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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of May 15, 2017
  • Chartreuse foliage can be tricky to use, because yellowy-green leaves sometimes look hungry. The key to using it successfully is to combine it with dark green, black or brown leaves where the contrast is evident.
  • Don’t cut back your daffodil and tulip leaves once the flowers go by. The leaves are essential to photosynthesize energy from the sun to form next year’s bulb, where next year’s flower buds are. The flower buds form last, and removing the leaves before they turn brown is the reason some people don’t get flowers the following year. It’s better to just plant something next to it that will grow around it and camouflage it.
  • Bleeding hearts are a sometimes misunderstood perennial. Because after they bloom spectacularly in the spring, they can go dormant in the summer, just like spring -flowering bulbs. Fear not! They are still there, often one of the longest-lived plants in a perennial border. They have deep taproots, so try and find its permanent home the first time you plant it.
  • Think irrigation systems are all alike? You probably think of overhead sprinklers when you think about automatic irrigation. But some systems, called drip irrigation, slowly dribble precise amounts of water directly to the roots, keeping the leaves dry and healthier, and use less water, too.
  • Garden phlox is a must in any perennial border or cottage garden. It does exceptionally well in clay loam soils enriched with plenty of organic matter. Make it a point to remove fading flowers before they produce seed. Phlox need to be divided about every four years. The only serious problem with growing garden phlox is its susceptibility to powdery mildew, so select mildew resistant varieties.
  • Plant cranesbill or hardy geranium at the front of the perennial border. Don’t confuse hardy geranium with annual geranium, Pelargonium, which is used as a bedding plant or pot plant. Hardy geraniums form low growing mounds with attractive leaves and flowers that range in color from pink to deep blue. They do tend to sprawl and may need some selective pruning to maintain a neat appearance. A favorite variety of hardy geranium is one called “Rozanne,” a very long bloomer with intense blue flowers.
  • Pot up Potentilla fruticosa in a patio container. This small hardy shrub produces colorful flowers all summer long and can take some neglect, an attribute I can provide in abundance. Compact varieties such as “Abbotswood,” “Fargo,” “Goldfinger” and “Pink Beauty” are well-suited to container growing. In fall, place the container in an unheated garage or garden shed, or plant the Potentilla in a rock garden or in a flower border.
  • Plant clematis so that it can ramble through shrubs. This works well with shrubs that have an open, less compact, form of growth, such as some of the viburnums. Clematis is not happy in acid soils, so incorporate limestone in the soil prior to planting.

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