Tidewater Gardening - June 2011


June Brides and Flowers
K. Marc Teffeau


It’s hard to believe that a year ago the Teffeau family was busy with wedding preparations for my middle son Andrew and his bride Meredith. The wedding flowers of choice were hydrangeas, so we were busy cutting the ones in our own yard, scouting out friend’s yards and ordering from the florist. It seems that hydrangeas are a popular wedding flower for June. There is even a web site on this topic: www.weddinghydrangea.com.
Hydrangeas are one of those multiuse flowering shrubs. They produce beautiful flowers but are excellent as a cut flowers in dried arrangements. H. macrophylla and H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ are especially good for drying.
Allow the flower heads to almost completely dry on the plant. It is best to collect them after the flowers have developed a papery feel on a dry day with low humidity. Cut the stems the length you need for making floral arrangements. Remove all the leaves and then find a dry place indoors where the flowers can finish drying. The flowers can be hung upside down while being dried, or can be placed in a vase without water.
According to the U. S. National Arboretum website on hydrangeas, there are approximately 23 species of hydrangeas. Five are widely cultivated in the U.S., with the most popular species being H. macrophylla, which is commonly known as big leaf, French, garden or florist’s hydrangea. It produces large inflorescences of white, pink or blue flowers in early summer.
Most species of hydrangeas can be grown in either full or partial shade. They are resistant to most insects and diseases. These plants prefer a rich, moist soil, but can be grown in a wide range of soil types.
Access to water is a must as hydrangeas can quickly wilt if not watered on a consistent basis. Because of their high water usage, avoid planting in dry windy sites. Their large, soft leaves lose water quickly, especially on hot, windy days. I see this very often in my sandy Caroline County soil. This is one of the reasons that I installed two rain barrels last year so I don’t have to run the well as often to water the plants.
It is important to know that hydrangea flowers are produced on new growth – therefore, hydrangeas must be given some care each season to ensure that vigorous new growth occurs. Irrigate plants weekly to replace moisture loss and prune flower stems after they have bloomed. Hydrangeas can be heavy feeders, so fertilize with a complete granular broadcast top dressing in early spring. Liquid feeding also works well, but discontinue when you get into July.
If you have received a potted hydrangea for Easter or Mother’s Day that is in full bloom, keep the soil moist at all times as this plant has a high water requirement and tends to dry rapidly in the home. It should also receive direct light. After the flowers fade, they may be removed and the plant treated as a houseplant.
It can be planted outside in a sheltered location in the garden. Shelter is necessary because the hardiness of this florist cultivar plant is questionable in our area. This plant forms flower buds in the fall like forsythia and dogwood. It is these buds which freeze or are destroyed if we have a hard winter. Many times the plant will survive and produce green leaves, but no flowers. Planting in a sheltered location, plus covering the plant with burlap, will offer some protection.
The U.S. National Arboretum has an excellent website on hydrangeas. Go to http://www.usna.usda.gov/Gardens/faqs/hydrangeafaq2.html.
Besides weddings in June, pesky insects also appear. No, that is not a commentary on marriage or in-laws, but we do have June Bugs. When we talk about June Bugs on the Eastern Shore, it usually refers to the mass of screaming hoards of newly minted high school graduates heading to Ocean City. Well ... maybe there is an analogy here.
Anyway – June Beetles are common, having just emerged from the soil. These are the heavy, clumsy-looking light to dark brown pesky beetles that you find congregating around the porch light at night and generally making a nuisance of themselves. They also beat up against the screen at night when the lights are on inside the house.
There are 152 species of May-June beetles in North America and, unfortunately, over a half of the species are found in the Eastern United States. The young stage of this pest is a white grub that prefers sod and turf areas. It can also feed on plant and tree roots in the landscape.
The adult beetles of some species are serious pests of shade trees, with their favorite hosts being oaks, hickory, walnut, elm and poplar trees. They also like fruit trees such as peach and plum. Ever gone out in the morning and found the foliage of an oak or plum shredded? Chances are that during the night the June beetles got to it.
June beetles are interesting in that they usually have a two or three year life cycle. The first one or two years are spent in the soil, feeding on plant or grass roots, then they emerge in the second or third year as adults. Japanese beetles, on the other hand, have a one-year life cycle.
Trees injured by the feeding of the adult beetles usually recover so an insecticide treatment is normally not needed. I am always hesitant to recommend such a treatment as the chemical will kill earthworms and other beneficial soil inhabitants. The “greener” solution is to grow one of the improved turf-type tall fescue grasses that can tolerate a high level of feeding damage.
There are plenty of gardening activities to do in June. Divide spring and early summer flowering perennials after the blooms fade. Instead of severing the clump in half with a spade, try jiggling the roots apart with two sharp spading forks. This takes more time, but damages fewer roots.
Remove foliage from spring bulbs after it turns yellow and begins to dry. Set out bedding plants to cover the bare spots using care not to damage bulbs in the ground. Be sure to remove old flower heads from bedding plants to prolong the blooming period.
If you are growing chrysanthemums, disbud them to secure large, beautiful blooms on straight, strong stems. To disbud, remove the small side buds along the stems that form in the angles of the leaves. This will allow all of the food reserves to be used for one large flower rather than many smaller ones. Chrysanthemums can also be pinched two or three times at the top to keep their height down. Do this until about the first of July, then let them grow on and disbud as mentioned to produce those large single blossoms.
Summer plantings of shrubs are possible if you use container-grown plants. Be sure that when you buy nursery stock that is container grown, check the root ball and make sure that it is not bound too tightly. A mass of circling roots will stay that way even after it is in the ground. Be sure to cut down the side of the root ball in four or five places to make the roots branch into the surrounding soil after planting.
Make sure the newly planted trees and shrubs receive a thorough soaking each week. Soak the ground; do not just sprinkle lightly. Mulch the plants to about two inches to conserve soil moisture and control weeds. Mulch, when used correctly, promotes faster growth of trees and shrubs. The key is not to over-mulch.
Your warm-season crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and melons should be in the vegetable garden by now. It is not too late to set out transplants of these crops, however. Make successive plantings of green beans every two weeks through the end of July to ensure a continuous crop.
Stop cutting asparagus in mid or late June when the spears become thin. After the last cutting is made, fertilize by broadcasting a 10-10-10 formula at the rate of 2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. Allow the tops to grow during the summer to store food in the crowns (roots) for the crop next spring.
Happy gardening!