Ask the gardening expert

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We hope to plant a yard with blooming plants all spring and into fall. Can you tell me what types of annuals and perennials would be good to plant to bloom that way, from spring through fall? I get early morning sun and a little shade in the afternoon so I need something that would do well in these conditions.

There are so many different plants you could use. However here are a few to consider that do well in our area. Perennials: Helleborus, Lily of the valley, Pulmonaria, viola, bleeding heart, Solomon’s Seal, Virginia bluebells, Tiarella, Heuchera, assorted hostas, Liriope, Ophiopogon, Ligularia nummularia Tricyrtis, African daisies and of course assorted rhododendrons, azaleas plus ferns. Be mindful of sun and shade requirements of each. Of course take notice of the wonderful selection of summer bulbs available to you.

Nearly anything you find in the “annual section” in garden shops would be good candidates, and with careful deadheading, watering, plus a bit of fertilizer, many should last all summer and into fall. When the nighttime air is warm bring out house plants to a shady location. They’ll thrive in warm summer days in dappled shade and usually look fantastic after their “summer vacation.” I usually bring out my angel-wing begonias, African violets. Orchids also like summer air. I hope this gives you some ideas.

I planted two lilacs two years ago in the spring. They did not bloom the first spring, which I expected, but they also did not bloom this past spring. They were small but are now growing very nicely. I really want the beautiful lilac blooms. I’ve fertilized but with no result, so what else can I do?

I seem to get this question often. The most common reasons for a lilac not to bloom are immaturity, too much shade, pruning at the wrong time of the year and excessive nitrogen fertilizer. Since your plants are only 2 or 3 years old they are probably just too young; when they mature, you’ll begin to see them develop flower buds. This may take even a few more years; they need some maturity and lots of sunshine to set blooms. If it’s not in a sunny location it may never bloom for you. I’d then consider moving it to a sunnier spot. Lilacs bloom on wood grown the previous year, so any pruning must be done in the spring immediately after the shrub blooms fade. Pruning in summer or fall or early spring will remove flower buds. At this point, I’d just be patient, and withhold fertilizer since this contributes to lush foliage growth at the expense of blooms.

I want to divide up my day lilies, they have grown to thick. I want to give some away. I also wonder if they could live in a pot. I’ve never seen that but wonder if I could do it and they would bloom?

Day lilies are notorious for increasing profusely. Most of us have too many. For years I have been putting a shovel of emerging day lilies into a pot. They take off and often bloom that early summer if I’m sure to place the pot in good sunshine, and remember to water them. Even if they don’t bloom that year, I move the pot to spots in my garden that could use a spiky foliage fill-in.

You might also check with the master gardeners as they are very busy working toward their huge annual Mother’s Day plant sale, May 11 and 12.

They love to help folks divide overgrown perennials. Take the excess for their sale, then replant that bed so it looks less crowded. I would check with them as day lilies are usually perennials that they have an overabundance of, but you may have a unique variety or color, so it’s worth checking with them. Look around the rest of your garden, are there other perennials that are outgrowing their space? Contact the master gardeners’ office, leave a message with phone number and email address. The contact information is 360-397-6060 ext. 5711, or mganswerclinic@clark.wa.gov. They will make sure to get the info to the master gardener dig team, and set up a date and time to remove excess perennials, and put that garden bed in order again.

You may have some help in your early garden, and know you are helping the master gardeners as they work toward their constant goal of growing food and supplying aid to the food banks and all the other outreach programs in our area of Southwest Washington.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to mslindsay8@gmail.com.