Back to the Garden…

By Vince Picchiello, Master Gardener in Training

It wasn’t long ago that Joni Mitchell sang about making it to Woodstock. In these last few years though, there is a more serious and vibrant movement when the subject turns to the foods we eat and their genetic composition. Additionally, there are real concerns about the lack of nutrition and vitamins that exist in many of the fruits and vegetables that we purchase at our local supermarkets what with the deteriorating state of soils that are infested with herbicides and pesticides. Hence, the return to our own gardens for fresh organic fruits and vegetables.

First and foremost of concern is the introduction of foods that are Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO’s. Genetically modified foods are organisms that have had their characteristics changed through the modification of their own DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). GMO’s have had their genomes (organisms that contain the complete set of genetic instructions) changed in a way that doesn’t happen naturally.banner4-min

In the United States, in large scale agricultural crops, at least 90% of soy, cotton, canola, corn and sugar beets have been genetically engineered. In Canada, canola, soy beans, corn and sugar beet are crops that are genetically modified. However, most of these foods are exported. The lingering issue is whether these foods have any health issues now or in the future. The Center for Food Safety is of the opinion that not enough information has been gathered to deem these foods safe for consumption in the long term. Regardless of the debates, there is an awakening among consumers of the foods we eat.

Obviously, not everyone has access to a garden and some only have room for container plants but the awareness arises from the quality and certainty of the foods we eat. It becomes about choices. We can choose to shop at our local farmers markets whereby we can engage directly with the lovely people who sell their foods. We can ask about farming techniques; whether they use pesticides or herbicides, whether their soil is certified organic or if they use GMOs. Alternatively, for those of us blessed with space on our properties we can slowly begin to amend our soils and start our own self-sustaining journey.

Not to be forgotten through this movement to the garden is our choice of using heirloom seeds in order to preserve some of our declining specimens of fruits and vegetables that have been marginalized by corporate “farmers” in their quest for profitable crops.

Finally, not only is gardening a rewarding endeavour that enhances our health, it attracts nature with the butterflies and bees and the multitude of insects that cultivate our soils, ultimately we get to enjoy the fruits of our labour with pure authentic produce. Back to the garden is a reality that is picking up steam. Why not join us!

Something’s eating my bulbs!

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

In an earlier post, I talked about digging up spring bulbs for planting them in the fall and about planting them. I didn’t talk about the little critters that dig them up. In addition to the usual tulip bulbs which disappear, I’ve had asiatic lily,  gladiola, and even garlic bulbs dug up. Most of them were eaten (except for the garlic). They don’t seem to dig up established bulbs, so what can we do to keep new bulbs where we want them to grow and bloom?

There are several strategies that fall into 2 categories–repellants and barriers.

Repellants

  • Blood meal – this also nourishes the soil naturally, so it’s a preferred one.
  • Urine – human male urine will deter most animals. Cat urine can be used in the form of cat litter.
  • Hot pepper sprinkled on the ground, although lately this treatment has been considered inhumane due to the pain that it causes the critter doing the digging.

Repellants will need to be reapplied when washed away with rain or after watering.

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Barriers

Chicken wire cages will be the most effective prevention. Just put a layer of chicken wire in the bottom of the hole, place the bulbs on top, put another layer of chicken wire on top of the bulbs and nothing will be able to get at the bulbs.

Another thing you can use is green plastic strawberry baskets for 2 or 3 bulbs.

The articles below will give more information about what you can do. Let us know how you make out!

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/bulbs/bgen/protect-flower-bulbs.htm

https://www.adrbulbs.com/page/Squirrels-Deer-Pests

 

The Importance of Plant Labelling

By MJ (Mary-Jane) Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Why should we label the plants in our gardens? The answer is simple–so that we know their names & can then give them the correct care. For herbaceous plants, the labels act as placeholders over the winter, so that we don’t accidentally disturb them, or try to plant bulbs too close to them while they are dormant.

Figuring out how to handle labeling is one of the trickier parts of perennial and vegetable gardening. Do you keep the tags your plants come with, filling your garden with dozens or hundreds of bits of plastic? Do you tape them into a special garden notebook, so you can keep track of where all of the information for your plants? Or do you simply toss the labels in the recyling bin as soon as you get the plants in the ground?

For me, the answer to all of these questions was ‘no’ simply because most of my first plants came from local plant sales and were probably pretty common (and invasive?) plants. The white paper address label from the sales were usually blank the following spring so I was no further off than when I started. Then, I started buying more unique perennials at garden centres — the real money kind of plants. It seemed a shame to toss those beautiful tags full of information, so I buried them close to the plant which worked well — but the tags did crack and disintegrate after a couple of seasons. Tags created with my simple Dymo labeller were often blackened by the sun after a similar amount of time. Then, I listened to a speaker at my local horticultural society discuss his approach to labels — one of those portable labelling systems that could take a special kind of tape: “high temperature/low temperature”. He reported that his labels were lasting 10 years and counting. Being a “techy” kind of person, I bought one from Brother/Staples about 5 years ago and I’ve been pretty happy with it. I also record plant information and cultivar names into my mobile phone’s “notes” feature in categories such as ‘hostas’, ‘coneflowers’, ‘sedum’, ‘trees’ so that if I forget to create a label, or the label goes through the chipper in the spring (yikes!), I still have something to go back to. Keeping a list of plants I’ve purchased on my mobile device also helps but doesn’t prevent me from purchasing duplicates. Sigh. (Been there, done that, too many times to count).

My last reason for labelling is that any visitor to your garden will ALWAYS want to know the names of your plants! They may already THINK they know what it is, and they are happy to have their knowledge confirmed with the presence of a tag.

Downside of Plant Labeling

  • The amount of time it takes to check the plant, produce the label, and attach it, not to mention regular checking and replacing of broken, moved and missing labels
  • The cost to purchase the labeller ($100 ish) and the label tape ($30 per roll)
  • Labels can be easily be mistakenly moved from one area to another at cleanup time — and a wrong label is worse than no label.
  • Labels can sometimes detract from the beauty of the garden.

Reasons to Label:

  • You’ll remember your plants’ names, and can give them the correct care.
  • You’ll remember which heirloom veggies are which for reordering next year.
  • You’ll know which very expensive perennial you purchased LAST year did not show up at all this year.
  • The labels act as placeholders so that you don’t accidentally plant something new in the space being held by another, but dormant, plant or bulb.
  • “Oh, I’ll remember what this is.” Oh no, you won’t; trust me.
  • Plants are worth WAAAAYYY more at plant sales if you know the cultivar name — we normally know the genus and species, but the cultivar name is much more tricky and often impossible to determine after the fact.

labelling optionsPlant Label Materials:

  • Simple white plastic labels for seed-starting are available at many landscape supply stores, but what to use for the actual marking?
  • Copper labels – use a ballpoint pen to make a true inscription on the thin copper — although these are sometimes difficult to read years from now.
  • Paint the plant names on both sides of hand-sized smooth river-style rocks.
  • Cheapest option: plastic mini-blinds or wooden popsicle sticks but these often fade or disappear.
  • Strips of galvanized “duct hanger” metal strips, cut to length with a plastic label.
  • Metal hairpin-type labels with a plastic label: sturdy, but easy to step on or pull out with a rake.

According to my research, the following will work on plastic, wooden and/or metals tags: pencils, ballpoint pens, paint pens, Sharpies, and supposedly fade-resistant nursery marking pens. According to some articles I’ve read, the unexpected hero is the ordinary pencil on plastic or wood: it’s perfect for all but the shiniest materials. A great suggestion is to include the plant information on the back of the marker, too. If the front fades or is damaged, the info on the more protected back side will hopefully still be readable.

brother-labeller low-resMY Preferred Labeling System: hairpin-type label stakes (Lee Valley), pushed more than halfway down with white “live forever” plastic label tape (Amazon) printed on a small Brother labeller (see picture).

One last suggestion for plant record-keeping is the digital camera. It’s so easy to take a picture of the label right against the plant in the garden — you’ll then have a visual record of the name and where the plant is growing.

Hope this helps to save some time, energy and frustration for someone!

 

Book Review – The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard

by Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener

Yesterday I was lamenting the fact with a friend, who has just celebrated her 90th birthday, that something had been eating the leaves on my fruit trees. She went away and quickly returned with a book that in her own words talked about using an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach which consisted of making home pesticides using ground up insect pests.

Having piqued my interest with visions of myself running around in my pajamas early in the morning trying to catch said insects, I felt that I had to read the book, The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard, edited by Dan Wallace and published in 1982.

book cover

The section in the book that I most focused on was the section entitled ‘Outdoor Formulas’. Topics described include the importance of nourishing and rebuilding the soil using organic methods such as composting and mulching, crop rotation, interplanting, companion planting and succession planting, along with fertilizing and managing garden pests. The book does a good job explaining what each of these terms means and gives a detailed explanation on types of composting, how to achieve the correct balance between carbon and nitrogen, and what materials to add.

Natural Fertilizers

Natural fertilizers are discussed in detail and the reasoning behind using natural or organic fertilizers (as opposed to chemical alternatives) is laid out reasonably and convincingly. Formulas are included for making your own general purpose organic fertilizers, as well as specific fertilizers for trees. What I like about this book is that detailed descriptions are included that explain the reasoning behind each ingredient and how to apply the fertilizer. An example of the all-purpose tree fertilizer formula is as follows:

  • 3 parts soy or blood meal
  • 2 parts finely ground raw phosphate
  • 3 parts wood ash, granite, rock or green sane
  • 1 part dolomitic limestone

trees_royaltyfree

Managing Garden Pests

Managing garden pests is outlined in the book as follows

‘There is more than one way to approach garden problems and so-called pests, Insects, soil diseases (like fungi), prolific weed control, and trespassing wildlife can be viewed as enemies that need to be obliterated as soon as they are discovered – or they can be considered natural occurrences that call for careful management’.

IPM is described as a way to structure your garden or farm so that different animal and plant species can coexist and complement one another thereby creating a stable growing environment where no individual species takes over; balance is created.

Steps to achieve this balance include achieving good soil health, choosing the correct plant varieties, and growing crops at specific times when pests are less active. If however balance is lost, there are a number of formulas included for making your own organic sprays. These formulas are given with the suggestion that you should first try spraying with cold water from the hose for at least one week before resorting to other sprays. Again, the formulas are given with detailed explanations on how and when to spray along with the reasoning behind the individual ingredients. Sprays include liquid soap sprays, plant and insect sprays, dormant oil spray and botanical sprays.

At the time of writing this review, I have not tried any of the recipes or formulas in the book, I am therefore not recommending that we all start catching and grinding up our garden pests. However it is an interesting read and does offer us alternative options.

Used copies can be purchased through Amazon.ca or your local used book store (links to Peterborough area stores below)

Mark Jokinen Books

Lakefield Station Book Store

Knotanew Bookstore

NOTE: The book explores more than just gardening/outdoor solutions – it also has detailed directions for making polishes, stain removers, detergents, shampoos, herbal remedies, baking mixes, cereals, and other household products from easily available ingredients.

For more information on IPM, please check out the following links:

National (US) Pesticide Information Center on IPM

OMAFRA IPM

Continue reading Book Review – The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard

Where’s the Rain? How to Deal with Drought Conditions in Your Gardens

By Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

(top photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Gardens website; Dogwood (Cornus) wilting from water stress)

Just two years ago, the Peterborough area experienced Level 2 drought conditions. Local residents and businesses were encouraged to reduce their water use by 20 per cent daily and there were 11 days in August when daytime temperatures were higher than 30 degrees Celsius.ONDrought_zpsal2mmbjn

Drought conditions usually relate to sunny, dry conditions, combined with an extended period of very hot weather, and it looks like the summer of 2018 is shaping up to be very similar to 2016. “The watershed region received below normal precipitation amounts in June, and during the first two weeks of July precipitation has been 25% of normal.” said Dan Marinigh, Chief Administrative Officer for Otonabee Conservation.

So what can a gardener do to help their gardens survive (and even thrive) during dry or drought conditions?

In the Short Term

Just before or during drought conditions

Recognize the Signs of Stress

Plant dehydration symptoms include:
• Curling or rolling of leaves
• Slowed/no growth, undersized leaves
• Leaves, blossoms, or fruits drop prematurely
• Wilting, limp and droopy leaves
• Leaf scorch, yellowing and/or browning, death of leaf edges
• Dead or brown/dying extremities starting from the outer leaves inward

Water Wisely

Avoid watering during the heat of the day when evaporation rates are highest. Water either very early in the morning or late in the evening, and adhere to any watering restrictions that may be in place. Try and keep water off flowers, as sunlight is magnified through water droplets and can damage delicate flowers. Depending on your garden, consider hand watering rather than using a hose or sprinkler. Hand watering using a watering can targets the water to the areas that really need it, keeping waste to a minimum.20180716_133136

Harvest Water

Water harvesting is a great way to use water from your home’s roof and direct it onto the landscape, where the soil becomes your “holding tank.” The best example is using a water barrel – we have four of them in our garden and they are a great investment. You can also practice ‘passive’ water harvesting by creating depressions that fill with water from the roof runoff or formal rain gardens, both of which help with stormwater runoff issues. You can find out more about rain gardens here. Peterborough Greenup Rain Program 20180716_132548

Reduce Stressors

Skip the fertilizer or pruning live branches during drought conditions. No need to add to the plant stress! When soil moisture is low or temperatures are high, plants don’t benefit from fertilizer and without adequate water, fertilizer can burn your plants. Excessive pruning will stimulate new growth that will not be drought tolerant. However, it is good practice to deadhead flowers, as removing spent blooms before they have a chance to set seed saves energy for your plants.

Make Priority

Give priority to watering newly planted trees and shrubs during periods of drought. Young plants have not had sufficient time to establish deep root systems, and depend on surface water for survival. Do not let the root balls of newly planted trees and shrubs dry out completely or become too saturated.

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Over the Long Term

Planning for Future Drought Conditions

Think About Plant Selection

Use appropriate plants, which are often marked as drought tolerant or resistant. Consider native plants, which generally adapt better, have lower water demands, and fewer pest problems. Group plants according to how much water they need. Ask your local garden centre or nursery staff which plants they recommend. Check out members of the local Peterborough Area Garden Route. Peterborough and Area Garden Route

Maintain Healthy Soils

Good soil is the foundation for good plant growth. Anything you can add to your native soil like compost or other organic matter will make it easier for roots to penetrate deeper, creating more expansive root systems that can seek out water and nutrients. The result? Healthier, more drought-resistant plants. Good soils are better able to absorb surface water runoff, minimize erosion, and access nutrients and sediments.fresh-2386786_640

Use Mulch

Mulch reduces evaporation, moderates soil temperature, and inhibits weed growth. It is estimated that three quarters of the rain falling on bare soil is lost to plants through evaporation and runoff. Both of these are reduced up to 90 percent by adequate mulch. Use compost, wood chips, bark nuggets, shredded bark mulch, shredded leaves, or any other organic material to cover the surface of the soil at least 5 cm deep.

Water Well

Deep watering encourages roots to go deep down in the soil to where it is moist and a lot cooler. Water less frequently but for longer periods, so water reaches deep into soil. Good thorough watering promotes healthier plants. Also, water only when necessary, based on condition of the plant. Most plants will normally wilt in hot sun, and then recover when watered. Also, a dry surface is not always a sign of water need. The surface generally dries out first and is not a true indicator of what is going on down deep near the plant root. Make use of a hand trowel to check for moisture.

Weed Management

Weeds will compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients. Keep your gardens and areas beneath trees and shrubs weed free. Once the weeds are eradicated, apply mulch.

Consider Alternate Watering Methods

Investigate use of soaker hoses or other irrigation techniques using a timer, which keeps water on the soil and reduce losses by evaporation. Adjust watering frequency and amounts based on season, temperature, and amount of rainfall. Overhead watering uses more water and encourages fungal diseases.

Practice Water Conservation

Not just in your gardens. Water is our most valuable resource. Learn how to reduce water use throughout your house and gardens at this link.
Water Conservation Fact Sheet – Otonabee Conservation 20150822_185728

Spring Bulbs… What do you do with them?

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardenerspring-3118899_640

Your spring flowering bulbs have given you much pleasure during their bloom time. You have cut off the spent flowers to allow the leaves to photosynthesize and provide nourishment to  the bulbs. Now, tulip,  hyacinth, and daffodil bulbs have all died back. You have 2 choices of what to do. Leave them in the ground for next spring, or dig them up and replant them in the fall. You may want to put them back in the same spot or move them to another location.

Dig Them Up Sometimes

If you find that your flowers aren’t doing as well as they did the year before, or are getting too crowded, then they can benefit from being being dug up for replanting.

When you dig up your bulbs and separate them, you will find they have multiplied. Discard any spent or diseased ones, clean them up and let them dry out. Store them in a cool dry place, making sure they aren’t touching each other.

I always find that I have more bulbs than I know what to do with. These can be potted up and brought out in the  middle of winter for an early taste of spring.  See Fine Gardening’s Planting Spring Bulbs in Containers.

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Replanting

In the fall, when it is time to replant them, prepare the bed by digging down to a depth triple the diameter of the bulb. Add organic material and a little bone meal. You can also use specialized bulb tools to make individual holes. See Canada Gardener’s How and When to Plant Bulbs.

If you wait to dig them up in the fall, the leaves will have died back, making it difficult to know exactly where the bulbs are. By making sure you have marked the site where the flowers  were,  you won’t miss any when you dig them up.

By digging up and replanting my bulbs, including tulips, I have had them to enjoy for many years.

Summer Deadheading

by Christine Freeburn, Master Gardener

After spring cleaning in your garden, when you have been weeding and digging and transplanting and prepping flower beds, July gives you time to really enjoy your gardens. But don’t spend all your time sitting in your muskoka chair admiring all your work. Deadheading perennials and annuals keeps them neat and tidy and in many instances, brings back more blooms.

The definition of deadheading from Barron’s Complete Gardener’s Dictionary states “Removing spent blooms before they form seeds. This tends to lengthen bloom season because it encourages many plants to produce more flower buds.”

Deadheading Annualsdeadheading

When taking spent blooms off most annuals, don’t just snap off the blossom. Follow the stem right down to where it meets another branch and break it there. Otherwise you will leave on a stem that will just turn brown and be ugly. Annuals like geraniums, large petunias, marigolds, daisies, and cosmos to name a few, will continue to produce more flowers if they are regularly deadheaded. When plants like alyssum, diascia, bacopa and other trailers have lots of dead blooms, use scissors to trim back, removing the dead parts like giving a hair trim. Coleus grow seed heads which should be broken off to encourage more leaf growth. Most annuals will love it when you cut them back and will bloom again looking bushier and healthier.

In the Perennial Gardensharleenpratt

Perennials also benefit from deadheading. Again, do not just cut off the spent flower head, but go down the stem. If the flowers are en masse, like creeping thyme, take a pair of grass shears and give the plant a hair cut to make it neater. Deadheading also stops unwanted seeds from dropping to the earth and reseeding where you don’t want them.

In the Vegetable Garden

In your vegetable garden, you may want to leave on those peas and beans that got away on you and have become over ripe. You can let these seed pods dry out and ‘harvest’ those seeds to plant next season. Peas plants are a great source of nitrogen, so you can leave them in your garden to die back naturally before you compost, allowing the nutrient to go back into the soil.

When you keep up with the removal of spent blooms, you keep your garden looking tidier, don’t invite disease from rotting blossoms and spread out the fall clean up.

So, grab your wine glass in one hand and get close and personal in your garden to deadhead.

Dealing with Drought in the Garden

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Plants are composed of anywhere from 50-90 percent water. When they suffer from the heat, it’s because of an insufficient amount of water being available to them. Drooping, seemingly lifeless leaves are a sign that a plant does not have enough water and is unable to take in carbon dioxide from the air through tiny, open pores on the underside of the leaves and make food.

When plants wilt from lack of sufficient water, they stop growing, stop producing and will die if their cells are not replenished with water.

Plant Selection

The best way to deal with drought is through plant selection. Grow plants that don’t ask for much!

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Choose plants that are drought resistant and can handle the heat in the first place, rather than struggling with the more sensitive types. Some suggestions are: ornamental grasses, salvia, sedums, cacti. Also native plants such as black-eyed susan, liatris, purple coneflower, coreopsis, lavender. Some non-native plants such as daylilies, hellebore, barrenwort/epimedium also all tolerate the heat well.

Watering

The best way to get moisture to the plants is to apply water at ground level with drip irrigation or via soaker hose, and the best time to do this is in the morning. The idea is to give the plants an infrequent but deep soaking. Water that seeps deep into the soil will help plants develop a deep root structure, which helps them survive prolonged periods without rain. The morning is the coolest time of the day, and there is less evaporation while temperatures are relatively cool than later in the day when the temperature is at or near its peak. The second best time is right at dark or just before dark.irrigation-2402568_640 (1)

Using sprinklers is not as optimal because a significant amount of water is lost due to evaporation from the leaves into the air before the leaves can absorb the water.  However, for extensive garden beds, it may be the only available choice!

For patio container plants, consider adding water gels to the potting mix. The gels absorb water and release it slowly to the plant roots, reducing the number of times the plants will need to be watered. Another option for patio containers is a self-watering pot. These types of containers have a water reservoir from which water is absorbed up into the pot and to the root zone. Like the gels, these specialized containers will reduce the need for frequency of watering.

Mulching

Another way gardeners can help their plants survive excessive heat and drought is to mulch their garden beds. The mulch will help reduce evaporation, insulate plant roots from the high temperatures and reduce or eliminate weeds, which compete with desirable plants for water and nutrients. When choosing mulch, use only biodegradable materials that decay over time. Two to three inches of mulch should be plenty for the growing season. Don’t put mulch up against trees because it can cause the trunk to rot. Also, mice and other vermin may create nests in the mulch and chew on the tree’s bark.

IMG_2320Shredded leaves are also an excellent choice, but they break down faster than wood mulch and may harbor seeds like maple keys. However, earthworms love shredded leaves and will make the soil more friable and fertile with their castings. If leaves are hard and fibrous, leave them in place to decay. Oak and other tough leaves should be shredded and allowed to decay a bit before placing on the garden. Soils topped with shredded leaves will soon be crumbly and easy to plant.

Weed-free straw is good mulch and is often used in vegetable gardens. It packs down and hold weeds at bay. Make sure to use straw (grain stalks) instead of hay (dried grass) to prevent seeds from germinating.

There are many other tips / tricks about gardening during drought but the key message is that “you don’t have to stop gardening due to drought. Simply change the way that you garden to adapt to the conditions.”

Roses are Easy!

By Cauleen Viscoff, Master Gardener

EASIEST ROSES:

  • The new Landscape roses: “Drift”, “OSOEasy” etc.
  • Disease resistant, hardy and ever-blooming.
  • However, there are others just as lovely that require a bit more care.
  • Do your research: know your space and sunlight.

ROSES NEED 6 – 8 hours each day … otherwise they’ll struggle for nutrients and have weaker blooms and roots.

ZONE: Push your zone with roses and they don’t do their best.roses2
READ THE TAGS: Printed in US? Our zone 6 is their zone 5.

ROSES COME:
Bare Root (own root or grafted) – no leaves, no soil
Bagged: bare root in sawdust
Potted: blooming in pot

PLANTING:

  • Soak each rose for an hour or two before planting.
  • Dig hole deeper and wider than needed.
  • Don’t amend the soil – (recent construction?  remove stones, etc; add compost to existing soil otherwise roots will stay encircled in the composted hole without spreading out.)
  • Fill hole with water; let drain away.

POTTED:  Tangled, encircling roots? Slash down each side, teasing roots out. If rose comes out of pot easily, shake off the soil, and rinse well to rid of nursery chemical fertilizer.roses1

GRAFTED: plant bud union 4 inches below surface – protects against frost and the (graft point) should form its own roots over time.

BARE ROOT: mound soil; place roots over mound. Fill in and tamp down gently.

PRUNE and GROOM:

 

When Forsythia blooms in Spring — 4D’s: dead, diseased, dying, design.
Groom all summer: deadhead; broken canes or out of shape.
Never prune climber to ground or else it has to start all over. Prune side branches horizontally for blooms.

BOTTOM LINE: Know your space, light and rose.
Then, buy the one you love.

Growing Clematis

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener

clematis-350358_640Clematis is a genus of about 300 species within the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. They are a very popular perennial climber and produce many beautiful flowers in the summer months.

When purchasing a clematis, remove the plant from the pot and check for a tiny white bud on the very bottom roots. This will ensure a healthy plant. For best results, purchase a clematis that is at least two years old as they are tender when very young and take several years to mature.

Clematis absolutely demand good drainage. Either add sand to the soil, or line the bottom of the hole with a layer of gravel. When planting, it’s important to bury the crown of the plant at least two inches (6 cm) below the surface of the ground to encourage more stems to grow from the base. Water deeply at least once a week until the plant is well established.

To encourage good flowering, sprinkle superphosphate fertilizer onto the surface of the soil at planting time to promote good root growth and winter hardiness. For mature plants, add fertilizer once in the spring and again in June.flower-3394263_640

Clematis need at least six hours of sun per day, but their roots like to be kept cool. One suggestion would be to plant a large hosta at the base of the Clematis. Their roots are shallow so they won’t compete for nutrients. You could also use large rocks or flagstones.
If the stems of very young plants seem thin, pinch them back to just above a set of buds. This will help the stem to thicken, making them tougher and more resistant to damage.
You need to understand the kind of clematis you have before attempting to prune. Some clematis grow on last year’s vines, so you want to avoid cutting them to the ground in spring. Others flower on current-year vines, so they don’t mind being cut to the ground each year.

A very tough clematis is the Clematis x jackmanii, which is an old reliable climber, easily growing to three metres with large, deep purple flowers. It is the oldest large flowered cultivar, bred in 1858. Another easy to grow clematis is Clematis ‘Abundance’, which has a deep red flower with greenish-yellow stamens, which flowers in mid June.

You might consider checking The International Clematis Society website. It is full of valuable information for people new to growing clematis, with several links to catalogues, nurseries and education publications.