Rain or shine, make time for garden party

Mysterious weather. On Sunday morning, with rain threatening, I watered. Even though we had a deluge the day before the ground really isn’t all that wet. Go look. Stick your finger down in there and see what you come up with. It is still dry. 

So watering is on my agenda. The gray sky did not produce any rain and the weather reports don’t seem to offer any accuracy. Looking out the window still seems like the best bet. We’ll see what the future brings. 

John has devised an excellent watering system that involves a motor. There you go — give a man a motor. The water from the sump is diverted to a barrel with a — you guessed it — motor that pumps the water via a hose, a long hose. Excellent.

I have noticed that the quality of the water has changed dramatically this year. Instead of rust and whatever else that comes along with runoff, this water has been very clear. I am usually loathe to use it on the vegetables so it benefits the perennial beds and any trees and shrubs that look in need. 

The wind that was so relentless has abated. The usual day breeze is in place and the plants can handle that with grace. I do hope the winds have gone somewhere that needs them, a regatta perhaps. 

In spite of the dryness, the plants are still exploding from the ground. It really is exciting. I look froward to the lilacs being in full bloom on the 4th of July but it is looking like they will be spent by then, you never know. A friend at Mile 16 East End Road is bemoaning the stalling of her plants. She has lots and lots of containers and usually that is a boon for her, but not this year, and with no explanation. Go figure. 

The trollius, mine is the early light yellow, is over. I will cut it down to the ground this week. This action will encourage it to regrow into a tidy mound and, perhaps, rebloom. 

Keeping your perennial beds tidy is a sure way to make room for the next round of blooms. The Asiatic lilies are looking particularly hale this season and they will be the next to take off on a round of blooms. I would like to see them and cutting down the spent blooms around them will make that possible. They will be highlighted instead of buried in spent blooms and foliage of a plant past its prime. Keep this in mind as the season progresses. 

I have three Theresa Bugnet roses at one corner of the house. It took them four years to establish and are now magnificent shrubs. These are hardy rugosa roses with a double soft pink bloom and a lovely fragrance. They have an arching urn shape which adds to their appeal. But, after so many years of behaving themselves, they have shot out runners. I now have at least three more of these lovelies in the same bed, which, as you can imagine, is getting crowded. The new plants are hard against the wall, making them lopsided. So today I gave them some support. They were flopping over onto the oriental poppies, verbascum, delphinium, and, and, and — that are all packed in there. The staking should give them all room to breathe and show off their various blooms to advantage. 

I have two beds that I consider “overplanted,” the aforementioned and the triangular one that used to be stuffed with peonies and is now just stuffed. I like the way these two beds look but simultaneously I feel they need editing. After the “Winter of Ice,” I started lots of perennials from seed and also made excellent use our local nurseries. I was desperate to fill in the blanks of a badly damaged garden. Combine lots and lots of new plants, last year’s mild winter and spruce boughs for mulch, and I have a very heavily planted garden. Except for where it isn’t. And therein lies the problem. 

It is too late in the season to transplant perennials. Too late to make divisions to fill in the beds that need more plants. I have things out of whack. And of all the summers to have this happen. The growing is so easy (so far, it could still snow …) and the plants are thriving like never before and here I am with a garden that should be “established” but isn’t. Rats. 

I have finally trained myself to stop pointing out the flaws to those who come over to take a look. All people want to see is a lovely garden. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as the adage goes.

Which brings me to just how beautiful the wild iris border is. These iris setosa are thriving in spite of everything. The ice slowed them but did not stop them. Their plot is getting wetter by the minute and they seem to love it more with each passing year. They are loaded with buds and just waiting for the perfect moment to burst into bloom. They are backed up against the fence that has weathered to a nice gray. The three or four clumps of yellow day lilies that are mixed in with them offer contrast. I love this bed. It is usually the first to really bloom and, by that dint, become the stars of the first garden party.   

I can hardly wait. 

And that brings me to garden parties. Rain or shine. When you have something that you want to showcase, pick a day that it is peaking and throw a party. Doesn’t have to be extravagant, just has to BE. It’s an excuse. For me the irises are first and then at some point the mock orange take center stage. There can be as many as four of these parties here or as few as one. Depends on the season. But do make the effort for at least one good garden party for sharing your wonders. 

Keep an eye on your greenhouse for pests. This is the time of year when nasty little critters can make a showing and a mess. There is an excellent publication put out by the Cooperative Extension Service titled “Integrated Pest Management Guide for Alaska.” Keep one handy. It has excellent illustrations, descriptions and how-to-deal-with-them guidelines. 

If you have cucumbers be sure to keep them picked. The more you harvest the more will keep coming and I am of the opinion that you just can’t have too many cucumbers and if you DO have too many, then you overplanted. Keep that in mind.

I am no longer SHAKING my tomato plants. They have set a ton of fruit, the door is open more often than not and nature is taking care of the pollination. 

The spinach needs to be harvested and put into the freezer. There are three different plantings out there, staggered as to prolong the spinach season. I always try this, sometime with more success than others. If the season is hot the spinach will rebel, if it stays cool it will continue on. Take your chances but whatever you do — eat your spinach.  

A new row of lettuce is planted every 10 days. There will be salads until it freezes and I’m not ready to think about that.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.