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living a well tended life... at any age

a year in my garden: april

The calendar says April. Feels like November. This is the spring that will not come.

The garden, however, is in full-on spring mode. Alliums and tulips are budding out like crazy (click on any picture to enlarge):

allium

tulips

and summer perennials are waking from dormancy to show off their foliage:

astilbe

ligularia

As for tasks this month, I’ve put up the peony rings. Peonies are one of my favorite plants – in addition to their big beautiful flowers they are highly fragrant,  tolerate some shade and are deer resistant (YES!!!!). They also come in a wide range of colors and bloom times – from late April through the end of June – so by choosing carefully you can have peonies blooming in your garden (and for cutting for arrangements) for several months.

As they can grow as high as 30-36″, peonies’ top-heavy blooms are susceptible to drooping – especially after a late spring rain. Put in your peony rings now – as the stalks are coming up. As the plants grow and start to leaf out, keep raising the rings till they sit just under the mature foliage. This will give the flowers proper support so that they don’t droop to the ground. It only took a season or 2 of  losing my beautiful flowers to make sure that I tend to this chore every year.

Next, I cut back my Butterfly bushes (Buddleia) and Montauk daisies (Chrysanthemum nipponicum). Butterfly bushes bloom on new wood. If you prune the shrub back hard (to 12″ high) in early spring it will promote new branches, which in turn will produce lots of blooms over the course of the season. This hard pruning results in a more attractive overall shape and helps keep the size of the shrub in check.

before pruning

after pruning

Montauk daisies bloom late in the season –  September in my garden – which I love as most plants are starting to go dormant at that time. But being a “late bloomer”, they spend all season growing and pushing out leaves. Left unpruned, by the time it blossoms out, you’ll have a tall, lanky plant with a few sparse blooms atop its too-long and leggy branches. Cut it back by about 1/2 now, and again in mid-June. This will produce a smaller plant but one that is fuller, “shrubbier” and covered with flowers.

before pruning

after pruning

Last, I turned on the irrigation system and installed my deer “scarecrow” – by far the best, most effective deterrent I’ve yet to try………….

Back inside where it’s warm.

5 Comments

  1. […] – what a difference a month makes – remember the peonies? peony […]

  2. Chen Li on August 31, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Sheri,

    We are a research group at Univ. California, Berkeley. We are wondering if we could use a photo on this page, the butterfly bushes after pruning, for research purpose.

    We want to use it in a scientific paper to show the complexity of natural terrain that small insects must negotiate (not commercial use).

    Thanks!
    Chen

  3. La Rella Brooks on June 30, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Where can I buy the Wire Baskets to support the flowers and stems ? Thank you

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