I’m melllllllllting!

Slightly wilted Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ - it’s more about the heat than lack of waterRosa rugosa or beach rose on a still, hot morningAnd the plants are too. For the last few days we’ve been hit by summer like a sucker punch to the gut with no chance to acclimate – one day it was chilly sweater weather; the next sent us gasping to our storage closets to find a pair of shorts that still fit. Even though we had a good soaking rain at the end of last week, plants are wilted. New growth on things like daphnes (this is Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ on the right) hasn’t had time to “harden off” and is too wimpy to stand up to early onset hot washcloth summer weather. And the beach roses (Rosa rugosa) are in a floppy full bloom – their scent mingled in the heavy salty air makes breathing deeply seem like a really good idea.

There are weather advisories to stay indoors but at Blithewold the work is outside no matter what the weather – because it’s planting time! We gave the volunteers the day off though to seek A/C and Gail, Joel, Cathy, Lilah and I finished (almost) planting the newest Display Garden bed and then we spread a cool shady layer of shredded leaves. And I pondered on all the ways we give our annuals a fighting chance (even when we plant during a heat wave). Spreading mulch on newly planted beds really gives new plants a leg up by cooling the soil (you might think a thick blanket would warm it, but no…) and slowing evaporation. Gail, Cathy and Lilah putting shredded leaves on the new bed

And then there’s care-full planting: Have you ever popped an annual out of the ground at the end of the season and noticed that, like canned cranberry sauce, its root ball is still in the shape of a pot? Teasing root bound roots seems like abuse but most of the time it’s a good idea (there are a few things that resent root disturbance – when in doubt, best to look it up). I start by loosening roots from the top down to encourage the spiraling feeders to go south and depending on just how bound the plant was, I scuff the sides and bottom until there’s little evidence the plant was ever in container jail.

I’ve also noticed that some plants fail to thrive when they haven’t been planted deeply enough. If you can feel the edge of the root zone above the level of the soil, it’s been planted too high. Dig again! No cheaters either – if you just pile soil on top and hope for the best, what you’ll probably get is a wash out and an dried husk of a snapdragon. As a matter of fact, if you plant deeply enough to create a pocket all around the plant for catching water you’ll save yourself the disappointment of runoff when you water. My last tip of the day (I’m full of them today, aren’t I?) is to cut back your annuals when you plant them especially if they’re in full forced bloom. I know it’s tough but I’m pretty sure you’ll appreciate the gusto of branching and new blooms later.

Phew. If I hadn’t already retreated to the (dis)comfort of home, I might be inclined to stretch out on the guys’ latest creation. (It’s another Fred Perry original.) You’ve heard of stepables? What about sitables?! The herbs they planted in their hypertufa bench will be an overstuffed cushion in no thyme.

Fred’s latest creation

6 thoughts on “I’m melllllllllting!

  1. Great advice on planting annuals. Here we are drowning in too much rain. My own garden has been ‘blessed’ with eight inches of rain since Saturday. But today the sun is shining again!

    Carol, It seems like it’s extremely extreme everywhere! Knock wood you don’t have a drought next. -kris

  2. Sorry about the unseasonable weather. I love the bench. Your advice about planting was right on. I tease the heck out of roots here.~~Dee

    Dee, There’s no doubt you have happy plants in your garden (I’ve seen some of your pictures!) -kris

  3. I keep reading all these posts about how hot it is. Well, today it snowed here in Bozeman–briefly, but definitely, snow. I don’t wish for your heat, but how about a little warmth?
    –Kate (shivering in Montana)

    Wow, Kate. I can hardly imagine snow right now! Don’t these extremes make us truly appreciate the perfect days though? (I’m trying so hard to put a positive spin on!) -kris

  4. Great planting advice. We’re well past planting season here in Austin—too dang hot! It sounds like you guys are getting walloped with Texas style heat right now. Blech!

    What a fun herb bench, and I love your pun.

    Thanks, Pam! I actually thought of you while I was feeling whiny about the heat – it was probably nothing compared to what you live in! I freely admit that I’m a wimp. -kris

  5. I’m melting right along with you although today seems much better. Humidity is down and the water in the pool is up so swimming is now and option. I should say dunking because only Tucker swims. I dunk between gardening chores! LOL Love that new Fred bench. I wonder if he has interesting creations in his own garden or if only work benefits! That is usually the way isn’t it?

    Layanee, that’s definitely the way at my house – all the good stuff happens here! Sure wish I had a place to dunk nearby. Thank goodness the mugginess has left us (for the moment?)! -kris

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