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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of September 19, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

It seems that every year there is one, maybe two, plants that stand out in residential landscapes and gardens.  There was a year when lilacs appeared to be in every home landscape.  Another time, I was convinced there must have been a fire sale on garden phlox earlier that spring since, by August, they dominated flower gardens everywhere I looked. This year, the standout plant is hydrangea.  Sure, part of the reason is that there are several species, which creates a non-stop progression of bloom from June through September and into October.  However, that does not explain why they are so prominent this year.  Perhaps, it is their ability to tolerate the drought which has stressed many ornamental plants.  Whatever the reason, I am enjoying the floral show.  Not only are the flowers long lasting, but those of the panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) in particular age gracefully, gradually fading from white to pink.   With this being a good time to plant trees and shrubs, add a few specimens of hydrangea to your landscape.

  • Celebrate the arrival of fall this week by strolling through public gardens or private gardens open to the public.  You’ll be surprised at the large number of perennials still in glorious bloom. These include: sunflowers, fall asters, fall crocus, Russian sage, Japanese anemone, sedums, and hardy chrysanthemums. Make a note to add any of these which are missing in your gardens to next spring’s shopping list.
  • Start fall cleaning.  Begin in the flower garden by cutting back the diseased leafy stems of perennials. Also, cut off annuals at ground level rather than pulling them out of the ground.  Roots left in the ground will decompose and contribute some organic matter to the soil.
  • Begin planting daffodil bulbs.  They need more time for root development than other bulbs, so they should be planted first.
  • Cover the heads of sunflowers with cheesecloth if you don’t want to share the seeds with feathered friends, or with birds for that matter.  The seeds are ready to harvest when the heads are completely brown.  The heads may be cut prematurely and allowed to mature by hanging in a dry airy location, but leave about a foot of the stem attached when beheading the sunflowers.
  • Be careful not remove the outer skins of onions, shallots, and garlic when storing these vegetables for winter.  The papery skins protect the bulbs from dehydration.
  • Spot treat weeds in lawns.  This is a good time for weed control but don’t broadcast herbicides unnecessarily.  If weeds are few, direct the spray onto the weed itself rather than over the entire lawn.  If there are too many weeds for spot treating, consider cultural methods for weed control such as using a higher cutting height. Or, just start referring to that area of mixed plant life as your meadow. A meadow is socially acceptable.

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