View from the Garden: After Spring Flowers, What’s Next?

It's primetime for hostas.
It's primetime for hostas. Rena-Marie/iStock/Thinkstock

All of the long-awaited spring flowers have gone, and most of their leaves have finished yellowing. I’m assuming that you take advantage of the opportunity in your gardens to “leave the leaves” (one of my favorite phrases) until they can provide the bulbs with nourishment for next year. I know they make a mess in the garden, but do leave them as long as possible. We’ve spent much of our maintenance time recently removing spent leaves and will do more next week.

Also, the foliage of bleeding hearts is ready to be removed and the foliage of ornamental poppies soon will be ready. If you have alliums with seed heads you want to keep for decorative reasons, the leaves can be removed, leaving only the stalks.

Peonies and bearded iris have also finished—sadly for me, as they are two of my favorites. Be sure to cut the iris stalks to the ground and remove any dead leaves. I cut back peony stalks to a place inside the bush so the cut remains unseen.

With all of the foliage removed, it’s time to fill in the empty spaces with annuals and new perennials. There are many varieties of annuals in the garden centers now. New and fresh ones will keep coming all summer. It’s amazing how many the garden can gobble up, so get a bunch! Now is the time to plant some of those perennials, and even shrubs and trees you have been yearning for since last year.

The effects of the winter were devastating for hydrangeas. Almost all hydrangeas had growth only at the bottom, with dead branches above. We let those branches remain on the shrubs until just the last few weeks, and as we have been removing them, we are seeing some flower buds.

Hostas are up and filling in the empty places. Sometimes those spots are so bare in the spring, I think that maybe the hostas have died. But here they are in all their splendor. I love them all, from tiny ‘mouse ears’ to the gigantic ones, from yellow to blue. If you do not have deer, they are very good additions to the garden. Beds of assorted hostas can be stunning.

If you have bamboo, it’s probably sending up new culms by now. These can be eliminated by breaking them at the base. Once completely developed, the stand should be thinned, if necessary, and some canes removed to keep the stand open and upright. Some canes will be completely dead and can be removed. You might need a pruning saw or loppers—and watch out for splinters! Removing the tiniest canes is an easy way to begin the thinning. I then remove some older canes from the middle of the clump and take notice of density as I progress with the pruning.

Weeds, of course, are thriving. You may notice different weeds in different locations given the amount of water in the soil. Very wet soil spawns weeds that don’t grow anywhere else, and their presence indicates that there is too much water. Either the water level or the soil consistency will need adjustment. If possible, pull weeds instead of hoeing or otherwise disturbing the surface of the soil, which brings up more seeds into the sunlight, allowing them to sprout. In my experience, if weeds are judiciously removed before they seed without disturbing the soil (this may take several seasons), your weed problem will be minimal. An application of light consistency mulch will help.

We’re entering the steady maintenance season—deadheading, staking, pruning for shape, health and rebloom, and of course, constant weed monitoring. I enjoy making the garden look like nothing has changed, and remains continually beautiful. High summer is here—oh boy!

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067. Myers is also an artist—her show Plains Reverie opens Friday, July 18, 5–7 p.m. at Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor and runs through August 5.

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