The Kachemak Gardener

Each and every growing season there is one something that astonishes, that amazes, that speaks to our hearts. And this year it’s lilacs. Their season is short and this time around about three weeks early. I can usually count on them to be blooming for the Fourth of July barbecue. Not this year, they will be way done. But for now let’s all revel in their magnificence. 

I am always impressed with the lilacs that appear to be abandoned. No one has pruned them in decades. No lime. No tending. And there they are, not a care in the world, panicle after panicle of full blown blooms. This is their year. Don’t miss a moment of them. If you don’t have one of your own (and you must be inspired by now) stop and bury your nose in the first one you come across. Take a picture and put it on your refrigerator. 

When you do plant your own lilac give its mature size a great deal of consideration. Mine are planted too close to each other, too close to the mountain ash and the spruce, too close to the fence, to close to the clothesline. You get the idea. Too close is easy to do. 

Lilacs come in different sizes so study up on them. The Canadian (syringa x prestoniae) lilacs tend to do well for us here. They need full sun and good drainage, neither of which mine have and they still do just great. There is one James McFarland and two Donald Wymans outside the French doors. We have our coffee/tea on the porch there each morning that it isn’t raining. Lovely. There is a common (syringa vulgaris) lilac at the west corner of the house. I have no idea which one it is other than a purple bloom. Then there is the Korean lilac ‘Miss Kim’ (syringa patula) that will bloom after the Canadians along with four dwarf Koreans (syringa meyeri) that are scattered here and there. The scent from the last two types will fill the entire garden and the blooms last longer than the Canadians or the common. 

Placement is something that we (I) don’t (didn’t) give enough thought to. The three mock orange would be better served in this modest sized landscape if they had more room. 

Even the perennials are too crammed together. I like the perennial beds to look lush but this is getting ridiculous. I started loads of annuals because late color will be needed here, but I didn’t think about the perennials getting so huge so fast and crowding out the annuals. I can hardly find them. My grand plan may be for naught. We’ll see.

The early trollius has been cut down. It seems drastic but there are already new leaves forming a tidy mound that may even bloom again. With this early season there is an excellent chance of a rebloom and they will be ready. 

One of the mock orange is underplanted with a pink blooming lamium. If you have any of this be sure to cut it back a couple of times this growing season. Once it starts setting seed it will turn up everywhere. And the seeds start while parts of it are still in bloom. I love this plant but vigilance is the order here. Plus cutting it down will keep it blooming all season, and that certainly is a plus. There is a tiny soft yellow poppy that will also spread seed hither and yon. Again, I love it but am deadheading it daily. Deadheading (cutting off spent blooms) will keep your plants looking fresh and encourage more blooms. This is really crucial for the annuals that last one year. 

Here we are, the mere middle of June and I’m already deadheading. The blue poppies have been tended to twice, the afore mentioned yellow poppies, and trollius. Goodness. 

I’m still moving self-sown annuals here and there. I have gaps here and there that need a little something and because of the mild winter I have plenty of ‘a little something’ to fill them in with. 

Your pruners may be overkill on some of this deadheading business. Scissors will do the trick quickly and cleanly. Which brings me to keeping these two tools clean. A good scrubbing with soap and water may be all they need to get the job done. 

Let’s talk about grass, my least favorite subject. There is a little patch here that needed to be reseeded after I dug it up while fooling around with Johnson’s blue geranium (long story, I’ll spare you). It needed to become grass, something I thought we certainly had enough of. No, apparently not.

If you are intending to throw grass seed about, consider the rain. That’s the best bet to get it watered. There is no way that I will stand around and water grass. And you shouldn’t either. Watch the weather reports and look for a rainy stretch or wait for August when it (usually) rains steady and takes care of all the grass needs.

I had the great good fortune to go garden visiting. I’m not often invited into someone else’s garden so I jump at the chance when a opportunity offers itself. There were two in one day no less. Both of them stole my heart.

The first one made so much sense on so many levels. There were flowers and vegetables in about equal amounts and just enough of each. A small greenhouse with her late father’s pole beans looking ever so pleased (along with tomatoes and cucumbers). A lovely new two bin compost area that is already making ready to use compost. There was just enough of everything to make a gardener happy.

The next garden has its share of interesting “objets,” so the eye is forever looking for what’s coming next. This garden is spread out as if the fairies laid out the design. Here under the trees, there by the chicken house, almost everywhere you look some treasure of a plant and object vignette. Lovely.

Get gardening. There is much fun to be had.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.