, Month-by-Month Guide.