By Candy Venning
I find that the enthusiasm of garden folks starts to peter out in July and August, myself included – I just want to wander around amongst the flowers and stop trying to grow them but… in case you’re still keen;
May I recommend sequential planting – this is where you continue growing plants from seeds (after June) like Calendula, Sunflower and even Cosmos (plus veggies of course) to either have a continuation of flowers until the frost or as cut blooms to gift to friends or include in salads and desserts. Some of my favourite flowers also make it into cocktails as a flourish or frozen in an ice cube or just about anything from salads to BBQ garnishes and atop desserts – Pansies, Calendula, Sunflowers, Roses, Borage, Lavender, Chives, Nasturtiums, Marigolds and more.
So, we have sequential planting to keep your flowers going for food or beauty – there’s also seed collection – whatever you have that you love – it’s worth trying to collect seeds and either start them from your own stash next year (write the collection date too) or if they’re native perennials – try ‘winter sowing’ with your collected seeds. (The Halton Master Gardeners have good articles online about this) This is one of the easiest ways to grow native plants but you do still have to get them past that tricky seedling stage into a second year to get flowers. (Proper labels that don’t fade really help)
Plus, not flowers but fully leafed-out trees – it’s easier to know what to trim to keep branches away from wires or just to let more light into your yard. If you have big invasive species (unfortunately very common) like Ailanthus / Tree of Heaven or Norway Maple – this may be the year you finally get an arborist in to quote you for removals – the great thing is that you can plant native shrubs like Serviceberry, Ninebark, Redbud, Fringe tree, right up to large species (if space permits) Oak, Tulip Tree or multitudes of other varieties. Bonus, you can also keep the wood from the trees you’re removing, in your yard as benches or stumpy side tables and stools. There is also another way, as I’ve done – stacking logs up to make interesting ‘low walls’ little habitats and encourage mycorrhiza and mushrooms – as well as insects for birds to feed on and rich soil – that whole ecosystem thing!
And speaking of ecosystems – it’s a wonderful time to observe what is coming to visit your flowers. I had a named variety of Black-eyed Susan, bred for larger petals and mildew resistance but although the flowers were pretty, no bees or insects at all visited that sad creature – out she went – if something isn’t ‘more than just pretty’ (as fellow gardener Bev Wagar often says) it’s not welcome in my garden. On a final note, take a look at what’s in bloom in other gardens to learn what to plant in your own to fill any non-blooming times – Asters to Zizia – there can always be something blooming or fruiting in the garden and serving a wonderful interconnected purpose.