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Garden Life: Maintenance keeps our yards beautiful, healthy

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Published: June 25, 2015, 12:00am
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ROBB ROSSER
Plant-filled borders are perfectly framed by a lush, well-mown lawn.
ROBB ROSSER Plant-filled borders are perfectly framed by a lush, well-mown lawn. Photo Gallery

The main reason we prune roses is to encourage the shrub to make more flowers. Roses, like every other plant in the garden, are here to reproduce. Once any plant flowers, its next purpose is to set seed. When you cut a flower head off before the flower goes to seed, as you do when you prune a rose, the plant produces another flower in an effort to propagate. Prune regularly throughout the season and you will keep flowers coming and vases filled.

Most bulbs will flower only once and then set seed. Certain perennial plants, such as oriental poppies and bleeding hearts, have one flush of flower production each year. After flowering, the plant itself dies down and becomes dormant. They look best if cut back to within a few inches of the ground. Plant summer-maturing perennials nearby to fill the gap. Many of the best garden plants will bloom for a longer season if flower heads are cut off. Moonbeam coreopsis and the pin cushion flower, Scabiosa “Blue Perfection” will re-bloom all summer if deadheaded on a regular basis.

Don’t cut back on cutting back

All plants look better through the summer season if you take the time to cut back spent, tattered foliage. Many will benefit if you cut all foliage back to within a few inches of the ground. The majority of early-flowering perennials like pulmonarias and hellebores will not produce any more flowers but they will grow new, fresh leaves that improve the overall appearance of the garden. Cut snail-riddled leaves on shade-loving hostas down to the ground. These hardy perennials will reward you with glorious, unblemished new foliage.

There is a wide selection of bulbs that bloom in summer. Some will carry over into autumn. Dahlias, gladiolus, tuberous begonias, oriental lilies and cannas come in a wide assortment of sizes and plant forms. An array of flower and foliage colors is available to fit any style of garden. If you bought packages of these bulbs earlier in the season and did not get around to planting them yet, you can still put them in the ground. It’s better to give them a chance than to let them go to waste. Our long, mild autumn allows us to enjoy late-flowering perennials well into September and October.

The key to good flower production in these bulbs and tubers is to give them the conditions they need. Dahlias, oriental lilies and cannas do well in full sun. Begonias will need afternoon shade to produce the best flowers. All bulbs and tubers need well-drained soil, especially those planted in containers. For the largest dahlia blossoms, pinch out a third to half of the flower buds. The plant’s energy will go into enlarging those that remain on the plant. Few will deny the impact of a bouquet of magnificent Dinnerplate dahlias.

Many consider grass a staple for the front yard of a suburban or neighborhood home. For those with grass lawns, we are now in the cycle of regular, scheduled mowings. The look of turf affects the appearance of the rest of the garden so take specific actions to ensure your lawn’s overall health. Lawn grass needs about 1 inch of water per week. Mowing should be done regularly, at least once a week and grass should be cut between 1 inch and 3½ inches high. Maintenance tasks include aerating, dethatching and fertilizing.

Environmental asset

Well-managed lawns can be an environmental asset. Without the use of chemicals, they can help protect, or even improve, water quality. Poorly managed lawns, whether by neglect or through the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, can be an environmental liability. What you and your neighbors do with your lawns does matter. It’s up to each one of us whether or not our gardening procedures enhance our environment. It means being aware that small acts such as not washing grass clippings into the street or down sewer drains can have a big impact on our streams and lakes.

Healthy lawns provide many benefits:

• Lower air conditioning bills. Moisture evaporating from grass leaves helps keep air temperatures cooler.

• Less pollution. Lawns can help filter pollutants out of the air and reduce noise pollution, especially when used along with physical barriers.

• Higher property values. Attractive lawns contribute to the overall appearance of a community’s landscape.

• Better water quality. The thick sod formed by healthy grasses helps water soak into the ground. This helps reduce or eliminate runoff that can carry soil or other contaminants into waterways.

• A place to play. Grasses are the only plants that can stand up to repeated recreational use.

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