When it’s wet ….
Be grateful you planted dependable plants among the persnickety ones, try to be patient and free your flowers of slugs and mildew

Good morning! Well, as I write this it is still raining and seems like it has been raining for months. I am hoping by the time you read it, summer will have arrived and that your celebrations on the Fourth of July were everything you wished they would be.
If you actually stop and think about it, it is quite amazing that our entire country takes a day to celebrate our freedom. How many people around the world have never and might never know what that is like? I feel fortunate that I was born here instead of in one of those other countries. We all frequently complain about our federal, state or local governments not meeting our expectations on particular issues, but it is still the best country on earth. We should try to remember that as we exercise our freedom to complain.
But, back to the subject of the rain and how the flowers are coping. Flowers are a great deal like people, each one responds a bit differently than the next to certain situations. My clematis seems to be celebrating the rain as dozens upon dozens of blossoms open while the poor peonies are just trying to keep their rain-soaked heads out of the dirt. The Oriental poppies love the cool and moisture, but their fragile flowers simply cannot stand up to the downpours; so a blossom that is so fleeting is even more so this year.
The columbines seem happy and the perennial foxglove is like that person you know who is steady and dependable and happy, no matter what the situation. The point is, some plants make the best of it and some don’t – just like people. So the trick to the flower garden is to make sure you always have some of those dependable plants amongst the persnickety ones.
The rain also brings out other things that aren’t what a gardener wants at all – slugs and mildew. So as a reminder, get some Sluggo and get it out on those gardens. If you have old-fashioned garden phlox which tend to have powdery mildew, if you start treating them now, you may cut down on future problems. A copper-based fungicide is what works well. If you have the newer garden phlox cultivars such as David or Bright Eyes, you shouldn’t have a problem; but keep an eye on them, especially if they are planted among any old-fashioned kinds.
The only remedy to the slow-growing plants like dahlias and morning glories is patience. Many plants require warmth and sunshine and they simply have not gotten it yet. A few weeks of summer temperatures should right the situation, but some of them will be late. I had a gorgeous crop of lupines this year, but the rain has taken its toll on those blossoms as well. Remember, if you want your lupine crop to grow, you need to leave some of those ugly spent blossoms to dry and put out seeds. Like most everyone, I have a preponderance of purple lupines in my collection, so each year I am careful to leave the various pinks, reds and whites to seed out and I clean up the purple ones rather quickly. It is a slow process, but I have more pink and red ones each year.
Your forsythia, lilacs and weigela should all have been pruned by now. It is time to do any required pruning on your rhododendrons and to give them a good dose of acid fertilizer. If you fertilize before they bloom, you get fewer blooms but great leaves. The rhodies start to set their blossoms for next year when they are done blooming this season. Therefore, if you wait too long to prune, you are cutting off next year’s blossoms.

A new plant to try
If you are searching for a new plant, I have to recommend the perennial foxglove. Unlike traditional foxgloves which are biennial, this foxglove is a true perennial. I have had it for five years and it is there each spring and puts out many long lasting blossoms over a four-week period or more. It also gently gives you new plants. It is not invasive, it just reproduces two or three new plants each season. That makes for transplants to other gardens or a nice gift for a friend. I found mine at Ossipee Trail Gardens in Gorham, but perhaps they are closer to home now in local nurseries. I love foxgloves but, like many of you, get rather impatient when the traditional ones are beautiful one year and leave an empty spot the next. They do seed out, but there is no predicting where the new one will pop up.
Along with the slugs, the aphids have also made their appearance, but just remember the Murphy’s Oil Soap mixed with water and you should be OK. But I do have a story to share that should make you smile. My granddaughter, Nola, is an extremely verbal 4-year-old who takes great delight in learning and using new words. When she arrived for the day last week, she was telling me in great detail about a big bright green bug she found at her house. So we got out the insect book and found her “green bug” which was, in fact, a green lacewing. So I went on to explain that they are good bugs, they eat aphids and that naturally led to the “what are aphids?” question. So, knowing there would be a specimen out there on the lupines somewhere, we went outside. I showed them to her and the day went on. When Poppy arrived home for lunch, she launched into her finding the green bug at her house story for his enjoyment. But this rendition continued like this, “G and I found the bug in the insect book and it is a green lacewing but it is a good bug because it eats the ‘orphans.'” Now, you have to know this is a gardening family when Poppy figures that one out and responds “you mean aphids, right?” I expect someday that this little girl will have a beautiful flower garden wherever she might dwell.
So until next time, try to keep your gardening attitude positive, try to anticipate the problems and smite them before they do damage and be grateful for those dependable, adaptable plants (and especially friends) that come through even though conditions are not the best.
Happy gardening!
Jody Goodwin has been gardening for more than 25 years. She lives in Turner with her husband, Ike, her two dogs and two cats. She can be reached by writing to her in care of the Sun Journal, 104 Park St., Lewiston, Maine, 04243-4400 or by e-mail at jodyike@megalink.net.

You might enjoy…
There are always garden-related activities this time of year and here are a few:
• Don’t forget the Maine Music Society Garden Tour, featuring seven gardens in Lewiston-Auburn, on July 11. You may purchase advance tickets by calling L/A Arts at 782-7228.
• The Tate House Museum in Portland is celebrating The Year of the Garden 2009 at this colonial museum on Westbrook Street. They have a wonderful array of talks, demonstrations and workshops covering such topics as early American garden design, using herbs for food, healing and fragrance, and beekeeping; there will also be house tours. Events are scheduled every Wednesday through August. For more information, call 774-6177 or go online to tatehouse.org.
• If you have a fairy lover in your family, mark July 11 on your calendar for fairy house building and a picnic lunch at McLaughlin Garden in Paris. The event is from 10 a.m. to noon . You may get more information by calling 743-8820 or going to mclaughlingarden.org.
• If you love basil and want some knowledge on growing and using this wonderful herb, contact Sabbathday Lake Shakers to sign up for their Aug. 1 workshop. The event is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants will learn about varieties of basil, growth tips and harvesting for fresh and dried use. There will also be a buffet of basil dishes and you get to take the recipes home. For more information and to sign up for the workshop, call 926-4597 or go to shaker.lib.me.us.

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