At this time last year, I commented that we had seen more rain than normal during the month of August. This year, we have seen more rain than normal for the entire summer. Are we detecting a pattern here? Over the short term, it certainly appears as though our weather patterns are changing, and not necessarily in a good way. This summer we have gone from one extreme of severe rain to the other extreme of high heat. This past week of high heat plus the added bonus of high humidity has been miserable for us humans, and it’s likely that many of our plants have had a difficult time as well.
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. One client has a Kousa Dogwood planted last fall that has looked great all season until last week when it lost at least 50% of its foliage. We’re hoping this is just a survival strategy. In the event of dry conditions, 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.
PLANTING & TRANSPLANTING
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 even in November or December.
If TRANSPLANTING, I recommend taking the following steps…
- Hold off until at least mid-September so things will cool off a bit.
- Water the plant really well for at least 1 week prior to moving.
- Create the largest rootball you can manage. Have burlap and hemp on hand in case you need it to hold the soil tight to the roots.
- Pour water in the hole; let it drain.
- Sprinkle hole with a combination of Bio-Tone (for root growth) and Soil Moist. You only need a very small amount of the Soil Moist. It’s my insurance in case I neglect to water for a short period of time.
- Plant at the same depth.
REMOVE DAMAGED FOLIAGE
Many summer stressed perennials will perk up during these fall months. If you remove the old foliage, the new foliage will look like a brand new plant. If your herbaceous Peonies have succumbed to powdery mildew, do cut them back at the base. Other perennials with powdery mildew should be cut back to 3” ht as well. 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.
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.