Quick! Save the color from the early-summer gardens

Published 12:07 am Saturday, July 24, 2010

As summer progresses, it often drains the color from once-beautiful gardens. The savvy gardener can beat that with a little action now.

Crepe myrtles have been beautiful this summer but are now loaded with seedpods and just a few blossoms. Heavy seedpods weigh down limbs, occasionally causing them to break after a heavy rain. Experts tell us to remove the hard green seedpods and we generally can get at least one more burst of blooms. Like all other seed-forming plants, a lot of energy goes into forming seeds that can be redirected to more blooms in four to six weeks.

Make pruning cuts right below the seedpods, removing only the tips of each limb. This is also a good time to trim off crossed limbs inside heavily branched trees. An application of a granular blossom booster like 11-40-6 will provide just the energy they need for another cycle of bloom.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Years ago an article in Southern Living stated that if gardeners removed seed pods as soon as they formed on crepe myrtles, three sets of blooms are possible in one summer season.

A heavy fall flush of blooms can be expected on ever-blooming, modern and old roses if gardeners provide them with special care in the next couple of weeks. Remove dead stems and spent blooms. Shorten healthy canes by one-third and feed with rose fertilizer, 5-10-5 or ½ cup of cottonseed or alfalfa meal. All fertilizers must be watered in immediately after application. Remove weeds and any mulch contaminated with fallen rose leaves infected with black spot from around bushes. Add fresh mulch. Continue regular Funginex sprays as directed on the label for roses that are more susceptible to diseases. Always remember to apply early in the morning before temperatures reach 85 degrees to prevent foliage from burning.

Renew summer annuals. Pinch or trim back by one-third such leggy annuals as marigolds, petunias, salvias, zinnias, cleomes and impatiens and just above a leaf joint. New growth will come from that joint. Feed them with a liquid fertilizer such as 20-20-20 every other week to encourage fall growth and blooms. Direct sow seeds of cosmos, celosia, cleome, tithonia and zinnias. This is the best way to get inexpensive fall color. These seeds need heat and moisture to germinate so keep the soil moist. They will start coming up in a week to 10 days after planting and will bloom about six weeks later. Purchase colorful annuals at local nurseries to fill in spots for added fall color.

Lantanas such as the cultivar New Gold, a Mississippi Medallion and perennial plant in our area, provide mounds of color from mid-summer until frost. As summer progresses, blooms may disappear entirely or are greatly reduced. The lantana lace bug is usually at fault. They feed on flowers and foliage, literally sucking the juices out with their piercing mouth parts. Heavy infestations bleach and distort new foliage, eventually resulting in defoliation.

Insecticide should be sprayed on leaves and flowers, particularly on the youngest third of the plant where the tender foliage is most appetizing to this pest.

A systemic insecticide is another option. Only one application is added to the soil around the plant. It will be taken up by the roots and poisons insects that feed on the lantana. It works well but may not be a good option for butterfly-friendly gardens.

Miriam Jabour, a Master Gardener and Master Flower Show judge, has been active in the Openwood Plantation Garden Club for over 35 years. Write to her at 1114 Windy Lake Drive, Vicksburg, MS 39183.