We have been experiencing a significant drought for the month of August. The ground is dry and cracking. Foliage may look dry and shriveled, and sometimes it has gone dormant prematurely. All are measures taken by the plant to survive the heat with relatively low rainfall. Unfortunately, we are still in a drought, so please continue to water as regularly as you can. The shallow rooted evergreens may not have drooping leaves, but I can assure you they are feeling the stress just as much as your Hydrangeas.
POISON IVY FOLLOW UP… The Poison Ivy segment always elicits an active conversation. I know we don’t always agree, but we can all learn from one another.
Annetta wrote in…” Most of us have been successfully using Technu Extreme when exposed to poison ivy when gardening. I keep a tube in my car, kitchen and shower, and apply it after each gardening day as a prophylactic. You can wait up to 8 hours after touching it for it to work. Simple Technu does not work as well. The trick is to apply it with a bit of cold water and to rub it in for 20-30 seconds (a friend counts ‘ I Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi, ‘etc.)”
Linda has observed…” I love your newsletter, always informative and stimulating. Thanks for the very detailed information about poison ivy, with some details that I didn’t know. However, I must disagree with your statement that the leaves of poison ivy just turn brown in the fall. Actually, they turn brilliant colors red, orange, yellow, and look very attractive. So that’s not the best way to distinguish poison ivy from Virginia creeper, which also exhibits beautiful fall color. It’s too bad that poison ivy is, well, poison, because it is otherwise a useful and attractive native plant! Birds love the berries, which of course leads to its spread. And, there is that beautiful fall color. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday the plant breeders develop a cultivar of poison ivy that is not poisonous. Wouldn’t that be funny?”… I guess my woods have too much shade to promote the beautiful fall colors.
A recent observation of Virginia Creeper…While at a client’s property this week, I observed Virginia Creeper covering the base of a tree. The center of the whorled leaves was still tinged with red, while the petiole was most definitely red. I assume this is in anticipation of the fall foliage turning red. Some Poison Ivy in the vicinity definitely had a green petiole, and the center of the whorled leaves was green. I still recommend looking for the curling aerial roots.
REMOVE DAMAGED FOLIAGE… Many summer stressed perennials will perk up during these fall months. If you remove the old foliage, it will look like a brand new plant. When sprucing things up for the fall, keep in mind the effect you want during the winter months. The black seed heads of Rudbeckia are quite striking against the snow, and the foliage of ornamental grasses is graceful blowing in the wind. Dormant foliage will also provide another layer of insulation against the cold, and a habitat for wildlife. It is your personal taste that matters the most.
WARNING ABOUT WOOD POPPY/STYLOPHORUM DIPHYLLUM… I have some Wood Poppy in a prominent location, so I try to keep it looking as fresh as possible. Unfortunately, the foliage usually turns brown in August, but if I cut it back to the ground, I am rewarded with fresh green foliage in the fall. When you cut the stem, you will notice that the stem is hollow, and bright yellow sap will begin to bubble along the edge. This sap will quickly stain your clothing, and cause severe burning in your eyes if any liquid should find its way there. Last summer, I rushed to the emergency room afraid that I was about to go blind. Be sure to wear protective eyeware and old clothing.
PLANTING… This is also a perfect time to install new plants. Though most should be planted before November, there are quite a few deciduous trees and shrubs that can be planted in November or December.
PRUNING… Early September is also a good time for pruning trees and shrubs that bloom on new wood. The new growth encouraged by pruning will have sufficient time to harden off before the winter cold settles in our area. Plants that bloom in the spring on the previous season’s growth should be left alone until after blooming in the spring. Most notably, this group includes Lilac, Viburnum, Spirea, and most of the spring flowering trees. If you are unsure, please send me an email, and I’ll be happy to advise which group applies.